The Laxmi Venkataramana (Balaji) mandir in Vashi is known for celebrating Navratri with a difference. The nine days followed by Dussehra are celebrated as Brahmotsav from October 5 to 14. It is an amalgamation of Saraswati puja (Vidyarambha puja), Lakshmi puja, Durga Puja and dandiya.
The temple becomes a hub of activity on the ten days. One can see women stringing colourful garlands out of fresh flowers for puja, singing bhajans and lighting lamps. Bhajan groups from GSB sabhas of Sion, Kurla, Thane, Mulund, Goregaon. Matunga, Vashi and other places will be present at the temple every evening to sing before the lord.
Durga namaskars, rangapoojas dominate the entire period.
Instead of lehengas, ghagra-cholis, women will perform pujas in rich kanjeevaram sarees. Kumari puja, which is also held at the temple, involves honouring young girls and gifting them items.
These kumaris come well dressed to the temple after which they are taken in a procession around the temple. Suvasini puja is also part of the rituals. Haldi kumkum will be offered to married women on the evening of October 11 evening.
An important puja, one of the most popular in Hindu religion, is the chandika havan celebrated by women on maha ashtami (October 12) between 10am and noon. It is performed across India during various festivals, especially during Navratri, by reciting verses from the Durga sapthasathi and offering oblations into the sacrificial fire. At the Balaji mandir, hundreds of women will participate in this havan, offering coconuts, blouse pieces, flowers, kumkum to the goddess.
Though originally not part of the utsav, dandiya will be played on Saturday evening. Prizes are given to the best dancers, best-dressed participants. The women find this event very exciting.
On October 14, Vijayadashami, which celebrates the victory of the Goddess Durga over Mahishasur on the tenth day i.e. Dussehra which means removal of ten referring to Lord Rama’s victory over the ten-headed demon king Ravana. As part of the celebration, Vidyaramba Pujan, where little children will begin their education officially on this auspicious day, will be performed between 9.30am and 10.30am. Meritorious students of SSC, HSC, degree passed during 2013 will be honoured at 6pm.
All the idols in Balaji mandir are offered rich sarees and dhotis by devotees, and an auction is held on Dussehra where these clothes are bought by the highest bidders.