The Real Spiritual Significance of Navaratri

Photo Credit – Aurko Sengupta

The Size Zero Myth:

the-size-zeroOn the auspicious occasion of Navaratri where the whole country celebrates the festival either by feasting or fasting.  Big sculptures of the multi-armed goddess are built holding many weapons and a demon below her feet.

The goddess fought with the demon Mahishasur for nine days and finally killed him on the Ninth night. Since then she has come to be known as Mahishasurmardini, the annihilator of Mahishasur.

The Wise Hero Reality:

the-wise-heroNavaratri, is a multi-day Hindu festival celebrated in the months of September or October every year. Nava means “nine” and Ratri means “night”. At Navaratri, the Lord in the form of the Mother Goddess is worshipped in her various forms as Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati.

To know more details read here.

For years we have been told that this festival symbolizes the power of the goddess and their victory over evil demons. But is that it’s all about?  Let us go a little deeper and understand the real meaning.

Thousands of years before, people symbolized their thoughts in forms of pictures. So how would they represent the war between purity and evil? They drew pictures of the goddess to represent positive and demon to represent negative. With passing years, our interpretation changed. We assumed that this war had actually happened in the past in a different world of Gods and we started to put our faith in the idols of the goddess.

We need to be clear that demon & goddess are just symbols for good and bad energy. Nowadays we forget this easily and ignorantly believe that the goddess had gotten victory over the demon using her powerful weapons. But this is just symbolic. This actually did not happen.

Spiritual Significance of Navaratri:

Till now we have only learned the external meaning of this festival. Let us go a little deeper and learn its true spiritual meaning.

To make it simpler for you, let me give you a detailed analogy of what it really means:

God – Sanskar (impressions) of purity, love, power, peace and happiness inside me.

Demon – Lust, rage, greed, conceit inside me.

So when we hear someone say- “To save Gods from Demons, powers (Shakti) were invoked”, it actually means to kill the demon of lust, rage, greed, conceit inside us and to protect the goddess sanskar (impressions) of purity, love, power, peace and happiness  inside us, power needs to be invoked internally.

Nowadays people blindly celebrate this festival and have completely forgotten its true meaning. We only see the representation and forget that it is not on the outside. There is a constant fight inside us going on between good and evil. The symbolic goddess is just a reminder. We assume demon is on the outside, but in reality, it is inside us.

The goddess idols in Navaratri have eight hands. This is again symbolic. It actually means the eight Shaktis (power) within us to kill the demon inside and emerge as a pure god-like soul.

The idol of Nau-Durga having eight hands

8 Shaktis (power) is shown symbolically by showing 8 hands of the Goddess as the soul has 8 Shaktis (power) which cannot be drawn so this is just a representation.

The Spiritual Significance of 8 Shaktis (power):

Every power has a different symbol for remembrance and similar mythological stories are related to them. The 8 shaktis (power) are related to eight different forms of the goddess. The different forms of goddess represent a soul having many powers. Each element portrayed has a significant spiritual meaning. The mythological stories and its real spiritual significance have been described below.

1) Power to Withdraw:

 Divine Mythological Symbol: Goddess Parvati

Goddess Parvati symbolizes the soul which is ready to change its impressions (Sanskars in Hindi), a soul which resides amongst other souls and still detached from them.

Illustration lord Shiva and mata Parvati Traditional Hindu deity

Mythological Story:

When Shivji (Parvati’s husband) went away for ascetic (Tapasya in Hindi), Parvati stayed in this world and changed herself towards being an unattached and pure soul.

Spiritual Interpretation:

When in a problem, we can live in the same world, society, family, situations, but be detached, withdraw and find the solution to our problems. We need to get soul conscious, withdraw for a few seconds and save ourselves from hurt.

A tortoise has a big protective hard shell. If it sees danger on its path it withdraws inside its shell. Even when an elephant steps on the shell, it does not break as the shell is strong.

Tortoise retreats into its shell

Whenever there is any situation in our lives, our mind gets emotionally entangled in that situation. We are not capable to see what is right or wrong. We need to protect ourselves by using our power to withdraw from the situation, which means detach yourself from it. Don’t analyze the situation when you are stuck in it. Come out of it and then analyze it as if it is not you, but someone else watching it.

For e.g. if you are in an accident, you will not know exactly what happened, a third spectator will exactly know how it happened as he/she was detached from the incident.

We find it easy to give solutions to other peoples problem as their situation does not destabilize our state of mind. But if we face the same situation we get emotionally disturbed, biased, upset and cannot find the same solution which we could easily give to others in the same situation.

Always remember that you are a soul and you are powerful. It’s not the end. This shift of consciousness will help you withdraw. When you withdraw from the situation, the solution devised by you will be accurate.

Elements represented with Parvati and its spiritual meaning:
Cow by the side of Goddess ParvatiCow:

Mythology represents Parvati with two cows. We know that cow is a sacred life-giving force. All its wastes are also used for different life-giving purposes. A cow doesn’t let you draw all its milk, it withdraws and saves milk for its calf. Similarly, we need to have control over our emotions and learn to withdraw timely.

2) Power to let go:

Divine Mythological Symbol– Goddess Durga

Goddess Durga is a symbol of victory over evil forces (negative energies).

Illustration of goddess Durga killing the demon Mahishasura

Mythological Story:

Durga is the warrior goddess. She was incarnated in order to slay a demon named Mahishasura. She was armed with ten weapons gifted to her by the gods to kill the demon.  Goddess Durga battled Mahishasura for ten whole days. On the tenth day, she killed the demon and this day is celebrated as Vijaya Dashami.

Elements represented with Durga and its spiritual meaning:
Lion:

We see Goddess Durga on Lion which represents the person who has achieved victory over everything. Someone who has let go of their toxins and vices in totality and is a form of purity and completeness.

Weapons:

The weapons in Goddess Durga’s hand represent the power that we require to win the war against all the evil forces (our inner demon).

Spiritual Interpretation:

When we learn to inculcate power to withdraw (detachment from the body, ego, image, people & situation) practising power to let go becomes easier if we are soul conscious.

When we withdraw from past talks, hurt, difficult situations that we have accumulated over the time, we understand that the other person did not hurt us. They were responsible for a situation which was not something we had expected. The situation was their creation, but those were the situations where we created hurt ourselves. So it becomes easy to let go of negative energies.

As we practice power to let go of hurt, situations, talks, criticism, etc., automatically we will let go of old impressions (Sanskars).

We, in our day-to-day life say we become little jealous, a little hurt, little attached, little angry etc. The word ‘little’ of everything also makes us impure. When we let go of all our vices in totality, we emerge Goddess Durga inside us.

3) Power to tolerate:

Divine Mythological SymbolGoddess Jagdamba 

Jagdamba means Jagat Ke Ma; translation-Mother of the universe. A soul which sees every other soul in this universe as her child.

Illustration of Goddess Jagdamba

Mythological Story:

Jagdamba is a peaceful form of the goddess. She is considered as the mother of the universe and a mother has the most tolerant nature.

Spiritual Interpretation:

We know that the unconditional love and extreme tolerance nature of a mother accept the shortcomings of her child. Hence, be your own mother and accept your own shortcomings first. Do not hate yourself and do give up resentment.

When you accept and love yourself unconditionally and heal yourself, only then you will be able to accept others unconditionally. We need lots of power to accept others unconditionally. When you nurture yourself, then you will be able to nurture others.

Every soul is pure. But they behave in a certain way which is not right because of the impure impressions on their soul. You need to understand and unconditionally accept them, that is called ‘tolerating’ which is not a negative word. It does not mean suppression, it means someone’s attitude is not disturbing me. If you constantly try to change someone, then you are not accepting them and getting disturbed internally.

Being quite from outside, but unstable from the mind is painful. Tolerate means stable from both outside and inside.

See your soul as a mother (soul is not gender-specific) of the other souls. This will create a sense of harmony and you will easily be able to inculcate the power to tolerate.

4) Power of accepting unconditionally:

Divine Mythological SymbolGoddess Santoshi 

Goddess Santoshi represents a complete, contented, accepting and a santusht aatma (Translation-blissful soul).

Illustration of Goddess Santoshi

Mythological Story:

Goddess Santoshi is considered to be “the Mother of Happiness”. She is represented as a very tolerant goddess who accepts and loves her devotees unconditionally.

Elements represented with Santoshi and its spiritual meaning:
Rice Bowl:

She holds a rice bowl in one hand, which represents that each particle of rice is different but is held together in a bowl, similarly, all the souls are different but that needs to be accepted and harmony needs to be created with other souls.

Spiritual Interpretation:

When we learn to inculcate the power to tolerate other souls, automatically we develop the power to accept others unconditionally. Accepting the shortcomings of others will automatically lead to acceptance of their behaviour. This will in return create a harmony with others and that will lead to internal peace and happiness.

5) Power to discern between right and wrong:

Divine Mythological Symbol Goddess Gayatri

Goddess Gayatri represents the power to discern and discriminate between right and wrong.

Illustration of Goddess Gayatri

Mythological Story:

Goddess Gayatri is widely worshipped all over the country. One of the widely chanted Mantras is the Gayatri Mantra. One of the translations of it is:

“We meditate on that glorious light of the divine Surya (Sun), may he, the lord of light, illuminate our minds”

It is widely believed that anyone who chants the mantra multiple times will achieve success as well as salvation

Elements represented with Gayatri and its spiritual meaning:
Chakra:

She holds chakra in one hand which constantly spins known as Swadarshanchakra  (Swa-self and darshan-watching) means discus of self-realization.

Shankh:

She also holds shankh (translation-conch) in the other hand. Blowing shankh creates beautiful positive vibrations. Similarly, right words spoken at the right time does welfare to the other souls.

Swan:

We also see a swan with Goddess Gayatri. A swan has the quality to differentiate pearl from pebbles. It represents a divine mind which can differentiate between good thoughts and waste thoughts.

Spiritual Interpretation:

Nowadays we lack decision-making power because we are unable to differentiate between positive and negative thoughts. We need to keep a watch on ourselves every moment to check the right and wrong things we are doing.

Always remember that ‘I am a soul’. Purity and peace are my original qualities. When we are aware of ourselves, the flow of accurate decision and discrimination between right wrong is natural.

6) Power to decide:

Divine Mythological SymbolGoddess Saraswati

Saraswati is the Hindu goddess of knowledge, music, arts, wisdom, and learning.

Saraswati, Hindu goddess of knowledge, music, arts, wisdom and learning. Vector cartoon illustration.

Mythological Story:

Goddess Saraswati is considered to be “Goddess of Knowledge”. She is also the “Goddess of Music”. She is worshipped before any musical event or prayed to before any academic examination.

Elements represented with Saraswati and its spiritual meaning:
Vina (Musical Instrument):

Goddess Saraswati holds Vina, which represents that a soul which has the power to discern and power to take accurate decisions will create its own music. The soul will not be influenced by what others suggest. Taking individual decision could mean the soul might be alone in the decision-making process, but it creates its own music (decisions) as the soul is clear about right or wrong and is not afraid of others opinion.

Shastra:

She holds Shashtra (translation-scripture) in one hand which represents the truth and accuracy of the decision being made.

Rosary:

She holds Rosary in the other hand. The pearls in the rosary are held together with the help of a single thread similarly, we need to bond, help others bond and live in harmony with everyone around us.

White Attire:

She wears white clothes, sits on a white lotus and shown with a white swan. White here represents purity, knowledge and truth. It also represents the highest reality, insight and wisdom.

Spiritual Interpretation:

You need to take accurate decision for yourself but do not hate others and become judgmental about others. Don’t have a superiority complex and understand what they are doing is right according to them. But don’t get carried away by others, what others do. And definitely, do not copy them.

The decision should be yours and it should be accurate. But after taking that decision you need to walk side by side with others without creating hatred.

7) Power to face:

Divine Mythological SymbolGoddess Kali

Goddess Kali represents being a fearless power who is capable of killing demons. She is considered as the destroyer of evil forces.

 Kali goddess representation of eastern god, vector cartoon illustration.

Mythological Story:

It is believed that Goddess Kali took the avatar of Maha-Kali to kill Demon Raktabeej. As the name Raktabeej (Rakta-blood; Beej-seed) suggest, his blood if touched the ground multiplied the demon. Hence, Goddess Kali slashed him and didn’t let his blood fall on the ground and she drank the blood. The demon was killed, but Goddess Kali’s thirst for blood wasn’t over. She grew fiercer. Then all gods went to request God Mahadev Shiv to calm her. Thus, Lord Shiva himself leaned under the foot of Goddess Kali to calm her and in that process realizing it was Mahadev Shiv, her tongue came out in shame. We see mostly Goddess Kali’s picture and statue in this mudra.

Elements represented with Kali and its spiritual meaning:
Garland of human heads:

She wears a garland consisting of human heads which represents no fear of death.

A Severed head and a bowl:

She holds a severed head, and a bowl catching the dripping blood of the severed head. It is believed that every drop of blood that fell on earth produced more demons, so she drank every drop of blood to stop the multiplication of demons. This implies our inner demon (ill habits) needs to be finished completely or else it will multiply into more demons (negative thoughts).

Spiritual Interpretation:

Power to face implies to be fearless to face your shortcomings. Finish your ego and stop being body conscious so that the other inner demons multiplying because of this one demon ends. Fight and finish the inner demon.

8) Power to cooperate:

Divine Mythological SymbolGoddess Lakshmi

Goddess Lakshmi represents abundance and purity. She is the Hindu “Goddess of Wealth, Fortune and Prosperity”.

Illustration of Goddess Lakshmi the god of wealth

Mythological Story:

Lakshmi is the “Goddess of Wealth”. She is widely worshipped all over the country. It is believed that worshipping her will make the devotees rich and wealthy.

Elements represented with Lakshmi and its spiritual meaning:
Lotus:

She is seated on a lotus and also holds a lotus in hand. A lotus grows in between muddy ponds and still its quality is beautiful and pure. It truly means the detachment and purity of soul which has no expectations, even as we live in between other souls.

Gold Coins:

We see that gold coins are dripping from her hand which represents abundance and she lavishly gives it to everyone. This means helping others. The purity of soul which is detached has emerged powers from within. Such soul does not need anything as it will have everything in abundance. So this soul will be harmonious with other souls and help them.

Spiritual Interpretation:

Competition leads to stress, jealousy & anxiety. Cooperation leads to contentment, love & achievement.

We struggle to have outer wealth, we compromise and do wrong deeds to succeed, just to be happy as we do not have inner wealth. We assume that if we are healthy on the outside, we will be happy from within. But it is the other way around. Inner wealth, which is the knowledge of these 7 powers, fulfils us so much that automatically the energy of love and purity flows from us to others.

We need to remember that when we give, we are the first one to receive. As we give more, we will receive more in return. We will be filled with abundance, prosperity, purity and positivity. Automatically we will attract outer wealth as we now possess inner wealth.

Common Navaratri Rituals and its Spiritual Significance:

Other common belief systems followed in India during Navaratri are:

Jagrata (jag-awake, rata-night):

Ritual followed:

Devotees sacrifice their sleep for nine nights to remember the goddess. Devotional songs are sung in the honour of the deity. This brings them prosperity is what they believe.

Devotees singing

Real Significance:

How does not sleeping for 9 nights out of 365 nights in a year really help us prosper? The real spiritual meaning of Jagrata is that we need to stay awake every moment. Wake up from the deep sleep of ignorance and wake up to knowledge.

Upwas (Fast):

Ritual followed:

Devotees maintain fast for these nine days and only eat satvik bhojan (vegetarian food). Navaratri is considered to be auspicious and hence people believe maintaining such pure diets during these nine days would empower them.

Upwass thaali- Fasting food
Photo Credit – SteveR
Real Significance:
Again, fasting for nine days would not help us empower. We need to fast on negative thoughts. And this fasting on negativity should be done throughout the year. This will definitely empower our soul.

Jyot (lighting of lamp)

Ritual followed:

Devotees light a lamp for the entire period of Navaratri. They believe that it is inauspicious if the lamp extinguishes.

Lighting of diya

Real Significance:

The flame represents the soul. The lamp made of mud represents the body. Lighting of the lamp means to ignite the knowledge inside our souls. This light of knowledge should not extinguish otherwise we will again enter into a body-conscious state. We always need to be soul conscious.

Raas Garba:

Ritual followed:

This is a fun part of the celebration where a group of people dance together. The main element of Raas Garaba is the harmony and synchronization between people. Hundreds of people dance in a synchronized way.

Raas garaba navaratri

Real Significance:

We all may think this is just for fun but even this has a deeper spiritual significance. Raas means sweet. The soul needs to cultivate power and when it emerges with all the eight powers discussed above, it can easily have a harmonious, sweet and accurate relationship with other souls.

How should Navaratri really be celebrated:

No festival ends in nine days. We need to celebrate it every moment and work on our inner-self continuously.

Killing any negative sanskar (impressions) is killing your inside demon by war. Bad habits don’t die at once. You have to fight to kill it by using weapons like acceptance and unconditional love. Remember you are responsible for your responses everything is in your hand, so let go of past. Knowledge is a weapon using which we have to kill each demon inside us. When the demons are dead, we emerge as a pure god-like soul.

Also, remind yourself that the power is within you. Till today we assumed that it is an external power who killed the demon. But it is your inner power which can actually kill the demon inside. Celebrate Navaratri not just on the outside but also inside.

We need to understand that God is nothing but a soul who is 100% pure and divine. Our souls original quality was also 100% pure. With time, layers of negative impressions formed on the soul and we lost its original divine form.

Until today we thought that getting the blessings of the God is just a ritual. Now we have learnt that we do need to visit the idols of the God but not just to blindly pray and expect a quick miraculous fix to our problems. We have learnt that the powers which we thought only Gods possessed, we also have those powers inside. We need to work on the quality of our soul and work towards emerging like a pure and divine God-like soul.

Goddess Durga face

Quality of our soul can be improved by knowledge. This is not an easy one day task. There will be times when the soul quality degrades. We need to keep working continuously to maintain the soul purity and when that happens we will emerge the power inside us and kill the demon within.

 

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