October 24th saw the city of Mangalore come together to celebrate Ayudha Puja with great zeal and fervour. On this auspicious day, all that one uses to earn a livelihood,be it vehicles or computers, is kept for puja. As the puja is conducted, Goddess Laxmi (Goddess of Wealth), Saraswathi (Goddess of Wisdom, Arts and Literature) and Parvathi (the Divine Mother) are worshipped. Legend holds that, once the Goddess Durga had defeated all demons, she set aside her weapons and revered them. Ayudha Puja is conducted to ensure that all bad luck and negative happenings are warded off in the coming year. On this day, people put themselves as well as their tools to rest and celebrate by bursting firecrackers instead.
Ayudha puja is also a part of the Navratri festival celebrations and is also known by the name of Astra puja. The puja takes place on the tenth day of the Dasara celebrations. While it was originally held for worshipping one’s tools or weapons in general, in the modernised world, Ayuda puja has gained a new meaning owing to which things like computers and typewriters are kept for puja in the place of traditional weapons. In the words of Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, it is one’s recognition of the value of something that makes it infinitely more useful. Therefore on such an auspicious day through such an auspicious event, people recognize the importance of things like vehicles, tools, computers and much more that help us earn a livelihood. On the day of the Ayudha puja, all things to be kept for puja are washed, the smaller ones are kept on a pedestal and are decorated with flowers. Vermillion is applied to them as well, as part of the puja.
The ritual of conducting Ayudha puja is truly a reflection of the Indian culture as we worship and bow down to anything before we use it. It is also a promise made by the individual to the objects kept for puja to always treat it with respect and to never forget its value. This is based on the belief that unless and until we approach things with a certain level of respect and devotion, it will not yield or open up to us. It is also a promise to always look up and never down on the objects kept for puja. While what we use the tool for is also important in helping us earn a livelihood, equally important is how much we enjoyed working with them. Ayudha Puja is also the time to understand that apart from the tools and objects kept for the puja, one’s own body and mind must also be considered for the puja as they tirelessly serve us day in and day out. The bottom line is to see divinity in everything that surrounds us.
Historically, wars would be waged around this time of the year as the torrents of rain brought by the monsoon would have receded making it easier to fight. Therefore, before going to war, kings are said to have conducted Astra puja or Ayudha puja in order to ensure their victory no matter what.