Durga Puja is celebrated in various ways during the autumn season in India. Whilst in east India Shakti is worshipped, in north and west India Navaratri is celebrated with much pomp and fanfare. Ayudha Puja or Astra Puja is also held during this time and its origin is essentially linked with the legends of Durga Puja. Ayudha Puja is mostly held in South India where it either takes place on Navami or Dashami. In Kerala, for instance, this festival is celebrated on Mahanavami but in the states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka it is held on Vijaya Dashami. Ayudha Puja implies the worship of weapons. While the rest of India is busy in celebrating Navaratri or Vijaya Dashami, South India worships weapons and numerous tools on these auspicious days. Hence, their worship procedures also vary from that of Durga Puja in general.
Most of the festivals celebrated in India have their roots in legends and Ayudha Puja is in no way different. According to legends after vanquishing Mahishasura
, the weapons of Goddess Durga
were worshipped by her devotees and thus, the tradition of weapon worship commenced. There is another legend that surrounds the celebration of Ayudha Puja. The traditions followed by the kings of Mysore in organising this puja trace its origin back to tales of Mahabharata
, one of the Pandava brothers, on this day retrieved his weapons from the Shami tree. He had hid his weaponry here as the Pandava brothers went into Agyatvash for a year. On the ninth day of Durga Puja, their Agyatvash ended and Arjuna aided King Virat in combating the Kauravas
. On the day of Vijaya Dashami the Pandavas
returned victorious by defeating the Kaurava army.
However, with passing time traditions have undergone changes. In fact, Ayudha Puja is celebrated today in form of tools and vehicle worship. This implies that people worship their tools: a carpenter or a mason worship his tools, etc. With technological advancements, computers and other gadgets that are used for business purposes have become an integral part of Ayudha Puja.
Ayudha Puja is also similar to Vishwakarma Puja that is held in the states of Orissa
, West Bengal
and other Eastern and Northern states. Lord Vishwakarma
is hailed as the divine engineer and architect. On this day he is worshipped in all the industrial sectors, garages, shops, etc. However, in South India the mode of worship is a bit different. It is either Goddess Laxmi
, Goddess Saraswati
who are worshipped during this puja
. Alongwith the idols or images of the goddesses, the weapons, vehicles, tools, musical instruments and others are also placed for worship. These devices are at first cleaned and then sandalwood paste and turmeric are smeared on them. They are bedecked with garlands and tilak. Even after the puja is over these are kept alongside the goddesses for that particular day.
In the different south Indian states the mode of celebrating Ayudha Puja differs. For instance, in Karnataka
this religious festival is held according to the customs followed by the Mysore kings. On the other hand, in Tamil Nadu
it is held on the eve of Navami. Here it is Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, who is worshipped. In the recent times Ayudha Puja has become quite popular in the business houses as well. In Kerala
too, Ayudha Puja is held in a similar fashion. The only difference is that here the festival is marked by various cultural programmes.
Besides these south Indian states, Ayudha Puja is also an important religious event in the states of Gujarat
and Uttar Pradesh