Navratri has special significance in the lives of common people of Kerala, particularly those whose children are on the cusp of entering the academic world. Small children are initiated into the domain of knowledge during this festive period. For Keralites, knowledge reigns supreme over wealth and other mundane pursuits. The concluding 3 days of the Navratri namely Durgaastami, Mahanavami and Vijaya Dashami are exclusively set apart to seek the grace of Goddess Saraswati, the presiding deity of learning, knowledge and wisdom. Infants are initiated into the world of letters whereas students stack their books and study items in the worship room or the sanctum sanctorum of temples to be blessed with the grace of the Goddess.
The Vidyarambham ceremony or initiation of small kids to the world of knowledge takes place on the auspicious day of Vijayadashami, which signifies victory of the good over evil. A golden ring is used for inscribing the name of the God on the tongue of the kid. This is emblematic of inviting the god of wisdom to perennially sit on the tongue of the child and as such he/ she will use discretion while conducting himself/ herself in the later years of life. Kids are also guided to draw letter patterns through a plate of rice by the guardians.
Ayudha Pooja or worshipping the tools used by one in his/ her vocational pursuits is also an integral component of Navratri in Kerala. Votaries keep their tools or miniature versions of the same in the sanctum sanctorum of the Goddess to gain her blessings. This is considered as the catalyst for unmitigated success and prosperity. The genesis of this tradition harks back to the days of the Ramayana where Lord Sri Rama conducted special worship of the Goddess Durga before embarking on his journey to Ravana’s Lanka to salvage Devi Sita.
Navaratri’s grandeur can be seen in the prominent temples of Kerala, particularly Kottayam’s Panachikkadu Saraswati Temple, Thiruvananthapuram’s Attukal Bhagavathy Temple, Malappuram’s Thunchan Parambu Mandir (Thunchath Ramanujan Ezhuthachan who is credited with the genesis of Malyalam language took birth here), Thrissur’s Guruvayur Sri Krishna temple and Ernakulam’s Chottanikkara Devi temple. People reverently pay obeisance to the Goddess during the festive days of Navaratri in these imposing temples standing tall weathering the vagaries of the time.
Mullackal Alleppey Navartri
Mullakkal Bhagavathy temple in Alleppey stands witness to the magnificent celebration of Navratri every year. On the propitious day of Mahanavami, Kumari Pooja takes place wherein baby girls are worshipped as forms of goddess with great reverence. Each year some 200 girls are venerated and are offered new clothes and other accessories to celebrate the divineness of their feminine forms. On the Mahanavami’s night, celebration of “Theyattu” takes place wherein a large portrait of the Goddess is created on the floor by aesthetic combination of different colours. Dancers famed for their exquisite performance dance on the colourful pattern and gradually remove the portrait from the floor.
Another attraction of the Navratri in this temple is the ‘Bommai Kalu Festival” wherein elderly ladies read Devi Bhagavatham, the sacred Sanatana book aloud apart from setting their ‘Bommas’ on ‘Oottupura’. Other celebrations and traditional dances take place in majestic manner during the Navratri.
Navratri in Kerala is once in a lifetime celebration whose memories would linger in your memories forever.