Navaratri – Celebrating Change

India is a vast land with an ancient culture. It has a range of colourful festivals. Navaratri is one among these festivals. This festival is not celebrated for a day, but for nine nights as the term Navaratri suggests.

Honouring Feminine Forces

While the period and date of festival is common across the land, it is celebrated in different ways across the land, but is still the same festival and spans across the same time window. The spirit is the same, that of honouring the feminine forces in Nature in the form of the three Goddesses Durga, Lakshmi, and Sarasvati, which finds expression in the place of honour given to women and girls during this festival.

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Navaratri Celebrations across the land

Celebrated with Different names in different ways

In Tamil Nadu and other parts of South India, it is celebrated as Kolu, festival of dolls, ending with Sarasvati Puja. In Mysore, it is celebrated as Dassera with Devi Chamundi as the primary divinity. In Bengal, it is called Durga Puja. In Central India and Northern India, Dassera is celebrated with the Dahana, burning of the effigy of Ravana to symbolize the victory of good over evil.

How is it that the same festival is celebrated in different ways in the same culture, in the same religious milieu and still accepted across the land by the same name, Navaratri and Dassera?

The connecting bond for all these festivals is the culture, which is called Samskrti. The word Samskrti itself means “that which is well done” as Kriti means “to do well”.

This is said so for, over time, the civilization in India had learnt, understood and perfected the ways of living. It is a way of living which is in sync with Nature as reflected in the timing of the festivals in India which are mainly based on seasons and the scientific principles of Nature.

4 Navaratri

Even though most people celebrate just one Navaratri festival during September – October every year, there are actually 4 Navaratri festivals in a year, each lasting for 9 nights and days.

Why are there 4 Navaratri festivals in a year?

India has 4 seasons and so Navaratri is celebrated 4 times in a year.

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The prime ones are celebrated in the months of March-April, the transition from Winter to Spring and in the months of September-October, the transition from summer to autumn. If you note, these are the windows close to the two equinoxes as well, the period when days and nights are equal and balanced.

Why does each celebration last for nine nights and days?

Navaratri festival celebrates the transitory nature between the four major seasons in Nature, they being summer, winter, spring and autumn. The transition from one to the other season does not take place in just one day but in fact was considered in Indian thought, to be a full span of 9 to 10 days. So this transitional nature of Nature was earmarked as a period of time which is 9 days and 9 nights.

From such practices, it comes out clear to us that, in the traditional Indian thought, while there was a definite calendar with days, hours, minutes and finer divisions of time, equal importance was also given to transitory periods – transition from day to night, from month to month, from season to season and so on.

Change in Season, Change in life pattern

When seasons change, life pattern also changes. The body which is a part of Nature, changes with changing surroundings, change in seasons. There is a change in diet pattern, sleep, metabolism etc. with the change in season. In a society closely in tune with Nature, it also affects occupations, work undertaken, dressing and overall behavior. Navaratri is such a transition from one season to another and is a celebration of this change.

Whenever there is a change, one can either resist it or accept it. With resistance comes hardships.  With acceptance comes mellowness. Celebrating is one way of yielding to and accepting a change wholeheartedly. And where there is wholehearted acceptance, contentment will follow and so will happiness.

Navaratri is the expression of such a celebration where we recognize there is going to be a change, understand the change that is to follow and accept it willingly.

Alignment of Energies

There is a saying in the Samskrt language, “Yatha Pinde thatha Brahmande” – “As in Microcosm, so in Macrocosm”. This phrase brings forth the relationship between our body, the body of earth and body of cosmos.

The gross world, the Macrocosm, is filled with varieties of astral bodies such as the earth, sun, planets, comets, stars, nebulae and galaxies. All these bodies are in continual motion, which brings about continuous change not only in the huge cosmos but all the way in every tiny living and non living being all the way on earth.

As these bodies keep moving and causing change in the cosmos, they keep aligning and realigning amongst themselves. These alignments bring in an interplay amongst the forces of Nature.

All these alignments have their effects on each of the bodies in space including the body that is us.

The Trinity of Energy

Our mind too, the Microcosm, is constantly under the interplay, alignment of 3 subtle forces or energies.

  • Ichcha Shakti – desire or will to act and manifest
  • Kriya Shakti – potential to act and manifest
  • Gnana Shakti – knowledge power for the manifestation

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An alignment of these energies denotes the culmination of their interplay, leading to a balanced state of mind and individual. This knowledge, Gnana Shakti, should lead us, the people, civilizations and human race as a whole, to use our potential and faculties, i.e. Kriya Shakti, for aligning our subconscious desire and will, Ichcha Shakti to be in sync with the Cosmos.

It is these 3 energies in the form of the three Goddesses, Durga, Lakshmi and Sarasvati that the Indians from time immemorial have been invoking and realigning themselves with, during the seasonal transition festival called Navaratri.

Brahmacharini – #Navaratri #Navadurga

Devi’s life before marriage

Brahmacharini form of Devi refers to the life of Devi Parvati, prior to Her marriage, when she undertook great tapa, penance to propitiate Lord Shiva. This fierce penance of Parvati led Her to attain the state of Brahman. Lord Shiva was pleased with Her, and accepted Her as His consort.

In this form, Devi is depicted as holding a japamala in Her right hand and a kamandala, water utensil in Her left hand. The japamala is symbolic of tapas, while the water symbolizes purity. These two qualities are necessary for attaining Brahman.

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Devi Brahmacharini

The word Brahmacharini, which is the feminine form of Brahmachari, consist of two words, Brahman and Achar.

Brahman

In the Indian tradition, Brahman refers to the expansive mind. From the times of the Veda, the mind is not regarded as a physiological organ, gland or part of the brain. It is something as fundamental as light, air, energy etc. and is spread everywhere across Creation and even in that which “exists before Creation”.

True, “existing before Creation” is indeed an oxymoron.

But from all this, one can gather that mind is the continuum that has existed before Creation, both in Time and Space. Time – for, it has existed even before Time started, Space – for, it has existed even before Space was created. All of Space / Time and Creation seem to be in the one single mind, in more ways than one.

If you close your eyes, your other senses and thence the mind, you do not see the Universe any more or you feel as big as the Universe.

This single, continuum was called the Brahman, the expansive mind. Brh – expansive, Man – Mind.

Hence we are all connected by our minds. We are all connected to the Universe too through our mind and are in a way immortal in the continuum beyond Space and Time, called Mind.

Thus with one’s mind, one can exert influence beyond oneself out into the continuum. Only thing is that, we know of asserting such influences by various names such as wish, prayer, blessing, charm, spell, curse and the likes. We practice them too, but often with no effect, since we have lost the connect.

Brahmacharni is the One who is connected to this Expansive Mind, and conducts Oneself from that state.

More on Brahman in our book, Brand Bharat – Vol-5Future From India.

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Achar

Achar means “practices, the way of doing, living”.

There are two other prominent terms in the Indian ethos with the words Achar, namely Vichar, Kalachar Desachar.

The word “culture” shares its root both phonetically and semantically with the sound and concept of Kalachar.

India is a nation that is ideational. It is bound by invisible threads.

What do these statements signify?

India is one culturally, yet, water harnessing techniques vary across regions.

India is one culturally, yet the designs of shelters vary across regions.

India is one culturally, yet food habits vary across regions.

India is one culturally, yet clothing varies across regions.

India is one culturally, yet languages vary across regions.

India is one culturally, yet art forms vary across regions.

So, how can this be called “one nation”?

What binds the people of this land together is their common ability to understand local dynamics and differentiate it from global, universal factors.

It was a common ethos across the land that man should adapt himself to his local surroundings and practice techniques that will keep the local region sustained. Yet, at the same time he should recognize and align himself with the principles of Nature that are cosmic, universal in level.

Thus, the people of this land, at a higher level, were tuned to the same principles of Dharma, which formed the basis of their Kalachar, but at an individual level or at a community level practiced techniques that were local to that region, Desachar.

Kalachar denotes techniques that have become fine tuned into an art and have transcended time to be applicable across the land.

The word “culture” shares its root both phonetically and semantically with the sound and concept of Kalachar.

India is thus a nation that is bound by a common Kalachar, her culture and is distinguished by her multitudes of Desachar.

It is this ideal of being able to live with one’s own Desachar, yet bind with others across the land, through the common Kalachar, which makes India an ideational nation bound by invisible threads.

The word “ideational” is a word coined by Tagore to mean the land is held together by a set of ideas and ideals and not just by a man marked political boundary.

An ultimate Vichar, thought.

Devi Brahmacharini represents this invisible thread.

More on Achar, Vichar, Desachar, Kalachar, in our book, Breaking The Myths – Vol – 1 – About Identity.

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4 Ashrama and Brahmacharini

The life of every individual in the society is divided into 4 sequential stages called Ashrama.

  1. Brahmacharya – the phase of bachelorhood
  2. Grahastha – the phase of marriage and parenthood
  3. Vanaprastha – the retirement stage
  4. Sanyasa – The phase of giving up everything, tangible and intangible.

The one in the stage of Brahmacharya is known as Brahmachari. The female gender term for the same is Brahmacharini. The Brahmacharya;s, Brahmacharini’s responsibility towards the society is to ensure that the knowledge of the society / civilization is learnt, so that it can be held safely in custody and passed on to the subsequent generation, thus ensuring the knowledge wealth of the society.

More on this in our book, Breaking The Myths – Vol-2 – About Society.

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Devi is the eternal Brahmacharini, who passes on knowledge from generation to generation.

Devi Brahmacharini is worshipped on the second night of Navaratri.

Access the Complete Navaratri eBook :

https://bharathgyanblog.files.wordpress.com/2018/10/navaratri-ebook.pdf

Surgical Strike Day

India under Modi government of 2014 carried out two surgical strikes, to send a strong message to terrorists and to let people know that the country can defend itself.

Surgical Strike Day

Surgical Strike At Indo-Myanmar Border

On 10th June 2015, Indian Army conducted surgical strikes against the terrorist camps along the Indo-Myanmar border and killed around 158 terrorists. This was after the terrorists had martyred 18 Army Jawans. This was the first time that India showed that it could respond effectively to the enemy and strike them right at their den.

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Surgical Strike At Pak Occupied Kashmir (PoK)

After this, came the Surgical Strike in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) in September 2016. Pakistan, from its militant launch pads, across the Line of Control, had been sending terrorists into Jammu and Kashmir, for many years now. These terrorists used to sneek into the Indian Territory and carry our terrorist attacks on the civilians and the Army. One such major terrorist attack was on the Uri Camp of Indian Army in September 2016, martyring many Indian soldiers.

Indian Army decided to respond appropriately and carried out surgical strike in POK on 29th September 2016, by crossing over into the enemy territory and destroying many terrorist launch pads.

The option of surgical strike was resorted to in the wake of increase in infiltration attempts.

In this Surgical Strike, carried out by the Indian Army, 38 terrorists were annihilated and their camps destroyed.

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Indian Soldiers in Action during the Surgical Strike

Leaving aside reactive rhetoric, New India has shown that it can respond effectively to terrorism.

Military Strength, Political Will and Moral Character

The difference in New India, is

  • the manner in which it has gone ahead and carried out such Surgical Strikes and
  • the manner in which it has acted, post these Surgical Strikes.

All along from 1947, when Pakistan separated from India, it has been a well-known fact across the globe that Pakistan has been trying to instigate and cause disturbances in India.

Israel too has been facing similar situations from its neighbours from a similar period of time. Isreal is known for having carried out repeated surgical strikes to handle their issue, including the famous Operation Entebbe, a successful counter-terrorist and hostage-rescue mission carried out by commandos of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) all the way, at Entebbe Airport in Uganda on 4 July 1976, when Uganda openly offered support to the hijackers of the Air France plane carrying 98 Jews and Israelis.

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Entebbe Strike

In Pakistan itself, when USA was sure of the hiding location of Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad, they carried out a surgical strike as a war on terror.

Despite having a lot of proof, while India had the military capacity, India had refrained all along from launching Surgical Strikes near its borders.

With these 2 Surgical Strikes, India in a decisive and bold manner cleansed India’s North West and North East borders of frequent terror attacks that India has had to suffer for so long.

However, after carrying out the strike at PoK, India informed the Pakistani authorities through proper channel about the strike, before informing the world.

Likewise, in the case of the Myanmar strike, after the event, India took care to have a joint meeting with the Myanmar authorities.

Thus India demonstrated

  1. military strength and political will to carry out the strikes and
  2. character to follow due processes with the other nation, post the strike.

These highlight the strength of character which is becoming the hallmark of the emerging New India.

More on Surgical Strike, in our book, Knowing New India.

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Parakram Parv

We need to celebrate this day of Surgical Strike every year as Parakram Parv, to remind us of this successful valiant action of our soldiers, and support that the government of the day provided to their soldiers.

The youth should be encouraged to write articles, enact skits in schools, conduct special NCC and NSS programs in schools, create paintings of our soldiers, compose poems and so on to express solidarity with our soldiers.

That will be an apt way of showing our gratitude to our Army, who have always stood forth in protecting our territory.

Shailaputri – #Navadurga #Navaratri

During Navaratri, we invoke the divinities who are in Arupa state, to Rupa state, in the form of Shaila. This transformation of divinities into Rupa state, is represented by the form of Shailaputri.

Navaratri begins with the worship of Devi Shailaputri on its first night. Shaila means a mountain, a hill, a rock. This name is in reference to Devi’s incarnation as Parvati, the daughter of Himavana, the king of the Himalaya.

Parvat – Parvati

King Himavam is also known as Parvata Raja. Thus, since Devi in this form is the daughter of Parvata Raja, i.e. Parvata Kumari, she is known as Parvati.

Shiva chooses Kailash

On this earth, Shiva Tattva in His form as Shankara, has His Abode in the Himalayan range in Mount Kailash, Kailash Parvat.

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Kailash Parvat

As per the Puranic legends, Shiva in His Avirbhava form on this earth, Bhuloka chose the daughter of Parvata as His consort.

The name for Parvathi, His consort, comes from the word Parvath, meaning the great mountain.

Having chosen Her as His consort, Shiva made one of the main peaks in this Himalayan range, Kailash Parvat His abode on earth.

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Kailashnatha

Touching the Sky

Kailash etymologically means touching the sky.

Similarly the two other popular abodes of Shiva too are in the Himalayan ranges, Kedarnath and Amarnath, all of which are at high altitudes.

We speak about Kedarnath, and the calamity that struck the temple, in our article – “Himalayan Tsunami – Waiting to Happen. Happened – Why?”

More on this in our book, Understanding Shiva.

The Highest Peak of consciousness

The mountain symbolized the highest peak of consciousness. When you are situated in this highest state of Consciousness, the Divinity in you is awakened.

Shaila, Shila, Shilpi, Shilpa

Shaila also means a Rock. From this word, is derived the term Shila, meaning an idol. The word Shilpa, meaning decoration also has the same roots. Shilpi is the one who sculpts a Shila from a Shaila, and enhances the Shila through Shilpa Kala, the art of decoration.

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A Shilpi Sculpting a Shila from Shaila

The whole universe consists of the Shila of Devi, and She is also the Shilpi who has sculpted the whole cosmos out of Herself, and has performed Shilpa to it through the countless forms that She has created.

Very Indian

The names Shaila, Shila, Shilpa, Shailendra etc. have been part of the Indian tradition, from ancient times.

Sila Bhadra Maha Thera

Xuang Zang, also known as Hiuen Tsang, was a scholar from China, who visited India in 600 CE.

From Huien Tsang’s records, we learn that, when he came to Nalanda in 630 CE, there were 10000 resident students there from India, Sri Lanka, Tibet, China, Japan, Korea, Sumatra and Java. There were 1510 teachers and 1500 workers within the campus and the Chancellor then was Sila Bhadra Maha Thera, who was a foremost Buddhist scholar.

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Xuan Zang (Huien Tsang) and Silabhadra Maha Thera

More on this in our book, Brand Bharat – Vol-5.

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Form of Devi Shailaputri

In this Shaila form, Devi is shown as seated on a Vrshba, bull with a Trishul on one hand and a lotus on the other.

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Devi Shailaputri

Rishabha, Bull,Vahana

In the Indian concept, there is a practice of attributing a Vahana, Vehicle for the various divinities.

Thus Shiva, and Devi’s form as Shailaputri have a Bull as their Vahana.

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Rishabha

Bull, Pashu – Symbol of the Gross

A bull is known in Samskrt as Rishabha and it is a Pashu. The translation for Pashu is animal. But Pashu is an encompassing term that includes all living beings or bodily forms.

Going beyond gross

Brahman, the Divine Consciousness as a principle of the Universe can only be realized through subtler means and not in a physical or gross form.

Thus Pashu or bodily forms are a stumbling block in the way towards realizing Shiva. Only when one is willing to go beyond the bodily level of understanding and hones the subtler senses, can one understand and realize Divinity.

Rishabha –  natural body forms

The word Rishabha can also refer to natural bodily forms that can move. When the body and mind are in unison and tuned to the subtle natural rhythm of the Universe, the person is said to be in a peaceful and calm state, which is one’s natural self.

Nandi : Bharath Gyan Short Film : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FSVsG5QHro&t=18s

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Trishul

The Trishul here represents the three Guna, Satva, Rajas and Tamas. When we go beyond the body level, then we transcend these three Guna.

Lotus

Then one lives like a lotus and is never drowned in the water of worldly existence.

A lotus grows out of the waters. It has got a long, flexible, winding stem which supports the flower to bloom just on the surface of the water.

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Lotus adjusting to water height

Whether the water rises up or goes down in height, the stem adjusts itself in such a way that the flower does not drown itself in the water and holds it just above the water level so that the lotus bud can receive the energies from the sun and blossom.

Lotus – The Flower of Life: Bharath Gyan Short Film:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pqaEoklhvbA

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More on Rishabha, Trishul and Lotus in our books and films, Understanding Shiva and Creation, and film, Wonders of Indian Astronomy.

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The form of Devi Shaliputri beautifully brings out these aspects.

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Dasamahavidya and Navadurga on the outside silver door of the Shaila Devi Temple at Amer Fort in Jaipur

 

Access the Complete Navaratri eBook: 

https://bharathgyanblog.files.wordpress.com/2018/10/navaratri-ebook.pdf

Navaratri – eBook

India is a vast land with an ancient culture. It has a range of colourful festivals. Navaratri is one among these festivals. This festival is not celebrated for a day, but for nine nights as the term Navaratri suggests.

While the period and date of festival is common across the land, it is celebrated in different ways across the land, but is still the same festival and spans across the same time window. The spirit is the same, that of honouring the feminine forces in Nature in the form of the three Goddesses Durga, Lakshmi, and Sarasvati, which finds expression in the place of honour given to women and girls during this festival.

Access this eBook on Navaratri to know the different aspects of this festival.

Navaratri-eBook

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World Heart Day

World Heart Day.jpg

Lohini, Loha, Haem, Haemoglobin

The blood is continuously circulated in our body by our heart, hrdayam. Blood is known by the name Raktha in Samskrt. Raktha means nourishment, desire, red and blood. Blood is also called lohini in Samskrt, for, it contains loha, iron. In the Greek language it is referred to as haem for iron. It is from the word “haem” that we get the word “haemoglobin”.

Heart – “Hrdayam

The very word “heart” traces its etymological roots to the Smskrt word “hrdayam”.

The word “hrdayam” itself is a technical word based on the functionality of the heart.

“Hrdayam”-Give, Take, Circulate

Harathi, means “to take” and from which is taken the syllable “Hr”.

Dadathi means “to give” from which is taken the syllable “da”. The word “Dhana”, meaning “donation”, comes from the same root.

Yathi, Yam means to circulate. The activity of circulation is called Yam.

When we join the syllables, Hr+ Da+ Yam, we get the technically coined word “Hrdayam”, which brings to us the functioning aspect of the heart.

‘Heart to donate blood’

But for the continuous circulation of blood in the body, life would come to a halt.

While the heart represents the aspect of circulation of blood in the body for the life to live, we need to have the heart in us to give dhana, to donate our blood and ‘circulate’ it among the needy in the society.

In other words, yathi, yam means “to circulate”, for which, “we get in return” harathi, satisfaction and heartful gratitude.

So, hrdayam, heart circulates the blood in our body to rejuvenate us. Those of us who have a heart, hrdayam need to donate, circulate blood and gain satisfaction, gratitude.

 A beautiful blend of hrdayam, both for oneself and the society at large!

With this thought in mind on this World Heart Day, let us donate blood as frequently as medically permitted, to give life, to rejuvenate our society.

Mahalaya Amavasya

Honouring Ancestors

Indians follow the practice of honouring their ancestors. Notable is the practice of setting aside a few days in a year as the period most auspicious for propitiating the ancestors.

Mahalaya Paksha

In India, this period is the fortnight called Mahalaya Paksha, which is the lunar, dark fortnight in September – October.

Mahalaya, Meaning

Mahalaya means the abode of the great souls. Mahan means great soul and alaya is abode, residence.

Sun and Moon Alignments

During Mahalaya Paksha, the Sun is aligned with the Libra zodiac, which means the Moon when full, lies aligned with the star in Aries Zodiac called Bharani in Indian astronomy.

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Mahalaya Amavasya: Fortnight from Full Moon

This star in Indian astronomy is associated with the Lord of Death, Yama. So, the fortnight starting from this Full Moon is observed as the time to pay respects to ancestors so that these prayers and offerings will reach the abode of Yama who can facilitate their reaching the souls of the ancestors.