By Bhanumathi Narasimhan
Navratri is a colorful festival which brings richness in creativity and appreciation of culture. There is so much encouragement for artisans during these nine days as performances and an exhibition of talents and skills are an integral part of the festivities - a time when all talents shine. There are benefits at all levels and for all age-groups. Whether one is a believer or non-believer, young or old, child-like or mature, Navratri is a time for celebration.
Navratri celebrations captivate young and old
Small children love the colorful display of idols and toys that is made during this time. People of religious mind-sets, with reverence, keep all the idols of the gods and goddesses and explain their significance to the next generation. The Krishna Darbar or Dashavatar or Meenakshi Kalyanam with all the various characters are part of the display and form an ideal setting for story-telling. In a way, besides kindling the imagination of children, it deepens their roots, giving them an insight into our culture and traditional values and beliefs in an animated and capturing way.
Alongside the display of idols, children with vivid imagination create parks and temple complexes out of simple household materials. Children who love animals have zoos. Little clay elephants, lions and tigers come to life in the hands of the young ones. This whole activity nourishes the pleasant side of growing up. For elders, it brings a lot of reminiscences. It is a way to keep both connectivity (with our tradition) and creativity intact.
Navratri – food for body, mind, and soul
It is also a time to connect with the community. Neighbors invite each other home to see the display of idols, to sing songs, to share food and small gifts. They gather together in the evenings to dance. In the olden days, it was a way to keep in touch. This was also a time for exploring all new cuisines. However, this is one part of it. We get all types of food, not just for the body, but for the mind also.
There is so much chanting and meditation that is also part of the celebration. For all spiritual seekers, it is a time to observe one’s nature as it moves from Tamas (Inertia) to Rajas (Activity) to Sattva (Purity). It is a time to reflect upon oneself and our attitude towards life. There is a practice of keeping silence and fasting. Fasting cleanses the body of toxins while silence purifies the speech and the mind.
The True Sense of Living with Contentment
The mind is caught between cravings and aversions. This is a time to reflect, go deeper, and experience that we are greater than any feelings or emotions that we may have.
We have gone through all these phases in life. As we advance in age or in spirituality, we realize a true sense of living - a Sattvic life where we give reverence to everything. With so much fun and celebration, we realize the highest, which is a sense of contentment. From externalizing with all the color and festivities to internalizing one’s mind – all of this happens in these nine days.
In a higher plane, these nine days are like the nine months of a child spent in the mother’s womb. The tenth day signifies the victory of the big mind, a mind full of positivity, innocence and joy, like that of a child - nine days of penance giving victory to the big mind on the tenth day.
When we go to the sea, some are happy observing the waves as they rise and fall, some would like to immerse themselves in the water, go scuba diving, some would like to fish and some search for pearls – there are many view points and all are beautiful. Having a sense of complete acceptance of the moment and contentment in the Self – this is the highest.
The Mother Divine, Devi, is worshiped during these nine days. The Mother Divine is the creative field. If you can see that divinity in everything in the world, if you can see that every part of this universe is filled with this creative impulse – cognizing this ultimate truth is the celebration of life.
(Bhanumathi Narasimhan is the sister of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and the Director, Women Empowerment and Child Care projects, The Art of Living.)