Guiding Light: The Descent of the Sacred Feminine

Ritesh AswaneyUpdated: Friday, September 23, 2022, 05:45 PM IST
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As Pitru Paksha comes to a close, the festive season begins with the advent of Navratri, the nine nights dedicated to the Goddess. It is believed that the Devi descends to earth on Mahalaya day (Sep 25), making the arduous journey from Mount Kailasa, where she resides with Mahadev and her prodigious children, Ganesha and Karthikeya. In Bengal, Mahalaya starts with the sonorous notes of the Chandi Path immortalised in the voice of Birendra Krishna Bhadra, playing in every household. Navratri commences the day after on Sep 26, with Durga Puja starting on Oct 1.

The demon Mahishasura had become invincible in battle, after being conferred with the boon that ‘no man’ could defeat him in battle. Distraught after his defeat, Indra, with the terrified devas, approached the Brahma-Vishnu-Mahesh asking for their help. It is then that the Shakti-consorts of the trinity, Saraswati, Lakshmi and Parvati combined their powers to create Ma Durga, the most fearsome avatar of the Goddess. The Devas armed her with the best of their weapons and armour, and she annihilated the buffalo-demon Mahishsura in battle.

Each day of Navratri is dedicated to a form of the Goddess, the Nav Durga, with Ma Shailaputri being worshipped on the first day, and culminating with Ma Siddhidhatri. Ma Katyayini, who is worshipped on the 6th day is the most ferocious form, and is believed to be the one that destroyed the demon Mahishasura, earning her the moniker Mahishasura-Mardhini. Metaphorically, this buffalo-demon represents deep ignorance, and his destruction symbolises the victory of good over evil, and is celebrated as Vijaya Dashmi.

Navaratri is one of the most spiritually significant periods in the year, ideal for meditation and sadhna, as the Shakti descends to the earthly realm and is available to spiritual seekers. It is very beneficial to fast, recite the Durga Saptashati Path and perform or attend fire rituals such as the powerful Chandi Homa. It is also the perfect time to venerate the femine in every form, earthly or divine, and perhaps even contribute to noble causes such as the education of the girl child. As we welcome the Goddess after a tumultuous couple of years marred by the pandemic, let us pray that this Navratri brings us festive cheer and spiritual advancement in equal measure. Jai Ma!

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