Navaratri is the festival of nine nights (well, ten if you include the last day of dasami pooja) celebrated in different parts of India in varying traditions. Durga Pooja in the East, Dussehra in the North and Golu in South are some of the forms in which these nine days are celebrated. Whatever the form may be, these 9 days promote Devi (Goddess) worship and the underlying message is the victory of good over evil.
Navaratri commences on the day-after Mahalaya Amavasya and celebrated for the next nine nights, culminating on Vijayadasami (literally means victorious tenth day). The tenth and final day is considered auspicious, especially for new beginnings. Hence, it is customary to start a new business or enroll in a new class or even school, on this day.
In South India, especially Tamil Nadu, this festival is celebrated as Golu, where dolls are arranged on steps (usually odd in number) and invite family / friends over to accept tamboolam. With changing times, the contents of the tamboolam has changed too – as a kid, I remember the contents of the tamboolam would be betel leaves, betel nut, turmeric, kunguma simizh (small kumkum container), a small hand mirror and a small comb along with a pack of sundal. My mom used to add a blouse-bit (aside: hawkeye’s take on blouse-piece here) to the contents for elders. These days I think, most of us have done away with the mirror – comb – container combo tradition and add a small generic gift instead.
Arranging dolls on the steps, visitors coming over every day, making mouth-watering prasadam (sundal)
on a daily basis – the 9 days are filled with lot of buzz and activities. Goddess in their 3 main forms – Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswathi are worshiped for 3 days each respectively. On the 9th day, also known as Saraswathi Pooja, an elaborate pooja is performed to Goddess Saraswathi (the goddess of education) praying for success in all endeavors that we are in the midst of or about to begin.