The celebration of Navaratri, the Hindu festival that honours the feminine, is starting this coming New Moon, next Wednesday, September 24. It lasts 9 nights, with the 10th night celebrating victory. According to the Devi Mahatmya of the Markandeya Purana the form of the goddess Durga was created as a warrior to fight a terrible demon that other gods were unable to vanquish. During Navaratri the Goddess is worshipped in three forms:
1. The first 3 nights, Durga, “the invincible”, is the epitome of strength, courage and ferocity. She rides on a lion or a tiger having tamed the animal nature, and holds various weapons in her 8 hands, a symbol of her potency. She is the fearless mother protecting her children.
2. The next 3 nights, a more gentle Lakshmi is venerated. She is the bestower of abundance, wealth and comfort. From her open palm appears a stream of gold coins. She is the ever-giving mother.
3. The last 3 nights, Saraswati is exalted personifying wisdom and creativity. She plays a veena, a string instrument, and in her other two hands she holds a book and a lotus. Her name literally means the “flowing one”, a reference to the Saraswati river and to the flow of thoughts, words and music.
The Goddess is also called Shakti or energy, the active feminine principle, while Siva is the static masculine principle in the universe. Both represent the cosmic polarity and their dance is said to create everything in an interplay of matter and energy. Shakti lies dormant at the base of the spine, in the Muladhara chakra, waiting her awakening and reunion with Shiva at the top of the crown, in the 10,000 petal lotus.
At this time of the year when we collect the fruits of the Summer is the perfect moment to be grateful to Mother Earth and celebrate the divine in its feminine forms. Regardless of being a man or a woman these 9 nights are also a reminder of the path of the spiritual aspirant: we first need the courage and determination of Durga who conquers all obstacles, then generous Lakshmi opens our heart so that finally the wisdom of Saraswati can be realized. That’s the true victory.
If you live in Montreal please join us at the Sivananda Center in St. Laurent St. at 8 p.m. for a “puja” (worship) in honour of Durga and if you are in my Meditation course on Wednesdays it would be great if you can stay after the class.