The significance of Durga Puja and Navratri

Swami Sarvalokananda’s Durga Puja address to devotees of Mother – Navami 2014.

Navaratri is observed all over India. We need to understand how.

Adishakti Mahamaya, the Primeval Energy (Divine Mother) has nine forms, and nine names associated with those forms. The first day of Navaratri, Adishakti Mahamaya is worshipped in the name and form of Shailaputri. The second day She is worshipped as Brahmacharini, the third day as Chandraghanta. The fourth day She is worshipped as Kushmanda, the fifth day as Skandamata. On the sixth day She is Katyayani, on the seventh day Kalaratri, and on the eighth day She is Maha Gauri. On Navami, Adishakti Mahamaya is worshipped as Siddhidatri.

The worship of Durga Puja

Why then is the idol of Mother Durga worshipped on Saptami, Ashtami, Navami and Dashami days?

In the Puranas it is said that on the day of Saptami, the Divine Mother took the form of Durga and on Ashtami all Gods bestowed on Devi Durga different arms and weapons (as we read in the Chandi). You see these astra-shastras in the Mother Durga idol. In the period of ‘sandhi’ (junction) between ashtami and navami, Mother Durga slayed the demon Mahishasura. This is why we worship Mother Durga in an idol from Saptami to Dashami.
There is a tradition of Mother-worship in India
Durga Puja is an ancient tradition. Mother-worship has been a part of the Indian tradition for thousands of years. We find mention of Mother-worship even in the Rig Veda. It is probably only in the Hindu Tradition that God is worshipped as Mother – in the Motherhood of God.

The slaying of Mahishasura

Mother-worship is the worship of ‘Shakti’. God has been worshipped as Mother for thousands of years in order to acquire ‘Mother-power’. You might be aware of the story where the demons had once become so powerful that they had driven away all the gods from heaven – especially the demon Mahishasura. It had become very difficult to destroy him. At that time, the gods ran to Brahma, Vishnu and then to Shiva seeking their advice to destroy the demons. All of them told the gods “You will not be able to destroy them. Only some Devi can destroy them”. The gods then worshipped Mother for this purpose.

Lord Rama worships the Divine Mother
This has been happening since ancient times. Lord Rama was mighty and chivalrous, but he was also not able to match Ravana. Ravana was also powerful. Brahma told Lord Rama that he would be able to destroy Ravana only if he celebrated Navaratri. Sri Rama then performed the worship of Mother in the nine forms of Adishakti Mahamaya. Sri Rama was then bestowed with the Shakti to kill Ravana. Sri Rama killed Ravana on the Navami day, and the victory was celebrated on the 10th day – Dashami. This day is called Dussehra.

Worship God as Mother in order to awaken our innate divine power
Inside Mother is a ‘dharana shakti’ (sustaining power). One power is needed even to hold this manifest universe. This Dharana Shakti is in abundance in women. When we observe our mothers, we see that they have more capacity of withholding power and of endurance. Men do not have that much power to hold. This is why, to attain any powers, it is important to worship God as Shakti.

When Swami Vivekananda came back to India from America, he started the worship of Mother Durga at Belur Math because without the awakening of Mother Power, the upliftment of the country is not possible. That is why the Mother Power has to be awakened. And this can be done only by worshipping God as Mother. The power within oneself has to be awakened, and this is Divine Power – the power of God as Mother.

Whatever powers you see, realize or experience on this earth, are of two kinds: one is divine power – which is called ‘daivi shakti’ in Sanskrit, and the second is ‘asuric shakti’ – demonic forces. Both of these exist in all of us. Some people manifest their divine power more than the demonic force within them, and some – the other way round. When we say someone is a good man, it means the manifestation of the divine power is more in this person. We also encounter people whom we do not like. They may be anti-social elements. In them, the asuric shakti manifests more than the daivi shakti.

Today, a big campaign is going on in our country for ‘Swachha Bharat’ (Clean India). Yes, we have to become clean from the outside. We have to get rid of the filth and dirt and create a clean village, a clean city and a clean society. But mere outward cleanliness will not be enough. The dirt and impurities within ourselves also have to be cleaned. Only then will the vision of “Swachha Bharat” be realized. Only then will our country progress. We can clean the external filth with a broom. But how will the internal filth be cleaned? With which soap or detergent? There is no such detergent or broom in the market that will clean the internal filth.

Internal filth means the asuric shakti within us – the evil propensities. These have to be removed from inside. Mother Durga comes to remove these forces and propensities from within us. She is the embodiment of all power. She has taken form to destroy all our evil forces and propensities.

Why Mother Durga comes with Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesha and Kartikeya
We see the idol of Mother Durga. She doesn’t come alone to this earth. She brings with her Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesha and Kartikeya. What does this mean? She could have come alone. She is Adishakti Mahamaya (The Primeval Energy).

Lakshmi and Saraswati are also two Maha-Shaktis. We worship Mother Lakshmi because she is the Goddess of wealth and prosperity. Mother Saraswati is the Goddess of learning and knowledge. The power of wealth and prosperity alone is not enough. This prosperity that we seek needs one more Shakti to sustain it – the power of true knowledge. Without knowledge, prosperity does not last too long. The power of wealth must be coupled with the power of knowledge and learning, and sometimes without it, power of wealth and prosperity becomes dangerous. To maintain the balance and to lead a meaningful life – which everyone wants – both are needed together – Lakshmi and Saraswati.

Lakshmi (wealth) is very fickle (chanchala). Today you may have a lot of wealth but nothing tomorrow. Today you are a king, tomorrow a beggar. So in order to take care of Lakshmi, the power of knowledge and learning is necessary. To maintain that balance, Mother Durga brings with her both the great powers.

Alongside She brings Kartikeya with her. What does he symbolize? Why do we worship Lord Kartikeya? He is the army Commander (Senapati) of the Gods. He is the symbol of strength, valour and might. She also brings Ganesha who is the remover of all obstacles in the path of success. Everybody wants success – there is none who doesn’t.

Therefore, Mother Durga who is the symbol of Divine Power, brings with her Lakshmi – the power of wealth, Saraswati – the power of learning and knowledge, Kartikeya – the power of strength and valour, and Ganesha – the power of success and remover of obstacles.

To bring fulfilment in our life, to make it successful and more meaningful, we need all these five powers. None of them can be denied – wealth, knowledge, valour, and success. Without these, neither can you become prosperous, nor the nation, nor society.

Mother Durga comes to us for three days. What should we pray to Mother for? Not for Wealth alone. Of course we can earn wealth, name, fame, prestige, everything. But even then we are not able to acquire ‘peace’. Everyone wants peace; even the hoodlum wants peace of mind. But how can we get peace? It cannot come from money and wealth which can give us everything but peace – that has been proved.

Swami Ranganathanandaji Maharaj would say – someone has a very huge mansion called “Shanti Kunj”. But inside there is ‘ashanti’ – lack of peace. The husband is fighting with the wife, the wife with the husband. There is no love between brother and sister, no love for the parents. And it becomes “Ashanti Kunj”.

How can we get peace? Only when we run a little less after money and wealth. The more we run after money, prestige, name and fame, more will be the unrest within us. And all of you as human beings are experiencing this unrest daily. As long as our minds do not have positive thoughts, we cannot achieve peace. We want to bring stability to our minds, because the mind is the cause of all that we experience. We are poor or rich through our minds, we are weak or strong through our minds, we are happy or sad through our minds. Everything depends on the mind alone! As we think, so shall we become. Everything depends on our thoughts. That is why Swami Vivekananda always said – fill your mind with positive thoughts, with divine power. Only then can there be peace. Not otherwise.

What was Swami Vivekananda’s prayer to Mother Durga? He prayed “O Mother! Please destroy the weakness within us. Grant us strength and awaken manliness in us”. That should be our prayer also particularly during these three days!
Mother destroyed many demons, Shumbha, Nishumbha and the mighty Mahishasura. You will agree with me that if today Mother starts destroying evil, she will get very tired! We are not demons in body/form. But we have a lot of demons inside us today! Nobody is a demon or God in form/body, but only through one’s mind, from within. That is why we must destroy the asuric shaktis present in us. And this is what we must pray to Mother for.

Swami Vivekananda talks about the glory of the human being. He says “Each soul is potentially divine”. By nature the human being is divine, but unfortunately we have become demons through our minds! Yes we are all humans in form, but we are not necessarily human in our inter-personal relationships, in the discharge of our duties and responsibilities. At that time, despite being humans, we do not act as humans. We do a lot of inhuman work which our newspapers are full of! Yes, in essence we are divine. And we have to awaken that divinity.

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