There are five Navaratri-s in a year. Vasanta Navaratri, Ashada Navaratri, Sharad Navaratri, Pausha Navaratri and Magha Navaratri. Amongst all of them, Vasanta Navaratri and Sharad Navaratri are considered to be important because they represent the arrival of Spring and Autumn and are associated with creative activity in Nature along with major climatic changes and solar influences. SHARAD NAVARATRI or SHARANNAVARATRI is also known as Maha Navaratri and is considered even more important because it comes just after the rainy season. During this period, Mother Nature is at her creative best! Sharad or Autumn season represents newness, freshness, plentiful-ness, change and creativity. Most of the seasonal and non-seasonal flowers, fruits and vegetables are available during this period. SHARANNAVARATRI comes in the month of Aaswayuja.
The autumn season is very conducive for environmental changes; everything in Nature is changing for the better; everywhere creative activity is going on. Nature is but an extension of our mind. As in the macro, so in the micro. Therefore, it is easier to align the mind to its universal aspect in this season and bring about constructive changes in the mind, train it and redirect it in purposeful sadhana to reach the ultimate fulfillment of human life. Hence the importance of Upasana during this period.
Nature is in “creative-activity”, and Mother represents the Power of Creation. Therefore, during Navaratri, the Ultimate Reality or Supreme Universal Power is invoked and worshipped in feminine form, as DEVI – “Mother Goddess”. On the Mahalaya Amavasya day, prior to Navaratri, Devi is worshipped as the “Mother who brings forth or delivers the Universe”. On this day, the alankara for the deity in the temple is known as “Jagat Prasuti Alankara” (One who has just delivered the universe – post natal alankara). The alankara of the deity as “mother” includes a child (represented by a doll) in her lap. The doll in Mother’s lap not only represents the entire universe of things and beings (macro) delivered (created) by Her, but the doll also represents each one of us (micro) who has come into existence by Her grace alone.
The nine days of Navaratri along with Mahalaya Amavasya and Vijayadasami (9+2 days) represent a seeker’s spiritual pilgrimage, from the darkness of ignorance to the Light of Spiritual Knowledge. Amavasya means “clothed in ignorance”. Mahalaya means “total dissolution”. Mahalaya Amavasya therefore means “total dissolution of spiritual ignorance”. To accomplish this pilgrimage within ourselves, the Navaratri Puja (9 days of Upasana) is undertaken. Ratri (night) again represents darkness or ignorance. Nava means Nine – the nine “steps” to be taken by an individual within himself to reach the State of Immortality, by discarding or transcending the nine material-wraps (nava-avarana) around himself. Nava also means New or Fresh. Every day through spiritual sadhana, the seeker works upon himself so that he improves and evolves and “today he is a better person than what he was yesterday – he is a NEW PERSON (nava)”. The entire pilgrimage fulfills itself in Vijayadasami – the Everlasting and Ultimate Victory – the State of Enlightenment. Therefore, NAVARATRI Puja is an inner spiritual pilgrimage from MAHALAYA AMAVASYA to VIJAYADASAMI !!
The first three days, MAHA DURGA is invoked to destroy the negative qualities and rakshasic impulses in us. The next three days MAHA LAKSHMI is invoked to instill in us positive, noble and divine qualities. The last three days MAHA SARASWATI is invoked. With her grace and blessings, the seeker is initiated into the scriptural knowledge. Through intense contemplation, the seeker realizes the God State of Consciousness within himself, which is Real and Everlasting. This fulfillment is represented by the tenth day – the Vijayadasami (Ever Victorious). The auspicious Vijayadasami is also known as the Day of VIDYARAMBHA. AKSHARA ABHYASA is performed on this day and children are initiated into the Aksharas (alphabets). Elders are initiated into the study of scriptures. Those who wish to pursue the Art-forms like music, dance etc., are also initiated on this day. The sequence of worship of the three deities (Maha Durga, Maha Lakshmi and Maha Saraswati) varies from State to State. However, the significance remains the same.
Navaratri Upasana is also known as Dasara or Dussehra Puja. This is an abbreviation of “Dasha Papa Hara“. Therefore Dussehra Puja is that upasana which when undertaken helps an individual to liquidate the effect of karmas performed through the five sense-organs of perception and five organs of action. It is basically the Victory of Good over the Evil !!
“Ya Devi Sarvabhuteshu Mathru Roopena Samstitha; Namah Tasyai Namah Tasyai Namah Tasyai Namo Namaha”
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