Navaratri is the celebration of Goddess Durga, the manifestation of the deity in form of Shakti (Energy or Power). ‘Nav’ means ‘nine’ and ‘ratri’ means ‘night’. Thus, ‘Navratri’ means ‘nine nights’. There are many legends attached to the conception of Navratri like all Indian festivals. However, all of them are related to Goddess Shakti (Hindu Mother Goddess) and her various forms.
Navratri is also one of the most celebrated festivals of the Hindu calendar. The first three days are dedicated to Goddess Durga (Warrior Goddess) dressed in red and mounted on a lion. Her various incarnations – Kumari, Parvati and Kali – are worshipped during these days. They represent the three different classes of womanhood that include the child, the young girl and the mature woman. Next three days are dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi (Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity), dressed in gold and finally, last three are dedicated to Goddess Saraswati (Goddess Of Knowledge), dressed in milky white and mounted on a pure white swan. Sweetmeats are prepared for the celebrations. Children and adults dress up in new bright-colored dresses for the celebrations.
According to Indian Mythology, these Shiv Shaktis, the daughters of Shiva, the Supreme Soul (Paramatma) are the bestowers of the eight spiritual powers. No matter what the situation, we will find ourselves in need of at least one of these powers. However, knowing which one to use when depends upon my ability to stay calm and grasp the situation at hand. The more I am aware of these powers and apply them consciously, the more of an expert I will become in using them effectively.
The power of discrimination: Discrimination is the art of seeing. Not seeing with the physical eyes, but seeing with the inner eye, the third eye. Seeing what is true and what is false. The power to discriminate helps to distinguish the real truth from the apparent truth, between things of temporary value and those of eternal value, between the superficial and the subtle.
Gayatri: The goddess of intellect symbolizes this power. She discriminates on the basis of Godly knowledge (depicted by the scriptures). Godly knowledge provides clarity of what is wrong and what is right or what is real vs. false. She also carries the nectar of knowledge and the rosary. The Swan is her vehicle which is known to discriminate between water and milk. The white color of the swan is the symbol of simplicity and peace. Simplicity of nature and thoughts eliminates the drama and complications created in life and enables clear thinking.
The power to Judge: The Power to Judge helps assess any situation accurately, with clarity and precision. With a detached impartial state of mind, we can use this power to help discriminate the quality of our thoughts, words and actions.
Saraswati: This power is represented by Saraswati – the goddess of knowledge. But unlike the power of discrimination which is experienced internally, the power to judge manifests itself externally. Saraswati is dressed in white depicting cleanliness of the mind and her vehicle – the Peacock, represents beauty and purity. She carries with her the religious scriptures and the rosary – the memorial of perfect spiritual beings. She also plays the Sitar (“Gyan Veena”) to bestow Godly knowledge to the world. She takes her strength to act decisively from God’s instructions (depicted by the scriptures) and by looking to the role models (rosary) whose decisions was naturally powerful, pure and viceless.
The Power to Withdraw: The Power to Withdraw is the ability to detach the mind from the current situation while maintaining full awareness. To withdraw in this way allows me to observe the scene with an objective perspective, be in stronger control of my thoughts and behavior and astutely understand my emotions because I am looking at the scene as a third party, or as a director would.
Parvati: This power is represented by Parvati – the goddess of hope and zeal who symbolizes the power of detachment. The very name “Parvati” means someone with the ability to remain beyond the negative influences of this world/people. This is depicted in different ways:
She holds in her hand the rosary which indicates that while staying connected with others in the world, I hold on to my sense of identity and independence. She also holds a lotus flower which blooms in the dirt yet stays pure by not allowing any of the dirt to stick to it. A bowl of nectar (the nectar of knowledge) depicts that when I am full of Godly knowledge, I am introspective, more creative and spend no time on waste thoughts.
So in other words, Matha devi Parvati symbolizes the power to withdraw. She depicts the ability to step away from my story, my pain and sorrow for a moment and witness everything and understand that I, the soul am only playing a role in this world drama. It is not denying but rather allowing myself to listen to what is being said and understand what is not being said so I can take the best course of action.
The Power to Pack-up: The Power to Pack-up is the ability to set aside all wasteful thoughts in one second so there is lightness and freedom from burdens and worries. Though there may be many responsibilities, we cease to equate them with worry. By going deep into the self, our pre-occupations with limited external activities – of the past, present, or future are “packed-up” for that limited time period, and we experience a new dimension in the form of an unlimited consciousness.
Durga: As a destroyer of defects, goddess Durga symbolizes this power. She destroys anything that isn’t pure and true using knowledge and detachment. Her vehicle is the Lion which is indicative of powerful problems being subdued. Her main weapon is the sword that destroys illusion. It is merciless and straight forward, uncompromising and relentless. This tough symbol of the sword is balanced by the lotus depicting purity and beauty – when the illusion is cut away, the beauty and fullness of the blossom remains.
The Power to Tolerate: The Power to Tolerate is the ability to not be affected by external and internal events and to respond to those events positively. In this light frame of mind, I am able to tolerate all types of situations and people to the extent that there is not even the feeling that I have to tolerate something or someone.
Jagadamba: The world mother Jagadamba symbolizes this power. The bow and arrow symbolizes the accuracy of her love. Her arrow of love pierces even the hardest of hearts, melting the layers of pain. She holds the discuss of self-realization, the sword of knowledge, the trident of being Trilokinath – the master of the three worlds, the conch of sweetness, lotus of detachment and the mace of strength. Her chariot is Tiger – the king of animals, strong and beautiful. Jagadamba has the perfect balance of love and law.
The Power to Accommodate: The Power to Accommodate / Adjust is the ability to expand and accept the ideas and desires of others. It means accepting and going along with someone else’s flow. It means expanding yourself to allow someone else in who may in a clumsy moment, trample all over you. The power to accommodate is the ability to adjust to the other person or the situation with the consciousness of creating benefit from each opportunity. The result of the power to accommodate is deep contentment.
Santoshima: The goddess of contentment symbolizes this power. She carries the trident destroying all preferences and opinions based on ego, greed and attachment. She carries a sword destroying illusion and a bowl of rice which represents the nourishing, nurturing aspect of this power. Her symbol is a coconut signifying soul-consciousness.
The Power to Cooperate: The power to cooperate is the ability to give your attention, time, experience and wisdom in the service of others. Real cooperation comes from the deeper spaces of attitude, feelings, thought and vision.
Respect is very cooling and brings hearts together. To know one’s own worth and to honor the worth of others is the true way to earn cooperation. To be honest to one self and to the purpose of the task earns trust and inspires faith in others. The gathering does not cooperate with each other until there is harmony within and among individuals. Just as the musician needs to practice playing the instrument alone before joining the symphony orchestra, the individual needs solitude to be in touch with his or her potential before joining the gathering. When one has the virtue of humility, everyone bows down since everyone bows to those who themselves bow first. The mere presence of a humble person creates an inviting, cordial and comfortable environment.
Lakshmi: The goddess of wealth symbolizes this power. She symbolizes great beauty and harmony. She carries the lotus in her hands which represents beauty along with purity and detachment. Her motive for cooperating is always pure and she is not in any way attached to the outcome of her contribution nor does she require ownership of the task at hand. Her treasure of wealth is in absolute abundance and is overwhelming. She is happy to share her treasures.
The Power to Face: The power to face is the ability to confront and resolve external and internal obstacles, tests and challenges with great faith and courage. The spiritual journey home is a return to full awareness of what is true and what is right. But there are numerous obstacles, tests and challenges on the way. It is only with your inner strength, which is restored by knowledge and spiritual power from the source – the Supreme Soul that you are able to face and deal with the inner dragons that rear their heads during the journey. The power to face gives courage and confidence to deal with any person or situation. This power helps conquer all types of fears, insecurities, and doubts, especially about our own abilities.
Kali: Goddess Kali symbolizes this power. Kali wears the necklace of skulls which signify that even death cannot dare to frighten her. Kali is dressed in black, a symbol of being fearsome to obstacles. Kali carries the severed head of an opponent to show that no monster shall bypass her. In the other hand she carries the bowl of blood of the demon to stop him from multiplying with each drop that fell to the earth. She also carries the trident of being Trinetri (the one who has the third eye to destroy the weakness of the self) and sword to destroy illusion.
The goddesses acquired these powers from the Supreme Soul Shiva who is the Ocean of Knowledge, Love, Peace and of Happiness. He is the bestower of all powers. By practicing Rajayoga meditation, we too acquire these powers and can live each day of our lives being empowered.