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Navaratri Traditions and Shakti

Abodes 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 on.

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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