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Navratri - a spiritual celebration

 

1. Introduction

The festival of Navrātra commences on the first day (pratipadā) of the bright fortnight of the Hindu lunar month of Āshwin. During this vowed religious observance, a clay pot is installed (Ghatasthapana) in a sanctified section of one's home. A lamp is placed in the pot and it is kept lit for nine days. The pot symbolises the universe. The uninterrupted lit lamp is the medium through which we worship the brilliant primordial energy, Ādi-shakti, i.e.

Shrī Durgā Dēvī. During Navratri, the principle of Shri Durga Devi is more active in the atmosphere. When we understand the spiritual science behind the various rites that come under the worship of Shri Durga Devi, we become worthy of absorbing more of the Divine Energy principle, thereby acquiring more of Her grace.

In this article we will see the spiritual significance of some common rituals performed during Navratri.

2. Rituals performed during Navratri*

2.1 Continuous burning of a lamp

One of the observances during Navratri is that a lamp is kept lit continuously for nine days. The following are the benefits of this ritual:

  • The distress of negative energies reduces and hence the pressure in the atmosphere is reduced.

  • Due to the radiant vibrations emanating from the lamp, the embodied soul (jīva) benefits at the level of his spiritual emotion.

  • The Divine Energy (Shakti) principle present in the universe gets attracted to the lamp light, thereby benefiting everyone around it.

  • The spiritual purity (sāttviktā) and Divine consciousness (Chaitanya) in the atmosphere increases.

  • The embodied soul gets the experience of bliss and peace.

Atonement for interruptions in the burning of the lamp

  • Fast for the entire day without a single morsel of food or drink (absolute fast).

  • Chanting from 1 to 10 rounds of rosary (mālā) (108 recitations make one round) or one round of rosary for every minute that the lamp was not lit.

2.2 Fasting during Navratri

If one observes a fast then the embodied soul benefits up to 3% and depending upon one's spiritual yearning, the six basic vices (shadaripu) also get reduced.

2.3 Staying awake

During Navratri, the Divine Energy  principle is raging a continuous battle with the unrighteous elements. Hence it is considered very inauspicious to sleep during this period. Therefore people usually stay awake for a longer time as a token of gratitude and respect towards the Divine Energy  principle. Also one should not wear footwear, not sleep on a bed or mattress and observe strict celibacy during this time.

2.4 Worship of a virgin girl (kumārikā pūjān)

During this festival, a virgin girl is worshipped for nine consecutive days and is offered meals. A virgin girl is a symbol of unmanifest energy and by worshipping her, the unmanifest energy in her gets activated. Due to this the radiant frequencies in the universe get attracted and the devotee benefits by it.

2.5 Offering consecrated food (Naivēdya) to the Goddess

During Navratri we should prepare spiritually pure dishes for the Goddess, as is customary. Apart from the regular food items, we should make a sweet made of split chickpeas and jaggery (pūran) and plain curry (varan) made of yellow lentils (toor-dal) for the meal. This consecrated food radiates the activated Raja component. The absolute fire element frequencies (Tēj-tattva) from the Universe get attracted to it quickly. When one consumes this consecrated food as sacrament (Prasād), one benefits from the energy and frequency of the absolute fire element, which purifies ones gross and subtle-bodies.

2.6 Performing Garbā

According to Hinduism, performing 'Garba' means singing devotional hymns praising the Goddess with rhythmic clapping. Singing devotional hymns  means of awakening Shri Durga Devi from Her meditation through the medium of the manifest spiritual practice of rhythmic clapping, and appealing to her to assume the destructive form for Her activity in the Universe.

Reason for performing Garba with three claps:

The destroyer form of the Goddess is awakened by the musical rhythm of three claps through the frequencies of desire (ichhā), action (kriyā) and knowledge (dnyān), representing the Deity Bramhā, Shrivishnu and Deity Mahēsh principles.

Deity Bramha, Shrivishnu and Deity Mahesh are the three main manifest energies of God. During Navratri the destroyer principle of Goddess Durga gets awakened slowly and gradually. The destroyer form of the Goddess is channeled through these three energies. By clapping three times, the energy of Her resolve (sankalpa) gets activated. Hence it is more desirable and fruitful to praise the Goddess through the rhythmic movement of three claps. The meaning of the three claps is as follows

  • The first clap is related to the Deity Brahma principle which is symbolised by the energy of desire. As a result, the energy of desire of Deity Brahma gets awakened in the universe. This energy also gives approval to the wishes in the mind of the embodied soul (jiva), according to his spiritual emotion.

  • Through the medium of the second clap, the action related waves of the Shrivishnu principle give energy to the embodied soul for performing actions.

  • Through the medium of the third clap, the knowledge waves of the Deity Shiva principle bring about the actual act and from its result give the desired fruits to the embodied soul.

The act of clapping generates the fire element, so it is possible to awaken the destructive form of the Goddess through the striking of the claps. The act of clapping is symbolic of the worship of the fire element. Invoking the Goddess by the singing of devotion filled hymns and moving around in a circle while clapping helps in the awakening of spiritual emotion towards the Goddess.

3. Important aspects of some of the common rituals associated with Goddess Worship (Devi-pujan)*

There is a specific way to worship every Deity and every action in the ritual has its own spiritual significance. The table below gives important information about some common actions of the ritualistic worship of all the forms of the Goddess.

 

Action of ritualistic worship

Important details about the actions

1.

Applying wet vermillion (kumkum) on oneself before starting the actual worship

Using one's middle finger apply wet vermillion in a straight vertical line over the mid-brow region (Ādnyā-chakra)

2.

Applying wet vermillion to the Goddess

One should use the ring (anamika) finger of the right hand

3.

Offering Flowers

 
  Which Flowers? Jasmine  (Chameli),  Shevanti, Gladiolus (Nishigandh), Lotus (Kamal) and Jui
  How many? One or multiples of nine
  How to offer? The base of the flower should face the idol or picture of the Goddess
  How should the flowers be arranged? Flowers should be arranged forming a circle ensuring that nothing is placed within this circle

4.

Using incense sticks

 

  For the worship of saviour form. Sandalwood, Rose, Jasmine, Kewda, Champa, Jaee, Vaala,  Night blooming Jasmine (Raat-Rani), Amber
  For the worship of destroyer form Hina, Darbar
  How many? Two
  How to wave the incense sticks around the Goddess? The incense sticks should be held between the thumb and the index finger of the right hand and rotated in a clockwise direction three times

5.

Which perfume oil should be offered to the Goddess?

Jasmine  (Chameli)

6.

How many times should one circumambulate around the idol of the Goddess ?

Once or in multiples of nine

 

4. Spiritual science behind offering specific flowers to specific Deities*

One of the important aims of worshipping Deities is that the Divine consciousness in the Deity's idol (murti) helps in enhancing our spiritual progress. To attract specific subtlest Divine particles of each Deity, some  flowers are better suited than others. If such flowers are offered to the Deity, it helps in activating the idol and we too benefit from the Divine consciousness in the idol. Hence it is important to offer specific flowers to specific Deities. In the table below we have given some names of Deities and the flowers to be offered to them.

Goddess

Flowers to be offered

1.Shri Durga Devi

Jasmine

2.Shrī Lakshmī Dēvī

Rose

3.Shrī Saptashrungi

Magnolia

4.Shrī Sharda

Nightqueen

5.Shrī Yogeshwari

Michelia

6.Shrī Renuka

Bakuli

7.Shrī Vaishnodēvī

Tube-rose

8.Shrī Vindhyavasini

Lotus

9.Shrī Bhavani

Ground-Lotus

10.Shrī Amba

Coral

 

In reality it is the fragrance from that specific flower which attracts the Deity's principle towards the idol. So the same benefit can be obtained by using incense sticks of the corresponding fragrances.

5. Worshipping the Goddess' idol by bathing it with vermillion (kumkumārchan)*

Vermillion is made from turmeric powder. It is used for religious markings in Hinduism and is regarded as an auspicious symbol.

How to worship the Goddess using vermillion ?

One should do this worship by constantly chanting the Goddess' name and simultaneously bathing her idol  with vermillion starting from her feet and going up towards the crown. Alternatively, one can also bathe the idol as shown in the picture above while chanting her name.

The science behind worshiping the Goddess using vermillion.

The original active Divine Energy principle was created from red coloured rays. Hence, as a symbol of it, the Goddess is worshipped with vermillion. The fragrance associated with vermillion attracts the universal Divine Energy principle very quickly towards the idol and this helps in the effective invocation of the idol. Vermillion also symbolises the fragrance waves which please the Goddess. The fragrance of the original principle seed

(bīj) is similar to the fragrance of vermillion. Therefore, using vermillion is a much revered and indispensable aspect of the Goddess' worship.

6. Rangolī's that attract the Energy (Shakti) principle*

Rangoli is one of the most popular art forms in India especially drawn during various rituals and festivals. It is a form of sand-painting that uses finely ground coloured powders.

From a spiritual point of view, each Deity represents a specific Divine principle. Therefore there are specific shapes that have the capacity to attract the Energy principle, just like specific flowers are used to attract specific the Goddess Energy principle. Below are some shapes and also the Divine Energy principle vibrations that they attract.

 

Goddess principle

Shape associated with the principle

Proportion of colour (%)

1.

 Shri Durga Devi

Red

2.

 Shrī Mahālakshmī

Red + Saffron (60+40)

3.

 Shri Lakshmi

Red + Yellow           (40+60)

4.

 Shrī Saraswatī

White

5.

Shrī Mahāsaraswatī

White + Red (60+40)

6.

 Shrī Kālī

Violet

7.

 Shrī MahāKālī

Violet + Red
(80+20)

 

The Divine Energy principle gets attracted towards the rangoli based on the colours used

When the rangoli is drawn and the colours associated with respective Divine principles are used, then about 7 % Divine Energy  principle can reside within the rangoli, which is the maximum that can be attracted.

The rangoli diagram given below attracts the Divine Energy principle.

Deity's principle getting attracted to the rangoli as per the spiritual emotion

A rangoli drawn by an embodied soul  who has good spiritual emotion (bhāv) can attract twenty percent Divine principle. When the colours are filled inside the rangoli, God has to expend less energy to come there. This also benefits those embodied souls, who may not have spiritual emotion.

  • If the spiritual emotion of the soul is more than 60%, then a specific Deity's principle gets attracted to a specific rangoli.

  • If the spiritual emotion of the soul is more than 80%, then any Deity's principle can get attracted to any rangoli.

7. Spiritual experiences of seekers related to the Navratri celebration

During the Navratri festival experienced a sharp saw being kept in the middle of my head and at times also experienced its touch:

On the first day of Navratri, on 23.09.2006, we visited the Navratri celebrations at the "Congo Hindu Mandal" in Congo. Over there, I felt as if someone had placed a sharp saw on the middle of my head. Sometimes, I also felt the saw actually touching me. After the Navratri festival, this reduced to some extent; although sometimes all of a sudden I continue to have the same experience

- A Seeker, Congo, Africa

On the fourth night of Navratri, I dreamt that I was inside the Goddess's temple and the next morning discovered a Holy offering, on my blanket:

On 26.09.2006, which was the fourth night of Navratri that year, I dreamt that I was inside the Goddess' temple. The idol of the Goddess was made of solid rock, yet I could not make out which Goddess' idol it was. Some of our fellow seekers were also visiting this temple. I could also see a Shree Ganesh idol inside the temple. All throughout the night, I was inside this temple and when I woke up in the morning I saw a red coloured cloth (which is offered to the Goddess) on my blanket.

- A Seeker, Ramnathi Ashram, Goa, India 

While looking at the rangolis of Shri Lakshmi and Shrīkrushna principle, experienced Shrikrushna smiling and playing his flute and observed a Divine yellow light around the rangoli.

On the morning of 25.09.2007, rangoli pictures taken for the 'Shakti' book were sent for printing. As I was verifying the contents of the pages before giving them for printing, while looking at the rangoli pictures for the Shri Lakshmi and Shrikrushna principle, my chanting started occurring slowly. I experienced goose bumps. After some time, while gazing at the same pictures, saw Shrikrushna smilingly playing his flute and experienced a state of Divine Bliss. For a few moments, saw a Divine yellow light around the rangoli. At that time felt immense gratitude at P.P. Doctor's feet that, due to His grace, through the rangolis, the Deities principles will reach many homes.

- A Seeker, Sanatan Ashram, Devad, India

Spiritual experience after worshipping the Goddess with vermillion  
On 27.01.2004, we went to the temple to do kumkumarchan. After completing our worship, the priest in the temple gave us the vermillion which was used in kumkumarchan. While receiving this vermillion, I prayed to the Goddess, "please let this Holy vermillion impart us with the energy to make our prayers and chanting more effective." Since then, whenever I apply that vermillion on my forehead, my chanting starts and I am filled with some sort of Divine enthusiasm.

- A Seeker, Ponda, Goa

* Based on Divine knowledge received by some seekers doing sādhanā per Gurukrupāayoga.

  To know more about this Divine knowledge please visit the about us section of this website.

 

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