The Navaratri Utsava is the most celebrated one among all the festivals at Sringeri. Navaratri means the nine nights. During these auspicious nine nights the Jaganmaata is worshipped, who killed the cruel demons Madhu-Kaitabha, Shumbha-Nishumbha, Mahishasura and so on. The following verse is quoted from Devi Mahatmyam occuring in the Markandeya Puranam –
शरत्काले महापूजा क्रियते या च वार्षिकी ।
तस्यां ममैतान्महात्म्यं श्रुत्वा भक्ति समन्वितः ॥
This explains that by special worship of Jaganmaata and by chanting Devi Mahatmya during Sharatkaala (Sharadritu), Devi becomes happy and gives all sorts of prosperity to her devotees.
Navaratri is our national festival and is celebrated all-over the country. Still the festival celebrated at Sringeri is a distinct one. Many programmes are conducted in a grand manner during that time at Sringeri. Sharadamba will be adorned with precious and attractive ornaments and beautiful jewellery made of pearls, jade, diamonds, etc.
Significance of Alankaras
A quote cited by Devi in Sri Devi Mahatmyam says “Ekaivaaham jagatyatra dviteeya kaa mamaaparaa” (I am the only eternal power in the world and none else the second). Therefore all these different Alankaras and Avataras are of Jaganmaata only. That Jaganmaata takes the form of Saraswati and bestows education and knowledge, takes the form of Mahalakshmi and gives wealth, food, etc., and takes the form of Mahakaali (Chamundi) during the time of destruction of evil minded people, takes the form of Durga Parameshwari to make her devotees to get rid of all the fear. She safeguards her devotees through different names and forms. Though the forms and names of Jagadamba are numerous, the spirit is the same. Such a great philosophical truth is there in the process of making different Alankaras to Devi.
A Mahabhisheka to Sharadamba will be performed on the day-before-Navaratri (i.e. on No-moon-day of the month of Bhaadrapada). Various types of Phala-Panchaamrita Abhisheka is followed by Shata Rudraabhisheka with Mahaanyasa and 108 Abhisheka while chanting Sri Sukta. The mother will be offered with Jagatprasutika Alankaara on that day.
Jagatprasutika Alankaram : With a smile on her face Mother Sharada fondles a cute baby on her lap as if she is telling her devotee that “I am the mother of the whole creation and you are my child. You will ever be taken care as this baby on my lap, if you seek me”. This Alankara will be very nice. Navaratri festival starts from the next day. Every day new Alankara will be made to Sri Sharadamba throughout Navaratri. It will not be an exaggeration to tell that even two eyes are not enough to see this splendor.
Hamsavahana Alankarara – BRAHMI : Mother Sharada who is the queen of Brahma Deva, sitting on Hamsavaahana bless her devotees beholding in her hands the Kamandalu, Aksha Maala, Pustaka, Pasha and Chinmudra.
Vrishabhavahana Alankara – MAAHESHWARI : Adi Shakti, the concert of Maheshwara, sitting on Vrishabhavaahana, wearing Crest-Moon, beholding Trishula bless her devotees.
Mayuravahana Alankara – KOUMARI : Mother Sharada sitting on a Peacock, beholding Shakti Ayudha, in the form of the Power of Kumaraswamy, protect the world with her grace.
Garudavahana Alankara – VAISHNAVI : Devi as the Power of Sri Mahavishnu, sitting on Garuda, beholding Conch, Disc, and Gadaa, bless the group of her devotees.
Indrani Alankara : Devi beholding Vajrayudha, sitting on Airavata, as the concert of Devendra and as the destroyer of demons like Vritrasura, takes care of devotees.
Veena Sharada Alankara : Mother Sharada beholding Veena in her hands, gives knowledge also to a dull-headed devotee. This Alankara is very beautiful to see.
Mohini Alankara : It is a life-time-opportunity for the devotees to see this Alankara of Jaganmaata carrying Amritha Kalasha in her hand, who deluded the bad, cruel demons by her charm and beauty for the sake of distributing the Amritha to the angels.
Rajarajeshwari Alankara : Mother Rajarajeshwari who is the concert of Kameshwara, beholding Pasha, Ankusha, Pushpabaana and Chapa, with her merciful-eyes, adorned with all the ornaments, fulfills all the desires of her devotees through her divine grace.
Simhavahana Alankara – CHAMUNDA : Jaganmaata has taken this form of Chamunda to protect the good people and to destroy the cruel demons Chanda, Munda, etc. She sits on Simhavaahana holding Trishula in her hand.
Gajalakshmi Alankara : Sri Gajalakshmi sitting on the lotus and being saluted by the elephants on both sides, with a smiling face, gracefully gives wealth, food, happiness and prosperity to her devotees.
Parayanas (Chantings) during Navaratri
Many Parayanas will be done at Sringeri Math during Navaratri festival viz. Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda, Atharvanaveda Parayanas, Valmiki Ramayana, Devi Bhagavata, Shrimad Bhagavatam, Madhaviya Shankara Digvijaya, Suta Samhite, Lalitopakhyana, Prasthanatraya Bhashya Parayanas, Mahavidya, Lakshminarayana Hridaya, Durga Saptashati and other Parayanas. Surya Namaskara, Srisukta Japa, Bhuvaneshvari Japa, Durga Japa and other Japas will be performed. Shata Rudraabhisheka to Sri Chandramoulishwara Swamy, Navaavarana Pooja to Sri Chakra which is called as the abode of Jaganmaata as per the Shastras, Suvaasini Pooja and Kumari Pooja at 12Noon everyday are also performed. Also the devotees will receive Prasada. Around 15 – 20 thousand people will have Meals daily during Navaratri festival.
Rathotsava to Sharadamba will be held at 6.30 pm daily on the main street. Mangalaarati will be performed in the presence of Parama Poojya Acharyah. Then starts the Rathotsava. Many Alankaras will be done to this Utsava Murthy too.
Cultural programmes during Navaratri
Not only religious activities, but cultural programmes like music concerts by famous artists in the fields of Vocal, Veenavaadana, Flute, Violin, Saxophone, Clarionet, etc., are also arranged during Navaratri festival. This period will be a fiest for the lovers of music.
Itenerary of Sri Jagadguru Mahaswaminah during Navaratri
After Ahnika and Anushthana at dawn during Navaratri festival, Parama Poojya Acharyah will perform special pooja to Guru Padukas and to Sri Chakra. At 9.30 am Acharyah will visit all the temples in the premises of Sri Math and take Darshan of all the deities. After the regular morning and noon pooja, Sri Jagadguru Mahaswaminah will perform special pooja to Sri Sharadamba between 12 noon to 2.30 pm. Acharyah will give Darshan to the devotees between 5.30 pm to 6.30 pm, and attend Sri Sharadamba Rathotsava at 6.30 pm. At 7.30 pm Acharyah will bathe again and after completing Ahnika, attends Sri Chandramoulishwara Pooja at 8 pm. This pooja will be over around 9.30 pm. Then Acharya will preside Darbar.
Darbar is a special programme during Navaratri. This special function is being celebrated since the time of Sri Vidyaranya. Sri Vidyaranya Mahaswaminah played a main role in the establishment of Vijayanagara Empire and blessed Harihara Raya and Bukka Raya in every aspect. They in-turn, as a token of gratitude and devotion, offered the whole kingdom, golden throne, crown made of ruby, gold palkin, chatra-chamaras and all the royal symbols at the Lotus-feet of Sri Vidyaranya.
They honoured Parama Poojya Sri Guru Vidyaranya with great titles like “Karnataka Simhasana Pratishthapanaacharya” “Srimadrajadhirajaguru” “Bhumandalaacharya” and so on. Because of the humble request and devotion of these desciples, Sri Guru Mahaswaminah had to accept these royal symbols.
Sri Jagadguru Mahaswaminah wearing crown and ornaments as per the tradition of Sri Math, enters the Darbar at Sharada Temple in a procession through Chandramoulishwara Hall. After this the idol of Sharadamba which is kept at Vyakhyana Simhasana will be brought into the golden chariot. Rathotsava will be done in the corridor of the temple three times, alongwith Veda Ghosha, Vadya Ghosha and Chatra-Chamara. Acharyah facing towards the Mother walks infront of the Ratha. After the Rathotsava, Acharyah will take his seat on the golden throne which is kept facing towards Sharadamba. Then the chanting of one or two chapters of Saptashati will be done.