Navratri – Then and Now
Nine days of Jamboree
A Hindu festival that spans for nine nights, Navratri is celebrated in honor of the divine feminine Devi(Durga). Within Tamil Nadu, Navratri has been a historic tradition with Saraswathi, Lakshmi, and Durga goddesses in focus. With the temples decorated and ceremonial lamps lit, Navratri is celebrated with a lot of grandeur.
One of the poojas that is done with a lot of effort and enthusiasm is the Saraswathi Pooja, with an aim to gain knowledge and excel in studies. Washing and applying vibhuti on our household appliances, doors, windows, gas stove, television, and vehicles like my bicycle that I won in my 5th Standard for winning the proficiency prize.
Dotted beautifully with sandhanam and kungumam, the decorated Mango leaves are tied together and put up, above the entrance of our homes with the help of a hemp rope (sanal kayiru). Offering a garland made of yellow chrysanthemum to Goddess Saraswathi, we happily apply vibhuti and kungumam on our school notebooks and pencil boxes and placed them in the pooja room to receive the blessings of Goddess Saraswathi.
On these auspicious days, amma would generally make varieties of tasty poriyal, sambar, payasam and vadai along with rice. Offering these five padayals to the Goddess in Vazhai Iliai along with pori (puffed rice) and sundal, she would call our neighbors to visit and give prasadam, sundal packed in Stainless Steel boxes, packed with love.
Those were the days when we were not even aware of recycling or composting, but we have celebrated these poojas without a trace of plastic!
Once I shifted to Chennai, I learned that Saraswathi Pooja is a part of Navratri celebrations. It is so much fun to celebrate these nine days to visit different houses and communities to see the Golus. While I was meeting my friends and families, I got to see that many houses used Pop dolls and plastic garlands. We were even given return gifts which contained small mirrors, combs, kungumam, and sandhanam on plastic vetrilai, all of which was filled up in a non-woven or plastic bags. I came back home with 5-6 plastic bags in my hands which were filled with various plastic return gifts which are of no use until the next Navaratri.
A glimpse of the past!
Looking back, we never used plastics during Navratri celebrations. I tried to dig deep into this and asked the elders residing in our apartment. Few of them said that they used one of their double-sided doors for placing the golus and they gave out sundals in pottalams, a special kind of newspaper packaging. A resident of my apartment, Malini Aunty took time out for me and explained to me various interesting practices:
1. Golu Padi (Golu steps) were made out of cot planks, chest of drawers and bricks for support. How wonderful is to visualize Golu padi with available materials!
2. Golu padi was decorated with newly bought cotton cloth, which was reused after the pooja as tailor-made petticoats and underwear.
3. Glue, made of maida flour, was used for sticking papers or making artistic Golu models.
4. The roads in the Golu model made from powdered charcoal mixed with beach sand.
5. Visitors carried their own Chettiyar olai kuudai (bags) to collect Thaengaai and Thamboolam.
6. Most importantly, they never followed the return gift culture. Love was received and returned!
Woah! The fact that we followed the concept of reduce and reuse to judiciously during the Navaratri celebrations got me really excited!
An eco-friendly Navratri!
Nowadays, people are giving out Thamboolam bags made out of cloth, instead of plastic covers.
So, dear buddies,
Are we ready to Celebrate Navratri without any single-use plastics?
Are we ready to Compost the flowers offered to God?
Are we ready to provide ONLY eco-friendly gifts to the guests and friends visiting us and enjoy the time by praying, chit-chatting with sundal and offer Kungumam and Sandhanam to adore their forehead, then and there?
Let’s render our prayers to Devi Ma to make each one of us think and act eco-consciously while celebrating her and to make our EARTH beautiful.
Nammaboomi namma thaana patthukanum!
Let’s take care!