Every day as a part of the Navaratri program, we perform Suvasini Puja in which we offer traditional gifts of a new sari and bangles, makeup, a mirror, and for the little girls some small toys. The grown women get a little money instead of toys!
The vedic tradition is very balanced in their view of women and the importance they play in the universe. On the divine level it is the goddesses who have all the power and who come and save the universe over and over again. It is this story that is told in Chandi Path that is recited each day.
But, in what I think is a brilliant tradition, it is important to bring all these stories and philosophy back down to earth and the messy “real world” in which we live. So each day a mother and her young daughter come and are honored as being the living embodiment of the goddess.
Seetharam’s wife washes their feet and applies haldi (tumeric) and decorations of kumkum, a dark red powder. Then Seetharam performs a simple puja to them instead of the usual murti. So there are the traditional offerings of flowers, water and rice, incense and burning camphor. And then at the end, the presentation of the gifts. It is all very sweet and charming.
Then it is up to the roof for the Chandi havan (fire ritual). Subramanyam has decorated the homa kund as usual with his artistic flair, this time with images from the nine planets and astrological signs.
All the mantras and chanting and pujas have left the air full of potential the way a humid afternoon feels before a thunderstorm arrives. There is a fullness to the atmosphere and almost a crackling power looking for a place to go.
The fire is lit and the recitation begins. The pundits will chant 1008 repetitions of the Maha Durga mantra while making offerings of ghee, wood, white sesame, yellow mustard seed, and a sweet rice and dal mixture called sacra-pongal, and turmeric root.
As the chanting progresses, the feeling is that all the power that was created during the pujas and Chandi path recitation is being “delivered”. Afterwards everyone is feeling lighter and the mood is noticeably bright as we go downstairs for the final pujas. We started before 8 AM and it is now almost 2 PM, so we are also looking forward to lunch!