“Nava” has two meanings. One is ‘nine’ and the other is ‘new’. Ratri means night - which gives solace and rest. This period is a time for self-referral and getting back to the source. During this time of transformation, Nature sheds the old and gets rejuvenated and life emerges back afresh in the spring.
Like a baby is in the mother’s womb for nine months before it is born, similarly, during these nine days and nights, the seeker gets back to the true source through fasting, prayer, silence and meditation. Night is also called ratri because it brings rejuvenation. It gives relief at the three levels of our existence - physical, subtle and causal. While fasting detoxifies the body, silence purifies the speech and brings rest to the chattering mind; meditation takes one deep into one’s own being.
During these nine nights of Navratri, your mind should be in the Divine consciousness Ask yourself these questions, “How was I born? What is my source?” Then you become creative and victorious. When negative forces haunt you, you are disturbed and you grumble. Craving, aversion, uncertainty and fear are negative forces. To get relief from all this, go to the source of energy within you. That is Shakti. During these nine nights and ten days, nine forms of Shakti i.e. female divinity are worshipped. On the first three days of Navratri we honour Durga, the embodiment of valour and self-confidence. The next three days are committed to Lakshmi, the embodiment of wealth and the last three days are dedicated to Saraswati, the embodiment of knowledge.
There are many stories on how the Divine Mother manifested herself to restore peace and order, by slaying Madhu and Kaitabha, Mahishasura and Shumbha and Nishumbha and many other demons. Devi vanquished the asuras (demons). These asuras are symbolic of the negative forces that can take over anyone at anytime.
Who are these asuras? Madhu is craving and Kaitaba means aversion. These are the first rakshasas (demons). Sometimes our behaviour is not under our control. It is in our genes. Raktabijasur means deeply ingrained negativities and obsessions. Mahishasur means dullness; like a buffalo. Mahishasur is symbolic of heaviness and jadatwa (inertia). The Divine Shakti brings energy, and inertia is lifted. Shumbh-Nishumbh is doubt of everything. Doubt of the Self is Shumbh. Some people doubt themselves: “Am I right? Am I really devoted? Do I have any intelligence? Can I do this?” Nishumbh is to doubt everybody else around you. Navratri is the celebration of the spirit or prana which alone can destroy asuras.
Out of total nine days, three nights each correspond to the three gunas - tamas, rajas and sattva. Though our life is governed by the three gunas, we seldom recognise and reflect on them. Our consciousness sails through tamo guna and rajo guna and blossoms in the sattva guna of the last three days. These three primordial gunas are considered as the feminine force of our magnificent universe.
By worshipping the Mother Divine during Navratri, we harmonise the three gunas and elevate sattva in the atmosphere. Whenever sattva dominates in life, victory follows.
Many yagnas are conducted during these nine auspicious days. Although we may not necessarily understand the meaning of all the yagnas and ceremonies which are performed, we should simply sit with our hearts and minds open and feel the vibrations it creates. The chanting with all the rituals and customs bring about purification and uplifting of the consciousness. The entire creation becomes alive and you recognise life in everything in the same way children see life in everything. The Mother Divine or the pure consciousness itself pervades all the forms. Recognizing the one divinity in every form and every name is the celebration of Navratri.
Once Navratri is over, we celebrate Vijayadashami (the tenth day - the day of victory). This is the day of culmination in the awakening of our Divine consciousness. Again, simply feel blessed and feel more honoured for everything you have received.
His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar