Saturday, October 09, 2010

Navarathri Neivedyams

Having said that Navarathri is the celebration of the power of the Divine Mother, Shakthi, and hence the celebratrion of womanhood, it also has to be admitted that it is the busiest season for women. Any festival is a lot of activity in the Indian families and a festival spreading over 9 nights and 10 days keeps the women all the more busy.

The preparations for Navarathri has to start a couple of weeks in advance, like preparing the “kolupadi”(steps for arranging the dolls), taking the dolls out from their safes, cleaning the dolls, decorating the kolu mantap, planning the kolu neivedyams and invitee lists, planning the give away gifts,planning the pujas, the list is endless.Though there always was a lot of activity prior to Navarathri in the olden days, it has become much more hectic in the present day situation for the working women.

For the Puthucodians though, Navarathri is even more hectic as there is the 10 day temple festival in the Bhagavathi temple. Navarathri is the annual festival in the Annapoorneswari temple and has always been a big celebration. The celebrations are getting grander by the year with Her children, who are spread all over the world, becoming more and more prosperous. This annual festival is also the time for a grand reunion for all the Puthucodians.

When we were children,we had wooden collapsible steps for the arranging of the dolls, which would be put together by the carpenter at the beginning of Navarathri and dismantled after Navarathri every year. From the time the carpenter arrived for putting up the Mandapa padi (the steps), we children would get ready for the bigger events to follow. We had to run a lot of errands to get things ready. The great event was making a adhesive paste with maida. There were no quick fix or instant adhesives then. The local decorator was Mr.Swamy, who would get called to all the households to cut and paste flowers, animals and festoons out of crepe paper. With the help of the children (children from all families helped Mr.Swamy in this in all the houses), Mr.Swamy would finish the job in time for the women to arrange the dolls on the first day of Navarathri. Then we had to take out the dolls from the wooden boxes and almirahs, clean them and do minor repairs if needed. We had to dress up some of the dolls. With scraps of material collected from the tailor, we would dress up the dolls and make necklaces with beads for decorating them.

After installing Devi at the Kolu mantap, puja and neivedyams were offered three times a day and special pujas were offered on the last three days. Some households observed a special Navarathri puja on all the 9 days which was more elaborate. Our echiyamma and Kalathappa (my paternal grandparents)observed the special Navarathri puja whenever they were in Puthucode during Navarathri. Sometimes the harvesting season, when they would be at our farmhouse,
coincided with Navarathri. Our Kalathappa believed in the dictum, “Work is Worship” and stayed put in the farm house. Only our echiyamma would make a lightning trip home on the important days of Navarathri. In those years, we had special puja only on the last three days. However, we children participated in the daily special Navarathri puja at our Amman’s (our echiyamma’s beloved brother) house.

There would be a payasam for the Navarathri puja every day in the morning. It could be palpayasam, maasi pournami payasam, kovil payasam or neypayasam. When one had enough of payasams, there would be what in our house is knowns as Shashti payasam. This is an interesting payasam. Some rice would be cooked in milk and water and 2 pieces of jaggery would be kept on top and offered for puja. We children would fight for the piece of jaggery.

The practice those days was to invite everyone on all days and distribute prasadams and thamboolam to all. We children would visit all houses on a regular basis and by the time we returned our hands would be full of little packets filled with all sorts of goodies given as prasadams from all houses. That would suffice for our dinner.

In Puthucode (that is the only place I have been to for Navarathri other than Bangalore), a variety of neivedyams were offered. We had sweets as well as savouries for Neivedyams and each day there was a new one. The common neivedyams offered were Sweet Payar (this was a must),Chundal (we knew about only one type of Chundal, that is the Kondai kadalai chundal), Neyyappam, Morappam, Bajji, Bonda, Pakoda, Sweet Aval, Okkarai, Kozhukkattais (Sweet, Ulundu, Ammini, Sweet Ammini), Puttu, Vada, Pori urundai etc. In Bangalore, where I have seen only Tamilians having the Bommaikolu, the neivedyams are almost always a chundal, either chana or chana dal or moong or rajma, etc.

With people getting busier and having to visit many houses and also entertain guests in their houses, these days it is very difficult to determine the number of guests you would have on a particular day. The new trend is to fix one or two days and invite people on those days only so that one can have an idea about the expected guests. And yet, somebody would always drop in on some other day. So these days, I make a  sweet and savoury like rava ladoo, ribbon pakoda, thenkuzhal, manoharam or muthucharam at the beginning of Navarathri which would keep until the end of Navarathri. This could be offered to guests visiting anytime. Additionally, I would prepare limited quantities of  fresh neivedyams every day for distribution. I plan it in such a way that I would have couple of people visiting everyday for thamboolam.

Puthucode Navarathri itself is material for series of blog posts, which I dare not attempt now.

Happy Navarathri!


n said...

Gets me into a nostalgic mood. All this even though I have never spent any Navarathri in South India.

prk said...

Those who want to know more about navarathri may visit in face book puthucode navarathri 2010.
This contains lot of photes and videos.
I was there this year.
A lady went and asked your mothe for Ammupattis where abouts and was stunned to know you are her daughtor.


Padmadas said...

Ammu patti,
I was there in Puthucode for four years working as a teacher. I had enjoyed the beautiful Navarathri and all its pleasure. I recall my days at Ramanatha Swami`s
Swami and Mami were very loving and caring. PADMADAS