Significance of Navaratri, Mahavanavmi and Vidhyaarambam (Ezhuthiniruthal)
9 – day Navratri festival begins on the first day of the Shukla Paksha of the Ashwayuja/ Ashwina month (Ashwayuja Padyami). In 2008, Navratri begins on 30th September, Tuesday. On this day, in Northern States and in Karnataka and certain extent in Andra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, a ceremony called ‘Durga Kalash Sthapana’ is done with utmost devotion. Shri Durga Mahaanavami will be celebrated on 8th October. The festival of Navratri ends on 9th October, Thursday. On this day, devotees celebrate Dussehra / Dasara. It is also called Vijaya Dashami day where children are initiated to the world of learning and knowledge in the presence of goddess Saraswathi at temples or in front of gurus in gurukulas / schools of knowledge.
Navratri ” literally means “nine nights.” Navratri is celebrated twice a year, once at the beginning of the New Samvatsar (Hindu New year) in Summers and again at the onset of winter. Navratri or Navratra are therefore known as Chaitra Navratra and Shaardey Navratra on the basis of their occurrence. These nights are devoted to the reverence of Goddess Durga (Maa Durga) who exists in many forms and is the manifestation of the absolute energy that pervades the Universe. During these days and nights prayers are offered to Mother Goddess.
The Shrimad-devi Bhagwat mentions the significance of puja done during the Navratri. Devi Mahaatmya and other texts invoking Goddess Durga are cited during thir period of nine days. According to puraanas if a person worships Goddess during this period then he is blessed with virtues of all kinds and all his sins are forgiven.
During Navaratri, we invoke the energy aspect of God in the form of universal mother Maa Durga, which literally means the remover of miseries of life. Maiya is also known as Shakti as she is the source of all energies in the world. It is this energy, which helps God to proceed with the work of creation, preservation and destruction.
In Shiv Puraan, Lord Shiva says that he is Shav(meaning Dead) without the powers of Shakti (his wife and the ultimate source of energy). In other words, we can say that even God is motionless, absolutely changeless without the divine support of Maa Durga.
In Bhagwat puraan, Lord Vishnu says that he is incomplete without his better half. He blesses those who worship his wife Maa Mahalaxmi. It is for this reason the world says Radhey-Krishna and Sita-Raam and not Raam-Sita or Krishna – Radhey.
The worship of Mother Goddess can be dated back to Indus Valley Period wherein the statue of Mother Goddess clearly mentions the presence of her supremacy. This is a true example of importance given to females in Idian culture and religion.
Durga or the destructive aspect of the divine mother is worshipped during the first three nights. On the succeeding three knights, her protective aspect of Lakshmi and on the last three nights, her knowledge aspect or Saraswati are worshipped. The significance of this order is that first durga destroys all the evil propensities lurking in the minds of her devotees; then lakshmi implants divine qualities in the devotees’ minds and finally saraswati bestows true knowledge to her devotees. The tenth day known as Vijaya Dasami, commemorates the victory of knowledge over ignorance of goodness over evil.
Importance of each day of Navratri:
1st – 3rd day of Navratri
On the first day of the Navaratras, ‘Kalash Shthaapna. is done in the puja room.These initial days are dedicated to Durga Maa, the Goddess of power and energy. Her various manifestations, Kumari, Parvati and Kali are all worshipped during these days. They represent the three different classes of womanhood that include the child, the young girl and the mature woman.
4th – 6th day : Lalita Panchami
4th – 6th day of Navratri During these days, Lakshmi Maa, the Goddess of peace and prosperity is worshipped. On the fifth day which is known as Lalita Panchami, it is traditional, to gather and display all literature available in the house, light a lamp or ‘diya’ to invoke Saraswati Maa, the Goddess of knowledge and art.
Final days: Durga Ashtami Puja
These final days belongs to Saraswati Maa who is worshipped to acquire the spiritual knowledge. This in turn will free us from all earthly bondage. But on the 8th day of this colorful festival, yajna (holy fire) is performed. Ghee (clarified butter), kheer (rice pudding) and sesame seeds form the holy offering to Goddess Durga Maa.
Mahanavami Puja. Navratri ends.
The festival of Navratri culminates in Mahanavami. On this day Kanya Puja is performed. Nine young girls representing the nine forms of Goddess Durga are worshiped. Their feets are washed as a mark of respect for the Goddess and then they are offered food mainly consisting kala chana, halwa and poori. Then after new clothes or gifts by the worshiper. This ritual is performed in most parts of the country.
After the three days of Puja, in Dashami , in the last day, a tearful farewell is offered to the Goddess. Most of the community pujas postpone the farewell as long as possible and arrange a grand send-off. The images are carried in processions around the locality and finally is immersed in a nearby river or lake. Vijaya Dashami is an event celebrated all over the country.This day also marks the return of Lord Ram to Ayodhya after 14 years in exile
This is also the day when most of the Malayalees do the Vidyaarambam or Ezhuthiniruthal ceremony to initiate children to the world of learning and knowledge.
Panachikkadu saraswathi temple, Thiruvullakkavu Sri Dharmashastha temple, Chottanikkara Devi temple and Paravur Mookambi temple are well known places where Vidyarambam ceremonies are conducted in an elaborate and systematic manner. Kollur Mookambika temple is also very significant amongst all art and music lovers, as well as educationist.
Even if it is a hindu tradition, now it is followed by other religions too to start the formal education of children on this auspicious day dedicated to Vidhya Devi.
At temples, it will be the chief priest and his assistants who takes initiative to start this knowledge initiating process to the child by first writing on the tongue with a golden ring a sloka/or small prayer dedicated to saraswathi and then holding the hands of the child, the priest makes him write on sand or on rice the same slokas. This is also done in schools of knowledge by gurus.
Normally, they (the priests or the gurus or elders) with soft and careful hands and with prayers and good thoughts in mind, make the child write the following words on his tongue:
Hari Shree Ganapathaye Namah Avignamasthu
Children and elders who already have started their education may write the above and then followed by the below mentioned prayers:
Om Sree Gurubhyo Namah Om Sree Saraswathaye Namah
And if you know Malayalam the following first few letters of the language
or the alphabets of any language you know for example, English, Hindi, French etc. and then followed by numerals starting from 0 to 9 etc.
Vijaya Dashmi day is also very auspicious and many children are initiated into the world of music and arts on this day.
For those readers who wish to learn or start learning Malayalam, the following site is very useful.