Autumn Navaratri 2007

The festivities of the Goddess’ Nine Nights.

Navaratri (or Navaratra or Durga puja) is celebrated twice a year, during the onset of Summer and the onset of Winter. For nine nights the auspicious divine Mother is held sovereign of one’s heart. In September/October during the Lunar month of Ashvin. More specifically during its bright forthnight. (The bright half (shukla paksh) of any lunar month is the forth night leading to and ending with the full Moon.) That is, it is celebrated just as the Moon is new.

The month of Ashvin is named after the nakshatra Ashvini. Ashvini constitutes the first part, a little more than ten degrees, of Aries in the sky. It often has the symbol of a horse—or just its head.

I believe nakshatra is called asterism or lunar mansion in English, though the word of Sanskrit origin is more common. Nakshatras are important in jyotish, or Vedic/Indian astrology, the nakshatra in which the Moon resides when you are born are said to be your birth sign. Which may be contrasted with the Western astrology wherein your birth sign signifies in which Zodiacal sign the Sun resided when you were born.

Just exactly how and when Navaratri is celebrated differs in a variety of ways, the outlines I describe here below are just my own conclusions of low understanding. May the Mother of all bless my ignorance.

It appears to me a common way is to worship the Goddess with all you have for nine nights, beginning on day the first and ending on the tenth. The first three (lunar) days are held to the wildly terrible and destructive aspect of Durga that is Mahakali. The other set of three days is held to the gentle and prosperous form of Durga that is Mahalakshmi. So the third set of three days is held to the wise and knowledgable Durga that is Mahasarasvati. And lastly comes the celebration.

Kali destroys the ego, habits and tendencies, as well as protecting your spiritual Self. Lakshmi gives joy and prosperity, letting the capacity of your spiritual Self grow. Sarasvati gives knowledge and wisdom of divine character, may your spiritual Self attend higher planes. During the tenth day of Navaratri the conclusion of this struggle with your Self in three acts is celebrated. Victory to Durga!, victory to Rama!, and victory to you! in your respective fights with the “demons” of the Self. Jay!, jay!, jay!

In the path towards enlightening (for those thusly concerned) Mahakali Mata utterly destroys your basic earthen desires and instincts, emptying you. Whereupon Mahasarasvati Mata fills you with pleasures of spiritual growth. Mahasarasvati Mata comes forth with divine wisdom, and what do I know may it so be you are enlightened, what ever that may be. During the tenth day of the Navaratri this enlightenment is celebrated.

N. B. The Lunar and Solar days are not in synch, alas any Solar day may have one or two Lunar days, and any Lunar day may have one or two Solar days. For practical reasons the Solar day is said to “have” the Lunar day which is in effect on sunrise, which means that in a calendar any two consecutive Solar days may share the same Lunar day or miss one between themselves (meaning the former Solar day “contains” two Lunar ones).

Lunar day one. “Ashvin shukla paksh pratipada
The first of three days devoted to Durga/Kali.

Lunar day two. “Ashvin shukla paksh duj/dvitiya
The second of three days devoted to Durga/Kali.

Lunar day three. “Ashvin shukla paksh tij/tritiya
The third of three days devoted to Durga/Kali.

Lunar day four. “Ashvin shukla paksh caturthi
The first of three days devoted to Lakshmi.

Lunar day five. “Ashvin shukla paksh panchmi
The second of three days devoted to Lakshmi. This day is also Lalita panchmi.

Lunar day six. “Ashvin shukla paksh shashthi
The third of three days devoted to Lakshmi.

Lunar day seven. “Ashvin shukla paksh ashtmi
The first of three days devoted to Sarasvati. This day is also Sarasvati pujan.

Lunar day eight. “Ashvin shukla paksh ashtmi
The second of three days devoted to Sarasvati. This day is also Durga ashtmi, Bhadrakali ashtmi, Sarasvati balidan.

Lunar day nine. “Ashvin shukla paksh navmi
The third of three days devoted to Sarasvati. This day is also Durga navmi, Sarasvati visarjan.

Lunar day ten. “Ashvin shukla paksh dashmi
This day is also Dashahra, Vijaya dashmi. Vijaya dashmi or Dashahra (commonly spelled Dusshera in English) is the concluding tenth day, the victory of Rama over Ravana.

Thus concluded.

jay Mata-di!

Words (in alphabetical order)
Ashvin (hi. आश्विन āśvin) ‘(the month of) Ashvin’
Ashvini (hi. अश्विनी aśvinī) ‘(the nakshatra) Ashvini’
ashtmi (hi. अष्टमी aṣtmī) ‘eigth (lunar day)’
caturthi (hi. चतुर्थी caturthī) ‘fourth (lunar day)’
jyotish (hi. ज्योतिष jyotiṣ) ‘(Vedic) astrology’
tij (hi. तीज) ‘third (lunar day)’
tritiya (hi. तृतीया tr̥tīyā) ‘third (lunar day)’
dashmi (hi. दशमी daśmī) ‘tenth (lunar day)’
dashahra (hi. दशहरा daśahrā) ‘destroyer of (Ravana’s) ten (heads)’
duj (hi. दूज dūj) ‘second (lunar day)’
dvitiya (hi. द्वितीया dvitīyā) ‘second (lunar day)’
nakshatra (hi. नक्षत्र nakṣatra) ‘asterism/lunar mansion’
navmi (hi. नवमी navmī) ‘ninth (lunar day)’
Navaratra (hi. नवरत्र navaratra) ‘nine days’
Navaratri (hi. नवरात्रि navaratri) ‘nine days’
panchmi (hi. पंचमी pañchmī) ‘fifth (lunar day)’
pujan (hi. पूजन pūjan) ‘worship’
pratipada (hi. प्रतिपदा pratipadā) ‘first (lunar day)’
balidan (hi. बलिदान balidān) ‘(to give) sacrifical gift’
visarjan (hi. विसर्जन visarjan) ‘conclusion (of worship/ceremony)’
shukla (hi. शुक्ल śukla) ‘bright’
shukla paksha (hi. शुक्ल पक्ष śukla pakṣ) ‘bright part (of the month)’
shashthi (hi. षष्ठी ṣaṣṭhī) ‘sixth (lunar day)’
saptami (hi. सप्तमी saptamī) ‘seventh (lunar day)’