Story-day is for cultural exploration, puraanas and parables and finding out about leading lights in spiritual philosophy.
The nine nights of the goddess. Just as there are many faces of the male part of 'God', equally there are many faces of the female. Male and Female are both required for balance; in this plethora of faces we find the Indian equivalent of the Oriental ying-yang principle. Both are needed in equal amounts. Each should contain elements of the other. When the alignment is distorted in anyway, this is when we find troubles arising.
Navratri specifically looks at faces of Parvati (power and energy) in the form of Durga-maa, Mother of the Universe, over the first three nights; Lakshmi (wealth and prosperity); Saraswati (spiritual knowledge and wisdom).
|Lakshmi-ji, Durga-maa, Shri Saraswati|
It is possible to worship the three forms each for three days and gain much benefit. The Durga figure is also worshipped, however, in nine different guises, each relating to the different stages of womanhood.
Shailaputri - daughter of the Himalaya, the infant Shakti, potential of power within us
Brahmacharini - the growing child/power, student, chaste, a form of Uma
Chandraghanta - the teenager, pubescent (governed by the moon), representing beauty and courage
Kushmanda - the fecund one, ready to create(said to have created the universe with her laugh)
Skandamaata - the child-bearer, the nurturer, the giver of life
Kaatyayani - rider of the tiger, tamer of the unruly; growing wisdom and unafraid to tackle the troubles of life, learning how to ride them
Kaalratri - "the dark night of the soul" is represented by this fearsome image. This lady is moving into the changing years and brooks no nonsense, makes no compromise; here devotees are reminded the true purpose of life, seek the Real and leave all else on the scrapheap, become fearless with the inner search.
Mahagauri - the tranquil, aging gracefully, white-clothed mother of all, filled with experience and wisdom
Siddhadatri - she who has attained the lotus skills of the expert spiritual seeker.
There is a tenth day celebration to end the week, this we shall look at next Saturday.
In terms of festival, generally speaking the first six nights are celebrated within the home. Then community dances and gatherings are organised. Whilst fasting during the days, there is limited food which may be taken after daylight hours (6pm in those parts where light is longer!) Essentially, the foods are of totally sattvic nature; calming to the body and simple to digest and lightly flavoured. Very often, those who have left the household to work or marry, will seek to come and stay with and honour their mother. Fathers will honour their wives and daughters, brothers honour their sisters… It is a grand celebration of the importance of the female in community.
Spiritually, as we grow, we must integrate all aspects of the human form within us and rise above gender. Eventually we discover the combined form, then move even beyond that into pure Love with the capital 'ell'.
शुभ नवरात्री !!!