6 October 2008

Navaratri Pujas

To keep track of the wonderful daily pujas undertaken at Ramana Ashram throughout the whole of Navaratri Festival, check out the official Ashram site at this link, where they have photographs and videos of each day's puja.

Navaratri is celebrated in the lunar month of Ashvina (September-October). Hindus observe the Festival in a wide variety of ways, depending on their region, local history and family influences. Some see it as a way to commune with their own feminine divinity. A widespread practice honours the Goddess in every woman by inviting young girls to the family's home, feeding them and offering new clothes. During the Festival, women also perform tapas and selfless acts. Families in Tamil Nadu traditionally prepare in their homes a kolu, an exhibition of small dolls, figurines and small artifacts on a stepped, decorated shelf. At least one murti of Shakti must be present, as well as wooden figurines of a boy and a girl together to invoke auspicious marriages.

The Navaratri festival or 'nine day festival' becomes 'ten days festival' with the addition of the last day, Vijaya-dasami (day of victory) its culmination. This year the dates of the Festival are September 30th to October 9th. On all these ten days, Mother Mahisasura-mardini (Durga) is worshipped. According to the narrative from the Devi Mahatmya of the Markandeya Purana, the form of Durga was created as a warrior goddess to fight a demon. The demon's father Rambha, king of the demons, once fell in love with a water buffalo, and Mahisha Asura (the demon Mahisha) was born out of this union. He is therefore able to change between human and buffalo form at will (Mahisha means "buffalo"). Through intense prayers to Brahma, Mahishasura was given the boon that he could not be defeated by man or god. He unleashed a reign of terror on earth, heaven and the nether worlds which met its end when he fought and lost against the Goddess Durga.

In South India the Goddess is worshipped in three forms. During the first three nights, Durga is revered, then Lakshmi on the fourth, fifth and sixth nights, and finally Saraswati until the ninth night. Durga ("invincible" in Sanskrit) is the epitome of strength, courage and ferocity. Her devotees approach Her, sometimes with difficult penances, for those qualities and for the protection she Bestows.

A more gentle worship is observed for Lakshmi also called Annapurna "Giver of food," Lakshmi is the Goddess of abundance, wealth and comfort. She is the ever-giving mother, worshipped for well being and prosperity. A traditional way of invoking Her is chanting the Sri Suktam. In Her honour, food is prepared and offered to neighbours and all who visit, thus strengthening community ties. On the full moon night following Navaratri, it is believed Lakshmi Herself visits each home and replenishes family wealth.

The last three days of Navaratri, exalt Saraswati, the form of Shakti personifying wisdom, arts and beauty. Her name literally means "flowing one", a reference to thoughts, words, music and the Saraswati River. Mystically Saraswati is believed to be the keeper of the powerful Gayatri Mantra, which is chanted during the festival to invoke Her supreme blessings. Devotees meditate for days on this mantra alone, as it is considered the door to divine wisdom.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have visited the Ashram during some of the Navaratri Pujas - just beautiful. Highly recommended to visitors.