Come Navratris and the nation honors the divine feminine, Durga and her 9 manifestations. It’s when we both remember her power-ful and love-ful natures, and celebrate her status as being the Mother of all beings.
Even though Navratris are celebrated in different ways across India- they largely depict the won of good over evil. Here, we dwell a little deeper into understanding the deeper spiritual takeaways of the festival. Hoping, they will stay with us much longer even after the 9 day-nights of festivities end.
- Jagran: Jagran or keeping up the whole night, to invoke and invite the deity, is a commonly practiced ritual during Navratris. We remember Goddess Durga as Jagadamba or the ‘Spiritual Mother of all beings’. In no condition, would it make any mother happy, seeing her children stay up the night for her. Jagran actually refers to waking up from the sleep of ignorance or vices that engulf the society today including lust, anger, greed, attachment, and arrogance. Identifying ourselves as children of the One Mother would mean to imbibe the same virtues and divinity within and detest vices.
- Akhand Jyoti: A continuous burning flame or Akhand Jyoti is the second ritualistic practice during Navratris. The idea is to ensure that in no circumstance does the flame of the lamp, extinguish. To ensure this, devotees keep it immersed in pure ghee. However, no flame burning outside can ensure that we experience spiritual ascent and progress internally. Here too, the burning flame is a reminder to consider oneself as an immortal, eternal spiritual being or soul. And to keep feeding the consciousness with the fuel of powerful and peaceful thoughts.
- Upvaas/Fasting: ‘Up’ means near and ‘vaas’ – a place of rest, in Hindi. Ideally, fasting should bring us closer to the Mother. However, can physical fasting, actually do that? The true meaning of fasting here, would be to exercise control over what one consumes through the day- the thoughts that ultimately shapes our personality. Physical fasting can only help us control the physical sense organs of taste for the 9 days we observe the fast, but not bring us close to the Mother by shaping our personality.
- Climb to the Mother’s abode: There is also a deep, spiritual significance to having the temples and abodes of the Mother, situated on great heights. The physical altitude is actually a symbol of the heightened spiritual stage of the divine soul. These spiritual personalities who are emulated at such heights, symbolize the shift in their consciousness of these souls – from a physical to a spiritual or divine one- despite great resistance. This is also the reason why temples like Nainadevi or Vaishnodevi do not have a physical representation of the Mother’s image but a rather incorporeal one.
- Bali Pratha/Animal Sacrificial System: Again, can the sacrifice of any living being make the Mother, happy? The Mother who is called Jagadamba is remembered as the ‘Mother of all beings’ and not just human souls. And yet, as one example of the most degraded forms of devotion, sacrificing of a physical male goat is observed as part of Navratris. Sacrifice symbolizes, sacrificing one’s ego (considered the equivalent of dying) and not a living being.
- Ghanta/Bell: Ringing the bell is considered to help devotees convey their deepest feelings towards the Mother. However, the swinging motion of the bell drives across another point. One- where we are reminded that what we give out to the universe and world – is also what we receive. This points us towards understanding and adopting the true meaning of karma or action and consequence- in all our acts. Our thoughts, words, and action – not only have an impact and affect our lives in this birth but their effect is felt in every birth.
- Kirtan/Devotional Singing: Kirtan or singing praises of the Mother, is held dearly as well. However, it is not consistent and constant praise that will impress the Mother, but how much of her divine qualities and divinity that we embody within- that will ultimately take us closer to her.
- Chadhava/Offering: The Mother is a being, who is complete in all senses. She is not dependent on any human soul for anything materialistic or spiritual. Yet, we see, devotees make an offering of the coconut, halwa (an Indian sweet dish) and channas (chickpeas cooked in a certain way). These, in fact, are indicative of leading a spiritual life and point to consume a nutritious belief system that is as strength inducing as the food we offer.
- Sindur/Vermillion: The mother is always depicted as being unmarried. Yet when one looks at her, she is shown to wearing the vermillion in her head- a marital symbol adored by Indian women. In Indian literature, the sindur is associated with divinity. Here too, the sindur marks the deep relationship with the Almighty, Supreme Soul who the divine soul dedicates her life to and remains in Godly company of.
- Chunni Chadhana: The practice of adorning the Goddess with a physical piece of cloth is done to honor her spiritual personality and aura of great divinity. Even though she and her 9 avatars are unmarried, she is also worshipped as a Mother. And just like a mother does not have any attraction towards any of her children, based on their genders, so does the spiritual goddess. It is because the Mother, possesses such high aura of purity and divinity, that she is able to bring about spiritual transformation in the lives of so many and show them to the path of God
- Kanya Pujan/worshipping unmarried girls: There is great significance attached to worshipping unmarried girls during Navratris. This is again done, to honor aspects of purity, and innocence within the soul.
Having learnt about the spiritual aspects of the festival, we hope you can add more fervour and meaning to your celebration.