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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Hindus celebrate Navratri –festival of divine nine nights

Hindus celebrate Navratri –festival of divine nine nights

By Monita Soni

October 5th marked the commencement of Sharad Navratri in 2013. Sharad means “beginning of winter” and Navratri means “nine nights” in sanskrit.

On these festive nine nights, Adi Shakti: the Primordial cosmic energy is worshipped personified as Ma Durga or Devi. On the tenth day Vijayadashami or Dussehra,  is celebrated by burning effigies of Ravana the demon king who kidnapped Sita(Rama’s wife). This act symbolizes the victory of good over evil (external and internal). 
In the Vedic Age, religious philosophy and rituals were focused on acquiring true knowledge and ultimate realization of the supreme power of Gayatri (Bramh Shakti). This spiritual practice was reinforced four times a year at climatic junctions punctuated by Navratris. In ancient times the spring Navratri was important but Rama invoked goddess Durga in autumn before his battle with Ravana. Since this 'akal-bodhan' or out-of-season ('akal') worship ('bodhan') gained popularity. Hence Sharad Navratri is celebrated exuberantly by Hindus all over the world. 
Chants of Adi Shakti, Adi Shakti, Adi Shakti, Namo Namo…resonate in the temple prayer hall, in the homes and hearts of devotees. On the first day, the lady of the house sows barley/other grain a clay pot. The pot symbolizes our universe. Then she lights a lamp which is kept lit for nine nights. The effulgent Sree Durgadevi is worshipped through this uninterrupted light. It is believed that during Navratri, the principle of Sree Durgadevi is more active in the cosmos. Mother goddess appears in nine forms. Durga, Bhadrakali, Amba or Jagadamba, (Mother of the universe), Annapoorna, (Bestower of grains), Sarvamangala (The ever joyous) are some of them.
First three days Devi is worshipped as Durga or Kali the destroyer of all our evils and granter of boons. Second three days Lakshmi, the goddess of inexhaustible wealth is worshipped. Final three days prayers are offered to Saraswati, the goddess of wisdom.  
Navratri is period of purification and introspection. Devotees fast or consume milk, yogurt and fresh fruit. Alcohol, meat, onions, garlic and even grains are not consumed to expunge one of negative energies. Every region in India celebrates in a different fashion.
In Bengal exquisitely crafted and beautifully decorated statues of the Goddess Durga slaying the demon Mahishasura are the norm. In Mumbai and Gujarat Goddess Amba is seated on a colorful swing. Devotees dance the spiritual whirling Garba and Dandiya-
Raas dance to devotional songs and often to a live orchestra. Young girls dressed in colorful chaniya-cholis (long skirts and blouses) put on a lively show. In South India the home temple is made of “nine steps” representing “nine hills.  On the ninth day the Goddess is worshipped with agricultural implements, tools, machinery and automobiles 
Teachers start teaching Kindergarten on the tenth day. 
The Sharad Navratri is a very auspicious time for entering new jobs, ventures, new homes and marriage. Come join us at Garba in Huntsville or Birmingham this weekend!
(Lakshmi photo painting above done by Monita Soni)
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