Much like any other festival, Navratri is celebrated with fervour around the country, including in south India, where the nine nights are dedicated to three goddesses–Lakshmi, Durga and Saraswati.
In this state, Navratri resonates with the idea of knowledge, with Goddess Saraswati at the centre of celebrations, especially on the last three days. With all work on hold, people keep their tools and books in front of the deity in their homes or temples. This is called Ayudha Pooja, or worshipping of vocational tools. Children are initiated into the world of knowledge and learning through a ritual called Vidyarambham, where kids are made to write letters on a plate of rice. Some important centres of worship in Kerala include Guruvayur Sree Krishna Temple in Thrissur, Thunchan Parambu in Malappuram and Attukal Bhagavathy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram.
A unique aspect of the Navratri festival in Tamil Nadu is the fabulous presentation of Golu dolls that depict mythological characters, animals and people, in all temples and many households. The celebrations start by setting up these Golu dolls on a makeshift staircase called Kolu. These days Golu dolls are created to bring focus to different issues of the world. While people dress up and create a special dish called Sundal, made of groundnut, peas and pulses, the most unique celebration in the state happen at Mutharamman Temple in Kulasekharapattinam. Here devotees visit the temple in an avatar of their choice and they could be dressed as different characters but the more popular ones are different forms of the Devi.
Karnataka has a different yet unique way to mark Dussehra. Gombe Habba or the festival of dolls is celebrated across the state with families showcasing their collection themed around a particular mythological plot. Similar in essence to Tamil Nadu’s Golu dolls, these dolls are set up in multiple levels, usually around 9, representing nine days of Navratri. Additionally, the city of Mysuru has a 400-year-long tradition of celebrating Navratri, where various cultural and religious programmes take place in front, culminating in a large procession with the idol of Goddess Chamundeshwari carried out on the 9th day.
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