By honoring the unfathomable power of Goddess Durga in defeating a buffalo-headed demon, Mahishasura, Navratri celebrates the feminine nature of the divine. Navratri is a Sanskrit term where ‘Nav’ translates to ‘nine’ and ‘Ratri’ to ‘night’.
Also known as Durga Puja, this festival comes five times a year: Chaitra Navratri, Gupta Navratri, Sharada Navratri or Maha Navratri, Paush Navratri, Magha Navratri. Among these, Chaitra Navratri and Sharada Navratri are most popular. This 9-night, 10-day festival bears high religious, spiritual, and cultural significance.
What do 9 nights of Navratri stand for?
As per the Kalpas (Puranas), there are three dimensions of Shakti (the feminine energy): Mahakali (strength or power), Mahalakshmi (wealth, passion and material well-being), and Mahasaraswati (knowledge, dissolution, transcendence of the limitations of the mortal body). They are believed to represent the cosmos as the Earth, the Sun and the Moon.
They are also symbolic of the 3 gunas (virtues/qualities): tamas (inertia), rajas (activity, passion) and sattva (knowledge, purity), respectively. Therefore, the first three days are dedicated to Durga or Kali, the next three to Lakshmi, and the last three to Saraswati. The tenth day is called Vijayadashmi (or Dussehra) where ‘Vijaya’ means victory – of good over evil, the victory of Lord Rama over the ten-headed demon king, Ravana.
Ravana’s ten heads represent ten negative qualities – Kaam (Lust), Krodh (Anger), Lobh (Greed), Moh (Attachment), Ahankar (Ego), Bhay (Fear), Irshya (Jealousy), Jadta (Inertia), Dvesh (Hate), and Paschataap (Guilty). Hence, this day also signifies victory over our own minds.
What are colors of Navratri in 2019?
Each color has different significance and brings different effect in one’s life, here’s what they mean –
Royal blue – Strong energy and tranquility
Yellow – Happiness, bring optimism and confidence
Green – Represents prosperity and unconditional love
Grey – Show dignity & connects to the divine power and provide protection
Orange – The color of fame, name, and money
White – The symbol of peace, prayer, faith, and strength
Red – This is the favorite color of goddess Durga, it defines power and passion
Pink – Represents hope and the new beginning
Every year different colors, what is the math behind it?
The secret of the color change lies in the weekday on which Pratipada, the first day of Navaratri, falls. The remaining eight days follow a fixed cycle of colors. The first Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday will be having White, Red, Royal blue, Yellow, Green, Grey and Orange, respectively. Hence, 7 colors are covered by one-week cycle. In second cycle of week, the first repeating week day follows Pink and purple and/or sky blue, alternatively. Hence, 2 colors cover the remaining 2 days.
What exactly is fasting during Navratri?
Fast does not mean ‘not eating’. Rather it basically means controlling the desires and simultaneously cultivating positive mental attitudes. Desires can be of many types: to eat tasty food, smell, listen to a particular music, lust etc.
Fast, therefore, can be of many types. Food fast means controlling the desires for food items which you otherwise may not resist eating.
In Navratri, during the first three days, a person is required to indulge in activities which reduce the negativity in the body.
The physical purification involves regular bath (of the external body as well as various orifices); mental bath which involves self-confession exercises, and willful attempts not to think negative.
During these days, a person tries to restrain himself/herself from thinking, speaking or doing any activity which can harm another person. These negative thoughts should also not be suppressed or repressed as otherwise, they will manifest into some internal diseases.
The next three days, after the negativity in the mind, has been reduced, involves building positivity in the mind by way of various positive mental exercises. The last three days involve reading and understanding good scriptures and learning from the sins of others.
Once you have bid goodbye to negativity in the first three days (representing Kali) and have built up happiness and positivity in the mind (representing Lakshmi) the only thing left is to acquire spiritual knowledge (representing Saraswati).
During these last three days, a person is purified enough to understand and grasp the knowledge of ‘Self’ and to understands and discriminate between good and bad.
After the nine days of self-discipline is complete, the person acquires inner happiness which is nothing but one’s exposure or appointment with the true self or the consciousness (Rama). That is what Dussehra is with the killing of Tamas (Kumbhakarana), Rajas (Meghnath) and ego (Ravana).
The same interpretation lies in the Navratri ending up with Dussehra – the win over the ego and attaining inner happiness.
What is the scientific reason behind fasting during Navratri?
Besides religious perspective there is a scientific overview of fasting, fasting helps the human body to perform 3 main metabolic activities;
- Detoxification– since Navratri is a biannual festival; first, at the beginning of summer and second, at the beginning of winter. These are two juncture of seasonal change, this is the period when the human body is vulnerable and susceptible to fall sick; therefore it’s necessary to have a light diet and help the body cells to produce antioxidants which help in removing the waste products to avoid causing further hazards to the body.
- Mindfulness – fasting gives our digestive system time to rest. During fasting human body consumes fat as primary source of energy because of lack of carbohydrates in diet and the metabolic end product of fat is ketone bodies, ketone bodies are the energy source of brain and it promotes more acetylcholine release from nerves which finally increases one’s concentration and calculating ability and it stimulates the release of serotonin which is the hormone for happiness.
- Self-discipline– fasting brings the human body and mind to a more disciplined and ideal state which is difficult to achieve in daily life activities without fasting, this, in turn, helps in weight loss too.
After reading all of this, it definitely makes us think how rich and noble our traditions are. It is easy to misunderstand that all of our festivals are a form of penance to some or other god, but truly, in a subtle way, these are meant to help our selves in growing us into better human beings.
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