What is Navratri ?
It is one of the biggest Hindu festivals and is celebrated twice a year – Spring and Autumn. Navratri means Nine Nights. Nav means nine, ratri means night. During this period Parvati, Laxmi and Saraswati are worshipped as three different manifestations of cosmic energy.
Durga, The Mother Goddess:
The celebrations are dedicated to the Hindu goddess Durga. Navratri, symbolizes the triumph of good over evil, as in Hindu mythology, Durga famously destroyed the demon Mahishasura after a battle that lasted nine nights. Hinduism is the only religion in the world which has emphasised the motherhood of God to such an extent.
The 10 days and 9 nights of Navratri are filled with ritualistic chanting, prayers, fasting and celebration. In some places in India, festivities include traditional dance and music, fire ceremonies, community worships. Navratri is also meant for introspection and purification. The most elaborate celebrations happen in Bengal, where Indians worship massive idols of Durga.
Ideally, one should observe fast from any grains, onion, garlic, any fruit / vegetable which grow under the ground during navratris. I know so many people who still do that. But with such fast paced lives today or old age or health issues, sometimes it’s hard to follow this tradition. In that case one has the option to pick last two days to observe the grain fast. If nothing works, some people try not to use garlic and onion in their cooking during navratris. In general, whether you are fasting or not, you have to adopt a vegetarian style for nine days – no eggs or any kind of meat allowed.
The tenth day
The festival comes to an end on tenth day, popularly called as Vijay Dashmi or Dusshera. This symbolizes the victory of positivity over negativity.
How I celebrate this festival:
Before I got married, I remember visiting temple as early as 5.30 a.m. with my mother. We would spend about one hour reading our scriptures and offered prayers to Maa Durga. I always looked forward to this festival as I could feel the positive vibes throughout the nine auspicious days. I think it was through those trips to temple I realized that we can create a positive environment around ourselves if we really wish to. It’s all in our minds. We just need to change our focus and channelize our energies in creating a beautiful and meaningful life.
From last 8 years, I have been going to this ashram at Crestone, twice a year with my family here in U.S. Come rain / snow or shine, we have rarely missed going to Crestone. The fire ceremonies there and the enchanting community recitals at the dusk and dawn are truly a divine experience .
May this festival brings good luck and positive energy for each one of us.