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Navratri-Nine Nights of the Goddess

Image                                                                                                                                             Durga idol from West Bengal                                                                                                                                                

The festival of Navratri began last night. For nine nights to come the Goddess, Devi will be celebrated and worshipped in all her names and forms across India.

From the personal kul devi, goddess of the clan to gaon devi, guardian of the town and finally as her all encompassing avatars of Durga, Laxmi and Saraswati she will reign over our hearts and minds.

But essentially she is Shakti, the nameless, formless energy that manifests as the ever changing Cosmos. She is the creative feminine principle. She is the Divine Mother. Just as she holds up the cosmos, she sustains us too. Nurturing us and holding our hands as we navigate our lives. To her we turn for courage and comfort.

And to her we turn to find ourselves.

Although the festival of Navratri is a joyous celebration marked by elaborate pujas, feasts and dancing through the night, it has a deeply spiritual significance.

For the first three nights we worship the Goddess as Durga, the warrior goddess who armed with her many weapons destroys all evil. We pray to Durga that she many transform all that is petty and limiting within us, and dispel the ignorance and darkness that envelopes us. For it is only when we are freed of all negativity that we can open our hearts and lives to all things positive.

It is then that we are ready to worship Laxmi, the Goddess of Abundance. For the next three days we pray to Laxmi that she may fill our open hearts and lives with wealth, both material and spiritual.  For it is only when we have tasted abundance and experienced the expansive nature of the Universe that we become ready to receive knowledge and learning, the greatest wealth of all.

So the last three days of Navratri are devoted to Sarswati, the Goddess of Learning and Arts. She is also the goddess who holds the secret to the highest knowledge of all, the knowledge of the Self. We pray that she may grant us that knowledge. The nine nights are then a journey of the Self towards itself. And, even if we take but just a step, we have at least begun the journey.

Happy Navratri to you !!

Image                                                                     Men and women join in the Graba in Gujrat

                                                                                     

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Prithvi- The Earth Mother

The seasons are shifting. There is a distinct autumnal nip in the air and as the days get shorter it is the time for the Hindu calendar to come alive with some spectacular nighttime celebrations.

In the run up to Navaratri, when we worship the Goddess or the divine mother, and rejoice in her blessings, my mind is on a particular manifestation of the Goddess- the Earth. She is Prithvi, the Mother Earth, and represents the feminine, creative and transformative energy of the Universe. She makes our life possible and sustains it. And in worshipping her we worship Shakti the Cosmic energy that pervades the Universe.

Last week IPCC, the International Panel for Climate Change announced that global warming is definitely happening and that Imagethey are now 95% certain man has been its major cause. As if we needed figures to confirm what we are already witnessing all around us. But, it’s good to to have scientific backing. Might help get the naysayers on board and move some political will in the right direction. Great, I thought, now we can all get serious and do something about this.

However, days later, solutions are not what we are talking about. Far from it.

A debate rages on ….What about the other five percent? Why are the scientists not a hundred percent sure? Was the hype about global warming just scare mongering to get us to recycle? Were we being taken a for a ride all this while? Do we really need all those wind turbines ruining the countryside?

I don’t get it. Isn’t a 95 % probability worrying enough? Shouldn’t we recycle anyway….good housekeeping has great merits. And, isn’t it nice that we have a countryside to dot with wind turbines? It’s a ridiculous debate.

We are refusing to accept the mess we have created lest we may be asked to clean it up. And so we remain belligerent, arguing endlessly but missing the point- we cannot afford to take a chance. It could end up costing us the Earth. Literally.

We don’t need science or religion to tell us this. As infants our instincts told us we couldn’t survive without our mother and as little children we thought she was our entire world.

What we need is a return to that innocence. When we ‘feel’ not ‘think’ that we need to hang on to Earth for dear life.

We need to bring back that sense of awe and wonder the early civilisations felt when they looked upon the natural world. That sense of watching something divine and mystical unfold before us, everyday.

And we need to let our children in on the magic too. If they are not lucky enough to enjoy the countryside then let them nurture a potted plant on a window sill in a crowded city block. Catch a sunset or two. Perhaps watch a full moon on some night. Because if we don’t, they will care even less than we do and then even the debates will stop.

So I am hoping that when we celebrate Navratri this year, we will be touched by more than just the festivities. That we may feel the divine Mother manifesting within and without.

The Atharva Veda has a beautiful hymn called Prithvi Sukta, In Praise of the Earth. Here is a small excerpt. I am not sure who translated it but it is beautiful and a reminder of the wonder that we once felt.

 Earth in which lie the sea, the river and other waters,
in which food and cornfields have come to be,
in which lives all that breathes and that moves,
May she confer on us the finest of her yield.
Earth, in which the waters, common to all,
moving on all sides, flow unfailingly, day and night,
may she pour on us milk in many streams,
and endow us with lustre.
May those born of thee, O Earth,
be for our welfare, free from sickness and waste.
Wakeful through a long life, we shall become
bearers of tribute to thee.
Earth, my mother, set me securely with bliss
in full accord with heaven,
O wise one,
uphold me in grace and splendour.

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