Navaratri Traditions and
of Shakti >> Navaratri Traditions and Shakti
The The worship of the Mother Goddess
dates back to the most ancient Indian traditions. Worship of cosmic energy - or the raw
unchannelled power of nature and fertility in the form of the mother Shakti
is a tradition that is seen in a variety of forms all through the Indian subcontinent.
Thus one sees the worship of Bhagawati in Kerala, Renuka
Parameswari elsewhere in south India, Manasi devi in North
India, Kaali in Bengal and so on. Mythological and vedic variations of
this oft repeated theme of Shakti appear in the form of Parvati, Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati.
It is to be noted that the feminine Shakti appears as a guardian deity in hamlets
throughout the region. These deities are specific to the region of worship and have their
own worship traditions. The common thread of beliefs that form an essential ingredient of
local deities - also pervades through the mythological Shakti - whose worship traditions
are not restricted by physical boundaries. Thus we have the tradition of Shakti
peethams distributed throughout India. With advances in communication, some of
these centers of Shakti worship attract visitors from other regions as well - as in the Vaishnao Devi pilgrimage in Northern India, Samayapuram in Tamilnadu and so
Saivite belief systems regard Shakti
as an essential part of Shiva; Vaishnavite systems
regard Lakshmi as the all pervading source of
Shakti. Saraswati is regarded as the source
of Knowledge and the arts. The belief systems thus provide a colorful tradition of rituals
ranging from the highly localized unique local traditions to the global temple centric
shakta-agamic worship protocols.
The colorful tapestry of legends that surround Shakti also contribute towards festivites
observed throughout the year, the most significant of which is the autumnal Navaratri
or the festival of nine nights. To complement the autumnal Navaratri we also have the Vasanta
Navaratri or the Navaratri of spring. The nine nights during Navaratri represent
the Nava-durga or the nine manifestations of Durga. The ninth night marks the destruction
of the demon Mahisha and the tenth night is one of celebration.
Interestingly both of these Navaratri traditions are also associated with Rama.
It is believed that Rama worshipped Durga for nine nights prior to killing Ravana on
Vijaya Dasami, and hence the autumnal Navaratri. The spring Navaratri commences
with Ugadi or Gudi Padva and concludes on Rama Navami - observed
as Rama's birthday.
In south India Navaratri is associated with the manifestations of Shakti - Durga, Lakshmi
and Saraswati respectively.
The autumnal full moon (Sharad Poornima) following the destruction of
Mahisha calls for the worship of Shakti as Lakshmi, associated with a bountiful harvest
past the monsoons.
Also, the worship of the mother Goddess Shakti - takes on a special significance in the
months denoting the passage of time. In the solar month of Capricorn
and in the month of Cancer, (Thai and Aadi) soon after the winter and
summer solstices, temples enshrining Shakti - especially those not pertaining to agamic
traditions are special centers of worship especially in the southern state of Tamilnadu, Friday
being the day of the week attracting the most number of people.
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