Spring Navarathri is a nine-day Hindu celebration to honour Shakti, the Divine Feminine. Celebrated within regional traditions, Navarathri takes place twice a year – in the Spring and Autumn. Spring or Chaitra Navarathri occurs in the first month of the Hindu calendar, falling in March or April. This year it begins on April 6, 2019 and on March 24 in 2020.
During these nine days and nights, Shakti is honoured and celebrated through gatherings, music, dance, rituals, temple visits, chanting hymns, and meditation on self-knowledge.
The Devi Mahatmyam, being one of the most important texts of Shaktism, is chanted or read during Navarathri. The 700 verses reflect our own spiritual journey of dissolving increasingly subtle blocks to self-realization. The stories of how Shakti in her many forms defeats the asuras or demons hold deep symbolism for how we can transcend ego identification.
Divided into three sets of three days, Navarathri celebrates the three main deities Kali, Lakshmi, and Saraswati. Each Goddess represents the destruction of a guna, tamas, rajas, and sattva, respectively, giving a three-fold transformation of our consciousness. These nine days are an inner path of Shakti, a space for our subtle work in stillness and silence. During this time, we can observe how these gunas play out in our daily life. Through witnessing, we can become aware of our patterns, validations, and justifications for our motivations and actions.
The cosmic forces during Navarathri are conducive to purifying and clarifying the buddhi, the intellect and the highest function of the mind. With a clear buddhi, we are able to discern the many ways we identify with the false self through our likes, dislikes, attachment, and fear of death. Like a still lake, a clear buddhi – clarified of past conditioning through meditation and self inquiry – reflects the divine.
Devote time to your spiritual practice or if you would like to, start a new practice. You may wish to fast, if you already fast or simply eat more lightly. Celebrate this time and honour Shakti, which is also you and me, in any way that resonates with you. Navarathri is a potent time to move from tamasic to rajasic to sattvic and ultimately transcending them and their concealing, projecting, and revealing powers.
Set up your altar before Navarathri. You can honour these nine days by lighting a candle for the entire duration. You may wish to have an image of the Goddesses, though this is not necessary especially if you are not an initiate of Shaktism.
An altar is a sacred space and a representation of our commitment to a sacred and spiritual path. It is highly personal what we place at our altar, depending on what is important to us and how we resonate with to represent our senses and the elements, for example. You may find at an altar a glass of water, flowers, crystals, a photo, a bell, a statue … What’s important is creating an altar with intention, taking care of it, and sitting at it when you practice meditation, self-inquiry, reflection, and silence.
Here is a mantra you can practice during Navarathri – Om Aim Hrim Klim Chamundayai Viche.
This mantra honours the forms of Shakti. Aim – wisdom (Saraswati), Hrim – abundance (Lakshmi), and Klim – manifestation (Kali). Chamundayai Viche “refers to Shakti as the supreme reality who moves in all the worlds as consciousness, giving birth to all that can only be known by consciousness.”1
This is a deeksha or initiation mantra that is also taught and shared during Navarathri. You may choose to use a mala with 27, 54, or 108 beads to keep count. Chant it melodically or silently anytime, feeling the sound and allowing it to settle into your subtle body.
Meditation & Self-Inquiry
We meditate to cultivate the witness so that we may see our patterns in action and know that we are not our beliefs, our roles, or our identification with our body and mind. Our past conditioning and experiences veil our discerning mind and through self-inquiry and witnessing we become wise to the false self we have unknowingly become identified with.
We can uncover all the ways we are pursuing happiness, contentment, sweetness, success, knowledge, and liberation in the external world. We learn instead to seek the source of our discontentment within us.
As we progress in our spiritual journey, the attributes of our false self become more subtle. We may have moved from material materialism to spiritual materialism. Instead of chasing material goods such as beautiful shoes or furniture, we may pursue the next transcendent experience or knowledge. Perhaps we use all the tools of a spiritual journey to avoid the pain, suffering, and responsibility, aka spiritual bypassing.
We can look at how tamas, rajas, and sattva play out in our lives.
- Notice how our body responds to events, people, triggers? What is happening with our breath, for example?
- How do we colour occurrences that really are neutral with our past experiences and our story?
- In what ways do we justify inertia? For not sitting down for our practice, be it meditation, asanas, writing, or self care?
- Where do our desires arise from?
- Can we cultivate a pause before we react?
- Is the movement towards more concealment (tamas) or revealing (sattva)?
- What/who do we protect? What do we justify?
- What supports our identification?
- Are we taking responsibility for our actions, our choices, our emotions? Or do we project it onto others, thereby creating karma through our subtle bonds with them?
- In our role as a mother, writer, teacher, boss, child, what judgments do we have? What expectations do we have of ourselves and others? How do these bind us to them and them to us? Or how do these limit other expressions and options? By having certain definitions of our roles, for example, how do we cut off other experiences?
- In what ways is our satvic mind keeping us attached to the false self of being more spiritually advanced than others?
While you may not be Hindu or a Shakti initiate, you can still benefit from this potent time of Navarathri. No matter our spiritual practice, we are all seeking liberation. This means to see clearly who we truly are, which is limitless beyond words. We can invoke Shakti who is all and lies within us. In Devi Mahatmyam the Goddess says to the demon Shumbha that only she exists. This means you and I are Shakti, as are the asuras, ego, ignorance, and illumination. Shakti is all. Knowing this, perhaps it will bring more ease to our cultivation of compassion for all in existence.
1 From Dr. Kavitha Chinnaiyan in her course Navarathri: An Inner Path to Shakti’s Realm.
Shakti Rising by Dr. Kavitha Chinnaiyan (New Harbinger Publications, 2017)
In Praise of the Goddess : The Devimahatmya and its Meaning by Kali Devadatta (Nicolas-Hays, 2013)
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