Six decades ago, living in a rural area in a village agrahaaram (like the one shown above), as school going kids, we used to wait eagerly for the evenings in the month of October (Tamil month of “Purattaasi” புரட்டாசி) with a glee in our eyes, fun in the mind and hunger in the belly.
Yes; this is the month of Navarathri (nine nights) where we used to have a collection bag, go to each one of the houses in the community who had put up “kolu” (arrangement of Dolls in an odd number of steps) to look at the dolls display.
We collect “Sundal” ( a snack preparation of proteins in the form of steamed, fried nuts ) making sure to exchange notes on who has collected what variety and from which house and of course about the quality of the supply.
We also used to listen to some wonderful singing by girls and ladies in front of the “kolu” and getting presents. It was fun time for kids; but I guess some serious work for the elders.
The essence of Navarathri
My understanding of the Navarathri is more spiritual now than what I had six decades ago as a kid. Let me try to explain.
Every human being has consciousness (Lord Shiva) and energy (Goddess Shakti). Consciousness and Energy (Shiva and Shakti) are both definable yet inseparable. We can take the example of Sun & Heat for illustration. Within this energetic realm, there are three main forms of Shakti. The 3 Forms of Shakti are:
• Iccha Shakti – the energy of will or desire
• Jnana Shakti – the energy of knowledge
• Kriya Shakti – the energy of action
During Navarathri, the nine nights are used to identify, work with, purify, and ultimately integrate and strengthen these forms of Shakti within us.
The “Kolu” (Display of dolls)
Of course we need to convey this message to the young ones through a visual medium for easy learning. Hence the display of dolls called Kolu. Dolls are arranged in specific sequences on odd number of steps in a staircase style arrangement to depict the process and interplay of these energies that are continually cycling within us. The steps progressively take us through the stages of our evolution in our spiritual progress as a human being. At the base step, dolls depicting routine mundane activities can be seen. Progressively as we climb the stairs, we can see the dolls conveying our graduation in our consciousness level. The dolls focus on various gods, their actions, themes representing the historical events around the gods and the meaning they convey for leading our lives. The apex level step will have the ultimate integration of our consciousness (Shiva) with the energy (shakti) at the top most (apex) step in the form of two wooden dolls (called in Tamil as Marapaachi dolls). That sums up the learning through the visual medium.
Navarathri – Women and the Music
Inviting, traditionally receiving and honoring girls, women and ladies, presenting them with gifts (as per the capacity of the host) and devotional singing in praise of the three goddesses representing the three energy forms is a tradition. This brings out the axiom that we should see every single woman as a manifestation of goddesses representing these three energy forms. This also brings out purity in our thoughts that without these three energy ingredients, we would become inert.
My participation in Navarathri 2020
Sitting in a country 8400 miles away from my place in this pandemic year, I decided to participate in the Navarathiri Celebrations by trying to understand the Sanskrit Compositions that are sung during this period. These compositions are in praise of the Goddesses identified as the principal form (roopa) of that type of energy viz, Durga, Lakshmi & Saraswathi ( for Icha, Kriya, Gnana ).
Starting from October 17 till October 26, there will be a blog a day; through each blog I will try to understand ten Sanskrit compositions and try to express it in my mother tongue. The first three will be on Goddess Durga, followed by Goddess Lakshmi, Goddess Saraswathi and culminating on the tenth day on Goddess Vijyambike, coinciding with Vijayadasami, the day that marks the culmination of the festivities with the idea that the nine night events have helped the good in us scoring victory over the evils that reside in us.
Enjoy the Navarathri celebrations along with me by visiting this blog daily, listen to the wonderful music compositions and help me improve my knowledge by critically commenting on my translation work. Thank you.