Life on earth is discernable by 3 basic qualities –
- to know
- to feel
- to act.
Knowing gives rise to desire, a want, an impulse, a response. This impulse makes one act in that direction. Acting, doing anything again gives knowledge which further drives wants again and the cycle goes on endlessly.
It can also be seen as there is a want, a desire which drives one to know what to do to get it fulfilled and this knowledge enables one to act in the direction of getting the want fulfilled. Once this want is fulfilled, there arises the next want and the cycle goes on endlessly.
These 3 basic aspects can be seen in living beings in varying degrees depending on their form of existence from micro-organism, plant, insect, birds, animal to human life. Those in which, one of more of these 3 aspects, i.e. free thought, free will, free act, is missing, is considered to be non-living.
It is the power of such free thought, free will and free act, which has been described in Indian thought as Gnana Shakti, Iccha Shakti and Kriya Shakti. Together they form a part of one’s consciousness.
A new born baby, soon as it is born itself, as it struggles for air, subconsciously wants to breathe, knows how to breathe and breathes without anyone teaching it so. The cycle starts from there.
Similar is the case with a seed. When a seed is ready, there is an impulse to germinate, it knows how to germinate and it germinates on its own without anyone teaching it or making it to do so. One can only create a conducive environment. The rest is upto the seed.
These 3 energies form a part of the consciousness of every entity on earth, every entity in the cosmos and of the cosmos itself too as it is also alive.
The cosmos as an entity too is living as it is continuously evolving, goes through its cycles of births and deaths and most of all is driven by a cosmic consciousness – a consciousness that makes it want to get created, know how to create itself and to go through the process of creation.
Thus these 3 energies exist at all levels in the cosmos.
The ancients of this land had well understood consciousness and life. They had also seen a complementary nature in this universe.
Every living being on earth, be it from plant or animal kingdom, bears a predominant male or female characteristic, commonly called gender. In each species, the male and female of the species evolve roles, responsibilities innate to their character so that they complement each other in keeping themselves sustained, creating progeny and safeguarding them for the continued existence, survival of the species as a whole.
Such a complementing nature is at work in the whole of Nature.
The ancients had therefore divined the principles and workings of the cosmos into three primary masculine divinities – Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva and their feminine counterpart divinities – Sarasvati, Lakshmi and Durga or Shakti respectively.
Each of the pair of masculine and feminine divinities were associated with one aspect of the existence of the cosmos all the way down to the smallest being on it –
- Brahma – Sarasvati pair associated with the expansion, growth, evolution of the Universe. They represent the Gnana Shakti, knowledge to create the Universe and everything in it.
- Vishnu – Lakshmi pair associated with the purpose, orderly functioning, sustenance of the Universe. They represent the Iccha Shakti, the act of willful, purposeful creation and sustenance.
- Shiva – Shakti pair associated with the manifestation and regeneration of the matter of the Universe. They represent the Kriya Shakti, potential, energy and process of manifestation of the Universe.
The cosmos is not a chaos. On the contrary it is well organized with clear distinction of characteristics, roles and responsibilities starting all the way from the divine cosmic principles to the smallest and myriad forms of existence.
Every role needs an actor to play it and the actor needs a character, Guna.
Similarly in the 3 roles played by the 3 pairs of divinities, the masculine divinity denotes the actor while the feminine divinity is the character of that actor.
If Shiva plays the role of the manifestor, Shakti is the energy in Shiva to go through the process of manifestation, Kriya Shakti.
If Vishnu plays the role of maintaining order in the cosmos and sustaining it, Lakshmi within Vishnu is the desire, principle, goal that drives this creation and its sustenance, Iccha Shakti.
If Brahma plays the role of expanding the Universe and consciousness, Sarasvati is the one inside Brahma who knows it all, the Gnana Shakti.
These feminine divinities were perhaps the earliest “Women of Substance”.
Navaratri is the celebration of these earliest “Women of Substance”.
These three divinities, Goddesses, Durga, Lakshmi and Sarasvati, who represent power, achievement and knowledge resources respectively, are propitiated during Navaratri to enrich our lives with the above resources, vital to the survival and prosperity of any civilization.
This festival is not celebrated for a day, but for nine nights as the term Navaratri suggests. It is the time window to align the divine feminine forces in each one of us governing the three aspects of our life with that of the cosmos.
This symbolism of the Goddesses denotes the higher understanding in the civilization that the functioning and the resources needed to function, coming together with a purpose, is what ensures successful completion of any activity.
It is the understanding of this complementary nature of Nature, all the way from the divine forces at work throughout the Universe, to the various living forms in this Universe, including man and woman on earth that formed the ethos of the land of India.
This ethos through the ages has given the due position and respect, in all spheres of life, to men and women. Navaratri is the time to honour the women in the cosmos all the way from divine to human.