Navaratri, one of the greatest Hindu festivals, symbolizes the triumph of good over evil. Navaratri takes place during October, around harvest time. During this period, Goddesses Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati are worshipped as three different manifestations of Shakti, or cosmic energy. Nava-ratri” literally means “nine nights.” During Navaratri, we invoke the energy aspect of God in the form of the universal mother, commonly referred to as “Durga,” which means the remover of miseries of life. She is also referred to as “Devi” (goddess) or “Shakti” (energy or power).
Navaratri is divided into sets of three days to adore different aspects of the supreme goddess. On the first three days, the Mother is invoked as powerful force called Durga in order to destroy all our impurities, vices and defects. The next three days, the Mother is adored as a giver of spiritual wealth, Lakshmi, who is considered to have the power of bestowing on her devotees inexhaustible wealth. The final set of three days is spent in worshipping the mother as the goddess of wisdom, Saraswati. In order to have all-round success in life, we need the blessings of all three aspects of the divine mother; hence, the worship for nine nights. The last three days of Navaratri are called Durgashtami, Mahanavami and Vijayadasami, and they are considered more sacred than the other days for Devi worship. On the Durgashtami day, a puja to Saraswati is performed during which fruits, and neivedyam are offered. Books read by members of the family, specially children, are kept in front of the Goddess to invoke her blessings. On the Mahanavami day, Ayudha Pooja is performed, where all machines owned by the family are worshipped, viz, vehicles, electronic gadgets, mechanical tools, tools in the kitchen, etc are adorned with haldi-kunkum and flowers, and prayed to, as it is believed that the Pandavas took up their weapons after a long exile to fight with the Kauravas on this day. On the last day, ie, Vijayadashami day, a small pooja is performed, and the books placed before Goddess Saraswati are taken out and everyone reads off a page from the book, to signify that we are gaining knowledge, and hence accepting the Goddess’ blessings. Isn’t it astounding, the rich culture and background we have for every festival?
During Navaratri, it is common practice in South India to arrange ‘Golu’ (Tamil for dolls) on odd-numbered steps and prepare Chundal for Neivedyam and share it with friends, neighbours and relatives who come to see the Golu on each day of the festival. I haven’t started collecting/arranging Golu at my place yet, but hope to start sometime in the future. I only have my pair of Marapachi Bommai (the traditional doll couple) which Amma gave me when I got married. Here’s a sneak peek at my bommais which were adorned by my beloved Nani. Nani, I miss you so much.
Vella Kadalai-paruppu Chundal
- Channa dal / Kadalai-paruppu – 1 cup
- Jaggery – 1/2 cup (alter to suit your sweet-tooth)
- Cardamom powder – 1 tsp
- Ghee – 2 tbsps + 2 tbsps
- Freshly grated coconut – 1/2 cup
- Cashew – a few
- Raisins – a few
- Water – as required to cook the dal
- Pressure-cook the channa-dal in less water and set aside. I poured in water just 1-inch above the dal and pressure cooked it till done.
- In a non-stick wok, melt the jaggery till there are no lumps.
- Add 2 tbsps of ghee and continue to boil another minute.
- Next, add the cooked channa dal into the wok and give it a good stir.
- Add the cardamom powder and incorporate well. By now, the house will smell divine and aromatic. This is what I call ‘ghee-aroma-therapy’, which you can partake only during festivals. There’s no hiding this aroma from anyone, not even your grandmother who doesn’t have a powerful nose anymore 😛
- Continue stirring the mixture till it thickens and tip in the grated coconut. Stir well.
- In the meantime, heat the remaining 2 tbsps of ghee in a small wok and fry your cashews and raisins till they turn golden brown. You may want to turn off your stove once you get a whiff of the second bout of ‘ghee-aroma-therapy’. Keep stirring the cashews and raisins though, since they will continue to get fried in the hot ghee.
- Tip in the fried dry fruits into your kadalai-paruppu mixture and stir well. By now, the chundal would have reached the consistency you need. If it hasn’t, keep it on the flame a wee bit longer.
- Remove from fire, transfer to a clean bowl and offer the chundal as neivedyam to the Gods. Thank them for everything they have given you, and take their blessings, before you can put a finger into the wok and lick it up.
May the Devi shower her choicest blessings on you and your family this Navaratri!!