Few days ago, I had a mail through the comment thread for my Varalakshmi Vratham post of last year. The reader had wanted to know details about the arrangements for performing this vratham. I wanted to mail her, but I did not find her e-mail address there. Then it crossed my mind to make a post on the procedure which might be useful for me as well.
I kept putting this post off for long now and am sorry N, that I am giving details when the pandigai is almost upon you. However, I am sure you have read many other web pages that show up as you search and might be having a clue on 'How to proceed'. Nevertheless, one addition to that will not make a significant difference. My sincere hope is that my post does not confuse you.
The vratham is believed to have been advised by Lord Parameshwara Himself to His consort Parvathi Devi. Also that a very pious and devoted lady, Charumathi was instructed through a dream by Mahalakshmi Herself to perform this pooja. It is said that Charumathi performed the pooja and also spread the practice of the vratham to many more who have all benefited abundantly.
Usually, it is a pooja initiated to a newly wedded bride during the first year of her marriage, by her mother-in-law to carry forth the custom in the family. However, there have been women who have willingly taken up this, even if it were not customary in the family and have done that for years.
For the girls being initiated to this custom, the parents gift the important accessories such as the Kalasa Sombu ( a pot -like utensil, usually made of silver or brass/ copper which are considered best for ritualistic ceremonies) and the 'Amman mukham', again a small sculptured face of Varamahalakshmi. Otherwise they observe along with the elders.
I follow the procedure given in the Vratha pooja vidhanam book issued by Lifco book publishers. The materials that are used may vary from what I use as per tradition in a particular household.
This can be taken as a general guideline though.
The pooja is performed on the Friday prior to the fullmoon day of the Hindu calender month of Shravana, which might shift very slightly to fall in one of the two Tamil months of Aadi or Aavani.
On the Thursday, the day before the pooja, the house is cleaned and preparations are on the onset. Maakolams (or izhaikolams) with finely ground rice paste are drawn at the threshold, a convenient and auspicious corner near the entrance of the house and in the location where you
would be performing the actual pooja.
Find a few mango leaves to decorate the threshold and reserve some to decorate the kalasam.
You will need a slightly large plate to place the kalasam and a manaipalagai (a wooden plank fitted with small legs) to place the above on. The kolam has to be drawn on this plank also.
What goes into the kalasam:
One heaped cup and a quarter more of raw rice.
About a tablespoon of thuvar dhal.
Packets of turmeric and kumkum or two whole turmeric pieces and kumkum in two tiny packets.
A coin of Re.1 ( any coin)
Few raisins, dry dates, one lime fruit and betel leaves and arecanuts (these are not a must)
What goes in the large plate placed underneath the kalasam:
Same quantity of rice, dhal betel leaves, arecanuts, a tiny mirror, a comb and sets of bangles and palm leaf tied together known as picholai karivalai ( or kaadholai karugumani) available in shops selling materials for such poojas.
How to decorate the kalasam and invoke the diety:
Having taken the above mentioned stuff in the kalasam, place some sandal paste and kumkum on the body of the utensil.
Place about 5 to 7 mango leaves into the utensil. Coat a whole coconut yellow with turmeric paste.
Fit the coconut upon the mouth of the utensil between the mango leaves. Ideally place it in such a way that the mango leaves are on the hind side of the utensil.
The figurine of the 'amman mukham' is usually made in such a way to fit it over the coconut, either like a hairpin or with a ring-like hinge.
Place the mukham over the cococnut and fit it to sit over the neck part of the utensil or the coconut.
Use your resources and imagination to deck your idol with jewellery and flowers.
Place the plate on the plank.
Thus done place this whole arranged unit at the point where you have drawn the maakkolam near the entrance. Soon after setting this up, light a lamp next to the idol and offer something as neivedhyam. Some procedures suggest ven pongal, though it is flexile depending on individual liking and ability.
Take care that the kalasam sits well on the plate as you will be required to be lifting the whole with the manai and walking a small distance from near the entrance to the appointed spot.
On Friday, the Vianyaka pooja is performed requesting Him to take care of any hurdles that may come by. Then the amman is carried into the house singing hymns welcoming Her. The entire unit is then placed in the spot where the pooja has to be performed. There are specific mantras to be chanted and a procedure to be followed during the pooja. You may find them in books and cassettes available explaining them.
The neivedhyams related to this festival have been discussed in my last year's post.
I have shown my suggestions in the pictures taken over the past few years.
There have been circumstances that I have not been able to procure one or few of the essential materials, living in countries where they are unheard of. I have managed just about contiuing the procedure to the best of my ability. So, please do not be upset if you are not able to stick to the guidelines, count the blessings and conduct the pooja.
Perform the pooja with reverence and devotion. That pleases the Gods most.