By Poojya Gurudev Sri Sri Ravishankar
Nava’ means ‘nine’ and ‘Ratri’ is made up of ‘Ra’ which also means ‘night’ and ‘Tri’ meaning the ‘the three aspects of our life, Body, Mind and Soul. So ‘Navaratri’ means ‘giving rest to all the three aspects of our life,for nine days’.
The first three days of Navaratri, are ‘Tamasic’ days, followed by three ‘Rajasic’ days and ending with three ‘Sattvic’ days. At night all the artis are performed for the Devi – the enjoyer of everything. So there is classical dance, music and various musical instruments being played. Each day has special implications, yagnas, poojas and homas are performed. Among the things offered to the fire are hundreds of different herbs, fruits, garments, and mantras, all creating a gloriously divine atmosphere to drown in? Our ancestors felt the inadequacy of words and so they expressed themselves with symbols … for instance, we offer flowers and fruit to God. The ‘flower’ is a symbol of what we are – so full, attractive and so light – so beautiful. Fruits are symbols of completeness. In the life cycle of
a plant, fruits signify completeness. Also the fruit is the ultimate result. That is how we feel when we offer the symbolic fruit to God with all the gratitude for contentment in life.
We also light lamps. Indian tradition involves tall brass lamps with a swan carved at the top. This is a very beautiful symbol. It means that with the light of knowledge, one attains ‘Viveka’ a characteristic of the swan. In Sanskrit, it is called ‘Neerakshiraviveka’ meaning a swan can differentiate between milk and water even though both may be mixed. Similarly, in the context of Navaratri, there is a symbolism behind the ‘bull’ being destroyed by the ‘Devi’. What do we call someone who is very dull, thick skinned and insensitive? A buffalo! Only the Mother Divine can destroy this buffalo with the collective energy of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh! Just as a baby takes nine months to be born, the Devi took nine days to rest and what was born on the tenth day was pure love and devotion, with which the Devi conquered the buffalo of inertia and dullness! Devi Ma is not somebody holding a big ‘trishool’ in one hand.
She is a form of energy, a manifestation of the Divine itself. Therefore, sometimes, the forms taken by this Divine may be that of Ganesha, Chandi (Devi), Vishnu, Shiva….. and the manifestation, in this creation, happens in a mother’s womb…. in silence, secretly. So during these nine days of Navaratri when the Master goes into silence, the energy is in the process of getting more and more refined, well-tuned, to welcome the Mother Divine. This is called ‘Aradhana’.
Now these yagnas are not for the sages who perform them, but for the entire Universe for all the misery, sorrow, and pain in the world. The blessings of the yagnas and poojas teach the whole of humanity and a lot of good comes out of these – peace, strength, prosperity, success and faith – which by itself, is the best blessing. Gurudev says that the ninth day is a day for honoring everything that we have, no matter how seemingly insignificant, and the tenth day is ‘Vijaya Dashmi’ the ‘victory day’. It is only after we have honored something that we can gain victory over it. This day is celebrated as the victory of the Devi over the evil forces – which is also just ‘Maya’.