How to Do or Perform Navratri Puja – The South Indian Way of Observing Navaratri

Navratri, the nine-night festival, honors Goddess Durga, Goddess Lakshmi and Goddess Saraswathi in South India. It is known as Bommla Koluvu in Andhra Pradesh and Navarathri in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. In 2014, the date of Navratri is from September 25 to October 3. Chaitra month rituals are observed from March 21 to March 29. Navratri is observed as Dusshera in Karnataka, where it is observed for ten days. The main event during Navrathri in South India is the display of dolls and idols – Kolu and the placing of Kalash, which represents Goddess. 

Navratri puja might seem a huge complicated event for many. You can always perform a simple puja by worshipping the Goddess on nine days by lighting a lamp and offering a fruit as prasadam. Rituals are not important but devotion is important.

Here is a step by step method on how to perform Navratri Puja.
Getting Ready
  • Get the house cleaned and ready. You are inviting Goddess into the home. Usually this is done on the Amavasi day, a day before the beginning of Navratri.
  • Mango leaf festoons are installed on doors, windows and in puja room. Fresh Kolams are drawn.
  • If you are keeping Kolu, get all the Kolu dolls ready. Repair broken pieces and use natural colors to paint them.
  • Decide upon the Bommai Kolu Theme.
  • Plan early about the pooja prasadam (neivedya) and also about the gifts that you plan to give to women guests.
Requirements for Navratri Puja
  • If you are keeping Kolu dolls, purchase new dolls at least a couple of new ones. The most important doll needed is the Marapachi dolls (Male and Female pair of dolls).
  • A pot for Kalasha or Kumbha (brass pot)
  • Face of Goddess to be stuck on Kalasha. Some people do not opt for this.
  • Sweets
  • Ingredients of the Prasadam to be prepared (this depends on what neivediya you are preparing)
  • Betel leaves
  • Betel nuts
  • Bananas
  • Coconut
  • Usual fruits
  • Usual pooja items like lamp, incense, agarbathis etc.
  • Lotus flower for Goddess Saraswathi and Goddess Lakshmi. Jasmine for Durga. Avoid wild flowers.
If you are giving gifts to women invited for Navratri Pooja, then the bag should contain betel leaves, betel nuts, a pair of round turmeric roots, a coconut, fruits, sweets, flowers, a small gift. You can also include cosmetics like eye kohl, kumkuma, bangles, comb etc.

A day before Navratri Puja
Navaratri Puja begins on the Bhadrapada Amavasi day or Puratasi Amavasai day, a day before Navratri begins. All arrangements are done on this day. In some communities male members perform Tarpan or Shardham dedicated to dead ancestors in the morning.
  • In the evening, Kalasha or Purna Kumbha is prepared. This is an invitation to Goddess to enter your home.
  • Purna Kumba or Kalash is kept on a kolam in such a place that there is space behind to keep the Bommai Kolu. You can attach a face of Goddess to the Purna Kumbha and decorate the Kumbha with jewelry, turmeric, sandal paste, flowers etc.
  • Those who do not keep Kolu, keep the Kalash in the Pooja room.
  • Betel leaves, Betel nuts, a coconut is placed in front of the Kalasha. Cooked rice or boiled and sweetened milk is kept as prasadam or neivedya in front of the Kalasha.
  • This Kalasha is to be kept for next nine days – it symbolizes Goddess.
  • A lamp is lit every evening and morning for nine days.
  • Normal puja is performed.
Arranging the Bommai Kolu
Next you can start arranging the Kolu dolls. Some people keep Lord Ganesha on the first step. Others opt for the Marapachi dolls. How to arrange dolls can be found here in this article.

Navratri Puja Begins
Women perform all the pujas during Navratri.
  • You have already installed the Goddess in the form of Purna Kumbha. Light a lamp morning and evening on all nine days.
  • Elaborate pujas are conducted in the evening.
  • Other women are invited on any one of the evening.
  • The first three days is dedicated to Goddess Durga.
  • The next three days is dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi.
  • The final three days is dedicated to Goddess Saraswathi.
  • Fresh kolams are done on all nine days.
  • Shlokas that are recited on nine days include Durga Ashtotaram, Devi Mahatmiyam, Shyamala Dhandakam, Lakshmi Sahasranama, Lakshmi Ashototaram, Lalitha Sahasranama, Saraswathi Stotram, Saraswathi Ashototaram.
  • Sholakas are recited while performing the puja.
Sweets and neivedya prepared are shared with neighbors, relatives and friends.
A kannika (young girl) is invited and she is given lunch and new clothes on the first day. Some people do the Kannika Pooja it on all nine days.
The lamp is diffused after the puja daily.
The puja concludes on the ninth day evening.

Related
Navratri North India Puja Vidhi