Importance of Navarathri – Part 1 of 3
In India autumn season is called Sharad kala. Amavasya is a dark moon day and we worship for 9 days. The number 9 stands for Ishwara the whole. Ishwara means reality and is antharyami. The number 9 stands for Bhagawan the whole. On the 9th day, the sarawathi puja is done and we worship the living and non-living things. Because we see this as manifest Ishwara and that’s why we worship even cars, bikes, Lorries etc.
Importance of number 9 in Vedic system.
The number 9 holds a special place and is often called the number of the lord or Ishwara. This is because all the 9 types of worship are talked about. The greatest pronouncement of the Bhakti tradition comes from the divine mouth of child Prahlada in the Bhagavatam. The nine manifestations or expressions of devotion to the Lord are, according to him:
1.Sravanam – the method by which you listen to the teachings
2.Mananam – the method of re-affirming your doubts through repeated learning, questioning and getting answers
3.Nidhidhyasanam – contemplation on what is learnt and mind is only with the teaching.
4.Kirtanam – singing praises of the lord e.g. nama sankirtanas, bhajans
5.Padaseva – offering services to the lord through the temple, services to guru.
6.Archanam – offering flowers, fruits to the lord
7.Mantram – doing rituals invoking god, chanting of sacred mantras, texts etc.
8.Maitri – Friendship attitude to the lord. Here you treat the lord as your friend and bandhu.
9.Saranam – Finally you offer yourself to the lord as purna ahuti. Purna ahuti means a ritual where the offeror himself becomes the offered after which there is no more offering. That’s why in purna ahuti we tie a cloth with all types of material objects and then put into the fire. It is symbolic and denotes that we let go off our desires, ego and burn them into the fire of knowledge.
In Bhagavatam and in the Narada Purana, this bhakti is also categorized as below and are 9 fold and they are classified as sattva, rajas and tamas. Adhama means the lowest, madhyamam means the medium and uttama means the highest. Hence the number 9 holds a special place and is Ishwara itself personified as nine navagrahas, nine bhaktis, nine types of worship,
Motivation Category of Bhakti
- Violent ends – adhama-tamasa
- Pride – madhyama-tamasa
- Jealousy- uttama-tamasa
- Sensual ends – adhama-rajasa
- Wealth – madhyama-rajasa
- Fame- uttama-rajasa
- Eradication of one’s Sins – adhama-saatvika
- Pleasure of the Lord madhyama-saatvika
- Duty uttama-saatvika
There are 9 navagrahas, 9 precious stones and 9 nights are celebrated for Navarathi to pray to the Devi. There are 9 dwaras or orifices in our human body and each of them have a specific devata attached to that. In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 5 verse 18) we saw the meaning of this verse.
‘sarva karmani manasa sanyasa asthe sukham vashi
Navadware pure dehi naiva kurvan karyan’
So the navadware is related to the nine gated city or the body.
Importance of Navarathi – Part 2 of 3
The Navarathi also is dedicated to the nava-Durga, a classification of the mother Goddess based on the various functions in protecting the cosmos and keeping the divine cosmic cycle running is the basis of the Nava Durga or the Nine Durgas. These nine goddesses, who actually are forms of Goddess Durga are propitiated on each day of a popular Hindu festival called the Navarathi. So, the Navarathi is a seasonal puja for us and is exclusively for worshipping. There are no weddings and no social occasions usually planned in this time.
1.Shailputri: As daughter (putri) of the Himalaya Mountains (Shail), Parvati or Hemvati represents the first of the nine Durgas.
2.Brahmacharini: The name indicates the phase of Parvathi’s life when she was indulging in severe austerities to appease Lord Shiva into marrying her. She had pledged that she would remain unmarried (Brahmacharini) till Lord Shiva gives his consent to marrying Parvati.
3.Chandraghanta: As Chandraghanta, the goddess is depicted as having golden skin and with a moon-crescent near her forehead. She is shown as having three eyes and ten hands, eight of which carry weapons and two of which form gestures of giving boons and stopping harms. She is shown as sitting on a tiger. She is usually associated with the giver of knowledge, bliss and serenity.
4.Kushmanda: The fourth Durga is known as Kushmanda. She is depicted as emanating a cosmic aura and is depicted as having eight hands, seven of which carry weapons while the eighth carries a rosary.
5.Skanda Mata: Skanda Mata literally means the mother of Skanda. Skanda was the son of Lord Shiva and Parvati and was the leader of the army of gods. The goddess is shown as having four hands, two of which carry lotuses while two are in defending and granting gestures. She is shown sitting on a lion with her son Skanda in her lap.
6.Katyayani: Katyayani is so named because of her stay at the hermitage of sage Katyayan for the purpose of penance. She is sometimes also said to be the daughter of sage Katyayan. She also is shown astride a lion and has three eyes and four arms. In one hand she holds a lotus and in another a weapon. The third and fourth hands show defending and granting gestures.
7.Kaalratri: The seventh Durga, Kaalratri, is depicted as having black skin with bountiful hair, four arms and astride a donkey. In one hand she holds a cleaver and in another a burning torch. With the other two hands she forms gestures of granting and defending. She represents the enemy of darkness and ignorance.
8.Maha Gauri: Maha Gauri is depicted as the fairest of the nine Durgas and is often dressed in white or green. She emanates peace and compassion and is shown with three eyes and as riding a bull. She also has four arms, one of which carries a tambourine and another a trident. The other two form defending and granting gestures. It is said that when Parvati, consort of Lord Shiva, became dirty while observing penance, Lord Shiva bathed her with the holy waters of river Ganga. Parvathi’s body turned lightning bright and thus she came to be known as Maha Gauri (Gauri means fair).
9.Siddhidatri: Siddhidatri means the giver of siddhis (magical or spiritual powers for the control of self, others and the forces of nature). It is said in Devipurana that the Supreme God, Lord Shiva received all of these powers by propitiating the Maha Shakti. The Goddess is sometimes shown atop a lion and sometimes atop a lotus. She is shown as having four arms, which hold a club, a conch shell and a lotus. The fourth hand forms a gesture of granting. Siddhidatri is considered to be the most powerful of all the nine forms of Durga.
Navarathi Puja begins on the Amavasya day or Puratasi Amavasya day, and ends with full moon. Navarathi is a festival that lasts nine days and nine nights. The word “Navarathri” actually means nine (Nava) nights (ratri). Navarathi is the worship of the three divine forms of goddesses, Sarawathi (Goddess of learning and speech), Lakshmi (Goddess of wealth and prosperity), and Durga (Goddess of strength and courage). It is also said to be the battle that occurred between Goddess Durga and the Asura (demon), Mahishasura. The battle lasted 9 days and 9 nights. Finally, on the tenth day, Goddess Durga killed Mahishasura. This day is known as Vijayadashami. Vijayadashami means the 10th day of victory.
- First three days – The goddess is invoked as a spiritual force called Durga also known as kali in order to destroy all our impurities.
- Second 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 inexhaustible wealth, as she is the goddess of wealth.
- Final three days – The final set of three days is spent in worshipping the goddess of wisdom, Sarasvati. In order to have all-round success in life, believers seek the blessings of all three aspects of the divine femininity, hence the nine nights of worship.
Importance of Navarathri – Part 3 of 3
We have Golu in Tamil and it is an exhibition of all toys available in the universe. It is a miniature universe. There is a famous prayer that is chanted that personifies this concept. The purpose of keeping golu is to make a raw headed person understand the subtle fact is that everything is Ishwara here and is a miniature universe that represents all that is here.
There is an ethic in constructing steps or Padi for Golu. The Golu consist nine steps or Padi in Tamil. These steps or Padi should not exceed nine. If you wish to keep less than nine steps it should be in odd numbers like 3, 5, and 7. The philosophy behind the nine steps or Padis for Golu is said as the nine ways of worship which we saw earlier. This concept is represented in nine steps or Padis. The nine steps or Padis in Golu represent nine planets or Navagrahas. From the bottom to top, the length of the steps should reduce. For instance, from the bottom, if you keep five feet length for the first step or Padi, then the second step or Padi length should be short than the first one and the third step or Padi length should be shorter than the second one and so on and so forth.
Nava also means ‘new’. If we invoke the blessings of Sarawathi, Lakshmi and Shakti before going to sleep every night, we will experience newness every night. Night or ratri also means darkness. Darkness denotes ignorance. For this too, invoking the goddesses can prove fruitful. Through grace, our ratri or ignorance will vanish. Grace cannot be understood logically. It is a quantum leap in the field of consciousness.
During Navarathi, three nights of worship are assigned to each of the three Devis. Nava or newness in the form of grace is invoked. The tenth day is Vijayadashami, denoting victory – victory of higher consciousness through the blessing of the goddesses. The greatest victory is the dispelling of darkness or ignorance.
Grace of the Devis always exists; it’s just that we should be worthy to receive them. The inner apparatus suitable to receive them is pure mind. Impure mind is like dirty muddy water, which cannot reflect the light of the moon. Moon exists but to reflect in water, the water has to be clean. This is called Pratibimba Nyaya. Our mind has to be pure in order to receive grace. Navarathi, therefore, is the celebration of removing ignorance. Our ignorance exists in the form of ego. E-G-O can mean Edging God Out.
The ninth day is also the day of the Ayudha Puja. After the slaying of Mahishasura and other demons by Chamundeswari, there was no more use for her weapons. So the weapons were kept aside and worshipped. This Ayudha puja is being celebrated since ancient times. 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 Vani 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 Vijayadashami day will secure a grand success as Arjuna did in Kurukshetra war.
The Ayudha Puja is a worship of whatever implements one may use in one’s livelihood. On the preceding evening, it is traditional to place these implements on an altar to the Divine. If one can make a conscious effort to see the divine in the tools and objects one uses each day, it will help one to see one’s work as an offering to God. It will also help one to maintain constant remembrance of the divine. In India it is customary for one to prostrate before the tools one will use before starting one’s work each day; this is an expression of gratitude to God for helping one to fulfil one’s duties.
The 10th day is Vijayadashami or victory. What is victory? The absolute victory is nothing than resolving one’s identity with the lord. Cognitively freeing the mind and resolving it in the lord or Ishwara as yourself is the final victory.
‘Sarva rupa mayi devi sarvam devi mayam jagat atho aham vishava rupam tam namami parameshvarim’
A beautiful prayer and is part of the chandi paat. The meaning of the sloka is that whatever you see is here is only Devi and is in various Nama rupa. Jagath here implies universe and to that power or Shakti I offer my salutations. Namami means offer prayers. Parameshwari is parama eshwari or the Devi of the Devis. So, Namami or namah when you say, you have resolved your individuality with totality. In your vision Bhagavan is alone. If you do namaskara, it means you are saying that you are offering yourself to the lord or called the purna ahuti. This is also called the final offering where the offeror itself is offered to the lord. After this there is no offering nor offeror. Offering oneself to Ishwara means resolving ahankara of the self to the lord. Aham is consciousness and in that resolving identity, the purna ahuti is complete.