We are right in the middle of the Navaratri festival. In the Vedic tradition we look upon the reality as nothing but pure consciousness, changeless, attributeless, limitless and through its own inherent manifestation as this whole Cosmos. With respect to the manifestation, this reality otherwise known as Brahman gains a new name of Ishvara, the same reality. With respect to the creation it is called as Ishvara. Very often the word ‘Ishvara’ is seen as a masculine figure. At the same time, one cannot limit Ishvara to just being masculine. To balance this, we have the tradition of invoking Ishvara as Shakti. So, Ishvara can be both — the reality or Devi for worship.
Because of the polarities we find in human beings, there is a male and a female principle or male and female energies. The male energy is seen as aggressive, protecting, dynamic whereas the female energy is seen as nurturing, assertive yet receiving. When one balances both these energies in oneself, one can be a more complete human being. Very often they seem to be opposed to each other but really speaking, they're supplementary or rather complimentary to each other. Therefore, when we invoke Ishvara the focus is more on the male side and hence the worship is generally during the early morning hours, whereas when we invoke the same Ishvara as Devi, the worship is generally more towards the evening or night. There are always exceptions to this rule like Mahashivaratri.
These are only certain guiding principles. The nine days are intense worship of Devi invoking the reality in the feminine aspect. It is only when one worships both these aspects that the male and female energies in us can be harmonised. I am not talking about being androgynous, which is a liberal concept of stripping away all maleness and femaleness. We integrate both the male and female principles in oneself through the worship of Ishvara and Devi and the contemplation on the various aspects. Contemplation and worship will depend on the different, glorious traditions available in this country. Happy Navaratri to all of you!
The writer is the founder of Aarsha Vidya Foundation. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org