“Nava-ratri” literally means “nine nights.” This Indian festival is observed twice a year, once at the beginning of summer and again at the onset of winter. Every year the beginning of summer and the beginning of winter are two very important junctures of climatic change and solar influence. At these times we give thanks to the Divine Energies, which maintain the correct balance in the Universe and within our mental, emotional and physical bodies.
For most of us, our spiritual journey is one of balancing the ego and transforming that which no longer serves us, into the freedom of Enlightenment. This follows a threefold path of preparing the way, setting our intention and living from Truth. Navaratri or the Nine Days of Mother Divine is a celebration of good over evil, light over darkness, wisdom over ignorance, which parallels our own threefold spiritual journey.
The festival celebrates several different victories and is observed differently in various parts of India. However, it most commonly honors a mythological battle between Mother Divine and the forces of ignorance, which raged for nine days until the Light illuminated the darkness. The myth tells of a powerful demon named Mahishasura, who couldn’t be killed by any man or god. His mistake, like many men, was that he considered himself to be too powerful to be overcome by a woman. This demon was terrorizing everyone and even attacking heaven so the gods turned to Vishnu, the maintainer of the Universe, for help. Vishnu joined with Brahma (the creator) and Shiva (the dissolver). It is said that a stream of lightning blazed forth from the mouths of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva and turned into a beautiful, magnificent woman with ten hands. The gods were delighted and all furnished her with their special weapons. This manifestation was the Goddess Durga, an aspect of Shakti, the animating force of the Universe.
The battle that followed between Durga and the demon lasted nine days and nine nights. Finally, on the tenth day the Goddess killed the demon. This day is known as Vijayadasami. Truth overcame ignorance and is celebrated on this tenth day as the Day of Victory.
The energy of Mother Divine (Shakti) is the animating force that activates the Pure Potential for all things, lying silent within each of us (Shiva). The victory of Wisdom over ignorance joins together the opposite natures of Shiva and Shakti, allowing us to unfold the magnificence of our true Destiny. During Navaratri, we invoke this energy in the form of the Universal Mother, commonly referred to as Durga, literally meaning “the remover of miseries of life”. It is this energy, which activates Shiva to proceed with the work of creation, preservation and disillusion. Shiva is the motionless, silent, Pure Potential for everything and the Divine Mother is the energy which brings the potential into manifest creation. Our spiritual journey takes us from the known to the unknown. Hence it is said that Shiva, who symbolizes pure consciousness, can only be known through Shakti, which represents Divine energy.
The nine days of Navaratri are divided into three sets of three days each. In each of these sets of days we may choose to enliven different archetypal energies lying dormant within us. As mentioned earlier, the significance of each stage has clear parallels in the different stages of our own sadhana (spiritual practices): first, negative tendencies need to be controlled; second, virtues need to be ingrained; third, after gaining the necessary mental purity, spiritual knowledge needs to be acquired. Only then will the sadhak (spiritual aspirant) be ready to attain spiritual illumination.
During the first three days we can have the intention to remove the impurities and vices from our lives and ask for protection from actions that don’t serve us. We can do this by honoring the Goddess Durga, who personifies that aspect of our shakti which destroys any negative tendencies. This is also a good time to put our personal lives in order, clean our homes, pay the bills, etc. However, getting temporary relief from the clutches of memories and desires does not guarantee permanent liberation from them. Their seeds will remain within in latent form. Therefore, we should supplant them with positive qualities. The Bhagavad Gita refers to these qualities as daivi-sampat, literally “Divine wealth”.
For the second three days we have the intention for abundance in our lives. This can be material, physical, emotional and of course spiritual abundance and the shift from poverty consciousness to wealth consciousness. This is also a time to express our gratitude for all the blessings we are constantly receiving. During these days we may choose to honor the Goddess Lakshmi to enliven our energies for wealth, good fortune and prosperity. Lakshmi is not just the giver of gross wealth or prosperity, she is the Mother who gives according to the needs of her children.
In the Holy Koran it says that, when God wants to punish people, He gives them unlimited wealth. When He wants to reward them, He gives them unlimited wealth and wisdom.
Only one endowed with Divine wealth is fit to receive the knowledge of the Supreme. Therefore, the last three days of Navaratri are dedicated to the Goddess Saraswati, the embodiment of Pure Knowledge. During the final three days our attention should be on cultivating Wisdom, Truth and Purity in our lives. Saraswati is invoked to remind us to meditate on virtue and the meaning and essence of our actions. Saraswati is called the mother of the Vedas, representing eloquent speech, the arts, melodious music and the free flow of wisdom and consciousness.
As mentioned previously, the final, tenth day is Victory Day. This is a time for celebration, for new beginnings, starting new spiritual practices and an opening to the Divine Grace of Wholeness. It is considered to be one of the most auspicious days in the Indian year. It is a time-honored belief that if any new venture is started on this day, it is bound to be successful. Hence, many new undertakings such as the laying of the foundation of a building, the opening of a new business or even a child’s first day of school are started on this day.
In order have all-round success in life, we need the blessings of all three aspects of the Divine Mother so Navaratri is not only significant for spiritual aspirants, it has a message for those who lead a worldly life as well. They should invoke Durga’s help to surmount obstacles, Lakshmi to bestow peace and prosperity, and Saraswati in order to gain wisdom. These three ingredients are necessary for a full and complete worldly life.
We may celebrate Navaratri by simply being aware of these energies on the appropriate day. Whatever actions we choose, we are simply invoking the Shakti (Divine energy) that is already within us. During these days, it is recommended to speak only the truth and avoid anger. Some people choose to fast, eating only fruit during these days. You may also chant the mantras to enliven the archetypal energies for the appropriate Goddess each day, 3, 27 or 108 times.
Om Hrim Durgayei Namaha
Om Shrim Mahalakshmiyei Namaha
Om Ayim Saraswatiyei Namaha
The festival of Navaratri also starts the preparation for one of the most important and widely celebrated Indian holidays, Diwali the Festival of Lights, the main day of which is celebrated twenty days after Victory Day.
In 2019, Navaratri is from September 29th until October 8th. Durga is celebrated September 29 – October 1, Lakshmi October 2 – 4, Saraswati October 5 – 7, and October 8 is Victory Day.
For future years, please do an Internet search for Navaratri.
May the blessings of peace, abundance and wisdom be with you always.