Answer by Raakhee V. Menon:
Thank you for the A2A.
In Kerala, where I come from, Navaratri or Dussehra is celebrated only on the last three days of Navaratri – Ashtami, Navami and Dashami. When the rest of India worships Devi Durga during Navaratri, in Kerala it is only Goddess Saraswati who is worshiped at this time.
Although no other auspicious functions (like weddings, etc.) are conducted in the month of Kanni (mid-September to mid-October), ‘Pooja vaippu’ or ‘keeping for Pooja’ is observed quite religiously, especially by children.
On Ashtami day, a picture of Goddess Saraswati is placed near the puja room facing the east, a nilavilakku is lit in front of it and a banana leaf is then placed in front of it, with the tip of the leaf pointing eastwards. On this leaf, two forms of rice known as aval(flattened rice) and malar(popped rice), kalkkandam(sugar candy), raisins and a bunch of bananas are placed. On another side of the leaf, some kumkum, sandalwood paste and bhasmam are also placed.
In front of the leaf and all around it, children place their notebooks, text books, geometry boxes, writing instruments, etc. and they pray to Goddess Saraswati to bless them with more intelligence, more power of concentration and for success in their academic life. The books and writing instruments are then taken only on Vijaya Dashami day. It is not permitted to read or write anything until the books are taken after the puja. Children have a gala time during these three days as nobody nags them to do their homework or to sit and study ^_^
On the next day, Maha Navami, people who use any tools as a part of their work keep their tools along with the books. Tools could mean medical instruments like stethoscopes, engineering instruments, mechanical instruments, etc. This is called ‘Ayudha Pooja’. Some people keep their work tools for puja on Ashtami day itself, along with the books.
On Vijaya Dashami, everyone wakes up early, has a bath. A tray filled with red raw rice is placed in front of the place where the books have been kept for puja. Each member of the family – young and old – sits in front of the tray and with the ring finger of their right hand, they write ‘Hari Sree Ganapataye Namah’ in Malayalam in the rice. This is followed by writing the alphabets (in all known languages) and numerals. Then one of the family elders takes the books and tools after the puja and gives it to the children. Before taking the books and tools, each item is tapped two times to symbolize that the puja has been completed.
Some people keep their books and tools at a nearby temple as most temples in Kerala celebrate Vijaya dashami with Saraswati Puja.
It is believed that Goddess Saraswati has blessed all those who had kept their books for puja and it is customary that all the children study something with utmost sincerity on Vijaya Dashami.
Vidyarambham or the start of formal education for young children is also conducted on Vijaya Dashami. Vidyarambham is performed on young children around 3 years of age(sometimes even younger) by either a family elder or by a learned person. The young child is made to sit on the lap of the elderly person (or one if the parents) who asks the child to show him his tongue. When the child holds out his tongue, the elderly person writes ‘Hari Sree Ganapataye Namah’ on the child’s tongue with gold – usually a finger ring.
Then he holds the child’s hand and makes him write the same thing in the rice. This is followed by writing a few alphabets and numbers. This is considered to be the start of the child’s formal education.
Many Malayalees throng to Saraswati temples, mainly Kollur Mookambika temple, on the day of Vidyarambham to get Goddess Saraswati’s blessings for their young ones. And we have enough reason to believe that Goddess Saraswati has indeed blessed us abundantly with education and intelligence 🙂 ()
These are the main festivities associated with our celebration of ‘Dussehra’ 🙂