Updated: Oct 22, 2020
One of the great festivals in Hinduism, Navratri, is celebrated in autumn, venerating the Divine Feminine principle, or Mother as Goddess. Hindu goddesses Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati are worshipped as three manifestations of Shakti, or cosmic female energy.
Why should you care about this if you're not Hindu? If you practice yoga, learning about the cultural traditions of yoga's birthplace is a mystical, fascinating and fun way to tune in to the only goal of yoga: union with the Divine. It's nice that yoga helped you: lose, weight, release tension, heal back pain, relieve depression, cure insomnia, have better sex, and reduce emotional eating cravings, but those are side benefits. If you haven't yet experienced communion with something bigger than yourself on your mat, then you're not practicing yoga, you're doing elaborate Indian stretching for other reasons. This separation of practice from principle often happens with cultural appropriation, as has occurred with yoga over the last several decades in the West. This is why, along with my own personal devotion to the Divine Feminine and Sacred Masculine, I was compelled to write about the gorgeousness that is Navratri. This post is my digital love note to the Queen of All Things, Empress of the Universe, Divine Shakti.
So, if you want to deepen your experience of yoga, read on!
Praying, fasting, ritual offerings (puja), singing, dancing, and feasting to honor Maha Devi (Great
Goddess). Communities celebrate with traditional music and dances called garba and dandiya (reminds me of conga line meets old-fashioned reels or line dancing). Women and men wear beautiful and brilliantly colored clothing and dance until the wee hours. PARTY! Devotees also fast, chant, perform ritual worship and meditate to honor and connect with the goddess. Families come together and visit each other, and in certain parts of India, huge idols of the goddess are adorned and adored. Storytelling of the goddess myths may also take place in public settings. If you have a large Hindu community where you live, check out local Navratri celebrations that involve dancing in the streets!
Nine is a sacred number, comprised as it is of 3 threes, with three considered a magic number in such feminine spiritual archetypes as the maiden-mother-crone triple goddess manifestation of womanhood. In Sanskrit, "nav" means nine and "ratri" means night. Legends of Durga, one of the main goddesses worshipped during Navratri, tell of her nine night battle and ultimate victory over demon brothers who terrorized the Earth. There are also nine manifestations of the three main goddess worshipped during this time. Nine months is how long it takes to grow a human in utero, and Shakti is often described as the cosmic womb from whence all creation originated.
Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati are the three main goddesses invoked during Navratri.
Durga, the protector and warrioress is worshipped. She of the demon defeating skills. Durga Ma represents strength and power to triumph over evil and impurity, as well as shortcomings, character defects and bad habits. She is depicted with several arms holding many weapons, and she rides a lion or tiger. Fierce!
Days 4-6: Lakshmi, goddess of peace, prosperity and spiritual wealth is venerated for her peaceful, loving, abundant qualities. She is shown with four arms, on a lotus throne, holding lotuses and jewels or gold coins symbolizing the plenty of both spiritual and earthly realms that abounds when one is devoted to one's path.
Days 7-9: Saraswati, patroness of the arts and knowledge is celebrated at the end of the festival. Dressed in white, often seated on a swan, or pictured with a peacock, she plays a veena, a type of lute, and holds a mala, a string of prayer beads, and a book. Learning, creativity and especially music are venerated in the worship of Saraswati.
There is so much to learn about Navratri. My information is in no way comprehensive. Certain regions celebrate in particular ways, and have different goddess manifestations they adore that are sacred to them for specific reasons. All women are goddesses, we have within us all the manifestations of the Divine Feminine, both known and unknown. Men too, posses the feminine principle, Shakti, or yin as it is also called. Given the state of the world today, we could all improve the collective energy by channeling our inner goddesses of compassion, knowledge and strength. Jai Ma!