28 Sep NAVA RATRI: CELEBRATING TRANSFORMATION
Today is the first days of Nava Ratri (nine nights) – a festival that is celebrated all over India with a lot of rigor and dedication.
If it is shorn of its religious overtones and associated rituals, Nava Ratri or the nine days of worship of Nava Durgas (the nine appellants of the Ma Durga) is nothing but an opportunity for human kind to enable itself rise from the dungeons of despondency to manifest and uphold the innate divinity within. It’s a period which provides a structure which, if followed arduously over nine days, can lead us out of our fear and fear-led conditionings of powerlessness and worthlessness to re-claim and embrace the divine power that we are all born with.
Each of the Nava Durgas is resplendent with symbols inherent in their names, visual representations, colors and even the vehicle they are seated on. My attempt here would be to present the symbolic meaning of each of the icons in a way that ordinary human beings can relate to and be motivated to imbibe through conscious affirmations.
It is fascinating to note how the way of worshipping these Nava Durgas – with their visuals, chanting of their meditative mantras and establishing of the chakras they correspond to – can become a powerful process of the conscious affirmations getting etched at a subliminal level, because of accentuation by the visual and tonal energies.
This is a humble attempt of presenting my intuitive understanding of the mystic intervention of Nava Ratri and the Nava Durgas. However, before I set out to elaborate on this theme, I would like to bow down in deep reverence to the 5000 years old ethos and heritage of this country which has nurtured in its bosom an unparalleled treasure of wisdom, when it comes to personal and spiritual growth. Take any festival, any ritual, which, unless blown out of proportion, has embedded in it the principles of human transformation and growth. No wonder, today, the world regards the human potential of this country as one of the finest and most valuable. We are enjoying the fruits of the genetic imprints left by our ancestors who have followed the centuries old heritage practices and rituals without questioning them, as a way of life. The observance of Nava Ratri and worship of Nava Durgas is one of the foremost of such practices. It is the more recent generations, which, in their egoic pursuit trying to understand the manifest through the limitations of their linearly logical minds, have forsaken many of these proven self-enabling practices to embrace quick-fix tools of cosmetic make- over.
As the socio-economic climate changes rapidly and global attention get’s increasingly focused on the East, it’s time that we stop looking out of our western windows and start looking inwards. In wards towards reviving and embracing the fabric that has been woven out of such heritage practices and In-wards to get in touch with our own inner selves – the space we truly belong to.
Durga – The Primordial Divine Feminine
To get to the significance of Nava Durga, let us first get to understand the significance of Durga.
Durga stands for being a destroyer of miseries (Durgati-nashini) and a fortress (Durg) that protects us from evil. Durga is the most potent form of primordial cosmic energy (Shakti) that exists in a state of svātantrya (independent of the Universe) and is believed to be responsible for creation, preservation and transformation of life on this planet.
By the mythology, Durga is believed to have been incarnated as the united power of all divine beings, who offered her the required physical attributes and weapons to fight and vanquish the most deadly Buffalo Demon – Mahisasura. She is represented with eight or ten hands symbolic of her power pervading across all eight quadrants and ten direction. Her three eyes (Triyambake) symbolizes an all-encompassing vision that takes into account the desires, the action and the knowledge. She is seen astride on a lion – her vehicle – which represents the underlying drivers of power, will and determination – in the fearless pose of “Abhay Mudra”, signifying assurance of freedom from fear. There seems to be making an invitation to unconditionally surrender onto her (sharanagati) to attain freedom from all fears.
In the mirco-cosmic sense Durga is an indestructible innate life-giving force intrinsic within each one of us which springs into action the moment one surrenders completely to the Supreme Will in a state of dire distress (Sandhi-kshan). This life-giving force not only allays the mortal fear but also neutralizes the most deep-seated (demonic) conditionings that created the distress to restore inner harmony. To be able to invoke the power of Devi Durga within one has to be driven with unwavering will and determination to completely surrender all doer-ship.
Significance of the Nava Durgas
It is not easy for the uninitiated to invoke this powerful life-giving force within them as it is not easy for one to come with will and determination to surrender unconditionally.
Legends have it that even Rama was tested for his will to surrender when he practiced penance in front of Devi Durga to be blessed with victory over Ravana. His offering of 108 blue lotuses could not be complete without Rama willing to sacrifice one of his blue eyes. It is said that just as Rama was about to take his eye out with the edge of an arrow, he was held by the Mother Goddess and granted the boon of victory over Ravana.
In order to make it realizable for ordinary human beings to invoke the awesome Supreme Power of Devi Durga in them, the practice of sequentially invoking the nine manifestations (sets of qualities / virtues / values) of Durga – Nava Durga – over the nine days of Nava Ratri, has been embraced. While it may seem to be relatively simpler for one to take this somewhat structured and gradual way to transformation, it nevertheless demands a lot of devotion and rigor over all the nine days to attain the same.
(To be continued)