Most people are only aware of two Navratris; the Vasant Navratri also known as the Chaitra Navratri falling during March-April of the Gregorian calendar and the Sharad Navratri or the Ashwin Navratri celebrated during the winter; September-October. There are two more Navratris also referred to as Gupt Navratris; the Ashad Navratri and the Pausha/Magha Navratri observed during June-July and December-January respectively. Of these the Chaitra and the Ashwin Navratris are considered most auspicious and sacred.
Navaratra or Navratri, the festival of nine nights is derived from Nava meaning nine and ratri meaning night. Ever wondered why the nights hold greater significance during Navratri than the days? Navratri is celebrated to honor Shakti; the absolute, primordial cosmic energy, the divine femininity or the Adi Shakti, Maa Durga. It is when we give obeisance to the nine forms of the Hindu Goddess. Some believe that every being possesses fragments of this aboriginal energy, which can be invoked through a journey from the outer world to the inner, subtle world of the self. This requires sadhana and rejuvenation involving meditation and devotional worship. Since ratri also means rejuvenation, what better time for sadhana than the night?
The Chaitra Navratri is especially very significant as it also marks the beginning of the Hindu New year along with the onset of Vasant or spring. A very interesting story relating this Navratri is based on Prince Sudarshan’s accidental utterance of the Bija Akshara (root Syllable) of the Divine Mother, Kleem. Prince Sudarshan was the heir to the throne of Kosala after King Dhruvasindu died. However, Prince Sudarshan’s maternal grandfather, King Veersen of Kalinga, had to contend with King Yudhajit of Ujjain and a battle between the two killed King Veersen thus forcing his mother Queen Manorama to flee to Rishi Bhardawaj’s hermitage with Sudarshan and a Eunuch. The innocent Prince once heard the Rishi’s son call the eunuch by his Sanskrit name, Kleeba and mispronounced it as Kleem. His repeating of the word pleased the Mother Goddess who blessed him with divine weapons and an inexhaustible quiver.
As time passed by, Prince Sudarshan was invited to attend the swayamvar (a ceremony where the girl chooses her groom from the many men present) of the daughter of the King of Banaras, Princess Shashikala. As destiny had it, Shashikala promptly chose Prince Sudarshan and they were wedded ritualistic after that. This made King Yudhajit go green with envy and attack the King of Banaras and Prince Sudarshan. On learning her favorite devotee’s predicament, the Mother Goddess came to their rescue. Yudhajit ridiculed the Goddess for this, which angered and made her reduce Yudhajit and his army to ashes. The King, his daughter and the Prince expressed their gratitude whole heartedly, which pleased the Goddess and she enjoined them to perform a Yagna in her honor during the Vasant Navratri. After being crowned as the King of Kosala, Prince Sudarshan obeying the Goddess’ command worshipped her by performing a Yagna during the Vasant Navratri.
Thus Chaitra isn’t just the month when seeds germinate into plants; it is also the time for mankind’s empowerment with the Adi Shakti Jagdamba’s blessings!
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