Ayudha Puja is an integral part of the Navratri festival, a Hindu festival which is traditionally celebrated in India. It is also called as “Shastra Puja” or “Astra Puja”. In simple terms, it means “Worship of Implements”. Ayudha Puja is done on Navami Tithi during Navratri and it is popular only in South India mainly in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala.
In Indian culture, we set up this aspect that whatever tool it may be, if you want to use your plough, first bow down to it and then use it. If you want to use a book, first bow down to it and then use it. Ayudha Pooja means, every implement that you use, whether it is in industry, agriculture or anything else, you approach it respectfully.
This is what we chant in the Chandi Homa, ‘Ya devi sarva bhuteshu buddhi rupena samsthita’ (the Divine Goddess who resides in all beings in the form of intelligence, I bow down to You). It is the one divinity which manifests itself as the intellect in all beings.
Historically Ayudha Puja was meant to worship weapons but in its present form all sort of instruments are worshipped on the very same day. In South India it is a day when craftsmen worship their tools and instruments similar to Vishwakarma Puja in other parts of India. The importance of Ayudha Puja on this occasion may also be due to the fact that on the Vijayadashami day, Arjuna took back his weapons which he had hidden in a Bani tree in order to lead a life in disguise for the promised period of exile. It is believed that one who begins or renovates his learning to work on the tenth day-Vijayadashami will secure a grand success as Partha did in Kurukshetra warfare.
In its modern form Ayudha Puja has become Vahana Puja when people worship their vehicles including cars, scooters, and motor bikes. During Vahana Puja all sort of vehicles, which are in use, are decorated with vermilion, garlands, mango leaves and banana sapling and worshipped. Most significantly during Vahana Puja a white pumpkin is decorated with vermilion and turmeric and smashed in front of the vehicle as a custom to get rid of all sorts of evils.
In South India most calendars mark Saraswati Puja along with Ayudha Puja. However according to most Dharma Shastras Saraswati Puja during Navratri is suggested during Purva Ashadha Nakshatra.