The other day a group of colleagues living close together and all of the domestic staff they employ came together for an annual tradition called the “Ayudha Pooja.” This is something which Hindus, especially in South India, have celebrated as long as anyone can remember. Traditionally it is observed on the final, or ninth day of the Navratri festival, which would have been Sunday, October 14th this year. However, in our neighborhood, it has been customary for us ex-pats to be invited to take part (and help finance) the observance, and we had to make do with Friday, six days afterward, in order to accommodate all schedules.
What is Ayudha Pooja? As an outside observer, I would describe it as giving thanks for the implements one uses in their daily work – for a driver this would be the automobile, for the gardener, the garden tools, and so on. However, the pooja itself follows a deliberate ritual involving specific items and acts – prayer, use of fire, breaking of coconuts and melons, that sort of thing. Each act and item has a particular significance, and results in a blessing being bestowed upon those items (if I have understood correctly!) And it culminated in the sharing of traditional snacks, and the giving of small gift items between everyone involved.
To prepare for the event, all of the items to be blessed are cleaned and decorated. In our case, the cars were all washed, decorated with flowers, and placed in a line:
Our staff had worked all day to cover the area with traditional kolams, hang streamers (both the colorful plastic kind and streamers made from “scratch” – string with leaves folded over and the stems tucked in:
A sort of outdoor temple was created with all the items involved in the offering placed in accordance with tradition:
…and then all of the families were gathered (barefoot) to take part in the rituals. An interesting annual tradition in our community and a great way to promote fellowship! To learn more about Ayudha Pooja from an “insider” perspective, click here.