The (Sharad) Navratri festival in 2017 is from 21st to 29th September.
The Navratri festival comes twice a year – both times at the cusp of the change of seasons. The period of changing seasons is very significant in Hindu culture because at this time, support is available from the planet itself, for us to transform – Mother Nature is herself undergoing transformation, helping us along on our own transformation. It’s the same reason underlying the spiritual significance of sandhya kaala or brahma muhurata – the times of sunset and sunrise, which are again periods of transformation and transition.
The Navratri period’s main significance is the ability for people to attain inner transformation at this time. Commencing on the new moon day, the 9 day festival is marked by a growing moon. The 9 day period is also broken down into 3 days dedicated to Kali (associated with the earth and tamas), the next 3 days to Lakshmi (associated with the sun and rajas) and the next 3 days to Saraswati (associated with the moon and sattva). Man’s natural evolution is to transcend these inner qualities of tamas, rajas and sattva in turn. For that endeavour, Shakti (inner energy) is needed, hence the Goddess is propitiated. Just as in the mythology, Shakti (in the form of Parvati) performed tapas (austerities) to attain Shiva as her husband, we need Shakti to attain to our own Shiva Being (pure Consciousness).
The period of Navratri is when, from the yogic perspective, kundalini energy rises (from the Muladhara chakra at the base of the spine on the first day, to the Sahasrara or crown chakra on the seventh day). (Read more about Navratri and the Divine Mother)
What to do during the Navratri
Indian culture has always been comfortable with multiple spiritual methods and expressions, realising both, the differences in spiritual evolution among humanity and the differences in temperament and personalities. So while some celebrate Navratri with elaborate rituals for the Mother Goddess, others consider the ‘ras leela’ (nightly dance celebrations) to be most significant and yet others prefer to spend the time reciting mantras or in quiet prayer or contemplation. Whatever action you choose to take, the highest level is to act in yoga; whether your way is bhakti, karma, jnana or kriya.
This is a great time to look for the inner silence. Traditionally, Hindus observe fasting during this period where they abstain completely from grains, consuming only fruits and certain vegetables (excluding onions, garlic and other negative pranic foods, for instance); some consuming only fruits and milk for the entire 9 days, and still others, only water (note: extreme fasting is not recommended unless one feels one has the inner capacity for it). The idea is not to torture oneself but to show one’s intention and take a step towards realising the Truth. The significance of fasting is that it reduces tamas and rajas and creates some distance from one’s physical body, making one more perceptive to what else is here besides the body-mind complex. When our attachment to the body loosens, it’s easier for us to perceive the Silence that’s always here.
It would be a good period to spend time in contemplation, disengaging from unnecessary socialising, entertainment and use of technology. It is amazing how few of us, relatively speaking, take even a week out of an entire year to just be with ourselves, examining the nature of our life, contemplating what our existence is about. If you think that these questions are important, now would be a very good time to take some time out. To invest some time to discover the Timeless.
May Devi be with you.
Read also: The Divine Mother
Read also: How the four yogas are the same
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