The Nine nights of the Goddess

Yoga PhotoThe 29th of September 2008 marks the beginning of the Hindu festival of the Goddess. Navaratri is celebrated in the Hindu month of Ashvina (September/October) for nine nights and ends on the tenth day, Vijayadashami the day of victory. It is one of the most celebrated festivals in Hinduism though its variations are as colorful and unique as the Hindu religion itself.

The festival honors the power of the Goddess in three forms and her victory over the demon Mahishasura. The legend of Navaratri originates from the Markandeya Purana, an ancient Indian text, and tells of a fierce and patient demon names Mahishasura. The demon was so dedicated to his practice that he earned a boon from Lord Shiva that he could not be defeated by any man or God. Then, he proceeded to torment the earth and the heavens. Discouraged by the fact that no God could stop Mahishasura, the Goddesses Lakshmi, Saraswati and Parvati joined hands in meditation and created the Goddess Durga. Durga and Mahishasura fought for nine nights and on the tenth day, Durga triumphed over the demon sending dangerous ignorance into nonexistence.

The Goddesses Durga, Lakshmi, and Saraswati are each honored during Navaratri. Durga, the destroyer of demons and obstacles, is revered for the first three days. On the second three days, the Goddess Lakshmi is honored, with the emphasis on wealth and prosperity. On the last three days of the Navaratri, Sri Saraswati is paid homage. She symbolizes creativity, inspiration and knowledge. On the tenth day, Vijayadashami, the day of victory, the defeat of the demon by the Goddess Durga is celebrated.

Some variations in this structure exist with Kali being recognized in the first three days and Paravati in the last three days of the festival. But without question, Navaratri is the honoring of the feminine divinity in all of us. The festival calls on us to honor and venerate the feminine energy, a practice which is somewhat unique to the Hindu tradition. Women are not only viewed as mothers and nurturers but as warriors and powerful Goddesses, the embodiment of supreme compassion and ruthless strength.

When we observe Navaratri, we choose to honor the Goddess in every woman. We direct our attention for nine days on reverence of the fierce strength, the bounty, and the inspiration that our feminine manifestation offers. We can slow down and recognize the intense hold that our ignorance and illusions can have over us, but with awareness of our own inner strength as represented by the three Goddesses, we too can celebrate victory and annihilation of our demons. As one author states, “The killing of a demon by a deity is not mere physical annihilation, but rather liberation, a manifestation of divine grace.”

So even if we aren’t Hindu, Navaratri can be an invitation to step into the awareness of the feminine aspect in all things. As you move through the “nine nights” take note of the way that our feminine aspects create strength, compassion, wealth, and wisdom in our lives everyday. If you are a woman, honor yourself, and if you aren’t, take a moment to honor a woman in your life.

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