Hidden Treasures of the East
The Nine Nights of Celebration
Exploring the true meaning of yoga’s gifts to the West.
Navratri: ‘nava’ (nine) and ‘ratri’ (nights) is the 10-day and nine-night festival celebrated in the East during the beginning of the autumn harvest season. It is one of the most powerful and auspicious periods of devotional worship to Shakti, the divine feminine mother.
The celebration of Navratri is said to represent the path towards spiritual evolution. By destroying our inherent negativity, we develop its opposite quality, inviting higher consciousness, wisdom and knowledge into our lives.
Navratri is a celebration of life, the arts, music, dance, friendships and relationships. Our hearts soften and our capacity to feel and create expands.Families, friends and communities all unite as they recite stories, mythological legends, conduct fire sacrifices and chant scriptures and prayers. Folk dances such as ‘raas garba’ are performed to keep in tune with the spirit of the festival.
A demonic energy, ‘Mahishasura’ was destructing the alignment of the planets and could only be destroyed and rebalanced by a feminine energy. The great goddess Durga emerged and fought a ferocious battle for nine nights before triumphing on the tenth day. The ancient scriptures say that during the nine nights, three other forms of Shakti are honoured:
DAY 1-3: Kali (feminine energy of Shiva) dissolving ignorance, destroying our inner demons, strengthening our courage.
DAY 4-6: Lakshmi (feminine energy of Vishnu) bestowing wealth in all forms, inspiring generosity, reveals inner and outward beauty and abundance.
DAY 7-9: Saraswati (feminine energy of Brahma) representing purity and the light within us to create inspiration from the inner self.
DAY 10: Known as Dusherra, marking the triumph of good over evil when Shakti slayed the demon Mahishasura.
THE MYTH IS HUGELY SYMBOLIC: the victory of Shakti represents our own internal victory when overpowered by our negative tendencies. We channel the creative energy within us through faith to destroy these negativities; the battle between our own demons and our own inherent Durga.
Yoga and meditation
What we see and experience is Shakti: she is the expression, the movement, the manifestation of energy, the vibration of consciousness, the exhale in every breath.
She is the creation, the openness, the dynamic, the intuition and lightness. It is in the stillness between the inhale and exhale that the dual masculine and feminine energies within all of us unite and in that moment of fusion is where the magic really happens, the divine interplay.
We heighten the energy of these nine nights in our asana, meditation and mantra practices. By focusing on Shakti’s qualities, we travel deeper and manifest all that we want to attract into our lives; experiencing the full expression of the pose, channelling Shakti’s divine energy in meditation and chanting Shakti mantras, vibrating on a cellular level.
Om Aim Hrim Klim Chamundaye Vichey Namah
- I offer my obeisances to ‘Shakti’ the divine female energy
This mantra invokes Shakti. It is known to facilitate concentration of the mind and provide protection, acting as a shield of strength and energy.
We seek blessings from Shakti – Durga, who manifests into forms of Kali (Giver of Justice), Lakshmi (Giver of Wealth) and Saraswati (Giver of Knowledge).
By Sonal Thakrar (kleem.co.uk)
First published in November 2009, OM Yoga magazine has become the most popular yoga title in the UK. Available from all major supermarkets, independents and newsstands across the UK. Also available on all digital platforms.