Navratri Scenes in Tiruvannamalai

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Navratri (or Navaratri) is a Durga festival celebrated four times each year. The biggest of these, Maha Navratri, occurs in the fall, in September, October or November, depending on the lunar calendar. It lasts nine nights. Nava is Sanskrit for nine and ratri  means night.

Navratri is celebrated in different ways throughout India. In North India, Navratri is celebrated with much fervor by fasting on all nine days and worshipping the Mother Goddess in her different forms. In the state of Gujarat, Navratri is celebrated with the famous Garba and Dandiya-Raas dance. The Government Of Gujarat organizes the “Navratri Festival Celebrations” for the nine days of Navratri Festival. People from all over Gujarat and even abroad come to participate. In South India, people set up steps and place idols on them, golus they are called.  Photos of these are shown in this article.

According to wikipedia:

In Hinduism, Durga (meaning “the inaccessible” or “the invincible”) or Maa Durga (meaning “Mother Durga”), is one who can redeem in situations of utmost distress. Durga is a form of Devi, the supremely radiant goddess, depicted as having ten arms, riding a lion or a tiger, carrying weapons and a lotus flower, maintaining a meditative smile, and practicing mudras, or symbolic hand gestures.

An embodiment of creative feminine force (Shakti), Durga exists in a state of svātantrya (independence from the universe and anything/anybody else, i.e., self-sufficiency) and fierce compassion. Kali is considered by Hindus to be an aspect of Durga. Durga is also the mother of Ganesha and Murugan. She is thus considered the fiercer, demon-fighting form of Shiva‘s wife, goddess Parvati. Durga manifests fearlessness and patience, and never loses her sense of humor, even during spiritual battles of epic proportion.

As a goddess, Durga’s feminine power contains the energies of the gods. Each of her weapons was given to her by various gods: Rudra’s (Shiva’s) trident, Vishnu’s discus, Indra’s thunderbolt, Brahma’s kamandalu, Kuber’s Ratnahar, etc.

In Tiruvannamalai, Navratri is celebrated with lights in temples (especially in Goddess temples: Durga, Devi, Sarasvati, Parvati, Lakshmi and Kali), and by displays of groups of dolls, mostly of various gods, called Golu in Tamil Nadu. These Navratri Golu may be exhibited in homes or in temples. To show a bit of the Navaratri celebration here, I  have photos of a temple, lit for the festival, and of Navratri Golu at a major ashram here, that of Yogi Ramsuratkumar.

Lights in Temples

Below are photos of Rajarajeswari Temple, on Girivalam Road, decorated with lights for the festival.

Navratri Golu

A large display of Navratri Golu is at Yogi Ramsuratkumar Ashram. Below are photos.

This is the entrance to the Ashram. You can see the roof of the beautiful hall in the background.

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Towards the back of the building is the entrance to the Pradhan Mandhir. This is a very large hall, with the samadhi of Yogi Ramsuratkumar at the south end.

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Along the west wall are a number of Golu. Each is, I believe, done by a different family or group.

In San Jose, CA, USA, where I lived and worked, each year at Christmas, there was a ‘Christmas in the Park” at Market Street Park. This always included a number of Christmas trees decorated by different schools and groups. This Navratri Golu display reminds me of the San Jose display, a celebration that features community participation.

There were two woman decorating a statue when we were there.

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One woman was dressing the goddess in a  beautiful saree.

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The other is looking through jewelry and necklaces brought to adorn the goddess. 

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More displays, Golu.

I like this golden stairway!

We are told  by a reader:

The deity with the golden stairs is the male deity Lord Aiyappa (an incarnation of Vishnu), of Sabarimalai (Sabari Hills) in the state of Kerala. Every year, millions of devotees fast for a month (including abstinence from sex, no footwear, one meal a day etc) and undertake a pilgrimage to this hills.Most of them walk 40+ kilometers in the hills, while a few walk the last 3 or 4 kilometers. One has to climb eighteen steps to reach the main shrine. The golden stairway has eighteen steps.The highlight of the visit is the appearance of a light on the hills. It is believed that Lord Aiyappa appears as the light.

Another golu.

This is a statue of Yogi Ramsuratkumar, dressed with his usual green turban.

More displays.

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Krishna with his flute.

Another display, with a god and goddess riding a swing in the background. (I have seen this motif, like in a village shrine.)

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Krishna again.

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A reader has reported that the deities with Tamil names represent the 6 hills where Lord Muruga resides – Tiruchendur, Thiruthani, Palani etc.

This is one of two displays that feature growing plants. I don’t know if this is the case, but I have read that new seeds are started on the first day of the festival. Could these be eight-day-old sprouts from this planting? 

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The display above is graced by three statues of Hindu saints.

On the left is Shirdi Sri Baba.

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Yogi Ramsuratkumar is in the center.

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Adi Sankara is to the right. Quite a group of saints!

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In the corner is Arunachala mountain, covered in growing green sprouts.

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A road goes by Arunachala. There is a school room by the road.

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Also a person being carried on a pink palanquin.

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This looks like the main tower of the  local big temple, Arunachaleswara Temple. In front of the temple are two men performing girivalam, or pradakshina (circumambulation), the hard way, by lying on the ground and rolling sideways. This is anga-pradakshina and is thought to give special merit (punya).  

I have seen this locally. Once I saw a man doing anga-pradakshina of Arunachala. He was on the road around the mountain, with several people with him, ahead and behind, clearing traffic. I can’t imagine how difficult this must be, rolling on rough roads for 14 km!

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This last display was, I think, the famous Ice-lingam, in Amarnath, in the western Himalayas.

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After the nine-night Durga festival, on the tenth day there is Ayuda (or Ayudha) Pooja, a Durga Pooja to bless workmen’s tools. Now this includes computers, cars and rickshaws, etc. Here is a posting on one Ayuda Pooja, two years ago in Tiruvannamalai. Originally this was a blessing for a warrior’s weapons, but over the centuries it has become more ‘domesticated’ and now is celebrated for the tools and equipment that people work with.

Other Navratri posts

From Ramanasramam:

2010 Day 1
2010 Day 2
2010 Day 3
2010 Day 4
2010 Day 5
2010 Day 6
2010 Day 7
2010 Day 8
2010 Day 9

From Arunachala  Live

Navaratri at Ramanasramam

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9 Responses to “Navratri Scenes in Tiruvannamalai”

  1. Seema Chauhan Says:

    Hi Richard, I don’t know you that where you are from but it doesn’t matter as far far I think and this is really tremendous collection you have presented no doubts in this happen. My favorite would be The Krishna with his flute because my entire family love too much!! Thanks and I’m waiting for your next post….

  2. Forms of the Devi – An additional post for Navaratri 2010 | A Wandering Mind Says:

    […] Richard regularly posts about the events and festivities at Thiruvannamalai, and he has posted some wonderful pics of the Golu at the Yogi Ramsuratkumar ashram. […]

  3. Tiruvannamalai Festivals 2012–2013 Season | Ramana Maharshi Tours Says:

    […] Oct 2012 – Navarathri begins 24 Oct 2012 – Navararathri ends 29 Oct 2012 – Full Moon […]

  4. Tiruvannamalai Festivals 2012–2013 Season « Tiruvannamalai Travel Says:

    […] Oct 2012 – Navarathri begins 24 Oct 2012 – Navararathri ends 28 Oct 2012 – Full Moon […]

  5. Anu Says:

    Richard, just wanted to let you know that I have linked to this post from my blog.. It will be posted tomorrow morning, so you can go on and take a look then…. here is the link to my blog…

    http://anushankarn.blogspot.com

  6. Anu Says:

    This is beautiful!!!

  7. kashluck Says:

    Dear Richard,
    A nice post!

    (1) The deity with the golden stairs is the male deity Lord Aiyappa (an incarnation of Vishnu), of Sabarimalai (Sabari Hills) in the state of Kerala. Every year, millions of devotees fast for a month (including absistence from sex, no footwear, one meal a day etc) and undertake a piligrimage to this hills.Most of them walk 40+ kilometers in the hills, while a few walk the last 3 or 4 kilometers. One has to climb eighteen steps to reach the main shrine. The golden stairway has eighteen steps.The highlight of the visit is the appearance of a light on the hills. It is believed that Lord Aiyappa appears as the light.

    (2) The deities with tamil names represent the 6 hills where Lord Muruga resides – Tiruchendur, Thiruthani, Palani etc.

    Om Arunachaleshwaraya Namah
    With love and light,
    A. Raviprakash

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