Ayudha Puja: Festival of Weapons

Ayudha Puja is an integral part of the Navratri Festival. It is also called Astra Puja. In simple terms, it means the worship of implements. It is popular in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Orissa, and in Tamil Nadu. The festival is a part of the Dasara or Navaratri or Durga Puja or Golu festival.

The main Shakti goddesses worshiped during Ayudha puja are Saraswati, Lakshmi and Parvati. It was a pre-battle ritual that involved human sacrifice. It began after the rainy season propitiated before launching military campaigns. This practice is not prevalent any more. Now, instead of a human sacrifice, buffalo or sheep sacrifice is in vogue, in some communities. The previous practice is in the Tamil version of the epic Mahabharata. Kalapalli was a sacrifice involving human sacrifices before and after battles.

Tools and all vocational implements get cleaned first. All tools, machines, vehicles and other devices are then painted or well polished. After which it gets stained with turmeric paste sandalwood paste and Kumkum. Then, in the afternoon, they get placed on a platform designed and decorated with flowers.

In the case of weapons of war, they are also cleaned, adorned with flowers and tilaka and placed in a line, next to a wall. On the morning of the puja, they are all worshiped along with the images of Saraswati, Lakshmi and Parvati. Books and musical instruments are also placed on the pedestal for worship.

In Karnataka, the Mysore royal family perform the puja within the palace gardens. The observed rituals are the first to worship weapons on Mahanavami day. It get followed by Kusumananda, the tradition of breaking a pumpkin in the palace gardens. After this, the weapons get taken in a gold palanquin to the Bhuvaneshwari temple for worship. The tradition of the festival dates back to the Vijayanagara Empire, when it became a Naada Habba.

This festival is also celebrated with much fanfare throughout the state, in all towns. In general, the puja in villages begins with the slaughter of sheep and staining ox carts with the blood.

In Kerala, the festival is Pujayeduppu. In Tamil Nadu, Golu is the festival that get celebrated during the Navratri period. On this occasion, dolls of gods and goddesses get arranged on stepped wooden platform. The wooden dolls 'marapachi' represent Perumal and Thayaar. On the ninth day, Saraswati puja takes place. Books and musical instruments get placed on the pedestal and worshiped.