NINE and NAVARATRI
Numbers are an important part of the beliefs of Hinduism. Both numbers eight and nine are extremely significant. Both play an integral part of the festival called Navaratri, meaning “nine nights” also called Dussera or the ten days. Although there are four Navaratri’s in a calendar year only two are celebrations; the Vasantha Navaratri in March at the beginning of summer that ends with Ram Navami and the famous celebration in October, marking the onset of winter that is dedicated to Durga and her two other forms, Lakshmi and Saraswathi.
The two seasons, summer and winter, are two important occurrences that herald a major change in climatic and solar influences. Navaratri festival celebrates and gives thanks to the divine power that provides energy for the earth to move around the sun and causes changes and maintains the correct balance of the universe. Secondly, due to the changes in external nature, the bodies and minds of people too undergo a considerable change. So it is imperative to call upon the divine to give us the Shakthi to maintain our physical and mental balance.
Significance of Navaratri
Navaratri is a celebration of the power of the feminine principle. The energy of creation is recognized in the universal mother, Durga, literally meaning the remover of miseries of life. She is also called Devi or goddess or Shakti energy or power. The worship of Shakti re-confirms the scientific theory that energy is imperishable. It cannot be created or destroyed. It is always there.
The Nine Nights and Days
Navaratri is divided into sets of three days to worship different aspects of the supreme goddess. On the first three days Durga is worshipped to destroy all our impurities, vices and defects. The next three days Lakshmi, the giver of spiritual wealth is invoked to provide prosperity and well-being without which a higher order of thinking cannot come into place. The last three days is spent worshipping the Goddess of wisdom, Saraswati who opens our eyes to the deeper meanings of life and salvation.
In the north of India, the first nine days of this festival, called Navaratri, is a time for fasting, followed by celebrations on the tenth day. In western India the Garba and Raas are danced in joyous celebrations. In the south, Dussera is a festival when dolls are arranged on nine steps based on religious themes and women are invited and honoured as a manifestation of the Goddesses themselves. The tenth day is celebrated as a day to begin new learning. In the east, Durga Puja is a huge event and the whole region comes to a halt from the seventh till the tenth day of this annual festival.
The significant part of the Navratris is the night. The Rig Veda says that before creation began, everything was shrouded in the darkness of night. From this black hole with only the reverbation of the sound of AUM the process of creation began. The same idea is reflected in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. These nine nights occur on equinoxes or equal nights when the sun is vertically overhead at the equator or centre. Hence the human body also attains equilibrium with nature and meditation and worship of Sakti with Beej mantras revitalises the body.
Therefore forms of Durga are worshipped with their respective yantras. Grain or legumes are sown in homes as a symbol of the creative power of the mother Goddess. In recognition of the importance of sakthi or feminine force. Traditionally, little girls are symbolically worshipped on the eighth day, Ashtami.
The Navratras also celebrates the victory of Lord Rama over Ravana and many chant the famous Ramrakshastotra in the mornings.
Navaratri ultimately symbolises the triumph of virtue over vice. It is a time to reflect, to bond and to regroup one’s energies, resources and family and social strands into a whole, a puranama represented by the number nine.
The highlights of this festival in the regional scene are the Garba Dance of Gujarat, Ramlila of Varanasi, Dusshera of Mysore, and Durga Puja of Bengal.
Shakthi is known as Durga, Bhavani, Amba, Chandika, Gauri, Parvati, Mahishasuramardini and her other manifestations. She is the protector of the righteous, and destroyer of the evil. Durga is usually portrayed as riding a lion, and carrying weapons in her many arms.
Nine in Hinduism
Nava, also meaning ‘new’ is ‘nine’ the number to which sages attach special significance.
1. Nava-ratri and the nine auspicious nights signify the basic principle of yoga that energies should involute back to the primal source to rejuvenate the individual form, which is the human body.
2. Nava-patrika the 9 leaves, herbs plants that correspond to one of the nine Durgas (Navadurga): rambha the banana stem, the jute plant, turmeric, jayanti, vilva or wood apple fruits, dalim or pomegranate, asoka, manaka or arum and dhanyam or rice paddy is used in Bengal during Durga Puja..
3. Adi Sankaracharya in the 8th century AD clearly indicated the significance of number nine in the Soundaryalahiri, 11th sloka: “The four Siva chakras and five Sakti chakras create the nine Mula-Prakratis or basic manifestations, because they represent the source substance of the whole cosmos”.
4. Nava-dwaram– The nine apertures of the body — two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, mouth, genitals and anus.
5. Nava-kundalini or the nine psychic centres.
• ABSOLUTE CHAKRA. in the brain area
• BROW CHAKRA, sometimes called the third eye, in the region of the pineal gland.
• THROAT CHAKRA that becomes soundless speech.
• HEART CHAKRA that promotes enduring devotion.
• NAVEL CHAKRA in the abdomen that gives contentment.
• GENITAL CHAKRA behind the pubic region that represents creation.
• BASE CHAKRA of inertia in the anus region.
• The two chakras in the centre and near the back of the left and right hands that are associated with touch sensitivity and guide the hand in sleep and in darkness.
6. Nava-graha or nine planets. Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn, Rahu (Snake’s head) and Ketu (Snake’s tail) give us pleasure and serenity and remove obstacles from our way. The names of the seven bodies Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn are still connected, in some languages, with the seven days of the week.
7. Nava-ratna or nine gems that symbolically and astrologically represent the nine astrological bodies:
• Ruby (Manikyam or Padmarag): Sun
• Natural pearl (Mukta or Moti): Moon
• Red coral (Moonga or Pravalam): Mars
• Emerald (Marakatam or Panna): Mercury
• Yellow sapphire (Pushparagam): Jupiter
• Diamond (Hira or Vajram): Venus
• Blue sapphire (Indra-neelam): Saturn
• Hessonite (Gomedakam): Rahu
• Cat’s eye (Vaiduryam): Ketu
8. Nava-rasa or nine basic moods described in Nātyasāstra by Bharata Muni are:
• Śringaram ( Love )
• Haasyam ( Comic )
• Karuna ( Pathos or Kindness )
• Raudram ( Anger )
• Veeram ( Heroic )
• Bhaya ( Fear )
• Bhibhatsam ( Obnoxious )
• Adbhutam ( Wonderful or Marvelous)
• Śāntam ( Tranquility )
9. The nine forms of Goddess Durga or Tripurasundari worshipped during Navratras are:
• SKANDAMATA the Goddess of Fire with four arms and three eyes who rides a lion.
• KUSUMANDA, eight-armed form seated on a lion with a magnanimous presence.
• SHAILAPUTRI is the embodiment of the power of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. She rides a bull and carries a trident and a lotus in her two hands.
• KAALRATRI, the four-armed Goddess who rides an ass. She dissipates darkness from amidst her devotees, and bestows freedom from fear and adversity.
• BRAHMACHARINI practices devout austerity. Filled with bliss and happiness, she is the way to emancipation or Moksha.
• MAHA GAURI is like an eight-year-old girl, intelligent and peaceful with the three eyes and four arms who rides the bull.
• KATYAYANI, goddess of Vrindavan with her golden form and four arms and three eyes who is seated on a lion.
• CHANDRAGHANTA ten-armed epitome of bravery who rides a lion and drives away all evildoers.
• SIDDHIDATRI four armed Goddess who bestows accomplishments and is seated on a lotus.
10. Garba-vaasam, the nine months of a nascent life in the womb.
11. There are 360 rays of universal Sakthi represented by Maha Tripurasundari. It is shown in the form of a circle which has a 360 degree angle indicating fullness. This 360 digit again totals to nine, the number of creation.
12. The universe is also composed of 36 tatvas that emanates from Parama Shiva that has the numerical value of nine.
13. Kaal or the nine divisions of time — ghatika, yama, ahoratra, vara, tithi, paksha, masa, ritu, ayan.
14. The days representing the 16 phases or kalas of the moon constitute a fortnight. The two pakshas—waxing and waning of the moon—make a month. These tithis are also 360 in a lunar year again depicting a total of nine.
15. Nine is considered to be complete, pooranam, because any number multiplied by nine gives a figure that totals to nine. The number nine added or deducted from any number gives a figure with the numerical total unchanged. This concept is explained in the famous santi path mantra of the Upanishads.