Navratri will be celebrated from the dates of September 25 to October 4 in 2014. These nine nights celebrate the Divine Feminine, and are a time of great festivity in India. We look at the significance of the festival and the many ways in which it is celebrated in India.
Sadhguru: In the yogic culture, the summer solstice which falls in the month of June marks the beginning of Dakshinayana, which means in the Earth’s sky, the Sun begins to trace a southward movement in the northern hemisphere of the planet. Similarly, the winter solstice which falls in the month of December marks the beginning of Uttarayana or the northern run of the Sun. The half of the year from the beginning of Uttarayana in December to the beginning of Dakshinayana in June is known as gnana pada. The other half of the year from the beginning of Dakshinayana to the beginning of Uttarayana is known as the sadhana pada.
The southern run is the phase of intimacy or the feminine. The earth is acting out her role as a woman. Festivals concerned with the feminine energy are celebrated only in these six months. The whole culture of this land was attuned to this. Every month, there is a festival of some kind.
In this feminine half of the year, September 23rd marks the autumnal equinox, and the first Amavasya or new moon after this is known as Mahalaya Amavasya. Mahalaya Amavasya is a special day dedicated to making an offering (shraadh) to express our gratitude to all the previous generations of people who have contributed to our life. During this time, in the Indian subcontinent, new crops would have just begun to bear yield. So their first produce is offered to the ancestors as a mark of respect and thankfulness.
Mahalaya Amavasya is also the beginning of Devi’s time. The quarter from the Amavasya to the beginning of Uttarayana in December is known as the Devi pada. In this quarter, the northern hemisphere of the planet becomes ‘gentle’ because it is the quarter where the northern hemisphere receives the least amount of sunlight in the year. So everything becomes subdued; it is not “on” in a big way.
Worship of the feminine
The day after the Mahalaya Amavasya, marks the first day of Navratri and Dussehra, which is all about the goddess. In Karnataka, Dussehra is about Chamundi, in Bengal it is about Durga. Like this, it is about various goddesses in different places, but essentially Dussehra is about the feminine goddess or the feminine divinity.
The nine days of Navratri are classified as per the three basic qualities of tamas, rajas and sattva. The first three days are tamas, where the goddess is fierce, like Durga and Kali. The next three days are Lakshmi related – gentle but materially oriented goddesses. The last three days are dedicated to Saraswati, which is sattva; it is related to knowledge and enlightenment.
Tamas means inertia. Rajas means activity, passion. Sattva, in a way, is the breaking of boundaries, dissolution, melting and merging. Among the three celestial objects with which the very making of our bodies is very deeply connected – the Earth, the Sun, and the Moon – Mother Earth is considered tamas. The Sun is rajas. The Moon is sattva.
Tamas is the nature of the Earth, and she is the one who gives birth. The gestation period that we spend in the womb is tamas; it is a state which is almost like hibernation, but we are growing. So tamas is the nature of the Earth and of your birth. The moment you come out, you start activity – rajas begins. And if you are aware enough or fortunate enough, sattva will touch you.
Those who aspire for power, for immortality, for strength, will worship those forms of the feminine which are referred to as tamas, like Kali or Mother Earth. Those who aspire for wealth, for passion, for life and various other gifts that the material world has to offer, naturally aspire towards that form of the feminine which is referred to as Lakshmi or the Sun. Those who aspire for knowledge, knowing, and transcending the limitations of the mortal body, will aspire for that aspect of the feminine which is referred to as sattva – Saraswati is the representative of that – or the Moon.
Investing in these three will make your life in a certain way. If you invest in tamas, you will be powerful in one way; if you invest in rajas, you will be powerful in a different way; if you invest in sattva, you will be powerful in a completely different way. But if you go beyond all this, it is no longer about power, it is about liberation.
The day of victory
After Navratri, the tenth and final day of Dussehra is Vijayadashami – that means you have conquered all these three qualities. You did not give into any of them, you saw through every one of them. You participated in every one of them, but you did not invest in any one of them; you won over them. That is Vijayadashmi, the day of victory.
To approach these nine days, and every other aspect of life in a celebratory way is most important. If you approach everything in a celebratory way, you learn to be non-serious about life but absolutely involved. The problem with most human beings right now is if they think something is important, they will become dead serious about it. If they think it is not so important, they will become lax about it – they don’t show the necessary involvement. The secret of life is in seeing everything with a non-serious eye but absolutely involved, like a game.
Editor’s Note: Please visit our Navratri 2013 series for more on the celebration of this festival.