Dussehra in South India

Dussehra in South India date 2015

22 October 2015

Dussera is one of the important festivals in South India. Also termed as Navratri, it is all about worshipping the trinity gods, goddess Lakshmi, goddess Sakthi and goddess Saraswati. It is often termed Dussera because the 10th day is celebrated as Vijaya Dasami, an auspicious day to commence new business, educating the child, etc. dedicated to Goddess Saraswati. Dussera in South India is lavishly celebrated in houses, temples and even in community centers.

When does Dussera in South India Fall?

Dussera begins on the next day after the new moon day of the 7th month of the lunar calendar and ends on the 10th day, i.e in the month of Ashwin. It mostly coincides with Dussehra in northern parts and rest of India.

Poojas and Offerings in the evening

Every evening of Navratri, a special offering is made. Each day a lentil variety is cooked and offered to goddess.

Dussehra in South India

Different Contexts of Navratri aka Dussera in South India

Dussera is more commonly termed as Navratri in South India. Different legends attribute and offer Pooja to the trinity goddess in different ways.

Trinity God:

  • Maha Lakshmi
  • Maha Saraswathi and
  • Maha Shakthi

The festival is celebrated for 9 nights. The first 3 days is dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi, the second 3 days are dedicated to Goddess Saraswathi and the last 3 days are dedicated to Goddess Parvati.

Ashta Lakshmi and Trinity God:

Goddess Lakshmi has eight different avatars as Astha Lakshmi, eight Lakshmi. Each Lakshmi is associated with a specific element.

  • Adhi Lakshmi Aka Maha Lakshmi – The Supreme deity
  • Dhana Lakshmi – Goddess of money and wealth
  • Dhanya Lakshmi – Goddess of food crops and agriculture
  • Santhana Lakshmi – Goddess of children
  • Vijaya Lakshmi – Goddess of victory and defeating enemies
  • Veera Lakshmi – Goddess of bravery, courage and strength
  • Gaja Lakshmi – Goddess of royalty and life filled with heavenly pleasures
  • Vidya Lakshmi – Goddess of education

Each day is dedicated to one form of Lakshmi and it is celebrated up to first eight days. The last day ie. 9th day is dedicated to the trinity god, Lakshmi, Saraswati and Parvati.

In addition, 9th day is celebrated as Saraswati Pooja in South India.

Nine Forms of Goddess Shakthi aka Nava Durga

In many parts of South India, especially in Karnataka and certain regions in Tamilnadu, Navratri is attributed to Nava Durga, the different incarnations or avatars of goddess Shakthi.

Alternatively, first seven days are dedicated to Sapta Matas, various avatars of Goddess Maha Shakthi. The 8th day, maha Ashtami is attributed to Goddess Shakti and the ninth day is for Goddess Saraswathi.

The reason behind celebration of Navratri in South India is associated with the sapta matas and there is an interesting legend linked with the birth of them.

Story of Birth of Navratri

Before several yugas, twin brothers named Sumba and Nisumba who had immense power and authority, ruled the world together. They were backed by three brave soldiers, Sanda, Munda and Raktha Beeja. Raktha Beeja adviced Sumba and Nisumba to undergo a penance worshipping Lord Shiva. They followed it. After years of struggling penance, Lord Shiva was pleased.

The twin brothers requested the God to bless them with eternal life. As per the Bramma Lipi, it is impossible to live forever. Any life that is born in the world will die and should die one day. So, the god couldn’t grant the boon they requested. The twin brothers were confused to ask a powerful boon.

Lord Shiva gave them an idea. He told, ‘I cannot grant you immortality, but can grant you a boon otherwise. Think about someone who cannot destroy you. The one you feel will not be able to kill you will end your life!’

The twin brothers had no respect for women and they considered women inferior. They laughed and screamed to the god that ‘we want to die on hands of a woman’ considering that women have no power!

God granted the boon and the brothers started to ruin the world. Women were extremely tortured during their reign. People pleaded to the trinity gods, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. However, they recalled the boon granted to the brothers, that they can be killed only by a woman! So, they hesitated to take a stand against Sumba and Nisumba.

All humans, devas, saints and even trinity gods rushed to Goddess Shakthi. Then they started praying Goddess Shakti. Goddess Shakthi realized how the twin brothers were troubling women and took an avatar as Maha Shakthi. She used every single element as her weapons and she created seven avatars from devas and trinity gods offering unique power to each avatar. They are called Sapta Kanni or Sapta Mata.

  • Brahmi – Power of Brahma
  • Vaishnavi – Power of Mahavishnu
  • Varahi – Power of Varaha Murthi, the boar faced incarnation of lord Vishnu
  • Maheshwari – Power of Lord Shiva
  • Indhrani – Power of Indra deva
  • Gowmari – Power of Lord Narasimha, the lion faced incarnation of lord Vishnu
  • Chamundi – Power of Goddess Shakthi

Goddess Shakthi turned into a beautiful woman who glittered like gold. They announced the war with the twin brothers and landed in a forest.

The commanders of the twin brothers were stunned at the beauty of goddess Shakthi. Since they don’t respect women, they considered the Goddess Shakthi as just another woman and tried to persuade her to become their queen.

Goddess Shakthi played a trick and told the commanders that she would marry the one who wins her in a battle! The commanders rushed to the twin brothers.

The brothers the rushed back to the forest and mesmerized at the beauty of the goddess, they told the goddess to pick any of them to marry as even the trinity gods were afraid to fight with them.

However, goddess Shakthi insisted to commence a battle. Without considering the power of the goddess, the twin brothers battled. The battle lasted for 9 days and on the ninth day, she triumphed over the evils and spread peace and happiness.

Goddess and her seven commanders used to fight during the day until sunset. Later, the Narada Deva with other saints and the followers used to offer Pooja, sing songs praising the beauty and power of the Shakthi, etc. at the night. The poojas, offerings, songs and prayers brought back more power after every day battle. These celebrations took place after the sunset.

The similar ritual is observed during Navratri, offering evening poojas, prayers, etc. to the goddess.

Regardless of worshipping goddess in different avatars, she is a form of Goddess Maha Shakthi. Goddess Maha Shakthi appears as Goddess Lakshmi, Sarawathi and Parvati!

Kolu Display

In many homes, Kolu display is a major part of Navratri celebration. Kolu display is nothing but displaying a variety of dolls, made of clay, and other materials of gods and goddesses, incarnations of gods, mythology characters, ancient rituals, temples, animals and birds fun dolls, etc. are placed. Generally, Kolu display is made in unique Kolu stands which comprise of 9, 7 or 5 steps stand.

In each Kolu, clay idols of Trinity gods and goddesses, Lord Ganesha, Ashta Lakshmi, Lord Rama and Sita, etc. are placed invariably.

Navratri Pooja Common Rituals in South India

Even those who didn’t follow the habit of Kolu display follow similar rituals to welcome and honor goddess.

  • The home is cleaned a couple of days before Navratri.
  • The homes are decorated with colorful lights, rangoli etc.
  • Both morning and night, oil lamp is lighted.
  • In the morning, milk or any milk based dessert is made as offering to the goddess.
  • Every morning, a variety of lentil, chana, black chana, peas, etc. are boiled and offered. This is then distributed to the visitors.
  • Every evening, women in the home lit the lamp and perform aarti.
  • Women join as small groups and sing songs, slokas and do bhajans at home.
  • On the last day, the 9th day of Navratri, all women gift the visiting with saree or blouse piece, bangles, turmeric and kumkum, a small mirror, mehendi, coconut, etc. with betel leaves.

Honoring and Gifting Women – A Part of Navratri Celebration

It is called Navratri because it is an evening festival. It is the festival of women! People invite the relatives, neighbours and friends and gift them with auspicious things like Kumkum, turmeric, bangles, etc. Those who could afford also gift sarees, expensive gifts, etc.

The concept behind offering gifts to the neighboring women is receiving blessings from the goddess. Those who receive such gifts feel happy and contented and they bless the receiver. It is believed that this way, goddess Lakshmi blesses the host.

In many homes, young girls who are yet to attain puberty (Kanya girls) are invited and worshipped as goddess. The young girls were provided a lavish feast and gifted with dress, bangles and other decorative accessories. The girl is worshipped as goddess and all members in the family who offered Kanya Pooja seek blessing from the little girls.

In addition, married women are also invited for lunch and gifted with auspicious things.

Doing Navratri Pooja everyday brings all wealth, peace and prosperity to the devotees on the occasion of Dussera in South India.

Don’t miss reading Dussehra in Kullu

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