In the garland of festivals that is India, there are nine flowers that stand out distinctly. Each year, during the months of October-November, the entire nation comes alive for nine days of celebration and festivity. Some embrace this time to relive the life of Lord Ram through the vibrant enactments of Ram Leela. Some spend hours visiting beautifully adorned Pandals to worship Maa Durga. And some dance joyously to the traditional tunes of Garba and Dandiya. No other time of the year offers a glimpse of India’s unity in diversity quite like the nine days of Navratri. But, amidst all the external glitter and dazzle, have we ever paused to wonder – what are we celebrating?
Days of Cosmic Cleansing
Spirituality understands the unique significance of Navratri – a time of the year when the energy of the entire planet turns celebratory in nature, and becomes conducive for undergoing an internal cleansing process. On the spiritual path, there is only one way of purification – removing vices and cultivating virtues. This cleansing process heals us, rejuvenates us, and prepares us to go deeper in our spiritual quests through Sadhana. Now that is something worth celebrating, indeed!
Navdurga – The Nine Forms of Goddess Durga
Navratri is especially famous for the practice of worshiping the nine forms of Goddess Durga, known as Navdurga in Hindu mythology. These nine forms represent nine distinct manifestations (or virtues) of the One primordial energy that makes up the entire Universe. Each day (and night) of Navratri is devoted to invoking one of these nine virtues.
Day 1: Devi Shailputri
Invoke: भक्ति (Devotion)
Devi Shailputri is a symbol of Bhakti (devotion). On the first day of Navratri, the planet overflows with the vibrations of devotion. And hence, we invoke Bhakti within us – devotion towards the spiritual path and the Guru who guides us on the path. Devotion that is as strong and unwavering as a tall mountain.
Day 2: Devi Bramhacharini
Invoke: सजगता (Awareness)
Brahma, or the Cosmic Energy, is present in both living beings and dead matter. But the property of this Cosmic Energy that differentiates the living from the non-living is consciousness (or awareness). And thus, we invoke Devi Bramhacharini to move us from our usual heedless and unmindful way of living towards a life full of conscious awareness.
Day 3: Devi Chandraghanta
Invoke: समभाव (Equanimity)
Much like the moon’s changing phases, our minds and emotions keep oscillating between extremes in response to the ever-changing external circumstances. On the 3rd day of Navratri, we pray to Devi Chandraghanta for equanimity in all situations of life.
Day 4: Devi Kushmanda
Invoke: संयम (Discipline)
The Cosmic Energy that pervades every atom of this Universe, is present within us too. On the 4th day of Navratri, we invoke this inner energy, and the only way to do that is through increasing our self-control and discipline.
Day 5: Devi Skandmata
Invoke: विवेक (Vivek, Discerning ability)
Skandmata refers to the duality of creation. Duality is the hallmark of everything that the Divine Mother (Energy) has created – joy-sorrow, health-disease, good-evil, right-wrong. As long as we belong to this creation, we cannot escape duality. But through Vivek (discerning ability), we can make choices that help us rise above the duality and experience Oneness. On the 5th day of Navratri, we pray to Devi Skandmata for this superpower of Vivek.
Day 6: Devi Katyayani
Invoke: श्रद्धा (Faith)
Katyayani refers to that invisible intelligence that is running this entire Cosmic show. When a seed is planted into the ground, there is a hidden intelligence that knows how to develop it into a fruit. That same intelligence is guiding us at every step of our spiritual journey. All we need is faith – faith in the power of that intelligence. And that is exactly what we invoke on the 6th day of Navratri.
Day 7: Devi Kaalraatri
Invoke: वैराग्य (Vairagya, Love for Higher)
This is the most destructive form of Maa Durga, capable of unleashing turmoil in one’s life. Every bit of uncertainty, conflict, pain, hurt, and sorrow that we encounter is a gift from Devi Kaalraatri. A gift? Indeed, every dark night in our lives serves as a gift that opens the door to Vairagya – a shift in perspective that starts with finally seeing through the blinding cover of illusion that makes this world seem attractive, and ends at the realization that there is a happiness infinitely greater than all the pleasures of the world combined. We invoke this game-changing virtue on the 7th day of Navratri.
Day 8: Devi Mahagauri
Invoke: साक्षी (Sakshi, Power of Witnessing)
The most destructive form quickly turns into the most beautiful and divine form of Maa Durga – Devi Mahagauri. It symbolizes a virtue that can bloom only after the previous 7 virtues have established a strong foothold in our hearts – the virtue of detaching from all positive and negative situations, remaining a witness, and yet, carrying out all responsibilities with passion and commitment. What a glorious state to aspire for!
Day 9: Devi Siddhidaatri
Invoke: आनंद (Anand, Causeless Happiness)
The previous eight days and corresponding virtues culminate into the final day of Navratri, the day of Devi Siddhidaatri – the Goddess who fulfills all our wishes and desires. While that may trigger greed in a common man, a sincere seeker is always absolutely clear that the one desire behind all other desires is that of true happiness. And that is the ultimate virtue we invoke on this blessed day – happiness without any cause, happiness that simply is, happiness that comes from our very nature.
An Open Invitation
The nine days of Navratri are an open invitation from the Divine – an invitation to purify our minds by invoking our innate virtues. On the 10th day, while the entire nation celebrates Vijaydashami, only those who accept this cosmic invitation are handed the secret ticket to behold the fireworks within – fireworks that celebrate the victory of virtues over vices, the triumph of the permanent over the temporary, and the homecoming of a Soul that had been in exile since an eternity.
What are you waiting for?