Navaratri is a much-awaited festival in India and it falls typically in Early Autumn (September/October), called Sharad rutuvu. At this time of the year, the monsoons have taken a back seat, and all the trees would be full of blooms. In the Northern and North-Eastern parts of India, the fall colors just start showing up. That’s the reason why this festival is so full of colors, apart from Holi. During Holi, we use colors to smear each other, but at this festival, we use colors to decorate the goddesses and ourselves. Our ancestors have created this tradition not just based on the cultural aspect, but they have included the social and health angles also into this tradition. I got to understand the health and social angles of the Navaratri from my grandmother.
What’s there in the name, when it’s going to be the same festival that we are going to celebrate across India. This is a 9-day celebration of the victory of good over evil. In some places, it’s the Mother Goddess who kills the terrorizing demon (Mahishasura), in certain places, it’s about Rama killing Ravan. Since I am from South India, for us it’s all about the Devi puja during this time of the year. And, I am going to talk about why we need to follow these rituals along with the health and social angles of the Navaratri.
Whenever there is a festival or puja at home, the offerings to the diety do take precedence. There are certain rules and regulations on what to offer, what not to offer to the deity. Have you ever wondered why those rules have been formed by our ancestors?
Health Angle to Navaratri
As Navaratri is celebrated for nine days, the offerings/bhog/naivedyam/ prasadam has been decided upfront itself by our ancestors based on the deity we worship each day. These offerings are not just fruits or sweets. It’s a combination of fruits, rice mixes, and cereals. All these are mainly used for boosting immunity and increase our body heat to manage the forthcoming winters.
In South India, we keep Golu (dolls decorated) and celebrate the Navaratri. These rituals center around celebrating the women’s power and how powerful mother Goddess is all about. We celebrate different forms of Goddesses during these nine days. Those who keep the golu would be offering the prasadam thrice a day, and others would mainly offer one type of prasadam, that’s the rice mixes on the daily basis.
Fruits: In the morning, only fruits are offered as prasadam, as eating fruits on an empty stomach is always good for health and that’s a well-known fact isn’t it?
Rice Mixes: In the afternoon we do offer different rice mixes along with the main meal to the diety. They would be Pongal, Tamarind Rice, Coconut Rice, Sweet Pongal, Rice kheer, and Curd Rice (called dadyonam). All of them would be tempered with ghee and spices like pepper, ginger, turmeric, which boosts our immunity and builds our energy levels.
Sundal and Sweets: In the evenings, we offer the sundal and sweets as the naivedyam to the diety, and the same is distributed to the people who come to visit our golu. Sweet is a symbolic dish prepared to share the sweet and good things with our friends and family. Sundal is nothing but the chaat item liked by children especially. It’s more like channa daal with tadka and coconut. There is a custom to use different pulses on different days. The reason is to build the protein intake in children so that they can stay strong and healthy in the forthcoming winter seasons. In traditional households, the tadka would be done using gingelly oil, whose benefits we all know.
Usage of Turmeric: As this is the festival of goddesses, all the ladies and girls would apply turmeric paste on their feet. Also, they apply henna to their hands. Both are excellent anti-microbial and anti-fungal agents, which safeguard their health. During this time of the year, the kids would be given daily the oil bath, which improves the strength of their muscles.
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Social Angle to Navaratri:
Navaratri is the time of the year when the ladies start stepping out after the messy monsoon months. During the monsoon months, we tend to walk in the water a lot and are also a lot of infections that would be spreading around. So that’s the reason why, we will be offering turmeric, kumkum, and sandal paste as soon as any one visits our house. All these materials do contain the anti-bacterial, anti-fungal elements in them.
In the forth-coming winters, the evening sun would set earlier, and hence the ladies of the house have to return back to their houses faster to prepare the dinner for the entire family. But in this sharad rutuvu, the weather is pleasant and days have not become shorter yet and this is the reason why the ladies tend to socialize more. This would relax the ladies and fill them up with the positive energies with which they can survive till the next social season which comes back during Pongal time. That’s the reason why #Golu is kept, which would bring out the creativity in ladies and will give them a topic for discussions. Isn’t it really a nice idea? That’s the reason why this golu hopping or giving/taking the haldi kumkum tradition has been established by our ancestors.
After I got to understand this logic behind the Navaratri celebrations, I never missed out on celebrating this at our house. Even if I don’t get time to keep the golu, I follow all the other rituals diligently. My mom says that the treasure which we can give to our children is only in the form of traditions and culture. I completely agree with her in this regard, and I hope someday, my child would understand why I make him do a lot of craftwork during this time and make him wear the traditional clothing. Of course, this might be just a limited view I got from my grandmom. In case, if you have any different views on the health and social angles of the Navratri, please do let me know.
Do join us to know more fun and exciting part of the #Navaratri festivities across India with Lavanya, Kanika, and Jayanthi. Let’s wait for what #NinaAndNana or #Ambumami has to tell about this angle of Navaratri celebrations.