What is Navaratri?
“We are all entangled in worldly illusions; our minds are involved in this maya. To get rid of this illusion, people celebrate the festival called Navaratri.” Swami Premananda
Every year in Sri Premananda Ashram we celebrate a festival in which we worship the feminine or mother aspect of the Divine. This festival is known as, ‘Navaratri’, which means nine nights. During this festival in Sri Premananda Ashram, devotees take part in an ancient ritual to the Divine Mother called abhishekam. Although this is performed every evening throughout the year in the Ashram, it is considered to be particularly powerful during this time. Fresh flowers are offered to her as well as pure ingredients such as turmeric, milk and rose water whilst sacred mantras are chanted. It is considered to be a very auspicious time, a time when each person’s personal sadhana can be strengthened and deepened. Swamiji particularly liked to celebrate this festival by worshipping the Divine Mother. During the first three days of the festival we pray to the Divine Mother in her form of Goddess Durga. During the next three days we pray to her in the form of Goddess Lakshmi and during the last three days we pray to her as Goddess Saraswati. A short puja is also performed every day to the Goddess Durga whilst we chant the 108 names of the Divine Mother in Tamil. Every day we pray to the Divine Mother to remove our egoistic and negative tendencies and to bestow her grace upon us. The tenth day of the festival is called ‘Vijayadasami’. On that day we celebrate the victory of Shakti (the divine light) over all ignorance and negativity. “Shakti, the Divine Mother, is the infinite consciousness where there is no pain, no sorrow, no tears, no thoughts, no struggles and no desire. Mother is waiting for you all there with open arms. On this day (Vijayadasami), let go of all your thoughts and find peace by resting in her. Think of her from morning to night and I can assure you that she will give you beautiful and bountiful blessings.” Swami Premananda
Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswati
“Durga personifies power. Meditating on her helps us to cultivate bravery and to destroy untruth.” Swami Premananda
Durga destroys, but destroys to save, to build. Without pity for our ego, she destroys all our imperfections. She destroys ignorance in order to install knowledge and destroys darkness to restore light. To develop our good qualities we must first eliminate our faults. We need to have a stable base on which to build. If we pray to Durga, her divine energy will practically intervene in our lives to help us do just that. By means of self-analysis we need to become aware of our negative tendencies if we are to succeed in destroying our undesirable traits. We need to practise introspection. If we don’t know precisely which faults we have, how can we possibly eliminate them? If, having come to know our faults, we then do nothing about them, they will simply remain with us. We need to have a firm determination and an unflinching will to destroy our ego-qualities. If we have not thoroughly uprooted all our faults they will resurface with the slightest perturbation that comes our way. The Mother, as Durga, is willing to help us in this first stage.
“Lakshmi personifies love, beauty and concern. Meditating on her helps to increase the spiritual light in yourself and in the world and to behave with compassion and kindness.” Swami Premananda
Lakshmi comes from the word Laksme which means goal in Sanskrit, and this means she represents the qualities we must strive to attain in ourselves, to reach the ultimate spiritual goal of liberation. Though this goal is commonly misconstrued as solely to reach our material aims (accumulation of wealth and power, etc.) and she will graciously grant such wishes in us, the real wealth of knowledge that Lakshmi can offer, is to impart to us that the only true riches worth acquiring, are inner riches. So, through diligent self effort guided by her divine wisdom, Lakshmi teaches us that we can prosper deeply on both the material and spiritual planes, through her grace. Sri Lakshmi is the amrit of all creation, the personification of all that is pure and exalted and lustrous. We can see her presence in the rich flowering natural beauty of the Ashram and in the wealth of spiritual guidance and love that overflows from the heart of Swami Premananda!
“Saraswati personifies love and wisdom. Meditating on her helps us to contact our inner wisdom and realize that the Divine is everywhere and in all beings and objects.” Swami Premananda
Saraswati helps us to become attuned to our own inner wisdom and to purify our minds. By praying to her and meditating on her during Navaratri, we can slowly become immersed in the highest reality, in absolute truth. People pray to the Goddess Saraswati to help them with their studies and with the development of their self expression through the creative arts as she is the embodiment of pure knowledge. Saraswati helps us to develop discrimination, which is an essential quality on the spiritual path. She is depicted wearing a white dress as she is absolute purity.
During the ten-day festival of Navaratri, we worship God as the Divine Mother. In the Ashram we do a puja every day to the aspect of the Divine Mother known as Durga. The Goddess Durga is considered as a personification of power. Performing a Durga puja every day during Navaratri is particularly beneficial and helps us to overcome strongly negative tendencies. You too can do this short puja during the nine days of the Navaratri festival, or any time that you feel to do so.
Durga Puja Procedure
- Take five fresh lemons, cut them in half and squeeze out the juice.
- Keep the lemon juice in a puja cup and mix jaggery into it to sweeten it.
- Turn nine lemon halves inside out and place them in a circle on a plate with eight halves in a circle and one half in the middle.
- Fill them with ghee.
- Place a wick in each lemon half.
- Light some incense and place it in front of a photo or statue of Durga.
- Light the wicks in the lemon halves.
- Light an arati lamp, wave it in front of the photo and concentrate on Mother Durga.
- Sit down and chant the mantra Om Durgaya Namaha 21 times whilst offering flowers and kumkum (if you don’t have anyone to do the puja with you can simply offer flowers).
- Break the coconut and place each half either side of the photo.
- Offer the lemon juice and jaggery prasadam.
- Offer flowers and water.
- Finish by showing arati to Durga
Note: You can also do a shorter puja without the offering of a coconut
You need the following items:
– A beautiful photo/statue of Durga
– A plate
– 9 fresh lemon halves
– 1 fresh coconut
– Knife for breaking coconut
– A cup of lemon juice mixed with jaggery to sweeten
– Fresh flowers to offer