MahALaya amAvAsyA...Nava rAthri begins

September 22, 2006


The new moon of the “mahALaya paksham”…when the moon grows into the nine nights, Navarathri or ten nights,  Dasshera  ….a festive season where people in Tamizh Nadu set out “kolu”, or an arrangement of dolls on steps, which is supposed to represent the universe in miniature. (Will take my camera along to some homes and post pictures, promise!) Women and children visit each others’ homes, dress up,  and sing or talk and the social fabric gets strengthened….in our generation, many women didn’t work and we had the leisure for these pursuits.

In Bengal, the mother goddess Durga is venerated in the form of VERY beautiful mud idols; she is immersed after the tenth day, amidst tearful leave-taking…

In Delhi, the tenth day marks the victory of Rama over Ravana, and the effigy of rAvaNA ,the king of Lanka, and the personification of evil, is burnt at the RamLila grounds….


My earliest memories of mahALaya amAvasyA is the very early morning rendition, on our valve-diode-filled Murphy radio, of the Bengali-pronounced (and to my mind, murdered) Sanskrit shlOkA, “yA dEvi sarva bhoothEshhU”… “ that goddess  who is in the form of”….learning, power, peace, and so on….but it imbued me with a sense of exaltation and happiness.

I may not be a greatly religious person, or an avid believer…but I do love the cultural underpinnings of our festivals!