Yesterday was Ayuda Pooja, and we joined our friends at their rickshaw stand to celebrate. These days Ayuda Pooja blesses and purifies ‘tools.’ In ancient times it was weapons.
Ayudha Pooja, or Ayuda Pooja, is observed on the ninth day of Navratri festival, mainly in South India. It is also part of the 10- day Dasara festival in North India. Literally, Ayudha Pooja means the worship of weapons. Nowadays, Ayudha Pooja means ritual purification of the tools that one use to make a living. Saraswathi Pooja and Ayuda Pooja are observed on the same day in South India. In 2008, the date of Ayudha Pooja is October 8.
Goddess Durga carries numerous weapons which were given to her by various male deities. Therefore there is a belief that the weapons carried by Durga represent the various forces in Nature – Durga’s energy rests in these weapons.
Today, Ayudha Puooa is the day when Hindus keep the tools and objects that are used to make a livelihood for pooja. The tools and implements are not touched on the Ayudha Pooja day. It is only taken on the next day morning with renewed vigor after the blessings from Goddess.
Tiruvannamalai gets ready for Ayuda Pooja
All through the town, people get their stores, tea stalls, and businesses ready. Prominent in the decorations are banana leaves.
Even the Sri Ramanasramam bookstore is involved. Here is a photo looking into the door to the book store.
Every rickshaw stand is prepared.
Below is the one we will visit later tonight. Pooja is at 7:30 PM. We should arrive at 6:30 so that our scooter can be decorated.
Here are a few other taxi stands.
This one is on the way to the main temple in town from Ramanasramam.
Taxi Stand in front of Ramanasramam.
Businesses are decorated to get ready.
Trucks are readied as well.
Then as it starts to get dark, you see many people moving through town, to get to their pooja.
Ayuda Pooja at Rickshaw Stand
We drove our scooter through the crowd and got to the rickshaw stand in front of Usha’s Restaurant, up the street a half block from Sri Ramanasramam. When we got there, it was dark – yet another of the frequent power outages and power cuts (needed because there is simply not enough generating capacity in Tamil Nadu).
Rickshaw stand sign:
Preparing the vehicles
Perhaps 20 or 25 rickshaws are gathered at this stand, more then one ever sees there at once. These stands are like family to most of the drivers. They are there most hours of most days when not driving a customer somewhere. The drivers spend more time with one another than they do with their families.
Even the children get into the act.
Initial preparation of Rajan’s rickshaw is finished. It is almost ready for the pooja.
Now they start preparing my scooter. First are the banana leaves.
Next the flower mala is attached.
Ranjith’s rickshaw, now with mango leaves added, and Siva stripes.
Many rickshaws in a line, ready for pooja. To get some depth in the photo, this is without flash, handheld, so the photo is not as clear.
On the street are decorated trucks and busses.
Vendors wheel by with their carts of wares. This man has a cart full of painted plaster statuettes. Recently a troupe of traveling plaster workpeople came to Tiruvannamalai, and have been casting, painting and selling these statues for the last couple of weeks. These are family operations with the wives and children helping. They all live in small tents they have put up by the road.
Here is a taxi up a nearby street, decorated with the pooja, laid out in front of it. We have used this one many times as we travel around Tamil Nadu to nearby towns and cities.
Back at the rickshaw stand, they are starting to reposition the rickshaws to face the pooja.
They have added Siva strips and kumkum to my scooter.
The rickshaws are lined up, ready for the pooja.
The pooja is prepared
Applying vibhuti and kumkum to the Rickshaw Stand sign.
Laying out the table for prasad. This food will be blessed during the pooja, then shared and eaten by those present.
Banana leaves form the plate.
A base of puffed rice is added.
Then more dishes are added to the puffed rice and mixed in, so that finally there is a tasty savory mixture that we will enjoy. Many other food items are added to the table, sweets, bananas, etc.
The rickshaws wait silently. For now the focus is on the pooja table. Soon there will be much hectic activity around them, typical Indian, seemingly chaotic. But what is needed is nonetheless done.
Ayuda Pooja is performed
First the oil lamps are lit.
Then all is blessed with smoke from a charcoal fire.
And to the sound of a ringing bell …
Camphor is lit, and the pooja items are blessed by the holy flame.
The flame is transferred to a plate.
Then this flame is used to bless each vehicle.
First with Arati, the waving of the fire.
Then by lighting camphor in front of each vehicle.
Even my scooter.
Then, one by one, the camphor flame and charcoal smoke are passed inside and around each rickshaw to thoroughly purify each one.
Then the holy flame is offered to everybody in the crowd. The ash on the plate is used on one’s forehead.
Next the flame is transferred to camphor on the top of a melon (that looks like a lingam). First this flame is offered to the pooja table.
Then one by one to each of the vehicles.
Finally camphor placed into a sliced lime is lit, and placed in front of each vehicle’s wheel.
The last act of the pooja is to drive the vehicle over the lime to squash it.
Prasad is offered to the crowd
Even to an elderly lady who happened to walk by.
Here is a group photo of most of the drivers.
After the pooja, everyone relaxes
Now the children have been sent home, and the drivers sit and relax, talking, I guess, about the pooja, and kidding each other in the good natured way that is typical of Tamil men. They might be talking about us, but since they speak in Tamil, we would never know.
They gave each participant a take-home “goodie” bag that they had prepared. I think this was to include the family. As is often the case, their wives were not at this pooja, and the bag had treats for the family so they could participate in some small way. The bags included a generous helping of the puffed rice, a couple of boxes of Indian sweets, apples, bananas, guavas and oranges – something for everyone in the family to enjoy.
Afterward we drove our way through the traffic, home again to relax and unwind from all the activity of another wonderful day in India.