The highlight of the
Navaratri puja is the kolu display that many homes
put up. The kolu is a decorative stepped arrangement of idols
Some people have readymade
steps so that the major hassle is taken care of. But, in a large
number of houses, it is the most interesting and exasperating part
of arranging the kolu. Every flat object comes out of the
kitchen, store and lofts.
After a typical two or
three hours of juggling with the items, the steps finally come up,
with planks, stools, chairs and biscuit tins thrown in. The little
gaps are filled with old newspapers and magazines, and the wobbles
are set right with, perhaps, pencil boxes.
Once the steps are up,
the idols are taken out of storage, dusted, and put up. There have
to be an odd number of steps. Many of the idols come in sets, and
are kept together. The central place, of course, goes to the Durga-Lakshmi-Saraswati
trio and to Ganesha. A consecrated kalasha is kept in the
centre of one of the steps.
The kolu platform
is decorated with streamers and lights. Many people also construct
a model park or zoo by the side, with the possibilities limited
only by ingenuity.
The kolu is put
up on the first day of Navaratri, and remains till Vijayadashami,
or Dussehra, the day after Navaratri.
On all the nine days
of Navaratri, prayers and shlokas are recited in the morning.
In the evening, too, arati is performed for the gods, and
the day's chundal, a dish made of lentils, is offered to
Women are invited to
the house in the evenings, and custom dictates that nobody decline
an invitation. They view the kolu and the puja, and
it is taken for granted that anyone with even basic musical ability,
sing a song or two.
The guests are then presented
with a coconut, some prasad, and things of cosmetic use,
like kumkum boxes, mirrors, and combs.
The most important days
of the Navaratri celebrations are the eighth and ninth days, apart
from Vijayadashami. These days are dedicated to Durga (Durgaashtami),
Lakshmi (Mahanavami) and Saraswati (Vijayadashami),
and elaborate pujas are held.
On Navami, all
the instruments of learning are kept in front of the puja,
and the puja is sealed, to be opened on the next day. Once
the puja is set, nobody is supposed to read, sing, or do
anything that has anything to do with learning. So, from the children's
point of view, it is a day that is eagerly awaited.