17 October, 2008

Navratri 2008 (30 Sep - 09 Oct)

What is the story of Navratri ? queried the nutty siblings. Why do we celebrate Navratri ? What does it stand for ? - the questions kept flying fast and furious on a early Sunday morning.

Perched on the floor with a hot cup of coffee on one hand, mommy launched into the story of how and why Navratri is celebrated and what its significance is. In attendance were two very earnest little faces, listening and hanging on to each and every word with rapt attention. They were so captivated and fascinated and geared up about listening to the story and the significance of Navratri that Mommy could not help but tell them the story in detail – all complete with the requisite sound effects and facial gestures. They loved it – so much so that the younger sibling took it upon himself to narrate the story to his teacher the next day morning at school.

Navratri essentially means Nine Nights. And the festival of Navratri spans Nine Nights of worship dedicated to Shakti – The Divine Force. Over nine days, the Holy Trinity of Goddesses – Durga (The Goddess of Valour), Lakshmi (The Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity) and Saraswati (The Goddess of Knowledge) are worshipped.

The story associated with Navratri is said to find its origins in the Markandeya Purana. In the Markandeya Purana, there are chapters which talk about the slaying of the demon Mahishasura by Goddess Durga. These chapters are also known as Devi Mahaatmyam or Chandi Paath or Durga Saptasati. Devi Mahaatmyam essentially symbolizes the victory of good over evil.

MahishaSura – literally translated means “The Buffalo Demon”. It is said that Mahishasura worshipped Lord Brahma, performed penances and observed strict austerities. Lord Brahma, who was pleased with Mahishasura’s penance, granted him a boon. Mahishasura obtained a boon from Lord Brahma that he could not be killed at the hands of any male. Chauvinist by nature, Mahishasura, like many others, did not even entertain the possibility of a female being able to slay him. Hence, once he obtained the boon from Lord Brahma, Mahishasura started going on a rampage.

Very soon, Mahishasura turned his attention to the heavens and started defeating the gods too. The panic stricken devas in turned to the Holy Trinity – Brahma (The Creator), Vishnu (The Protector) and Shiva (The Destroyer).

The Holy Trinity were angered by Mahishasura’s actions and it is said in the Devi Mahatmyam that the anger emerging from Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva converged and took a new shape – that of Durga. The gods also equipped Goddess Durga with divine gifts. The Trident from Shiva, The Chakra from Vishnu, The Conch from Varuna (The Lord of the Seas), The Spear from Agni (The Lord of Fire), The Bow and Arrow from Vayu (The Lord of Air), The Thunderbolt from Indra, The Scepter and the Sword and Shield from Yama, The Axe from Vishwakarma. Himavan, the Lord of the Himalayas gave Goddess Durga a mountain lion as her Vaahan (vehicle).

The battle between Goddess Durga and Mahishasura is said to have raged for ten days and nine nights and it was on the tenth day of battle that Mahishasura was slain by the Goddess Durga.

So essentially, the festival of Navratri symbolizes the victory of good over evil.

Navratri this year too saw a rather busy social schedule. Ladies dropped in for Vettalai Paaku. We went over for Vettalai Paaku. For the elder sibling, it was the ideal time to bring out those salwar kurtas and the accessories – the bangles, the bindis, the hairclips, the dainty slippers :).

On the menu on Vettalai Paaku day was the traditional Sundal, Gajar ka Halwa and Almond Pedas.

For the younger sibling, it meant a whole lot of aunties coming home and of course, he had a nice time chatting most of the aunties up. There were lots of kids too this time around and while we ladies chatted and generally caught up on what was happening with each of us, the kids were having a whale of a time in the kids’ room. So much so that the self-appointed photographer completely forgot about the camera. She realized, late at night, that she’d not snapped up any pictures.

Navratri ended with Saraswati Puja and then Dassehra the next day. Two pairs of little hands paid their obeisance to the Goddess of Knowledge by tracing with their finger, on grains of rice spread out on a platter.

Vidyarambham – which literally translates into “the beginning of the journey towards acquisition of knowledge”. For the wee little children, on their very first Vidyarambham, it means exactly that – an initiation into the world of learning, into the world of knowledge.

“Why do we do this every year ?” “We have already started learning, so then why do we write on rice every year ?” queried the siblings.

What sprung to mind immediately was something I’d once read somewhere. For those who have already begun the journey – one of acquiring knowledge – it could be viewed as a gentle reminder that one can learn more by having an open mind. Because when one begins something, one always starts with a fresh slate and is thus more receptive and open to absorb more knowledge.

Vidyarambham - A Tradition that we remember from our childhood days, a tradition that we’ve chosen to carry on with our children too.

It also reminded me of what Gautam Buddha had once said about Traditions.

“Do not believe in anything simply because you’ve heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers or your elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”

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12 voice(s) said so:

Aditi's Album said...

Nice wirte up and do u also celebrate Golu?I'm sure the siblings owuld love to participate. I have started only i n recent years and love the preparations and tamboolams.

Kodi's Mom said...

really nice post & yummy pictures!
like the quote abt traditions.

Suma said...

loved this post...

and the quote too...:)

Keshi said...

WOW great celebrations pics there Gauri! YUMMMMMMMMMM I want those sweets!!! :(

I love the Buddha quote...follow ur Instincts more than anything else.



Priyanka said...

A very nice post. I had almost forgotten the story of Mahishasura & Goddess Durga. I think I'll need to brush up on the mythological stories to narrate them to Aashna.

choxbox said...

nice gauri.

you should put a warning along the lines of post contains yummy pix :)

Gauri said...

Aditi's Album : No I don't do the Navratri Kolu here. Just Vettalai Paaku :)

K's Mom : Thanks dear :). Now you can send me those songs on YouTube :D.

Suma : Thanks :)

Keshi : Sure thing. Come on over :)

Priyanka : :). Thanks

ChoxBox : Thanks :). Warning not needed considering the fact that you got to hog on all those goodies for all ten days !! :))

Gauri said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Neera said...

Lovely as ever Gauri. I didn't know abt the Vidyarambham ritual but love it already and shall do it next year :) CAn I bug u for the almond peda recipe :)

Mama - Mia said...

would you belive if i said i sat here and read the whole story with wide eyed wonder too?!

give me glasses Gauri! :)



Sands said...

Lovely post Gauri. Will have to print it out for the kids to read :) Absolutely loved the quote from Buddha. Makes such total sense!

Sands said...

BTW, the pedas look absolutely delicious :)