Navratri, the nine days and 10 nights are marked on the first day of the Ashwin Lunar Month, is not just pious and religiousness, but raises spiritual and existential questions. Spiritually, it runs deeper than that. The positivity, festivity, and warmth are an embodiment of powerful, sublime and energetic resolve when the temples renounce with pilgrims, rituals encompass devotion and action are contemplated with spiritual thoughts.
Worship of the feminine has been a powerful presence in Indian culture. Linga Bhairavi takes three colors and forms every three-days which is believed to be reflected in each individual in different events and the universe at different times. She is known to unite the three dimensions of the divine feminine that define the qualities of existence; tamas (Durga), rajas (Laxmi), and sattvic (Sarasvati). The climatic and solar influences during Navratri are considered sacred to invoke enliven those qualities with us, and the goddess manifests within us Celebrated in thriving diversity in different parts of India, the message of the festival may very well be the same, but the way of communicating is bound by local gestures, customs, rituals, and traditional beliefs. Scriptures extol the glory of Devi who fought fiercely and ferociously against Mahishasur. The quintessential victory of devotion over arrogance, of divine over the devil, and of love over worldly ego is renounced as Lord Rama is believed to have worshipped goddess Durga during Sharad Navratri. It is a reminder that happiness finally finds its home.
This is the manifestation of divinity in the feminine; an epic symbol of how a woman could be equal parts creator and destroyer, and the strange dichotomy of potential and kinetic energy. Idols of clay are shaped into perfection with bejeweled and adorned in beautiful attires as the divine grace of beauty of her eyes captivate the world in a feeling of nostalgia, as the priest chants a mantra to invoke life into her eyes.
The urge for perfection in detailing is a connotation that even though life would go into nothingness one day, it must be lived with perfection. Just like Durga rises from dust, and to dust, it shall return. Marked by large and elaborately crafted statues of Goddess, pandals are set in homes and decorated podiums. Each day is associated with the incarnation of a goddess, and it is customary to wear colors that symbolize the qualities of the deity. The nine deities also correspond to the nine planets of the universe. The days are dedicated to the worship of three goddesses respectively, the first three days pertaining to Goddess Durga, the second to Goddess Laxmi, and the third to Goddess Sarasvati. The final and tenth day is called Vijayadashami, when the air is thick with the celebration of victory. In the vein of traditions, the shankh is blown, sacred grass is offered, paan and fruits are served as elaborate prasad to the Goddesses.
Durga (Day 1 – Day 3): Durga means a fort, a place that is difficult to overrun. Representative of the tamasic guna and color red, it symbolizes dynamism- the moving energy. Her countenance is both fierce and serene, as she rides on a tiger that she managed to tame. She is a spiritual force that destroys negativity, dissolves ignorance. With a sword in one hand and a lotus in the other, she is an epitome of perseverance as she stands in abhaya mudra with her holistic strength, physically strong and psychological resolve, assuring freedom from fear.
Laxmi (Day 4- Day 6): Representative of the rajasic guna, Laxmi is considered important for maintenance and progress in life. The bestow of spiritual and material wellbeing inspires generosity, appreciation for abundance, and beauty in and around us. Usually portrayed as standing or seated on the lotus flower, gold coins stream from her open palm, showering blessings of wealth and prosperity for her devotees. There are eight manifestations of the goddess, that encompass an abundance of material wealth, food, creativity, courage, victory, and good luck.
Sarasvati(Day 7- Day 9): Representative of the Sattvic guna, it renounces the essence of self. Seated on a rock, it portrays that knowledge is as steadfast support as the rock. Books and musical instruments are placed near the deity and it holds a special reverence for wisdom, creativity, and artistic exploration. The Veda in her hand (purity and knowledge), the swan (power of discrimination) and the peacock (expression of knowledge in the right place at the right time), and the veena (a harbinger of peace) essentially convey the wisdom and skills required in our endeavors for a moral and fulfilled life. She is also invoked ritualistically during this time to initiate learning in children.
Glory, strength, benevolence, and beneficial intricately designed in the silken thread of faith, manages to reconnect us with something bigger than us. The 64 impulses that govern the earthly and spiritual benefits are invited to be rekindled and the depth of life and soul is celebrated. The subtle energies are known to enhance and assist the experience of reaching the spirit, and energy can be tapped to remove mental blocks, elevate consciousness, and encourage centered, courageous and composed behavior.
As the rituals and fasting manifest the essence of the self this Navratri, let us all rekindle them and celebrate the depths of life and soul.