Each year Navaratri commences on the first day (pratipada) of the bright fortnight of the lunar month of Ashvin. The Navaratri festival or 'nine day festival' becomes a 'ten day festival' with the addition of the last day, Vijaya Dasami (day of victory) as its culmination.

Origins of Navaratri
There is different mythology connected with this Festival. In one legend Mahishasura, the King of Demons started a war against the Gods. To combat him, the Gods combined their powers to give birth to 'Shakti'. The Goddess fought the demon for nine nights and on the tenth day, the Goddess slew it - thereby achieving victory over evil.

Another legend is that Goddess Uma the wife of Lord Siva and daughter of Daksha - the King of the Himalayas - is said to return home for ten days during Navaratri.

It is believed that Adi Shankaracharya gave upadesa at two primary locations during the installation of a Sri Chakra at Srisailam (Andhra Pradesh) and at Koolurmugambika (Karnataka). At the time of the installations he directed women folk to worship the Goddess and seek Her blessings for the wealth, prosperity and long life for their husbands and overall happiness in the family.

Navaratri is celebrated in many ways, depending on region, local history and family influences. Some see it as a way to commune with one's own feminine divinity. A widespread practice honours the Goddess in every woman by inviting young girls to the family's home and feeding and offering new clothes to the girls. During the Festival, women also perform tapas and selfless acts.

Kolu Displays
Families in Tamil Nadu traditionally prepare in their homes a Kolu, an exhibition of small dolls, figurines and artefacts on a stepped, decorated shelf. At least one murti of Shakti must be present, as well as wooden figurines of a boy and a girl together to invoke auspicious marriages.

Kolu Display at Yogi Ramsuratkumar Ashram
Kolu Display at Yogi Ramsuratkumar Ashram

Kolu figurines can be simple or very complicated and based upon Gods and saints, depictions of the epics and puranas, demigods, national leaders, marriage, musical instruments, shops, current affairs and scenes from everyday life.

Kolu Display at Dr. K. Shanti's Home
Kolu Display at Dr. K. Shanti's Home

Historically Kolu had a significant connection with the agricultural economy of Ancient India. In order to encourage de-silting of irrigation canals the Kolu celebration was aimed at providing demand for clay that was needed for the celebratory dolls. It is believed that the tradition of Kolu has been in existence from the reign of the Vijayanagara kings.

Worship of the Goddess
The Goddess is worshipped in different aspects throughout this Festival. During the first three nights, Durga is revered, then Lakshmi on the fourth, fifth and sixth nights, and Saraswati until the ninth night.

Durgai Amman Temple, Second Day
Durgai Amman Temple, Second Day

Durga (invincible) is the epitome of strength, courage and ferocity. Her devotees approach Her, sometimes with difficult penances, so that they may imbibe Her traits and win Her protection. Durga personifies that aspect of shakti which destroys negative tendencies. The process of trying to control our senses is likened to the mind which resists all attempts at control. Durga is the Goddess that wages war to destroy our vasanas.

Seshadri Ashram, Day 5
Seshadri Ashram, Day 5

A more gentle worship is observed for Lakshmi (also called Annapurna "Giver of food"). She is the Goddess of abundance, wealth and comfort; the ever-giving Mother, worshipped for well-being and prosperity. A traditional way of invoking Lakshmi is to chant the Sri Suktam. In Her honour, food is prepared and offered to neighbours and visitors - thereby strengthening community ties.

On the full moon night following Navaratri, it is believed Lakshmi Herself visits each home and replenishes family wealth. We worship Lakshmi in order to imbibe ourselves with positive qualities. Lakshmi is not just the giver of wealth; She is the Mother who gives according to the needs of Her children.

Angalamman Temple, Day 8
Angalamman Temple, Day 8

The last three days of Navaratri; exalts the Goddess Saraswati, which is the form of Shakti that personifies wisdom, art and beauty. The name Saraswati literally means "flowing one", a reference to thoughts, words, music and the Saraswati River. Mystically Saraswati is believed to be the keeper of the Gayatri Mantra, which is chanted during the festival to invoke Her supreme blessings. Devotees meditate on this mantra as its considered the door to Divine wisdom. Saraswati is the embodiment of knowledge and the illuminator of Supreme Truth.

The ninth day is the day of Ayudha Puja which is the worship of whatever implements are used in one's work. On the eve of Ayudha Puja, implements connected with one's work are placed in front of the Goddess Saraswati and on the next day Puja is performed upon the implements.

The tenth day of this Festival is Vijaya Dasami, or the "Festival of Victory", symbolising the moment when Truth dawns within.

Vijaya Dasami: Mahishasura Mardini
There lived a demon named Mahisha who wanted to become invincible and so prayed to Lord Brahma for the boon of invincibility. With this aim, he performed severe penances and austerities and the three worlds trembled under the strength of his penance. The power of his tapas led Lord Brahma to grand him a boon. At first the demon Mahisha asked for immortality, but when Brahma stated that every creature who was born had to die, Mahisha asked for the boon that no man should be able to kill him.

Now that Mahisha was invincible, he started doing evil deeds; terrorising all on earth and boldly commenced to conquer the gods in heaven. His attack was so powerful that even Indra's mighty thunderbolt could not drive him away. Mahisha took over Indra's throne and created havoc. Unable to tolerate this tyranny, the Gods joined together to create a powerful female form with ten arms - Goddess Durga who embodies the source of all power. The Gods then bestowed upon Her their individual blessings and weapons. Armed as a warrior, the Goddess appeared on the back of a fierce lion to battle with the Mahisasura. After a fierce combat the Goddess was able to slay the demon with her trident. She thus earned the title of Mahishasura Mardini - the destroyer of Mahishasura.

Mahishasura Mardini

Vijaya Dasami is the day on which this event occurs. It is the tenth day after the nine nights of Navaratri and signifies the victory of the Goddess Durga over the powers of darkness. Legend reputes that the battle between Durga and Mahishasura took place on the slopes of Arunachala. The Goddess screamed at Mahishasura, "This is a sacred place where only sages and devotees of Arunachala can reside, therefore do not incur the wrath of my Lord. It is ordained that I should fight and kill you." Hence She took him outside the borders of Tiruvannamalai. After a nine day battle She slayed him and returned to Tiruvannamalai triumphantly, whereupon She continued her tapas on the slopes of Arunachala. Thus the Navaratri festival although celebrated all over India, has the greatest significance in Tiruvannamalai.

Spiritual Practices during Festival
Some of the spiritual practices associated with Navaratri include fruit and milk fasts, japa (mantra chanting), chanting of hymns dedicated to Devi in Her different forms, prayer, meditation and recitation of sacred texts including the Devi Mahatmyam, Sri Lalita Sahasranama and the Durga Saptashati.

Aspects of the Goddess daily worshipped
Day 1: Goddess Shailaputri Shaila means mountain and putri means daughter. Since Goddess Parvati is the daughter of the Mountain God, she is given importance on this day.

Day 2: Goddess Brahmacharini is a form of Durga Devi who reduces anger.

Day 3: Goddess Chandraghanta It is believed she has a third eye and fights against evil demons. During puja, jasmine flowers are offered to placate Her.

Day 4: Goddess Kushmanda Her name means cosmic egg. She spreads energy and warmth to all.

Day 5 Goddess Skandamata This Goddess rules over Budha (Mercury). She is both fierce and loving.

Day 6 Devi Katyayani Women offer prayers to get a peaceful married life.

Day 7 Goddess Kalaratri She is fierce and frightens evil spirits. She is the most destructive avatar of Kali and rules over Shani (Saturn).

Day 8 Goddess Mahagauri She wears only white clothes and rides a bull. On this day, Kanya Puja occurs which is dedicated to young virgin girls. The day is celebrated with dance, fun and prayers.

Day 9 Devi Siddhidaatri This Goddess fulfils all wishes.

Day 10 Vijayadasami After 9 nights of prayers, the tenth day is kept aside for Vijayadasami. A day of new beginnings based upon Victory.

Colours of the Festival
A specific colour represents each day of the Festival

Day 1 Yellow signifies warmth and joy. Enhances happiness and positivity in life
Day 2 Green is colour of fertility, serenity, growth and auspicious beginnings
Day 3 Grey represents balance, humbleness and improvement
Day 4 Orange creates calmness and positivity. Invites happiness and creativity
Day 5 White symbolises peace and harmony. Promotes security, purity and happiness
Day 6 Red signifies love, bravery and passion. Invites vitality, energy and beauty into life
Day 7 Royal Blue promotes elegance and grandeur. Signifies charisma, attainment, success
Day 8 Pink symbolises harmony, goodness and love
Day 9 Purple represents peace and nobility. Signifies prosperity, opulence and success

Photographs of Navaratri at Tiruvannamalai
Tiruvannamalai has many beautiful Temples dedicated to the Divine Mother. Visit the Albums to view the Alangarams of the Goddess during Navaratri and also to see Kolu displays at Yogi Ramsuratkumar Ashram with sections depicting the abodes, life and legends of various Gods and Goddesses.