Sunday, September 28, 2008

Navratri: 30th Sep to 8th Oct 2008


Navratri means nine nights. Nav means nine and ratri stands for night, so combined it means Navratri. In northern India the festival is called Navratra. A nine day religious festival, Navratri is celebrated to propitiate Goddess Durga, the Mother Goddess.


In Hindu mythology Durga is Shakti, the divine feminine energy. According to a legend, Lord Brahma granted a boon to Mahishasur, the buffalo demon. As of now armed with infinite power, the asura created havoc in the universe, and no one could dare defeat or kill him. Equipped with unprecedented might he became so atrocious, that he started terrorizing the deities as well. One fine day he ventured to Heaven or Swargaloka to kill Indra, the King of the Gods. Greatly distressed, Indra and other deities entreated Lord Shiva for help. Enraged at such blatant misuse of Brahma’s boon, Lord Shiva along with Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma, released their energies. The shaktis of the gods flashed forth and fused together, bringing to life a magnificent Goddess resplendent with many arms.


Acclaimed as Durga, she was ravishingly beautiful and deadly. The armed Durga rode a Lion and fought a fiercely bloody battle with Mahishasur, raging for nine days and nights. During the course of this combat Mahishasur changed his form many times. Finally on the tenth day, Durga trampled him under her foot and Mahishasur was killed, saving the universe from his reign of terror. The Goddess’s triump because of her innate divinity symbolizes the victory of good over evil. These nine days are solely devoted to propitiation of the Mother Goddess or Shakti Incarnate.


Navratri is Celebrated Twice a Year

As per astrological predictions there are two major solar influences each year, the seasons being determined by the directions in which the sun moves. So one is the Dakshinayana period when the Sun crosses the Equator moving towards the southern hemisphere, heralding the start of winter. The second is the Uttarayana period when the Sun crosses the Equator moving towards the northern hemisphere, indicating the onset of summer.


The arrival of the summer and winter seasons are two crucial junctures of solar influences when people undergo a substantial change physically and mentally due to climatic variations. These two periods are cited as the sacred time for worshipping the Mother Goddess or Shakti Incarnate and chosen for celebrating Navratras. Ram Navratri is celebrated in the Chaitra Month (first month of the year according to Hindu Calendar, beginning on 22 March and ending on 20 April) and the Durga Navratri in the first nine days of the light half of the month Ashvin (seventh month of the year as per the Hindu calendar, starting on 23 September and ending on 22 October).

This year Navratris are from 30th September to 8th October 2008.


Navadurga

Durga, the Mother Goddess of the Hindus is an amalgam of Devi (consort of a God) and Shakti (the energy of a deity personified as his wife). Believed to have manifested in various forms, the Navadurga are said to be the most sacred aspects of Durga. According to Hindu tradition, Durga incarnated herself in three major forms of Mahasaraswati, Mahalakshmi and Mahakali who owe their origin to Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva respectively. These three further appeared in three more forms of Durga each and thus the nine forms of Durga collectively called the Navadurga or Nine Durgas evolved.


Navratri's each night is dedicated to one form of Goddess Durga who creates, sustains and destroys the Universe. Mahakali Goddess of valor, power and energy is propitiated for the first three days to end our vices.


Durga Shailputri


Shailputri is the daughter of Himalaya, king of the Mountains. Shail means mountain and putri stands for daughter. She is the first among the nine Durgas married to Lord Shiva and mother of Ganesha, the remover of obstacles and Kartikeya, god of war. The first navratra is devoted to the worship of Shailputri. Her two hands hold a trident and a lotus. Her mount is a bull.


In her previous birth she was Sati, the wife of Lord Shiva and daughter of Daksha and Bhavani. Once Daksha had organized a grand Yagna and did not invite Shiva. Sati being obstinate however reached there and consequently Daksha insulted Shiva. Sati could not tolerate her husband being slighted and burnt herself in the fire of the Yagna. In the next birth she was Parvati, born as the daughter of Himalaya and married to Shiva. As per the Upanishadas she had shattered the egoism of Indra and other Deities. Ashamed, they made obeisance to her, "In fact, thou are Shakti, we all - Brahma, Vishnu and Shiv are empowered by getting Shakti or power from you."


Ma Brahmacharini

The second Durga Shakti is Brahmacharini, the personification of love and loyalty, spreading the message of pristine love to the world. A trove of knowledge and wisdom, the rudraksha beads are Her most treasured ornaments. Brahma means one who observes penance or tapa and endowed with good conduct. The idol of this Goddess is very gorgeous. There is a rosary in her right hand and k umbha or water pot in the left hand. She is awash with merriment.


A tale is famed about her. In her previous birth she was Parvati or Hemvati the daughter of Himvan. Once when she was busy frolicking with her friends, Naradaji came and seeing her palm predicted, "You will get married with a naked-terrible Bhole Baba who was with when you were Sati, the daughter of Daksha in your previous birth. But now you have to perform penance for him." There upon Parvati insisted and told her mother Menaka that she would marry none except Shambhu, or remain unwed. Saying this she did austere penance. Ever since she is famed as tapacharini or Brahmacharini and since then her name Uma became familiar.


Ma Chandraghanta


The name of the third Shakti is Chandraghanta who establishes righteousness. There is a crescent moon on her forehead. She is charming and radiant. Her colour is golden and She is endowed with three eyes and ten hands. Eight of her hands display weapons like swords and arrows while the remaining two are in the mudras of giving boons and warding off harm. Chandra plus Ghanta signifies supreme bliss and knowledge, the showering of peace and serenity. This power of Durga rides a tiger ready for waging a battle. An unprecedented image of bravery, the frightful sound of her bell terrifies all the villains, demons and danavas. Changraghanta is mainly worshipped in Tamil Nadu.


Mahalakshmi Goddess of wealth and prosperity is worshipped for the next three days to awaken divine qualities in a devotee’s mind.

Ma Kushmanda

Name of the fourth Durga is Kushmanda. The Shakti bestows the basic necessities and everyday sustenance to the world, creates the Universe merely by laughing. Residing in solar systems, She shines brightly in all ten directions like the Sun beaming with a radiant aura. Equipped with eight hands, She holds seven types of brilliant weapons gleaming in her seven hands and a rosary in her right. She seems resplendent mounted on a Lion. Kumbh Bhand means seeing the cosmic dance in the form of Pindi; the knowledge of cosmic intricacies in humans. She likes the offerings of Kumhde, leading to her name Kushmanda. Her abode is Bhima Parvat.


Skand Mata

She blesses the world with the gift of differentiation and discrimination of right from wrong. The fifth name of Durga is Skanda Mata. Riding a lion, Her chosen vehicle, She holds Her son Skanda on her lap. Endowed with three eyes and four hands; two hands holds lotuses while the other two display defending and granting mudras, respectively. It is said that by the grace of Skanda Mata even a fool transforms into an ocean of knowledge. The fifth name of Durga is Skanda Mata. The daughter of Himalaya, after observing penance She got married to Shiva. She had a son named Skanda who is a leader of the army of Gods. The Shakti is a deity of fire, white-hued and seated on a lotus.


Katyayani Devi


The sixth Durga is Katyayani. The son of Kat is Rishi Katyayan born in the Katya lineage. Katyayan had observed penance with a desire to get Paramba as his daughter. Consequently she took birth as his daughter. Therefore her name is Katyayani. She has three eyes and eight hands. There are eight types of weapons in her seven hands. Her vehicle is the lion. She persistently and relentlessly battles against the evil, deceitful and devious entities.


Mahasaraswati Goddess of Knowledge, Learning and Art is revered for the further three days. It is an implicit belief that her worship enhances the spiritual knowledge of a devotee, freeing him of all materialistic bonds and earthly attachments.


Ma Kaalratri:

She killed Raktabeeja (A demon who had the power to produce a demon from every drop of blood that fell from his body.) The Goddess eventually licked the blood before it could reach the ground and hence conquered and overpowered him. Black or blue-hued like the ratri or night with flowing tresses, Kaalratri is the seventh form of Nav-Durga. Having four hands; two of them clutching a cleaver and a mashal or torch; while the other two are in the mudras of blessing and protecting thus making her devotees fearless. Her vehicle is a faithful donkey.


Acclaimed as the destroyer of darkness and ignorance, Kaalratri stands for scourer and enemy of darkness. Adorned with necklaces shining like lightening, She has three bright eyes which are round like the universe. Thousands of flames emanate while respiring from Her nose. Being auspicious she is acclaimed as Shubhamkari.


Maha Gauri

The Eighth Durga is Maha Gauri. She is pristine white as a conch, moon and the jasmine blossom. She is eight years of age equipped with four arms and the fairest complexion of all the Durgas Shaktis. Maha Gauri radiating peace and compassion is usually draped in a white or green sari. She holds a drum and a trident and is often depicted as riding a bull. Maa Maha Gauri also liberated the world from the evil forces.


She is endowed with three eyes, rides a bull and has four hands. The above left hand is in the fearless mudra and the lower left hand holds the trishul or trident. The above right hand has the tambourine and lower right hand is in a blessing mudra. She is calm, peaceful and exists in serenity. It is said that when the body of Gauri became dirty due to dust and earth while doing austere penance, Shiva cleansed it with the water of Ganges. Soon after, Her body became bright like lightening leading to her name Maha Gauri.


Ma Siddhidatri

The ninth Durga is Siddhidatri. There are eight siddhis or supernatural powers, Anima, Mahima, Garima, Laghima, Prapti, Prakamya, Iishitva and Vashitva. It is stated in the ‘Devi Purana’ that the Supreme God Shiv acquired all these siddhis by worshipping Maha Shakti. With Her grace the half body of Shiv is composed of Goddesses leading to his name ‘Ardhanarishvar’ which is famed the world over. Usually shown ensconced in a lotus with four arms, She looks pleased.


Riding a lion, She is the bestower of 26 different wishes to Her bhaktas or devotees. A treasure house of mystic powers or yantra tantra and knowledge or gyaan, this form of Durga is worshipped by all Gods, Rishis-Munis, Siddhas, Yogis, Sadhakas and devotees for attaining the best religious asset. On the ninth day of the Navratras is Ramnavami when Lord Rama is worshipped.


Navadurga is the Kuldevi (family goddess) of several Gaud Saraswat Brahmins in India. There are many Navadurga temples in Goa such as at Madkiam, Kundaim, Pale, Poingueinim, Borim. The temples at Redi and Vengurla of Maharashtra are famed.


The Mother Goddess

Hinduism is the only religion in the world which has glorified to such an extent the motherhood of God. Durga represents the Divine Mother and is the energy aspect of the Lord. Shiva and Durga are in essence a singly entity.


Shakti is the Cosmic Energy of the Lord. She keeps up the play of the Lord through the three attributes of Nature, Sattwa, Rajas and Tamas. Knowledge, peace, lust, anger, greed, egoism and pride, are all Her forms.


You will find in the Devi Sukta of the Rig Veda Samhita that Vak, the daughter of sage Anbhirna, realised her identity with the Divine Mother, Power of the Supreme Lord, which manifests throughout the universe among gods, men and beasts and creatures of the ocean.


In the Kena Upanishada, the Divine Mother bestows wisdom on Indra and the gods, affirming that the gods were able to defeat the demons only with the help of the power of the Supreme Lord.


The worship of Devi, the universal Mother, leads to the attainment of knowledge of the Self. The story in the Kena Upanishad known as the ‘Yaksha Prasna’ endorses this view. Goddess Shakti thus showers wisdom on Her devotees


Adi Shakti is beyond human comprehension. Bhagavan Krishna clarifies in the Gita: "This is only My lower nature. Beyond this is My higher nature, the life-principle which sustains the universe"


The Spiritual Significance of Navaratri

The focus of existence is to comprehend your eternal identity with the supreme Spirit. The aspirant has to get rid of countless impurities and acquire divine virtues. When purified, knowledge dawns upon him.


Thus it is the Divine Mother who has to operate through the aspirant. On the first three days, you pray to Ma Kali to destroy all your vices. She is the power that protects your spiritual practice from its many pitfalls so we worship the destructive aspect of the Mother.


The next step is to build a spiritual persona. Divine virtues that Lord Krishna enumerates in the Gita, have to be acquired for divine wisdom. This pleasanter side of the aspirant's sadhana or devotion is depicted by the worship of Mother Lakshmi who bestows inexhaustible divine wealth on Her devotees. Epitomizing purity, Ma Lakshmi is propitiated during the second set of three days.


Once the aspirant imbibes Sattwic or divine qualities, he is competent to attain wisdom and knowledge of the Self. At this stage comes the devout worship of Ma Saraswathi, the embodiment of knowledge of the Absolute, represented by Her pristine white apparel.


The tenth day, Vijaya Dasami, marks the triumph of the soul at having attained liberation while living in this world, through the dawning of knowledge by the grace of Goddess Saraswati. The soul rests in his own Supreme Self or Satchidananda Brahman.


Celebration

Many devotees fast on all the nine days of this celebration of nights. Devotees throng the Devi temples all over India where the idol of the Goddess is adorned beautifully. The festivities are observed with joyous abandon in Gujarat where the nine nights of Navratris are enthused with the joyous abandon of the Garba and Rasa dance performances. Ma Durga is an object of widespread public worship as the Mother Goddess in West Bengal’s Durga Puja. Undisputedly the most important festival in this state it is celebrated with gaiety and enthusiasm.


On the first day of Navratri barley seeds are sown in a small earthen pot in the Puja room. When these seeds sprout into small shoots on the tenth day they are uprooted and given to devotees as blessings. During Navratris most people eat vegetarian food, some do not have cereal while others fast for all the nine days.


Kirtans or devotional songs and jagratas are in full swing in various temples and community centres bythe religious-minded. On the fifth day known as Lalita Panchami, it is a tradition to exhibit all literary texts in the house and light a lamp to invoke Saraswati Ma, the Goddess of knowledge and art.


On the 8th day of this colorful festival, yagna or religious sacrifice and homa or holy fire is performed. Pure ghee, kheer and sesame seeds are offered to Goddess Durga. Many people in north India celebrated the 8th day as ashtami when nine young girls symbolizing Navdurge are fed with halwa, puri and kale chane.


Sri Rama is worshipped during Ramnavmi, the ninth day and Ma Durga during Navaratri. The tenth day of this festival is celebrated as Vijaydashmi or Dussehra.


People in North India invariably visit the famed holy shrine of Ma Vaishnodevi, situatued on Trikoot Mountain near Jammu during this time span. Bhandaras or meals for devotees are organized in temples and community centres.


The potter flaunts his skill in making images, the painter in drawing pictures, the songster in playing on his instrument, and the priest in reciting the sacred texts. The Bengalis save money throughout the year only to spend lavishly during the Puja days. Cloth is freely distributed to the Brahmins and they are fed.


In West Bengal during Navratras, Goddess Durga is worshipped. The pujas are held over a five day period, viewed as the home-coming of the married daughter, Durga, to her father, Parvatraj Himalaya's home. It is considered to be the most important festival when Bengalis buy new clothes, exchange sweets and make new purchases. Decked in the best of finery, the family goes out to see the 'pandalas' (temporary structures set up to venerate the goddess Durga) with musical evenings being organized. On the last day of the puja, the idol of the Goddess is taken with great fanfare and immersed in the river.


Another version states that Durga’s mother (wife of the King of the Himalayas) longed to see her daughter. Durga was permitted by Lord Shiva to visit her mother only for nine days in the year. The festival of Durga Puja marks this brief visit and ends with Vijaya Dashami, when Goddess Durga leaves for Her return to Mount Kailash.


The woman of Bengal welcome the Goddess with maternal tenderness and teary-eyed send away the idol on the last day, adorned with every ceremony associated with a daughter's departure to her husband's home. This signifies the parting of Durga from Her beloved mother.


But the basic aim of this celebration is to propitiate Shakti, the Goddess of Power, to bestow wealth, auspiciousness, prosperity, knowledge and other powers upon us. By relating with Her we are blessed with Her loving mercy and protection.


Apparently, the nine-day worship of Durga is a celebration of triumph, propitiating the Mother for Her successful struggle with the formidable demons led by Mahishasura. On the spiritual plane it epitomises the stages of the evolution of man, from jivahood or the state of an individual to Shivahood or the state of self-realisation.


Celebration

Many devotees fast on all the nine days of this celebration of nights. Devotees throng the Devi temples all over India where the idol of the Goddess is adorned beautifully. The festivities are observed with joyous abandon in Gujarat where the nine nights of Navratris are enthused with the joyous abandon of the Garba and Rasa dance performances. Ma Durga is an object of widespread public worship as the Mother Goddess in West Bengal’s Durga Puja. Undisputedly the most important festival in this state it is celebrated with gaiety and enthusiasm.


On the first day of Navratri barley seeds are sown in a small earthen pot in the Puja room. When these seeds sprout into small shoots on the tenth day they are uprooted and given to devotees as blessings. During Navratris most people eat vegetarian food, some do not have cereal while others fast for all the nine days.


Kirtans or devotional songs and jagratas are in full swing in various temples and community centres bythe religious-minded. On the fifth day known as Lalita Panchami, it is a tradition to exhibit all literary texts in the house and light a lamp to invoke Saraswati Ma, the Goddess of knowledge and art.


On the 8th day of this colorful festival, yagna or religious sacrifice and homa or holy fire is performed. Pure ghee, kheer and sesame seeds are offered to Goddess Durga. Many people in north India celebrated the 8th day as ashtami when nine young girls symbolizing Navdurge are fed with halwa, puri and kale chane.


Sri Rama is worshipped during Ramnavmi, the ninth day and Ma Durga during Navaratri. The tenth day of this festival is celebrated as Vijaydashmi or Dussehra.


People in North India invariably visit the famed holy shrine of Ma Vaishnodevi, situatued on Trikoot Mountain near Jammu during this time span. Bhandaras or meals for devotees are organized in temples and community centres.


The potter flaunts his skill in making images, the painter in drawing pictures, the songster in playing on his instrument, and the priest in reciting the sacred texts. The Bengalis save money throughout the year only to spend lavishly during the Puja days. Cloth is freely distributed to the Brahmins and they are fed.


In West Bengal during Navratras, Goddess Durga is worshipped. The pujas are held over a five day period, viewed as the home-coming of the married daughter, Durga, to her father, Parvatraj Himalaya's home. It is considered to be the most important festival when Bengalis buy new clothes, exchange sweets and make new purchases. Decked in the best of finery, the family goes out to see the 'pandalas' (temporary structures set up to venerate the goddess Durga) with musical evenings being organized. On the last day of the puja, the idol of the Goddess is taken with great fanfare and immersed in the river.


Another version states that Durga’s mother (wife of the King of the Himalayas) longed to see her daughter. Durga was permitted by Lord Shiva to visit her mother only for nine days in the year. The festival of Durga Puja marks this brief visit and ends with Vijaya Dashami, when Goddess Durga leaves for Her return to Mount Kailash.


The woman of Bengal welcome the Goddess with maternal tenderness and teary-eyed send away the idol on the last day, adorned with every ceremony associated with a daughter's departure to her husband's home. This signifies the parting of Durga from Her beloved mother.


But the basic aim of this celebration is to propitiate Shakti, the Goddess of Power, to bestow wealth, auspiciousness, prosperity, knowledge and other powers upon us. By relating with Her we are blessed with Her loving mercy and protection.


Apparently, the nine-day worship of Durga is a celebration of triumph, propitiating the Mother for Her successful struggle with the formidable demons led by Mahishasura. On the spiritual plane it epitomises the stages of the evolution of man, from jivahood or the state of an individual to Shivahood or the state of self-realisation.



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