Celebrating navaratri in a style of their own
The Kannada Hegde community celebrates Navaratri in a style unique to them.
ASMALL, Kannada Hegde, community of 10-15 families, celebrates Navratri in a style unique to them. The Shree Sharada Devi temple along Panditan Road, in the heart of Mattancherry, is where the celebrations take place. Established about 125 years ago, the Sherwadi Shree Sharada Devi Temple as it is formally known was constructed on land given free for the purpose by the Devji Bhimji Trust. The Kannada Hegdes hailing from Kanangad arrived in Mattancherry as accountants for Gujarati firms and as teachers in the local schools. They followed other professions as well and are often known by their occupation among the local populace.
The community observes Navaratri with great fervour and one of the customs they follow is to arrange a "Bommakolu" (display of dolls) at home, though this practice is now prevalent in only about two homes in this area, while the community as a whole concentrates on the grand celebrations at the temple.
According to the Kshetra Adhikari (Temple Head), A. Jagganatha Rao whose father, M.S. Ananda Rao, set up the temple, the main deity was originally housed in what was a small `Kutir' (house) but later on the temple was renovated with help from devotees. Now, besides the main deity, Shree Sharada Devi, Vidya Devi, the temple has also other shrines dedicated to Bhadrakali, the Upadevata Shree Laxminarayana, Siddhi Vinayak, Nageshwari and the Trishul. The panchaloha Trishul brought over from Kmundapur is the biggest in Kerala with a length of 24 feet.
Navaratri celebrations at this temple where the Devi is fervently addressed as in the words from an old song as "Amma bharamma, nama tai bharamma, Sharada Devi" are characterised by many unique functions, which, says Mr.Rao, "attract devotees from Mumbai, Mangalore, Chennai, Calicut, Kasargod, Myalaaaur, Putur and Udupi."
The temple's navaratri celebrations have become well known because of the presence of the oracle or the `patra' and Mr. Rao adds that it is the only place in Kerala where there is a Navaratri patra. Besides these special rituals such as Mahapooja, Chandika havanam, Durga namaskara pooja and Annasampradam are also performed during the festival. Ayudh pooja and Vidyarambham ceremonies are also conducted and there is a pada pooja offered to the patra. On the last day there is a grand procession that begins at four in the morning and winds its way around all the temples in the area.
Nine days of festivities
Every possible attention is lavished on the deity, which appears in nine different ways on all the nine days of the festival. She is worshipped as Sharada, Durga, Ashtalaxmi, Navadurgi, Laxminarayana roopa, Adiparashakti, Arya Kartayani, Ashtalaxmi Durga and Vidya devi Annapoorneshwari during Navaratri. The decorations and `alankars' the devi wears change as she acquires her various forms and it takes almost one and a half hours to dress her in her full glory. She wears different coloured clothes on different days. For instance as Saraswati her apparel is white or yellow in colour and as Ashtalaxmi she sports a multicoloured sari. Red is Durga's colour. The position of the Devi's ornaments also change according to her form. So do the flowers she wears such as Jasmine, Jevanti, peechipoo, the lotus and others.
Along with the religious rituals programmes such as bhajan sessions in which many local troupes participate, dance recitals, Harikatha and sangeet kacheris also mark the occasion.
Navaratri celebrations have been conducted at this temple at least for the last 90 years.
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