The prevalent custom during this nine-day long period is to decorate the homes with toys and idols, preferably of different Gods and Goddesses. But many ‘non-Godly’ idols made of clay, wood or marbles also find space. These idols are ideally placed on a platform and collectively known as Kolu. The women visit each other to see the decoration, they sing devotional songs together and share home- made sweets and ‘chundal’. Decorative goodie-bags filled with girlie things like make up items, hair accessories and fresh flowers are gifted to each visitor. Champa reveals the festivities in Tamil homes, in the Durga Puja special feature, exclusively in Different Truths.
The celebration of Navarathri begins in all Tamil homes, the day after Mahalaya, which also mark the beginning of Devi Paksha. The prevalent custom during this nine-day long period (which is Protipada to the Navami) is to decorate the homes with toys and idols, preferably of different Gods and Goddesses. But it is not very uncommon to see the ‘non-Godly’ idols made of clay, wood or marbles also sitting pretty with the ‘Godly ones’. The idols are ideally placed on a platform and collectively known as Kolu.
Rangoli or Kalam (Alpona) is drawn all around the house and especially at the entrance. Lamps are lighted in front of the Kolu and in the evening. The women friends and relations visit each other to see the decoration, they sing devotional songs together and share home-made sweets and ‘chundal’. Decorative goodie-bags filled with girlie things like make up items, hair accessories and fresh flowers are gifted to each of the visitors. I had seen in my early married days how my mother-in- law used to start planning from much before not only about the selection of the gift items but also how to pack them differently every year. Each family tries to surprise their guests with innovative gifts and packaging, though a coconut, a betel leaf, a comb and haldi-kumkum are the common items in all the packets. One may try to discard this Navarathri celebration by typifying it as just another religious ritual but I always see it as a great occasion of women bonding and a reason to visit each other.
Durga Puja Navami day is also celebrated as the Saraswati Puja day in Tamil Nadu. So the musical instruments and the books are also placed in front of the Kolu and we present musical performances in presence of our family members and close friends. I remember the first Durga Puja after three months of my marriage very vividly. With all the men away at work my mother-in- law and me were the only ones present in our Kolkata home and I was totally enthralled when Amma sang one after another song, so devotedly for her only audience.
On the Vijaya Dashami day, one of the Bommai (toy) from the Kolu decoration is symbolically put to sleep and that marks the end of the Navarathri celebrations.
Navarathri marks the triumph of good over evil and when the Tamil women get together for this festivity it is more to celebrate this spirit than for any religious reason.
Pix from author and Net.
Champa writes on various blogs and magazines on real life issues and incidents. She is a Post Graduate in English literature from Jadavpur University and has taught English in an Undergraduate college in Kolkata. Champa loves spending her time by reading, writing, gardening and learning classical dances. She now lives in Chennai.