While a number of festivals are limited to certain places, “Navaratri” is an exception considering its total Indian acceptance. The festival aimed at hailing “Devi durga” according to the Indian concepts. The name itself proclaims the nature of the celebration. Taking its root from ‘Sanskrit’, the name “Navaratri” means nine nights (Nava – Nine, Ratri - Night). Thus a long and colorful celebration lasting nine days takes place every year during the October month in English calendar, while the tenth day is referred to as “Vijayadashami”.
Traditionally, the beginning of spring and ending o autumn are considered as important since ancient times, due to the climatic changes and solar influential. Though not widely popular in Kerala there are as much as four various “Navaratri” celebrations apart from the one celebrated during the month mentioned above; while this one is also called as “Maha Navaratri” or to be precise “Great Navaratri” in some parts. The nine days can be divided into three different sets each with three days.
After completing the first two sets, respectively devoted for hailing goddess “Durga” – who kills all the evils, and “Lakshmi” – goddess of wealth, the final set of celebrations will start, where “Saraswathy” – the goddesses of knowledge, is being hailed the most. The eight day is traditionally celebrated as ‘Durgashtami’ in North India, especially that in Bengal and Bihar. At the same time, the ninth day has various means in South India. “Ayudha Puja” – dedicated for worshiping one’s weapons, tools and machinery, along with vehicles apart from the deity. The tenth day is called “Vijayadashami” – a day considered auspicious for starting studies.
In Kerala, these three days, “Ashtami”, “Navami” and “Dashami” or “Vijayadashami” have special significances. Known as “Saraswathy Puja”, these three days witness devotees, especially that of children worshiping their books. They keep books either in homes or in temples, provided the condition that they will not read or write during these days. On the third day that is on the “Vijayadashami” all the books are retrieved to the formal state and it is on this date that they start the process of learning. And with no doubt, this day is also called “Vijayarambham” or “Day to start learning”.
These same days used to be celebrated in different ways across the nation. While in North India, the conclusion of celebrations is with the burning of effigies of monstrous mythological characters such as “Ravana”, “Kumbhakarna” and “Meghanatha”, indicating the win of deity “Rama” over them in the battle. Down South, especially that in traditional Tamil Brahmin houses, you could see the placement of idols, known as ‘Golu’.
Anyway, “Navaratri” is undoubtedly one of the most celebrated events across India, despite the demographic changes.