Navratri, the festival of celebrating the arrival of Maa Durga at home, is going to befall in the coming months. Devout people across the country of different caste, creed, race, and color forget the lines made by the societal norms and celebrate this together. They all will cherish this bi-annual festival with gaiety and joy. Fast is observed for nine days that are meant for worshipping nine different forms of Maa Durga that you might have seen in Maa Durga Paintings. In Bengal, the ninth day marks the day of Durga Puja where idols of the Devi are immersed in rivers.
According to popular belief, Durga Shaptshati is chanted and Yajnas are performed for her blessings. She is the embodiment of both the natural forces i..e the forces of development and the forces of destruction. She is the mother in the form of Gauri but she is the destroyer of evil in the form of Kaalratri. Her appearance also changes according to the role she is in.
Decoding the Importance of Navratri
If we look into the etymological explanation of the word Navratri, it has been derived by amalgamating two Sanskrit words i.e. ‘Nava’ meaning nine and ‘Ratri’ means nights. Thus, we get Navaratri or the festival which is celebrated for nine nights.
Generally, nights are not associated with any holy ritual. But, here the context of the night changes as it is when you are sleeping and resting, your body replenishes itself with the lifeforce which is denoted by Shakti. As this festival of Navratri is celebrated two times in a year, they signify the change of weather.
The start of a new year of the Hindu calendar Vikram Smavat is marked by the Navratri generally falls in Chaitra or March or April, at the time of harvest. It signifies the melting of ice and natural forces bloom in spring after a long night of hibernation due to cold weather. The festival at the start of the year is concluded by celebrating the Raam Navami or the birth of Lord Raam.
After that, the festival of Navratri is celebrated for the second time in a year in October or the month of Sharad Ritu according to the Hindu calendar. The weather changes and marks the end of monsoons. The nine days of festivities are concluded by Vijyadashmi or Dushehra. According to Hindu Mythology, Lord Raam rescued Sita after she was abducted by Raavan who lived in a golden palace in Lanka. Diwali is celebrated after fifteen days to celebrate the arrival of Lord Raam at his home, Ayodhya.
The reason behind observing fast is to align the spiritual force with the universal force. This could be done through meditation and by taking simplifies food which is easily digested. But, due to lack of awareness, people have all kinds of fried and processed food which change the purpose of observing the fast. In place of cleansing the body, people by taking fried items, fill their bodies with bad fat.
Devi is the force of nature that is ever-changing that is why she is denoted by things that are formless like a river, air, nature, etc. While the forces of Purush or the universal being are denoted by permanent things like the Mountains, Sun, Moon, etc. This philosophy is also found in other religions and cultures too. It is similar to the forces of Yin and Yang in Chinese metaphysics.
Deciphering the icons in Maa Durga paintings
Maa Durga is considered as the lifeforce that drives the whole universe. She is the cause fo all materialistic luxuries that are present that humans could enjoy on this earth. Otherwise, all the souls would fall back to their spiritual consciousness and the world would get devoid of any existence. The earth would be covered in snow-clad peaks for mediation. The time of eternal silence would dawn like it was before creation. So, the spirit shall maintain its purpose in this realm and enjoy the luxuries endowed by nature.
This is the reason why Maa Durga is also known as Shakti or Prakarti which is the driving force behind all living beings. We also need the support of the elemental forces that are under her control so that she doesn’t take her Ruadra roop or the form of the destroyer. We all worship her like our daughter in the form of Durga, as our mother in the form of Gauri and fear her in the form of Kaali. The nine forms are:-
- Maha Gauri
All these forms denote a different form of energies that we need to lead a meaningful life. So, different icons in Maa Durga paintings denote different meanings that are to be demystified to understand the essence of meaning behind our existence. Celebrate these Navratri with an awakened consciousness and spirit. Jai Maa Durga.