Happy Navaratri! Navaratri, celebrated October 10th-18th, is a special Hindu festival celebrated all over India in honor of Devi, the Primordial Shakti, or Mother Goddess. The celebration and worship of Devi dates all the way back to pre-historic times. As Amma says, the universe itself is the visible form of Devi. She pervades all. She is both Maya, and the liberator of Maya. Maya is nothing but the mind, it is the cause of both bondage and freedom… it is up to us how we use it!
In Sanskrit, nava means nine and raatri means night. Navaratri includes 9 days of pujas, or fire ceremonies, in honor of the different forms of Devi (which may vary depending on what part of India you are in). The festival represents removing internal darkness so that the light to knowledge may kindle within.
Here at Amritapuri, the first three days of the festival are dedicated to Durga (who represents the fierce aspect of God). We call on Durga for removal of mental negativity, like attachment, aversion, anger, or desire. As Amma says, “Only by the removal of negativities within can we inculcate good qualities within.” This is why Laksmi (who embodies auspiciousness) is worshiped the next three days. We ask Her assistance to “develop divine qualities like love, compassion, kindness, charity, forgiveness, and patience within”. Amma says, “When negativity has been uprooted, divine quality have been inculcated, only then can knowledge dawn”. This is why Saraswati (the goodness of knowledge) is worshipped the remaining three days. Finally, on the tenth day, “Vijayadashami” is celebrated to symbolize the “breaking of the limitations of the mind (which obstruct us from realizing the indwelling God), and ultimately attaining freedom”.
What can you do these next few days to honor the goddess inside? Perhaps you can set a few minutes extra aside for meditation. Chant the Gayatri mantra. Place a photo of your favorite Goddess on the your alter. Light a candle in front of Her. Or maybe you can even fast. You can also celebrate Navaratri through the gift of giving food, perhaps to the needy, homeless, elderly, or even just a friend. Or maybe you want to celebrate and awaken the inner goddess by simply dancing! Whatever it is, don’t forget to set aside some extra time these days to honor the inherent and special spark of divinity within YOU!