Category Archives: Navaratri

Significance of Navaratri ~ by Swami Chinmayananda

The DUSSEHRA festival is celebrated throughout the country. During this festival, everyone spends his time in worship, devotion, and study of the Sastras, and every house assumes the sanctity of a temple. The ten days are divided into three stages of three days each, for worship, and the culmination of the festival on the tenth day is called VIJAYA DASAMI.

The first 3 days we invoke Mother Durga, the “Power Terrible” to help us, by eliminating from within us all negative forces, all weaknesses; followed by the constructive efforts at the organisation of order and security by the patronage and growth of the Divine Forces in us. Lakshmi, she is the Goddess of Aishwarya: Devi Sampath. She is the embodiment of Love, Charity, Kindness, Devotion, Tolerance, Patience, Endurance, Vairagya, Viveka, Peace, Tranquility, Honesty, Courage, Faith, and Mumukshutva! These are to be engendered, and the vacancies created by the elimination of the negative qualities must be filled by these positive traits. Hence the Lakshmi Puja for 3 days following the Kali Puja of the first 3 days. When a Jiva on his march has thus purified himself, and gets recharged with the Devi Sampath, he is a fit Adhikari – a fit student – to be initiated into the philosophical side of Religion, the Supreme Reality, the State of Sat-Chit-Ananda, the Padavi of “Sivoham”. The Goddess of Jnana, Devi Saraswati is invoked. Her Veena is tuned within when the heart-strings are polished “off” its clogs – the Asuric Sampath. The strings are “tuned” when the inner heart-strings are adjusted with the cultivated Devi Sampath. In the resulting shanti, the soft floating tunes waft from within as the Lady of Veena passes Her tender fingers blessingly over the heart-strings. The music is the magic touch that turns the Premi into Prem! the Lover into Love!! The Siva bhakta melts in that MUSIC of the within and becomes one with Siva – the final waking from the dream of samsar into the fact that I am the Knowledge in Itself, Pure Existence beyond Time, Space and Causality. As Sri Saraswati sings Her divine song of Joy, the Kalyana Muhurtha is on! Now, “I am Siva! I am He! He am I !!” This is the great Victory – the Total Victory, the VIJAYAM.

Mother Durga is invoked by worshiping her for 3 days. Man merely invokes his own power which lies dormant within, to discover and destroy the negative forces lurking in his bosom. Destroying one’s evil tendencies is only a negative approach to spirituality. So, the next stage is to practice the positive aspect of the Sadhana. This is done by Sri Lakshmi Puja for the next 3 days. Lakshmi is the Goddess of Aishwarya. Aishwarya is not to be understood in the narrow sense of material wealth and possessions alone but as including the divine wealth of love, kindness, devotion, patience, endurance, charity, ahimsa and the like. Again, these are not to be gained from without, but are to be engendered from within by the invocation of the Goddess within ourselves. By the end of these 3 days, these divine qualities should replace the devilish tendencies which had usurped and enveloped our bosom. With the development of the divine traits, the seeker is fully qualified and becomes an Adhikari for philosophical study, contemplation and meditation. The invocation of Saraswati, the Goddess of Knowledge, is therefore, the last and the final stage in the spiritual evolution of man. Just as she brings out the music and melody from her well-tuned veena, one can manifest the divinity and harmony with a well integrated mind, by the study of the sastras, constant reflection and meditation. After the 3 stages are gone through, on the last Vijaya Dasami Day, the devil is burnt down indicating the “transcendence of ego”, when man attains the great victory – VIJAYA – over his sense-life and revels in the ecstatic experience of the Transcendental Reality!  

Dussehra indicates as the word suggests, DASA-PAPA-HARA, the end or liquidation of ten sins. The ten sins are attributed to the 10 sense-organs through which the mind contacts and gains knowledge of the phenomenal world, and also reacts to the stimuli received from the world of objects. Therefore the idea is that on this sacred day, the ten sins are ended which signifies the end of the mind and therefore the end of the world of plurality when one becomes rooted in the Transcendental Experience – the Vijaya Dasami Day, the day of Sree Parameswara Prapthi!!          The 9 days Pooja ends in the Great Grand festivity and Joy inexpressible, on the 10th day – the Vijaya Dasami Day. The 9 days Devi Pooja has removed the 9 great sins of man. The 10th day ends the last of his sins and the mortal limited man in himself discovers that he is God! Live thy Life of Dasara! Burn down the ugly monstrous Rakshasa Roopa that we had ourselves built up in the previous nights; and in joy and revelry, dance round the wrecked blazing Monster — the “I”.  The great Victory — the Vijaya! The Home-Coming — the great Vijaya Dasami Day!

“Dasa hara” is the victory over the senses – means, end of Mind; which ends in the disappearance of the dreadful shadow “I”. When the mind is “off”, what remains is the Blissful, the Omnipotent and Omniscient mass of Beauty and Grandeur, the Supreme Mother! Make thy life a Mahanavami Celebration! With songs and dance, with puja and worship, with feasting and illumination, with Japa and Tapa, invoke the Powers of the Self, the Eternal Nature of Thee! Sivoham! Bring about a Dasara in Thy life – celebrate the life’s Vijaya Dasami – through Purushartha, which in the bhakta is not a stupendous task of adventure and strife, but a pleasure Puja Festival — a Mahanavami Celebration

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Bharatiya Katha Vaibhava – 2 [ Books for children] : Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.in/Bharatiya-Katha-Vaibhava-2-Shreedarshan/dp/9390640199/

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Devi Mookambike

The great Kola Maharshi performed intense tapas in the valley of the Kodachadri hills near Udupi in Karnataka. Pleased with his tapas, Lord Shiva appeared before him and granted him a boon. The Sage said that he wanted nothing for himself, but he wanted the Lord to reside in the sacred valley for the welfare of all the people. The Lord agreed and took the form of a Linga. However, the Sage wanted the presence of Devi Parvati also along with the Lord. In response to the rishi’s request, a golden line appeared on the Shiva linga to indicate the presence of Shakti along with Shiva. The place became known as Kollur.

Long after that, a rakshasa by name Kaumasura went about creating havoc amongst the pious and virtuous people. He undertook penance to propitiate Lord Brahma and ask for the boon of becoming invincible. His tapas was almost becoming fruitful and the Creator was about to bestow on him whatever boon he wanted. All the devatas were worried. If Brahma gave him the boon of becoming invincible, he would become a threat to all the three worlds. They all invoked Vagdevi – the Goddess of Speech and asked her to withdraw her grace from him. She agreed and withdrew the power of speech from the rakshasa, and as a result of that he became dumb. He could not ask the Lord for anything. From that day onwards, he came to be known as Mookasura. Mooka means ‘dumb’.

The angry Mookasura continued to trouble the devatas and sages. The devatas again prayed to Shakti. Devi appeared before them. Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva along with their Sakti-s, Saraswathi, Lakshmi and Parvati, along with all the devatas transferred their powers to her. There was a fierce battle between Shakti and Mookasura and finally she killed Mookasura. From that day onwards she became known as Mookambika. She represents the power of speech (Vak) which destroys dumbness (mookatva).
Years later, as Adi Sankara was travelling through this region, pleased with his tapas, Vagdevi appeared in front of him desirous of bestowing a boon upon him. Sankara was overjoyed at the darshan of the Mother of the Universe and prayed to her to come with him and dwell in the land of his birth. She agreed to come with him, but she put forth one condition. While walking, he should not turn back and look. Sankara agreed and started walking. Mookambika walked behind him. He could hear the sound of her anklets. As they were approaching Kollur, suddenly Sankara did not hear the sound of Devi’s anklets. He turned around and looked. As per her condition, Mookambika or Vagdevi remained permanently there in Kollur, on the banks of the sacred Sauparnika river.
Sri Mookambika is the Goddess who destroys mookatva (ignorance) and confers speech (Knowledge) to all those who invoke her. Hence, during the Navaratri festival on the most auspicious day of Vijayadasami, Devi Mookambika is invoked and “Akshara Abhyas” or “initiation of the alphabets” is performed for little children before they start their formal education.

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Origin of Lalitha Sahasranama!

Surya and Aruna were the sons of Sage Kashyapa. Surya was beautiful and radiant whereas Aruna was deformed. However, Aruna was a great devotee of Lord Shiva, and pleased with his devotion the Lord made him Surya’s charioteer, and proclaimed that the time just before sunrise would be called as Arunodaya. 

Lalithambika

Surya always looked down upon Aruna and mocked at his body with deformities. When Shiva came to know about it, he cursed Surya to lose his brilliance and become dark. Surya realized his mistake and pleaded with the Lord. The Lord told him to undergo severe penance to regain back his lustre. Lord Sun came to the sacred kshetra called Thirumeeyachur (Tamilnadu) and worshipped Lord Shiva in Gaja Vimana. After months of austerity, when he did not get back his golden lustre, he cried out loudly to the Lord. His loud and thunderous voice disturbed the serenity of the place, and Parvati who was there along with the Lord became very angry and was about to pronounce a curse on Lord Sun.

Sankara immediately intervened and told her that Lord Sun was already under a curse and one more would be devastating for him. Shiva told Parvati to calm down and invoked the “shanta” (peace) aspect in her. She immediately became calm. The Lord gave her the name “SHANTA NAYAKI”. She also became known as SRI LALITHAMBIKA. From Shanta Nayaki’s mouth, the presiding deities of speech, the “Vak-Devis” manifested and glorified her through a thousand beautiful names. These thousand names came to be known as “LALITHA SAHASRANAMA”. Lord Sun was relieved of his curse and with the Lord’s grace, he regained his lost golden lustre. Since the Lord had removed the cloud of darkness covering the Sun, Shiva became known as “Sri Meghanatha”.

During the month of Chithirai, for seven days, the sun’s rays fall directly on Lord Meghanatha and this is considered as the devotional offering of Surya to Lord Shiva.
Sri Lalithambika, also known as Sundara Nayaki sits on the “Srichakraraja Simhasana” as the Empress (Maharani) with her right leg folded and placed on the left. The Lalitha Sahasranama which was given out by Vak-Devis was first revealed to Lord Hayagriva, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu and the “presiding deity of knowledge and intelligence”. Subsequently, Lord Hayagriva taught the Lalitha Sahasranama to his disciple, Sage Agastya, and asked him to worship Sri Lalithambika at Thirumeeyachur. Sage Agastya came to this sacred place and invoked Sri Lalithambika by chanting the Lalitha Sahasranama. The divine Mother was pleased and appeared in front of him as “Navaratnas – the nine gems”. Overwhelmed at this rare and unique darshan, Sage Agastya composed and sang the “Lalitha Navaratna Mala”. From Sri Lalithambika to Hayagriva, and then through Sage Agastya the sacred Lalitha Sahasranama reached the mortals. Even to this day, those who want to learn and chant the Lalitha Sahasranama, come to this sacred place to seek Devi’s blessings. 

A unique feature of this place is that even Sri Durga who is standing on mahishasura is “shanta-swaroopini” with a parrot in her hand! It is believed that the parrot carries the messages and pleas of the devotees to Lalithambika. Even to this day, in the evening, parrots can be seen flying from the temple of Durga towards the temple of Lalithambika!

Once Goddess Lalithambika appeared in the dream of a devotee, and asked for a pair of anklets for her bare feet. The devotee got them made and took it to the temple and asked the priests to put the anklets on Devi’s feet. The priest said that it was not possible and there was no provision for the anklets to go round the feet of the deity. The devotee felt sad and asked the priest to atleast place her offerings at Devi’s feet. When the priest took the anklets to offer it at Devi’s feet, he was astonished to find a narrow opening at Devi’s ankles just enough for the chain to go through! Lalithambika wears the anklets on Her feet. Hence devotees who come to the temple offer Devi a pair of anklets – a rare and unique feature of this temple!

On the auspicious VIJAYADASAMI day, in the sanctum, plantain leaves are spread over an area of 15ft in length and 5ft in width. It is divided into three sections. In the first section closest to the deity, 100 kg of sweet pongal (chakkara pongal) is spread. In the next section, 100kg of tamarind rice and in the third section 100 kg of curds rice is spread – all one behind the other. In the middle of the sweet pongal, a huge hollow or trough is created and a large amount of liquid ghee is poured. It is called as “ghee well”. After the special alankara of Sri Lalithambika, the curtains of the sanctum are drawn apart and arati is performed. The reflection of Sri Lalithambika can be seen in the “ghee well!” This unique, most beautiful and awesome darshan is considered to be extremely auspicious. Devotees throng the shrine in large numbers on Vijayadasami day to have a glimpse of Sri Lalithambika in the “ghee well!” 

The “ghee-well” represents a pure and satvic mind. The rice pongal around the “ghee-well” represents the gross layers of matter of the individual personality. The reflection of Sri Lalithambika (Parabrahma) in the “ghee-well” (mind) represents the “vision of the Divine” (State of Enlightenment). This is the real and everlasting Victory (Vijaya).

“Sarva mangala mangalye shive sarvartha sadhike; saranye tryambake devi narayani namostute”

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Dussehra : Sri Rama’s victory over Ravana!

Seeta, Lord Rama’s wife had been abducted by the ten-headed Ravana. She was held captive in Lanka. Rama and Lakshmana along with the army of vanaras headed by their King Sugreeva, his wise minister Hanuman and others crossed the ocean and reached Lanka and waged a war against Ravana. When Ravana lost all his mighty warriors, his brother Kumbhakarna and his sons, he finally came to the war-field to fight Lord Rama. There was a fierce battle between the two of them which was incomparable. A divine chariot and charioteer descended from the heavens for Lord Rama. Every time Rama cut off one of Ravana’s head, another one manifested in its place! Ravana countered Rama with all his might and strength.

When Rama became exhausted, Sage Agastya came forward and taught the “ADITYA HRIDAYA” (a powerful invocation glorifying Lord Surya Bhagavan) to Sri Rama. As instructed by Sage Agastya, Lord Rama invoked Lord Surya by chanting the ADITYA HRIDAYA. With the grace and blessings, the power and strength of Surya Bhagavan, Rama was able to defeat and kill Ravana. Accompanied by Seeta and others, Rama went back to Ayodhya. He was crowned the King of Ayodhya. RAMA RAJYA was established.

Significance: Rama represents the INTELLECT and Lakshmana represents the MIND. Seeta stands for ABSOLUTE PEACE. The ten-headed Ravana is the EGO in the seeker with the ten heads representing the five sense-organs of perception and five organs of action. All of them are turned outward and hence Ravana is known as DASHAMUKHA. To conquer and destroy the EGO is extremely difficult. When one head is cut off, another one appears. When one sense impulse is conquered, another one gets strengthened. At that point of time, the Guru (Man of Realization) represented by Sage Agastya appears. Agastya Rishi is “Kumbhodbhava” (born out of a pot). Kumbha represents POORNATVA or “fullness”. He points out, directs and guides the advanced seeker to the “INNER (Hridaya) CONSCIOUSNESS (Aditya)” – Aditya Hridaya!

At this stage, the process of INTELLECTION is taken over by INTUITION and the seeker is able to liquidate the EGO (Ravana) within himself. This is the real DUSSEHRA or DASHA-PAPA-HARA which happens within the spiritual seeker and bestows on him the ETERNAL and EVERLASTING VICTORY – the VIJAYADASAMI. INNER PEACE (Seeta) is restored back. The couple SEETA-RAMA represents a Man of Inner Quietude or a Man of Realization. He alone can reach the REALM OF NO-CONFLICT (Ayodhya or A – yudha). Seated on the SEAT OF DHARMA (simha-asana) within himself, he is able to establish RAMA-RAJYA within! The VICTORY of GOOD over the EVIL within oneself and over the external circumstances is the real CELEBRATION OF DUSSEHRA – REAL AND EVERLASTING VIJAYAVIJAYADASAMI !!

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Bharatiya Katha Vaibhava – 2 [ Books for children] : Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.in/Bharatiya-Katha-Vaibhava-2-Shreedarshan/dp/9390640199/

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