Navratri

‘Nava’ means ‘nine’ and ‘ratri’ is made up of ‘ra’ which also means ‘night’ and ‘tri’ meaning the three aspects of our life – body, mind and soul.

There are three types of botherations or problems that may affect a person – physical, mental and spiritual. That which gives you relief from all these difficulties is ‘ratri’. 

‘Ratri’ or night relieves you of misery and brings comfort. The night relaxes everybody; whether happy, unhappy or miserable, everybody goes to sleep.

Navratri is a celebration of the spirit or prana which alone can destroy mahishasura (inertia), shumbha-nishumbha (pride and shame) and madhu-kaitabh (extreme forms of craving and aversion). They are completely opposites, yet complementary.

Inertia, deeply ingrained negativities and obsessions (raktabeejasura), unreasonable logics (chanda-munda) and blurred vision (dhoomralochan) can be overcomed only by raising the level of prana and shakti, the life-force energy.

The beginning of spring and the beginning of autumn are two very important junctions of climatic and solar influence. These two periods are considered as sacred opportunities to worship the Divine Mother. Navratri thus represents the celebration of the shakti (energy). Mother Divine is the manifestation of the Divine consciousness as shakti.

This festival is devoted solely to the Mother Goddess — known variously as Durga, Bhavani, Ambika, Chandika, Gauri, Kaali, Parvati, Lalitha, Tripurasundari, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Chamundi, Mahishasuramardini and her many other manifestations.

The nine-day period of Navratri is marked by a series of Yagna and Homas. These Yagnas nullify all the misery, sorrow and pain in the world. Each day of this nine-day period has special implications. Yagnas and homas are performed accordingly.

In life, there are positive and negative qualities that affect us. Navratri represents how the negativity can be conquered by the inherent positive qualities in an individual so that one emerges as a Divine being. As we take nine months in our mother's womb before we are born, we take these nine days to go back to our source. These nine days are to be spent in meditation, satsang, silence and knowledge. It is a journey from the outer world of names and forms to the subtle world of energies, invoked through the various yagnas, to the innermost core of our being - the Self.

Nav durga and Dasha-Mahavidyas

The energy aspect of Navaratri is signified by the Nav durga - the nine aspects of Divine Mother. The knowledge aspect is celebrated as Dasha mahavidya.

These nine forms of manifestation are Śhailaputrī, Brahmachāriṇī, Chandraghaṇṭā, Kuṣhmāṇḍā, Skandamātā, Kātyāyanī, Kālarātrī, Mahāgaurī and Siddhidātrī; together worshipped during the Navratri festival.

The ten form of Mahavidyas are Kali, Tara, Tripura Sundari (Shodashi), Bhuvaneshvari, Bhairavi, Chhinnamasta, Dhumavati, Bagalamukhi, Matangi and Kamala.

(Each of these forms has a deeper meaning behind it which seems to be lost somewhere today. Each form of Mother Divine is associated with a story which points out to a valuable wealth of knowledge and philosophy which we will write in some other articles.)


Trigunas


The Mother Divine is Prakriti (the entire creation). Everything in this creation is made up of the three gunas or qualities: Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. 

Sattva is associated with calmness, clarity of mind, enthusiasm and peace. Rajas is needed for action but often creates feverishness. Tamas is inertia and an imbalance in tamas can lead to laziness, dullness and even depression. When you handle tamas properly you move into sattva. Every being in this creation is caught in the play of the gunas. How does one come out of this cycle, and transcend these boundaries?

The first three days of Navratri are attributed to tamo guna, the next three days to rajo guna and the last three days to sattva guna. Our consciousness sails through the tamo and rajo gunas and blossoms in the sattva guna of the last three days.

Whenever sattva dominates in life, victory follows. The essence of this knowledge is honored by celebrating the tenth day as Vijaydashmi.


First 3 days of Navratri


The first three days celebrate the Devi in the form of Durga. Durga also means hill. A very difficult task is often described as an uphill task. In the presence of Durga, negative forces fade away. Difficulties find it difficult to exist in Her presence! The goddess is depicted as riding a lion or tiger as her mount, alluding to the aspect of courage and valor which are the essence of Devi Durga.

The Nava Durga are the nine aspects of Durga energy which act like a shield to ward off all negativities. When you have obstacles and mental blocks, just remembering these qualities of the Devi, can cure the mental blocks. Especially in the case of people suffering from anxiety, doubting oneself, doubting one’s ability, ‘lack’ consciousness, feeling threatened by enmity and negativity - simply by chanting the names of the Devis, it is like mantras that elevate your consciousness and you can become more centered, courageous and composed. This is the significance of the aspect of the Divine as Devi Durga.

The goddess is depicted as riding a lion or tiger as her mount, alluding to the aspect of courage and valour which are the essence of Devi Durga.

The Devi Durga, in Her form as Mahishasuramardhini, is the destroyer of Mahisha. The word Mahisha means buffalo which is a symbol of laziness, lethargy, and inertia. These are the qualities which impede the spiritual and material progress of an individual. The Devi is a storehouse of positive energy and any trace of laziness or inertia dissolves in Her very presence.

Second set of 3 days


The second set of three days honor the Devi as Lakshmi. Lakshmi is goddess of wealth and prosperity. Wealth is a vital ingredient bestowed upon us for the maintenance and progress in our life.

It is much more than just having money. It means abundance in knowledge, skills and talents. Lakshmi is the energy that manifests as the complete spiritual and material well-being of a person.

Mahalakshmi denotes a great wealth, a wealth that includes the eight aspects as below:

1. Adi Lakshmi is the memory of the source. When we forget that we are part of the entire creation, we feel small and insecure. Adi Lakshmi is that aspect which connects us to our source, bringing strength and calmness to the mind.
2. Dhana Lakshmi is the aspect of material wealth and
3. Vidya Lakshmi is the aspect of knowledge, skills and talents.
4. Dhanya Lakshmi manifests as wealth in the form of food. There is a saying ‘jaise ann, waise man’ – implying that the food we eat has a direct impact on our mind. The right amount and type of food, eaten at the right time and place affects our body and mind positively.
5. Santana Lakshmi manifests as wealth in the form of progeny and creativity. People full of creativity, talented and skillful in the arts are bestowed with this aspect of Lakshmi.
6. Dhairya Lakshmi manifests as wealth in the form of courage
7. Vijaya Lakshmi is the aspect that manifests as victory.
8. Bhagya Lakshmi is the aspect of good luck and prosperity.

Last 3 days of Navratri


The final three days are dedicated to Saraswati. Saraswati is the goddess of knowledge - the one who gives the essence (sara) of the self (swa). She is often depicted as being seated on a rock. Knowledge, like a rock, is a steadfast support. It stays with us at all times. She plays the veena, a musical instrument whose mellifluous notes bring harmony and peace to the mind. Similarly, spiritual knowledge brings relaxation and celebration into ones’ life.

Goddess Saraswati is the ocean of understanding and the consciousness which vibrates with different types of learning. She is the source of spiritual light, remover of all ignorance and the source of knowledge.

Remembering names and forms of Devi

During the nine nights of Navratri, the Devi is worshiped in all Her names and forms.

The energy aspect of Navaratri is signified by the Nav durga - the nine aspects of Divine Mother. The knowledge aspect is celebrated as Dasha mahavidya.

Names have a significance. We remember a sandalwood tree by the memory of its perfume. Each name and form of the Devi refers to a specific quality or attribute of the Divine. By remembering the form or by chanting the many names of Devi, we enliven those qualities in our consciousness and they manifest in us according to the need of the hour.

The Mother Divine is recognized not just as the brilliance of intellect (buddhi), but also the confusion (bhranti); she is not just abundance (lakshmi), she is also hunger (shudha) and thirst (trishna). Realizing this aspect of the Mother Divine in the entire creation, leads one to a deep state of Samadhi. This gives an answer to the age-old theological struggle of the Occident. Through wisdom, devotion and nishkama karma, one can attain advaita siddhi or perfection in the non-dual consciousness.

Kali is the most horrific manifestation of Nature. Nature symbolizes beauty, yet it has a horrific form. Acknowledging the duality brings a total acceptance in the mind and puts the mind at ease.

Though Navratri is celebrated as the victory of good over evil, the actual fight is not between good and evil. From the Vedantic point of view, the victory is of the absolute reality over the apparent duality.

The three primordial gunas are considered as the feminine force of our magnificent universe. By worshiping the Mother Divine during Navratri, we harmonize the three gunas and elevate sattva in the atmosphere.
The inward journey nullifies our negative karmas.

Unique Navratri Celebrations in Different Parts of India

The last five days of Sharad Navratri is celebrated as Durga Puja in West Bengal, north-eastern part of India. Devi Durga is shown with various weapons in her hand, riding on a lion. Lion signifies the dharma, the will power, while the weapons denote the focus and severity needed to destroy the negativity in our minds. Eighth day is traditionally Durgashtami. Exquisitely crafted and decorated life-size clay idols of the Goddess Durga depicting her slaying the demon Mahishasura are set up in temples and other places. These idols are then worshipped for five days and immersed in the river on the fifth day.

In Western India, particularly in the state of Gujarat, Navratri is celebrated with the famous Garba and Dandiya-Raas dance. Garba is a graceful form of dance, wherein women dance gracefully in circles around a pot containing a lamp. The word ‘Garba’ or ‘Garbha’ means womb, and in this context the lamp in the pot, symbolically represent life within a womb. Besides the Garba is the Dandiya dance, in which men and women participate in pairs with small, decorated bamboo sticks, called dandiyas in their hands. At the end of these dandiyas are tied tiny bells called ghungroos that make a jingling sound when the sticks hit one another. The dance has a complex rhythm. The dancers begin with a slow tempo, and go into frenzied movements, in such a manner that each person in a circle not only performs a solo dance with his own sticks, but also strikes his partner’s dandiyas in style!

The Ayudha Puja is conducted in many parts of South India on the Mahanavami (Ninth) day with much fanfare. Agricultural implements, all kinds of tools, books, musical instruments, equipments, machinery and automobiles are decorated and worshipped on this day along with the worship of Goddess Saraswathy.

The 10th day is celebrated as 'Vijaya Dashami'. It is the day of “Vidyaarambam” in Kerala, where young children are initiated into learning. In the southern city of Mysore Dussehra is celebrated with grand processions on the streets carrying Goddess Chamundi.

In North India, Navratri is celebrated as the victory of Lord Rama over the evil king Ravana. It culminates in the celebrations of the Ramlila which is enacted ceremoniously during Dussehra. The effigies of Ravana, Kumbhakarna, are burnt to celebrate the victory of good (Rama) over evil forces on the 'Vijaya Dashami' day.

These nine days are filled with special pujas, yagnas, homas, fasting, meditations, silence, singing and dancing honoring Mother Divine, her entire creation- all forms of life, all forms of art, music and knowledge. She is worshipped as the savior of mankind from ignorance and all forms of evil.


References:
http://www.artofliving.org/navratri-journey-to-source
http://www.artofliving.org/in-en/various-names-and-forms-divine-mother
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahavidya
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Navadurga

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