Navratri ~ The festival of victory
Navratri ~ Festival of nine sacred nights
These days we hear a lot about expensive workshops that help harness the powers of our own mind. Our Indian culture offers the same transformation but only if we understand the deep significance and true meaning of our festivals, invocations and the accompanying rituals etc, with guidance of a Guru.
The Hindu festival of Navratri is one such integrated festival which offers a tuning to the higher powers of our own minds and that too with a punch of celebration and is absolutely free. During Navratri the Supreme reality i.e. God is adored, emphasized and invoked as the mother for her to grace us with the realization of the hidden wisdom in ourselves. In Hindu culture, celebration of life and gratitude to the universal powers around us is integral. And when it comes to festivals the celebrations take a deeper significance.
The word Navratri literally means nine nights in Sanskrit and Hindi; ‘Nava’ meaning nine and ‘Ratri’ meaning nights. During these nine nights of Navratri God is worshipped in the form of the Mother Goddess in Her various forms such as Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati. This festival of nine nights has three days each devoted to the worship and invocation of the supreme in the feminine form of
- Mother Durga, the Goddess of power and valor,
- Mother Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth and
- Mother Saraswati, the Goddess of Knowledge.
The following tenth day is called Vijayadasami. Vijaya means “victory”, the victory over our own minds that can come only when we have invoked the powers of Goddess Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati in ourselves.
Spiritual significance of Navratri
Navratri lasts for nine whole days with each day having its own special significance and celebration. The following is what the Navratri festival signifies according to the Hindu masters of the knowledge tradition.
A renowned Vedanta master Swami Tejomayananda explains “Night-time is generally the time when we go to sleep, so the spiritual message is, “You have lived long enough in the sleepy ignorance of tamoguna (intellectual inertia and laziness). It is time to wake up now. Please wake up!” For a p?ja, unfortunately, we are never willing to stay up late and so we ask, “What time will it end?” For a party, we never ask this question. If the party ends at 10.00pm, we say “What! The party is finished?! What kind of a party is that?!” Yet we find it difficult to stay awake for a p?ja!
Navr?tri is a time to first remove all negativities by invoking Mother Durga; then purifying the mind and cultivating positive virtues by invoking Mother Lakshmi; and finally gain spiritual knowledge and transcend all limitations by invoking Mother Saraswati.
Goddess Durga ~ the source of action and energy
To gain noble virtues, all evil tendencies in the mind must be destroyed. This destruction is represented by the Goddess Durga. Durga is ‘durgati harini’: “She who removes our evil tendencies.” She is also called Mahishasura Mardini, the destroyer of Mahishaasura (demon), mahisha meaning “buffalo” which stands for tamoguna, the quality of laziness, darkness, ignorance and intellectual inertia. In the Puranas the story of Mother Durga killing the demon Mahisha symbolises the destruction of the inertia and self-stagnating habits (tamoguna) within us that is very difficult to destroy. Invocation of mother Durga and her divine qualities in our own minds destroys the dullness of mind.
Goddess Lakshmi ~ the source of peace, plenty and bliss
For knowledge to dawn within us, we have to prepare our minds. The mind must be pure, concentrated, and single-pointed; this purification of the mind is obtained through the worship of Lakshmi Devi. In the core books of Hinduism i.e. the Upanishads, the Rishis never asked for the fleeting material wealth alone. The rishi of Taittriya Upanishad first asks to have all the noble virtues fully developed in them. “Having gained the ‘noble virtues’, thereafter Lord please bring wealth to us“. Our wealth of virtues is our true wealth (Lakshmi) and not just fleeting money or investments. These virtues are important because our goal is victory over our minds to be peaceful in the midst of every change that takes place in our lives. This victory comes only when the mind is prepared, and this mental preparation is the symbolism of the Lakshmi Puja.
Goddess Saraswati ~ the source of knowledge
This knowledge is not about how to earn a living, but how to “live” a deep and purposeful life. Victory over the mind can be gained only through knowledge, through understanding; and it is Goddess Saraswati who represents this highest knowledge of the truth – our divine self. Prayers are offered to her, seeking spiritual knowledge which is said to free us from our bondages.
The divine gift (prasad) of this 9 day festival is the real victory of our minds – ‘Vijaya’ on the tenth day. The celebration on Dassera signifies the rediscovery of the Divinity within celebrated with the dance of joy – ritualistically performed at night, in some parts of India, around a ‘Garbho’ pot, to signify our spiritual awakening from intellectual idleness. The word ‘Garbho’ in the Gujarati Garbha folk dance seems to have originated from the word ‘Garbha Deep’, meaning a light in the inner sanctum of the temple. The word “Garbha” literally means “womb”, and in this context the lamp in the pot, symbolically represent the spark of life (GOD) within us.
The theme of the entire Vedas is thus reflected in the Navratri festival which is: Purify the mind by removing all negativities; cultivate positive virtues; gain spiritual knowledge and transcend limitations to be victorious.