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reminiscing navaratri

From: sriram ramanujam (sripaduka_at_msn.com)
Date: Wed Oct 09 1996 - 21:19:16 PDT

Thought it might not hurt to add some of my recollections 
and references on Navaratri. This festival happens to start
on the first day of  sharadrutu or fall that is Ashvayuja shukla
pratipada to the navami.  It is also believed that Narayana 
and the other gods are supposed to be asleep for a period of 
four months spanning from AshADa to Krittika. It is probably 
linked to the rainy season spread over these hindu months 
which gave little scope for the movement and activity and 
that Surya bhagawan gave very little light to the aryans in the
northern latitudes. This probably is one reason that people 
generally do not perform marriages particularly during Ashada. 

The whole idea seems to be oriented towards worshipping of 
various forms of Thayar as the Shakti swaroopa of the Lord rather 
than disturbing him from his slumber. Usually the whole
'bommai kolu' kicks of with the keeping of the Kalasa with water 
containing sandal paste (probably to supress the possible bad odor 
after the nine days?), the 'darba' grass and leaves of five trees 
like Mango etc. and clay from seven places (don't really know where 
the number came from). Let me just be silly and try suggesting this 
- could it be possibly be true that after the rainy season with a 
lot of clay around the erstwhile artisans tried their hand at recreating 
the images of our gods and godesses and went on to depict all of 
Narayanas creation in their clay images which we display. The whole 
of the nine days seem to be all about praying for 'shakti' personified
as a feminine gender in the form of 'Saraswati' in the south and 
Durga in the west. South indians sure do have a photo of Saraswati too 
and typically worshipped on the saptami or astami day if my memory 
serves me right. 

As Mr.Sadagopan had written various sects do indulge in recitation 
of various Devi oriented stotrams but it is a vogue among Vaishnavas 
to read the whole of Ramayana by the khandams each of the 9-10
days with a lot of 'madi'. Is'nt it interesting that we set aside a day 
to worship and respect even inanimate instruments and implements that 
have been useful to us during the year on Ayudha puja day which  
typically is on the navami. 

Finally on the Vijayadashami it is  said that Rama killed Ravana but 
on all the previous nine days that he is supposed to have fought,  he 
is said to have gone to the battle field after praying to his inner shakti
and his steadfast resolve to get back his beloved Sita devi. But on the 
final day he is believed to have worshipped the tree 'ShamIvriksha' and 
did indeed attain victory. Hence the Shami tree is actually a symbol
of victory in undertakings. 

I remember all the years I grew up in Bangalore, we would go to the Andal 
Rangamannar temple there when on Vijayadashami day after the 'veedhi parappad' 

of the lord, some small branches of the shamivriksha tree would be tied up 
to the coconut tree in the Andavan Ashram there and the bhattar would
take his aim with the bow and arrow. Later the shami leaves would be 
distributed which we would hold onto in various places where some good luck 
was needed. Most often it ended up between school text books.

Dasan
-sriram