Navaratri - Celebrating Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswati
An article by Smt. Bhanumathi Narasimhan
We are all floating in the effulgence of one scintillating unseen cosmic energy called the ‘Devi’. The Devi or the Divine Mother is the womb of all creation. She is the seed of all dynamism, radiance, beauty, equanimity, peace and nourishment. She is the life force energy.
A mother has total love for her child. The Divine Mother has unconditional and unquantifiable love for Her children which includes every being in this entire creation.
During the nine nights of Navaratri, the Devi is worshipped in all Her names and forms. 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.
Navaratri 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.
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. Durga is referred to as “Jaya Durga” or the one who brings in Victory (Jai). She is Durgati pariharini – one who removes obstacles. She transforms negativity into positivity. Even difficulties find it difficult to come near her.
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 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 them. 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.
There is a certain beauty in the divine being attached to the mother. She nourishes all the qualities, nurturing the positive. It is like collecting good luck. For example, when you are with the mother all the ‘goodies’ are available. We become meritorious and we gain the power to manifest good luck and hold or sustain it as well. Many times life may shower you with courage, prosperity and abundance but your ability to hold and transform this energy into happiness and compassion is lacking. Navaratri is a special time to pray to Durga to have all these qualities together – uniting and harmonizing – magnifying and inculcating it in one’s life.
If we are always victorious but not happy there is no use. Similarly, if we are always making efforts but never succeeding, that is also frustrating. The Durga energy can give you all together. All the qualities are available to you as one unit. We pray to Durga for all these qualities to be instilled in our consciousness bringing physical wellbeing, material fulfillment and spiritual upliftment.
Durga is associated with red. She is depicted as wearing a red saree. Red is the colour of dynamism – a bright attitude, the ‘moving’ energy. You may be trained and skilled but if you are not able to move things together, move people, your efforts in unison, the fruits are delayed. But when you pray to Durga, she makes this possible. The fruit is immediate.
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.
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.
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.
While worshipping the Devi in her various names and forms, we offer flowers in a multitude of hues and fragrances like jasmine, hibiscus, lotus, lilies, rose, and so on. From the outer beauty, as we turn our focus inward and are soaked in the divine attributes, our conscious flowers. We offer our blossomed consciousness too. Worshipping Her through the blossomed consciousness is the ultimate offering.
Prayer is always associated with wish fulfillment. When you are fulfilled, it is a chain reaction. If you are successful in one thing, you want to try and try again for more and more. So, it is not necessary that you will attain contentment. The nature of consciousness is dynamism, wanting action. Pray for dynamism, but feel the stillness.
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?
For that, you need to raise your sattva and come out of the cycle through proper meditation, silence and food control. Transcending the gunas, one gets established in the Shiva tatva or the pure and infinite consciousness. Prakriti is full of the opposites like night and day, heat and cold, pain and pleasure, joy and sorrow. By rising above the opposites, transcending duality, once again the Shiva tatva is attained.
This is the purpose of all the pujas during Navaratri - to manifest the unmanifest and unseen energy, the Devi, by whose grace one can transcend the gunas and attain the supreme, undivided, indivisible, pure, infinite consciousness. This is possible when you are immersed in the Guru tatva (principle), only in the presence of the Master.
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