Nine-day Navarathiri festival sees women put on their finest to worship Goddess

Faithful devotees: Women of all ages, clad in colourful sarees and salwar suits, coming together to offer prayers to the Goddess Sakthi during the Navarathiri Festival – CHAN BOON KAI/The Star

GEORGE TOWN: Clad in colourful sarees and salwar suits, decked in gold jewellery with their hair adorned with flowers, women of all ages came together at the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple in Ipoh Lane, Jelutong, to celebrate the nine-day Navarathiri festival.

Among them were three generations of a family – housewife P. Pasuvathy, 67, her daughter-in-law C. Kavitha, 43, and grandchildren U. Dineshkandhan, 13, and U. Mannushri, eight.

Kavitha, a teacher, said her mother-in-law had been coming to the temple for the festival for more than 40 years. She also brought her children to the temple over the past few years.

“I encourage them to observe a vegetarian diet during the nine days and bring them to the temple in the evenings to teach them the significance of the festival.

“They seem to like it, especially the kollu decoration, and are curious about it,” she said when met at the temple on Tuesday, which was the second day of the festival.

The Navarathiri festival is dedicated to the three incarnations of the goddess Sakthi (power), namely Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswathi.

Kavitha said she would bring her children to the festival for them to seek the goddesses’ grace for good qualities and protection, and to do away with negative traits.

“I also want them to know their religion, culture and traditions well so that they are steadfast in their faith,” she added.

Kollu is a platform of usually seven, nine or 11 wide tiers or steps with a variety of little figurines of people and deities displayed artistically on the steps and decorated with LED lights and flowers.

Dineshkandhan liked the kollu decorations.

“Each year, there will be different colourful figurines, and I love to look at them. My mother has explained the significance of the festival and the kollu to me, and sometimes there are also some cultural performances at the temple,” he said.

“By knowing the meaning of Navarathiri, I can explain the festival to my friends when they ask me about it.”

Head of the temple’s Durga pooja group, K. Ambiga Devi, 73, said the festival literally means nine nights and is divided into three parts, with every part covering three days.

Each part is dedicated to one of three goddesses. Durga is worshipped for her valour, while Lakshmi and Saraswathy represent wealth and wisdom, respectively.

“The dolls on the first tier represent things that grow on our soil, the second tier is the figurines of human beings carrying out their daily lives, while the third one onward represents deities.

“The kollu is basically held to remind devotees about the evolution of humans, to elevate in life and achieve spiritual attainment,” she said.

Temple chairman M. Pathmanathan, 67, said the festival has been held at the temple for more than 80 years, as the temple was built in 1896.

The celebration culminates on Vijayadasmi, which is the 10th day, accepted as the day when good triumphs over evil.

According to ancient Hindu scriptures, on this day, Durga defeated the evil Mahishasura (a buffalo-head demon) and brought great relief to the people.

Pathmanathan said there would be a chariot procession at the temple on Oct 6, which is the 11th day, starting at 5pm.

There will also be an “oonjal” ceremony the next day.

The goddess will be placed on a swing and devotional “lullabies” sung to put her to rest.

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