Monday, October 15, 2012

Preparations for Navaratri

It is Navaratri time, today being the eve to the Navaratri, the Mahalaya Amavasai. Today is the Auspisious day to arrange the Navaratri dolls. This is an important event in India, especially for the women. Colorful dolls and clay statues of Indian Gods, common folk etc are neatly arranged on wooden or steel mounted steps "padis". Varieties of sundal are made on the nine days and neighbors and friends are invited to view the Navaratri and take Thambulam.

It is really great fun to have your friends invited to your home like a get together. Isn't this so close to living in India-having the best of both worlds. I am sure that several other cities that have a siginificant number of
Indians like California, Austin/Dallas in Texas etc have their own Indian community.

Just the word Navaratri calls to my mind the childhood days. We lived in apartment and golu was not kept in all the hosues.  Those navaratri days as a kid with my friend priya, we used to go to all the house on all the days. Sundals from different homes used to be our dinner. If priya looks into this, I'm sure it bring the same nostalgic memories.

Getting Ready

  • Get the house cleaned and ready. You are inviting Goddess into the home. Usually this is done on the Amavasi day, a day before the beginning of Navratri.
  • Mango leaf festoons are installed on doors, windows and in puja room. Fresh Kolams are drawn.
  • If you are keeping Golu, get all the Golu dolls ready.
  • Decide upon the theme.
  • Plan early about the pooja prasadam (Sundal in the evening and variety rice in the morning) and also about the gifts that you plan to give to women guests.
  • If you are keeping Kalasam, get all required things for the Kalasam and arrange in the Golu steps at an auspicious time.
  • Do not forget to use a nice silk saree or dhoti for the Golu steps. Also during this time we get different types of serial lights, which we can use for this purpose.
Requirements for Navaratri Pooja

  • If you are keeping Golu dolls, purchase new dolls at least a couple of new ones. The most important doll needed is the Marapachi dolls (Male and Female pair of dolls).
  • A pot for Kalasha or Kumbha (brass pot) is kept. Some people keep water in it and place a coconut on top of it. Face of Goddess to be stuck on Kalasha. Others keep rice with dhal in it and keep a coconuton top of it. Some people do not opt for this.
  • Sweets
  • Ingredients of the Prasadam to be prepared (this depends on what neivediya you are preparing)
  • Betel leaves
  • Betel Nuts
  • Banana
  • Coconut
  • Usual fruits
  • Usual pooja items like lamp, incense, agarbathis etc.
  • Ghee for lighting the lamp.
  • Kumkum for doing any pooja.
  • If you get these flowers its great otherwise also it is wonderful. Lotus flower for Goddess Saraswathi and Goddess Lakshmi. Jasmine for Durga. Avoid wild flowers.
If you are giving gifts to women invited for Navratri Pooja, then the bag should contain betel leaves, betel nuts, a pair of round turmeric roots, a coconut, fruits, sweets, flowers, a small gift. You can also include cosmetics like eye kajal, kumkuma, bangles, comb etc.

Significance of Marapachi dolls

Every south Indian girl is entitled to her precious pair of
Marapachi Bommais
at the time of her marriage. Tradition says that the bommais are brought out in display, every year, at the time of Navarathiri. The bride's parents present the bommais (dolls) to the bride and initiate the yearly tradition of Navarathiri Gollu in her new home with her husband. These bommais come as couples dressed in their wedding attire, signifying the start of the bride's Gollu collection, which then
over the years with the addition of various clay dolls from the southern part of India.

Marapachi bommais are special dolls from Tirupathi, the land of
Lord Venkateshwara.
Some explain the word Marapachi as a special kind of wood that has medicinal values and hence the name Marapachi Bommai - dolls made of marapachi. And like any
age-old tradition,
you always wonder, what is the significance of  Marapachi Bommais? Some believe that these dolls were presented to the bride and the groom at the time of marriage as toys for the couple. After all when two people, rather two children, get married at the age of ten what better gift than toys to keep them happy. So, it is reckoned that they were truly for enjoyment purposes to please the little couple.

Navaratri Puja begins on the Amavasai day or Puratasi Amavasai day, a day before Navratri begins. All arrangements are done on this day.

  • In the evening, Kalasha or Purna Kumbha is prepared. This is an invitation to Goddess to enter your home.
  • Purna Kumba or Kalash is kept on a kolam in such a place that there is space behind to keep the Bommai Kolu. You can attach a face of Goddess to the Purna Kumbha and decorate the Kumbha with jewelry, turmeric, sandal paste, flowers etc. Those who do not keep Kolu, keep the Kalash in the Pooja room.
  • Betel leaves, Betel nuts, a coconut is placed in front of the Kalasha. Cooked rice or boiled and sweetened milk is kept as prasadam or neivedya in front of the Kalasha.
  • This Kalasha is to be kept for next nine days – it symbolizes Goddess.
  • A lamp is lit every evening and morning for nine days. You can do Lalitha Saharanamam with flowers or Kumkum to the lamp or just do Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswathi pooja. 
  • And at the end of the day, arathi is taken for the golu. Arathi is prepared with kumkum and turmeric along with water. The taken arathi is poured over the kolam in front of our home. 
Sweets and sundals prepared are shared with neighbors, relatives and friends. 

(Important note: The above is the usual procedure and since in so many places we do not get dolls, we can keep any one idol of God and fill the spaces with toys of our kids. The pooja part and the sanctity is more important.)


  1. Very nice di. Hope to see some pics of ur small-ish golu there! :)

  2. I really loved reading about this... I found your article while searching for information on the Kumbha Moon (full moon in Aquarius) and how women celebrate this moon in South India. Do you have any more information? Maya Tawari describes the time of year in her book, 'Women's Power to Heal' and yet I can't find any evidence that something of the nature she describes actually exists. You can read about her explanation here:

    Sorry for the long link! What do you think? I actually have been in S India (Tamil Nadu) during Pongal and did see kolum. However, I don't remember people talking about the Kumbha Moon. I have read that Pongal is about a solar observance and the Sun God. Very little information out there about the Kumbha Moon that Maya talks about in her book, though. Any perspective that you can offer would be appreciated! My email is if you wish to email instead.


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