Gratitude: I bow down to Maa Durga who defeated the buffalo-headed demon, Mahishasura. I bow down to her to accept me as her daughter, hold the hands of this insignificant being, and taking to the path to adopting a holistic lifestyle and spreading awareness about the same.
With the Sharad Navratri, let’s celebrate the feminine nature/form of the divine. Navratri is a Sanskrit term where ‘Nav’ translates to ‘nine’ and ‘Ratri’ to ‘night’.
Also known as Durga Puja, this festival comes five times a year: Chaitra Navratri, Gupta Navratri, Sharada Navratri, or Maha Navratri, Paush Navratri, Magha Navratri. Among these, Chaitra Navratri and Sharada Navratri are the most popular. This 9-night, 10-day festival bears high religious, spiritual, and cultural significance.
What do 9 nights of Navratri stand represent?
The Nine number represents the nine months that are spent in the mother’s womb for the fetus to grow and develop. So, nine days of Navaratri for bodily purification, mental stabilization, and spiritual growth. The Kalpas (Puranas) of Hindu mythology define the three dimensions of Shakti (the feminine energy): Mahakali (strength or power), Mahalakshmi (wealth, passion and material well-being), and Mahasaraswati (knowledge, dissolution, transcendence of the limitations of the mortal body). These divine powers are also believed to represent the cosmos as the Earth, the Sun and the Moon. Ayurveda defines 3 levels of existence: physical (body), subtle (mind) and causal (soul), which may be associated with these three dimensions of Shakti. Hence, the first three days of Navrati are dedicated to Durga or Kali, the next three to Lakshmi, and the last three to Saraswati.Now “Ratri” can be broken down into “ra” which means solace and “tri” which refers to the three levels of human existence – physical (body), subtle (mind) and causal (soul). Every night, all beings rest, and sleep to recover from the stresses of the day, to wake up rested, relaxed and rejuvenated. Similarly, this period of nine nights is for rest, detoxification and renewal of sorts. Hence the terms “new”, “nine” and “nights”. So, Navaratri is also a time for bringing about solace and rest at all levels of our existence.
Navaratri Practices and their Relation to Ayurvedic principles
Trigunas and Navaratri
These Three Shakti’s are also symbolic of the 3 Gunas (virtues/qualities): tamas (inertia), rajas (activity, passion), and sattva (knowledge, purity), respectively which we are going to discuss further in detail.
The nine days of Navaratri are further broken down into 3-day periods. Each three-day period is attributed to a particular guna (mental quality). The focus is to overcome tamas and rajas (in that order), to finally bring an increase in sattva within ourselves and our environments. Each three-day period is dedicated to a particular Goddess. Now, here the association with religion is a bit strong – probably was a way to connect with the people by giving them a godly figure that they could relate to. But even in these times, whether we are believers or not, we can still get the import of the message, without getting fixated on the religious aspect of things, if we so desire.
The first three days are for the Tamo/ Tamas guna – when we overcome any dullness or lethargy, shake off our ignorance and fear, work towards releasing our stagnant and blocked emotions and energy and work towards getting rid of all negative addictions and mind-body tendencies. This first three-day period is dedicated to Goddess Durga, who symbolizes freedom from fear, instilling determination, willpower, and courage!
The second three-day period is for the Rajo guna or Rajas – when we overcome distraction or turbulence of the mind, transcend our egos, anger, desires, greed, envy, and impatience and turn inward to seek peace, rather than outward for stimulation. This period is for Goddess Lakshmi who symbolizes the abundance of not just wealth, but of other things like food, progeny, talents, courage, and prosperity in general. Overall, the message is that of “abundance” in both spiritual and material terms to bring prosperity and well-being.
The last three-day period is for the Sattva guna – when calmness, clarity, and harmony prevail when we have moved our focus and consciousness inward. In this state, we see the good in everything and look at life, in general, as a learning experience. This period is for Goddess Saraswati who symbolizes knowledge, arts, and purity. Overall, the message is about the free flow of wisdom, and consciousness.
Once Navaratri is over, Vijayadashami (the tenth day – the day of victory) is celebrated. This is the day of culmination in the awakening of our heightened consciousness and knowledge. In many parts of India, new learning is initiated on this day which is called “Vidyaarambam” (beginning of knowledge).
Our consciousness needs to transition from tamas to Rajas to Sattva, in which it blossoms. The message during Navaratri is to harmonize the three Gunas and elevate sattva in the atmosphere. Whenever sattva dominates in life, victory follows.