Navaratri is a festival that lasts nine days and nine nights. The word "Navaratri" actually means nine (Nava) nights (ratri). This is celebrated in different styles throughout India. Navaratri occurs during the first 9 days of the bright half of the month of Aashwayuja in the Indian calendar. Navarathiri Pooja is not a pooja that is done only for one day. It is done for 9 days. Nava means "nine". Since, the pooja is done for 9 days, the pooja is so called as "Navarathiri" Pooja. This pooja is mainly done towards the Goddess - Shakthi and she is the main deity for this pooja. This 9 days of pooja is segregated into 3 parts and each parts contains 3 days of each. Therefore, in these 9 days, first 3 days of pooja is for Sri Durga Devi, the next 3 days, pooja needs to be done for Sri Lakshmi and the final 3 days for Sri Saraswathi. Further one more day the pooja is extended and on that particular day, we have to do pooja for all these 3 deities.
About the main deity:
Goddess Saraswathi is referred as "Gnana Shakthi", Goddess Sri Lakshmi is referred to as "Kriya Shakthi" and Goddess Parvathi is called as "Iccha Shakthi". All these 3 Shakthis joined together as "Chandika Devi" to attain a common goal ie killing Mageeshan.
Why Nine Nights & Days?
Navaratri is divided into sets of three days to adore different aspects of the supreme goddess. On the first three days, the Mother is invoked as powerful force called Durga in order to destroy all our impurities, vices and defects. The next three days, the Mother is adored as a giver of spiritual wealth, Lakshmi, who is considered to have the power of bestowing on her devotees the inexhaustible wealth. The final set of three days is spent in worshipping the mother as the goddess of wisdom, Saraswati. In order have all-round success in life, we need the blessings of all three aspects of the divine mother; hence, the worship for nine nights.
The 9 Forms of The Mother GoddessNava – that also means 'new' – denotes 'nine' the number to which sages attach special significance. Hence, we have Nava-ratri (9 nights), Nava-patrika (9 leaves / herbs / plants), Nava-graha (9 planets), and Nava-Durga (9 appelletions.
Golu or Kolu, doll arrangement, is an essential part of Navrathri and Dasara celebrations in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. In 2008, Navratri Kolu begins on September 30. The Bommai Golus are proud possessions of a family and they are handed down through generations. Apart from the traditional Navratri Bommai Kolu display, nowadays there is an emphasis on Golu themes with different ideas.
The Navratri or Dasara kolu is displayed on stairs created from wood. The number of steps depends on the availability of the dolls. The maximum number is nine – representing the nine days of Navratri. Usually, the steps erected are even numbers – 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 or 11.
Kolu – the royal court of Goddess Durga is created 3, 5, 7, 9 or 11 steps. The most important dolls in the kolu arrangement are the Raja-rani or the marapaachi bommais. These are expensive dolls and a set of them is found in all traditional households. Another important idol is that of Goddess Saraswati. A Kalash is also placed along with the Golu. Marapachi Dolls are an indispensable part of Navaratri Bommai Kolu doll arrangements. Marapachi Bommai literally means wooden toys. Golu or Kolu is the display of dolls during Navratri in South India especially in Tamil Nadu, Marapachi Dolls are a pair of male and female dolls which forms the most important part of Navarathri Golu arrangements. They are sold as a couple – male and female. The dolls are mostly made of reddish wood. They are finely carved and are available in various sizes. During display, the wooden couple is beautifully adorned with colorful attires and jewellery.
Marapachi dolls are a proud possession for many people and are handed down generations. There is also a tradition of parents gifting their married daughter Marapachi bommai so that she can start Navratri Kolu display in her house
There are no hard and fast rules for arranging the dolls. Nowadays, the arrangement depends on the availability of dolls. In most places, the entire nine steps will be filled with statues of various gods and goddesses in Hindu pantheon. For some, the Navratri Kolu is a simple arrangement of various deities in three steps.
The topmost three steps are dedicated to various gods and goddesses. In some areas, people place a ‘Purna Kumbham’ on the topmost step.
The next three steps – 4, 5 and 6 – are dedicated to Gurus, saints, religious personalities and other highly respected figures in the country and world.
The seventh step is dedicated to various social activities and festivals. People depict marriages and important festivals in this step.
Business, crafts and other economic activities are depicted in the eighth step. Creative women depict a buzzing market place and other activities.
The ninth step is dedicated to dolls made of wood. Dolls of men, women, children, animals and birds are placed in this step.
During Bommai Kolu, the entire neighborhood, friends and relatives gather in a house and sing bhajans dedicated to Goddess Durga. Special sweets are prepared during the period.
On the Vijayadashami day (the tenth day), the dolls are taken out.
How to perform the rituals?
A Kalash is prepared at home and the water is changed daily for nine days. The kalash is placed on grains on raised platform or in the Puja room. Goddess Durga is worshipped during the first three days, Goddess Lakshmi for the next three days, and Goddess Saraswathi during the last three days. (Some people make clay figures of the Goddesses during the period).
Each day fresh flowers and fruits are offered to the Goddess. Arati is performed and bhajans are recited.
* Purna Kumba or Kalash is kept on a kolam in such a place that there is space behind to keep the Bommai Kolu. You can attach a face of Goddess to the Purna Kumbha and decorate the Kumbha with jewelry, turmeric, sandal paste, flowers etc.
* Those who do not keep Kolu, keep the Kalash in the Pooja room.
* Betel leaves, Betel nuts, a coconut is placed in front of the Kalasha. Cooked rice or boiled and sweetened milk is kept as prasadam or neivedya in front of the Kalasha.
* This Kalasha is to be kept for next nine days – it symbolizes Goddess.
* A lamp is lit every evening and morning for nine days.
* Normal puja is performed. Other women are invited on any one of the evening.
* The first three days is dedicated to Goddess Durga.
* The next three days is dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi.
* The final three days is dedicated to Goddess Saraswathi.
* Fresh kolams are done on all nine days.
* Shlokas that are recited on nine days include Durga Ashtotaram, Devi Mahatmiyam, Shyamala Dhandakam, Lakshmi Sahasranama, Lakshmi Ashototaram, Lalitha Sahasranama, Saraswathi Stotram, Saraswathi Ashototaram.
* Sholakas are recited while performing the puja.
Sweets and neivedya prepared are shared with neighbors, relatives and friends The lamp is diffused after the puja daily.
On the Vijayadashami day (the tenth day), the dolls are taken out.