Culture Article #6: For the Joy of Sharing

Navaratri: Festival of ‘Nine Nights’

By Venkataraman L.N.


Navaratri: Festival of ‘Nine Nights’

Intent

This write-up is intended to provide a simple yet essential description of the Indian festival called ‘Navaratri’ which literally means ‘Nine Nights’. The content is as per my understanding from information available in various internet/offline sources. Use of Sanskrit and local vocabulary is minimized to bring out the concept, to understand with little effort.

Introduction

The Navaratri is a religious festival of Hinduism. There are four Navaratris at the transition between each of the four seasons – Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. Two of them are celebrated at a grand scale across India – the one during transition of Spring to Summer (Vasanta Navaratri) and the one during transition of Fall to Winter  (Sharad Navaratri). The Hindu lunar based calendar is used to calculate the dates of the festival. Hence the dates could be different each year.

What is celebrated?

Navaratri is a worship of Goddess as Divine Mother in various forms (mythological roles). It is a worship of the cosmic energy principle represented in feminine form called “Shakti”. The festival is celebrated across India with regional names that differ between Indian states. The celebration methods differ as well between Indian states. It is recommended to observe fasting during the nine days of this festival. The planetary positions during this festival have a meaning associated to human body which is attuned for worship practices.

Notes of Sharad Navaratri

Sharad Navaratri is the 9 day festival celebrated during transition from Autumn to Winter. The first 3 days the goddess is worshipped as a spiritual force called Durga or Kali who destroys the evil.

The next 3 days the goddess is worshipped as Maha Lakshmi who bestows devotees with wealth and riches (of good virtues).

The last 3 days the goddess is worshipped as Saraswati who gives knowledge and wisdom.

Hindu Mythology

It is important to understand that Indian mythology has characters which are allegorical. Ultimately they all are abstractions with external representations and in specific literature are elaborated in the form of stories / epics. The intent is to ensure the message reaches people in a tangible manner and with depictions which make them ingrained in human memory. The characters include Gods and Goddesses who represent principles. They are not be mapped or linked directly to physical genders they are portrayed with.

Concept of Shakti

Could we ever separate sweetness from sugar or heat from fire? Certainly the two elements are inseparable. Likewise are the presentations of two life forces as the masculine Siva and feminine Shakti. Both are part of an integrated whole and inseparable from each other. The Hindu Gods and their consorts represent the integration of the two principles. Since the principles are independent of physical gender, one can find the feminine principle manifesting in even male characters in Hindu mythological stories. The Navaratri is dedicated to the Shakti. The festival ends with the Shakti (as represented by Goddess called Durga) killing the bad characteristics in us (as represented by the demon called Mahishasura).

Siva and Shakti: Half Man and Half Woman

Both the male and female principles exist in man and woman because they are abstractions independent of physical gender.

By Venkataraman L.N.

Venkat is the founder and CEO of Adaptive Instruction with corporate experience of more than 20 years. He recently setup his company which is mainly focused on school academic education at present, and he is also getting into training workshops and talks for professionals, young adults, and college students, He is a person with varied interests. He is a faculty in SIVA and teaches astrology to adults.


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