Navaratri is an important HindufestivalNavameans nine andRatrimeans night.”Nava-ratri” literally means”nine nights.” Navarathri is celebrated through the first nine days of Hindu month of Asvij. This festival is observed twice a year, once in the beginning of summer and again at the onset of winter.During Navaratri,the Goddessis worshipped in her various forms as Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati. Though the Goddess is one, she is represented and worshipped in three different aspects, on thenine days. The tenth day is calledVijayadasami.Vijayameans victory, the victory over our own minds that can come only when we have worshipped Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati.
Navarathri is the celebration of the end of the darkness of ignorance and evil. It is said to bring knowledge, goodness, and bliss, thus spiritually enlightening the human mind.
At one stage the gods felt powerless against the onslaughts of the demonical forces headed by mahishasura. In answer to their prayers for protection, they were ordered to part with a portion of their divine powers, to form into a new goddess. It was thus that Mahishasura mardini took a physical form as the combined might of 33 crores of gods. The dreaded demon mahishasura was killed by her after a ceaseless fight of 9 days and nights.
What’s the Significance of Navratri?
Navarathri signifies victory over our minds. Navarathri is to destroy the ill thoughts and replace them with virtuous qualities. It signifies the process by which one removes the layers of ignorance and achieves the state of self-realization. During Navaratri, we invoke the energy aspect of God in the form of the universal mother, commonly referred to as “Durga,” which literally means the remover of miseries of life. She is also referred to as “Devi” (goddess) or “Shakti” (energy or power). It is this energy, which helps God to proceed with the work of creation, preservation and destruction. In other words, you can say that God is motionless, absolutely changeless, and the Divine Mother Durga, does everything. Truly speaking, our worship of Shakti re-confirms the scientific theory that energy is imperishable. It cannot be created or destroyed. It is always there.
Why Worship the Mother Goddess?
We think this energy is only a form of the Divine Mother, who is the mother of all, and all of us are her children. “Why mother; why not father?”, you may ask. Let me just say that we believe that God’s glory, his cosmic energy, his greatness and supremacy can best be depicted as the motherhood aspect of God. Just as a child finds all these qualities in his or her mother, similarly, all of us look upon God as mother. In fact, Hinduism is the only religion in the world, which gives so much importance to the mother aspect of God because we believe that mother is the creative aspect of the absolute.
Why Twice a Year?
Every year the beginning of summer and the beginning of winter are two very important junctures of climatic change and solar influence. These two junctions have been chosen as the sacred opportunities for the worship of the divine power because:
(1) We believe that it is the divine power that provides energy for the earth to move around the sun, causing the changes in the outer nature and that this divine power must be thanked for maintaining the correct balance of the universe.
(2) Due to the changes in the nature, the bodies and minds of people undergo a considerable change, and hence, we worship the divine power to bestow upon all of us enough potent powers to maintain our physical and mental balance.
Why Nine Nights & Days?
Navaratri is divided into sets of three days to adore different aspects of the supreme goddess. Navaraathri is the nine nights that is observed in honour of the divine mother in her three forms as Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswathi. On the first three days, the Mother is invoked as powerful force called Durga in order to destroy all our impurities, vices and defects. The next three days, the Mother is adored as a giver of spiritual wealth, Lakshmi, who is considered to have the power of bestowing on her devotees the inexhaustible wealth. The final set of three days is spent in worshipping the mother as the goddess of wisdom, Saraswati. In order have all-round success in life, we need the blessings of all three aspects of the divine mother; hence, the worship for nine nights.
FIRST THREE DAYSDURGA:
First 3 days of Navarathri is dedicated to Mother Durga who is worshipped as Icha Shakti (the power of will). Mother Durga removes all impurities miseries dangers and evil, which are the Rajastic qualities or animal like qualities. Goddess Durga is the mother of the universe and believed to be the power behind the work of creation, preservation, and destruction of the world. Since time immemorial she has been worshipped as the supreme power of the Supreme Being and has been mentioned in many scriptures.Goddess Durga represents the power of the Supreme Being that preserves moral order and righteousness in the creation.The word “Durga” in Sanskrit means a fort, or a place which is difficult to overrun. Another meaning of “Durga” is “Durgatinashini,” which literally translates into “the one who eliminates sufferings.” Thus, Hindus believe that goddess Durga protects her devotees from the evils of the world and at the same time removes their miseries.
Durga is a composite goddess who includes different elements of many Gods and Goddesses.Durga is depicted as having eight or ten hands. These represent eight quadrants or ten directions in Hinduism. This suggests that she protects the devotees from all directions.The trident is a symbol associated with Shiva, and its three points symbolize the creation, protection and destruction of the universe.
She rides upon a lion.The lion represents power, will and determination. Mother Durga riding the lion symbolises her mastery over all these qualities. This suggests to the devotee that one has to possess all these qualities to get over the demon of ego.Durga, also called Divine Mother, protects mankind from evil and misery by destroying evil forces such as selfishness, jealousy, prejudice, hatred, anger, and ego.Durga is the one who removes our evil tendencies.She is the destroyer of Mahishasura the buffalo headed demon. Buffalo represents tamoguna in us i.e. quality of laziness, darkness, inertia and ignorance.She personifiesShaktior divine energy. She is also calledMahishasura Mardini, the destroyer of demon.Mahishameans buffalo. Is not there a buffalo in our minds? We do have the qualities of laziness, darkness, ignorance and inertia. Durga Devis killing of the Mahisha demon is, symbolically, the destruction of these qualities within us that is difficult to destroy.Therefore by worshipping mother durga, we invoke the divine power with in us to destroy our animalistic tendencies.
NEXT THREE DAYS LAKSHMI:
The second three nights is dedicated to the worship of Maha Lakshmi as Kriya Shakti (The power of action)for knowledge to dawn within us, our minds have to be prepared. The mind must be pure, concentrated and single-pointed. This purification of the mind is obtained by worshipping Lakshmi Devi.She is worshipped in various aspects as the goddesses of peace, plenty and bliss.Mother Lakshmi bestows on her devotees inexhaustible divine spiritual wealth, health, success, fame and fortune to her worshippers and devotees. Fulfillment is more important than wealth itself. In order to receive this divine blessing one has to rid ones self of the Tamastic qualities like greed, anger, lust etc. The four hands of Goddess Lakshmi indicate that she has the power to bestow on humanity the four ends of human life. In one hand she holds a lotus flower – reminding us of ever-lasting life and the immortality of the soul. The other hand that holds another lotus symbolizes to us to detach ourselves from too much of the worldly power, position, considerations, etc. Another hand holds what symbolizes material wealth, prosperity which is to be used as a means / tools for the achievements or goal in life; while the other hand, the fourth one is shown open and pointing downward, showering wealth and reinforcing the message of sharing.
We think Lakshmi represents only material wealth. Real wealth is self-discipline and the values of love,kindness, respect and sincerity. By practicing these values, our mind becomes purified. Only they help us preserve our material wealth. Our wealth of virtues is our true Lakshmi. The six forms of wealth are calmness of mind, self-control, self-withdrawal, forbearance, faith and single pointed ness. Our goal is victory over the mind which comes only when the mind is prepared and this mental preparation is the symbolism of the Lakshmi Puja.By invoking her grace we are not only blessed with virtuous qualities but also by Daivi Sampatti and by gaining victory or self control over the mind.
LAST THREE DAYS SARASWATHI:
The last three nights is devoted to Mother Sarswathi who is the bestower of light of knowledge and wisdom. Mother Saraswathi destroys the veil of darkness and brings light to the devotee in the form of wisdom.Sarswathiis theSakthi,the power and the consort ofBrahmathe creator. Goddess Saraswati is the goddess of knowledge and arts, represents the free flow of wisdom and consciousness. It is believed that goddess Saraswati endows human beings with the powers of speech, wisdom and learning. She is dressed in white which represents purity and her rejection of everything that is base and materialistic. The Swan represents the discrimination between the evil and the good, the eternal and the transitory. The four arms of the goddess suggest the four aspects of human personality i.e. mind, intellect, vigilance, and ego. She has sacred scriptures in one hand and a lotus the symbol of true knowledge .The pearl string represents the power of spirituality. The peacock standing near Maa Saraswati represents arrogance and pride over its beauty. The Goddess teaches that physical appearance could be deceptive, by not taking peacock as the vehicle. Goddess Saraswati suggests that one should be wise regarding the eternal truth.
Victory over the mind is gained only through knowledge and through understanding.Saraswathi represents this highest knowledge of the Self.She removes the ignorance and darkness and grants us the higher knowledge of self. She is the goddess of the spiritual knowledge and the knowledge that frees us from this bind of this materialistic world. Mother Saraswathi is the (Gnaana Shakti) this is the power of knowledge. Mother Saraswathi represents the Sattwic qualities (Love, bliss and peace) once the devotee has rid him/her self of the Rajastic and Tamastic qualities. Mother Saraswathi herself appears as the Sattwic quality and imparts the wisdom needed to attain salvation
Thus we see that the theme of the entire Vedas is reflected in the Navaratri festival.