According to the Vedic calendar, immediately following Pitru Paksha comes a much more joyous celebration. That is the festival of Navratri (also spelled Navaratri). Navratri coincides with the beginning of the lunar month of Ashwina in Vedic astrology, or Jyotish. The first of nine nights of the Indian holiday of Sharad Navratri 2016 begins on October 1 in most parts of the world and on October 2 in Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand. Navratri marks nine nights of celebrating the goddesses Kali, Lakshmi, and Saraswati.
It is often customary to recite the Chandi Path (aka Devi Mahatmyan) during Navratri. It is a hymn to the a form of Durga. You may also chant Devi mantras to the goddesses, the Devi Mahatmyam, or the Durga Saptashati. There are many Saraswati mantras which you can chant for wisdom and learning. For Lakshmi, you may wish to chant the Maha Lakshmi Stotram or the Maha Lakshmi Ashtakam. As each Sanskrit syllable has inner sound vibration, it is beneficial to listen to these mantras by native speakers or those who have classical Indian music training.
I spoke to Vedamurti Shri Vivek Godbole, the head acharya at the Shri Krishna Yajur Veda Pathashala in Satara, Maharashtra, India. He is a 15th generation Brahmin pandit. What follows is his discussion regarding about Navratri.
“During Navratri, the first three nights are for Maha Kali (a form of Durga), then the next three nights are for Maha Lakshmi, and then the last nights are for Maha Saraswati. (The term “Maha” means “great” or “grand”). In a more subtle sense, each group of three nights is dedicated to one of the goddesses. The first night is Kali, the second is Lakshmi, and the third is Saraswati. The fourth night is Lakshmi, the fifth is Kali, and the sixth and seventh are Saraswati. The eighth is Lakshmi, and the ninth night is for Kali.”
“Maha Kali is an embodiment of strength. She gives you bala or shakti. Maha Kali assists all kinds of laborers who work in the fields and farms and who don’t require that much academic intelligence in their work. They don’t have a lot of money or education. But, they do know how to put forth effort. All the time, most people in this world have to exert a great deal of a of effort. For them, Kali provides them with a lot of strength. For these people, the source of their wealth lies in their strength.”
(I mentioned to Vedamurti Vivekji about how in the West we often see images of Kali standing in the graveyard and with her tongue sticking out). “Kali appears in her ugra or fierce form for people who are ignorant and cruel. Her fierce demeanor is shown only to selfish people who are only thinking of what they want. They will steal from others. Otherwise, Kali is Mother Earth (Goddess Parvati). Ramakrishna Paramahamsa was a devotee of Kali and he was very humble. He did not see her furious form in her but envisioned her as his friend and the object of his worship. The way in which you perceive her is the form which she will display to you. People think they will kill an animal in front of her and then they will get happiness. Due to this ignorance, people kill animals and birds in front of Gods and Goddesses. This is adharmic and not according to the scriptures. We should kill the animal that displays itself as anger. We can also kill our lust and our ego. But people rarely think that way.”
“Maha Lakshmi comes to us in the form of gold, silver, and gems. All types of wealth are Lakshmi. Some people have the false notion that Lakshmi means just gold or currency. In this world, every person is thinking only about finances, but Lakshmi represents more than that. She also has the attributes of good health, righteousness and generosity. She is radiant and full of gratitude. The person who is healthy, wealthy, and generous is truly a rich person.”
“Maha Saraswati is pure knowledge. All kinds of knowledge and arts are related to Saraswati. This includes speech, writing, studying, playing music, poetry, and singing.”
During the nine nights of Navratri 2016, we pray to these goddesses. Durga embodies all three goddesses. There is a particular goddess to be worshiped for each of the nine nights. That will be covered in upcoming posts on this blog.
The festival of Navratri 2016 culminates with the ninth night of Ram Navami (or Maha Navami) on October 10. Then Diwali, the festival of lights, is on October 29 in North America and the West Indies. The rest of the world celebrates Diwali on October 30. (Please see mypanchang.com for specific info). Wishing you a very happy and joyous Navratri 2016!