Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Navaratri- The Festival That Celebrates ABsolute Bliss


Man’s basic nature is Absolute Bliss. He tries to reach this state with the help of his mind and intellect. But the mind constantly gravitates in search of sense objects for sensual pleasure and intellect is always after seeking external knowledge of the material world. By such extroverted pursuit of happiness man gets entangled more and more in the world of objects and accumulates desires which veil the divinity in him. With a view to helping him get out of this quagmire, our ancients devised ways and means to turn his attention inwards so that he gets Absolute Bliss to seek which he foolishly goes after the external world. With this in mind, they introduced various rituals and festivals throughout ht the year to remind him of his supreme goal and ideal. One such festival is the Navaratri, also popular as the Dasara.

Navaratri means Nine Nights. It is a nine-day festival and after the conclusion of the festival, the tenth day is celebrated as ‘Vijaya Dashami’ which means victory on the tenth day. The Hindus have been celebrating Navaratri from time immemorial. The scriptural texts prescribe the observance of Navaratri twice in a year: once during March-April season in the spring which is called Rama-Navaratri which coincides with Sri Ramanavami, the birthday of Lord Srirama. The second occasion is during autumnal season, sometime during September-October which is popular as ‘Sharannavaratri’. This is dedicated to the worship of Mother Goddess. The Goddess of Energy is worshipped in Her several aspects as Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswathi. The observance of Sharannavaratri is more popular.

The term ‘Dasara’ is the corrupted form of the word ‘Dasha Papa Hara’ which means the liquidation of 10 sins attributed the 10 sense organs. It is through these sense organs that man contacts and gains knowledge of the external world and also reacts to the stimuli received from the world. Hence the idea is that on the sacred 10th day, the Vijayadashami, by the observance of Dasara Festival he annihilates all the 10 sins and becomes rooted in Transcendental Experience.

The 10 days are divided into three stages of three days each for worship and the culmination of the festival marks the tenth day, the Vijayadashami. In the first three days, Goddess Kali, also called Durga, is worshipped; the next three days are dedicated to Lakshmi and the last three days are dedicated to Saraswathi. The invocation to Goddess Durga is done first with a particular purpose. Durga is described in our Puranic literature
as ‘The Terrible Power’ that vanquished and killed the demons that terrorized devoted religious seekers. Similarly, in the heart of man there are destructive monsters like desire, passion, lust, greed, jealousy etc which have to be annihilated before seeking spiritual unfoldment. Hence Mother Durga is first invoked. By worshipping her for three days man merely invokes his own dormant power and destroys all the negative forces within him as the first step towards realization.

Destroying one’s evil tendencies is only a negative approach to spirituality. So the next step is to practice the positive aspect of Sadhana. This is done by worshiping Goddess Lakshmi for the next three days. Lakshmi is the Goddess of Aishwarya. Aishwarya is not to be understood in the narrow sense of material wealth and possessions. It means Divine Wealth like love, kindness, devotion, charity, patience, endurance etc which Acharya Shankara calls as ‘Shatsampath’ in his Vivekachoodamani.
These are not to be gained from without but are to be obtained from within by invocation of Goddess Lakshmi. By the end of these three days, these Divine qualities replace the earlier devilish tendencies

With the development of these Divine qualities, the seeker is fully qualified and becomes eligible for philosophical studies, contemplation and meditation. The invocation of Goddess Saraswathi at this stage is therefore the last and the final stage of spiritual evolution. Just as Goddess Saraswathi brings out the music and melody from her well-tuned Veena, similarly man can manifest the divinity and harmony with a well-integrated mind, by the study of the scriptures, constant reflection and meditation. It is usual to recite the ‘Durga Saptashathi’ during Navaratri

After all these three stages of worship are gone through, on the last Vijayadashami day, the devil is burnt down indicating the transcendence of the ego
When man attains the great victory—VIJAYA—over his sense life and revels in the ecstatic experience of the Transcendental Reality


Created: Friday, September 26, 2008 10:09 PM


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