Jyoti Tewari,Canada ,27 Mar :navScience (shastra) behind Navratri, ‘Ratri’ implies change. One of the Names of the female deity (Devi) is Kalaratri. Kalaratri is the one who brings about change in Kalpurush, the Absolute Being of time (kal). Rotation is the inherent nature of the earth. Changes such as day and night occur on account of the rotation of the earth. To be able to withstand such changes, vowed religious observances like Navratri are undertaken.
Triratri (worship for three nights) and Navratri (worship for nine nights) are types of spiritual practice. In the navratri vrat, the triratri vrat is repeated thrice with regard to the three female deities – Sarasvati, Lakshmi and Parvati or Kali.
This vowed religious observance was advocated by Sage Narad to Lord Rama, so that Lord Rama could slay the evil Ravan. After completion of this observance, Rama attacked Ravan’s kingdom, Lanka, and slayed Ravan.
The female deity (Devi) combated the demon Mahishasur for nine days from the first (pratipada) to the ninth day (navami) and finally slayed him on the ninth night. Since then She has come to be known as ‘Mahishasuramardini’, the slayer (mardini) of Mahishasur. The word ‘asur’ (demon) means the one who remains engrossed only in worldly (temporary) and object pleasures.
Spiritually correct celebration of Navratri
Worship of the female deity (Devi)
On the first three days of Navratri, the worship of Mahakali, who dominates (controls) the tama component, is undertaken to reduce the tama component in oneself. On the next three days, the worship of Mahalakshmi, who dominates (controls) the sattva component, is undertaken to enhance the sattva component in oneself. On the last three days, the worship of Mahasarasvati, who dominates (controls) the raja component, is undertaken to intensify one’s spiritual practice.
In some families, this vowed religious observance is undertaken as a family tradition of spiritual practice (kulachar). It is celebrated according to one’s financial capacity and ability, with various programs including continuous burning of a ghee (rarified butter) or oil lamp
, recitations of verses in praise of the female deity, fasts, keeping awake as a ritual, etc., over the 9 days.
Installation of the idol
In a sanctified place in the house, a sacrificial fireplace (vedi) is constructed, and an idol of the female deity with eight arms, seated on a lion is installed.
Installation of the pot
According to the family traditions of spiritual practice, a pot (ghat) should be installed (sthapana). This itself is ghatasthapana. A garland of flowers should be tied to the pot. This is called mala bandhan. The garland of flowers should be tied in such a way that it reaches inside the pot.
* Soil from a field should be brought home and spread out into a square making it as thick as the height of two phalanges of the fingers and food grains of five or seven types should be sown in it.
* Water, sandalwood paste (gandha), flowers, durva (a sacred grass), consecrated rice (akshata), betelnut, five foliages, five gems or a gold coin, etc. should be put into an earthen or a copper pot
(kalash). If one does not know the Vedic mantras for installation of the seven food grains and the pot (Varun, the deity of rain) then the mantras from the Puranas should be chanted. If one does not know even these then one should say ‘I offer (the name of the substance offered)’ and chant The Lord’s Name.
* An offering of food (naivedya) should be made to the female deity.
* The vowed observance of Navratri continues till the ninth day of the bright fortnight of the Hindu month of Ashvin. A virgin is worshipped daily for nine consecutive days and is offered meals. A married woman (suvasini) represents manifest spiritual energy while a virgin represents unmanifest spiritual energy. Since some amount of manifest spiritual energy is wasted in a married woman, the total spiritual energy in a virgin is more than that in a married woman. Hence, a virgin girl is worshipped as a representative of the female deity.
* During this period, to develop detached (vairagi) conduct, one should not shave, should observe celibacy, should not sleep on a bed or mattress, and should not wear footwear.
Conclusion of each day of Navratri
Each day of Navratri should be concluded by attributing significance (as per the scriptures) to the number of day elapsed in the Navaratra so far. On each day, if there is some time left, all the idols should be removed, given a sacred bath with water (abhishek) and ritualistically worshipped with the sixteen substances considered sacred in the Hindu religion. If there is no time, then the consecration and worship of all deities should be done on the following day.
Immersion of the idol of the female deity
During immersion (visarjan) of the idol of the female deity, the sprouts of germinated seeds are offered to Her. When installing and concluding the Navaratra, it is necessary to sanctify the deities’ idols. Usually, lemon, holy ash (bhasma), etc., are used for the consecration. Finally, the installed pot and the idol of the female deity are immersed at the conclusion of Navratri.