Right now is an auspicious time in Hinduism, for we are in the midst of Navaratri, the Indian holiday celebrating nine nights of the goddess in the Hindu pantheon. To appreciate this, the gods and goddesses don’t have to be believed in as actual beings. They can be seen as metaphor, personifications of aspects of ourselves and in the natural world that allow us to better understand and perhaps relate to these universal qualities.
The first three nights are for Kali and Durga – names for the benevolently fierce form of the mother goddess, the goddess of death and transformation, she who clears away what blocks us and doesn’t let us get away with what keeps us stuck. In the stories Kali carries a severed head, for she stops the chatter of our minds. She wears a belt of severed arms, for she stops us from grasping. Durga rides a tiger and catches the blood of the demons that haunt us on her tongue, transforming the negativity while remaining unscathed herself. The second three nights are for Laksmi, the goddess of abundance and good fortune. She manifests in human form to restore balance in times of darkness as Radhe, the idealized maiden, and Sita, the idealized mother and mature woman. She helps build our strength and sustains us so that we can actualize our potential. The third three nights are for the goddess Sarasvati, the river of wisdom that flows through us once we have cleared the path and strengthened the channel to hold her. She is the creative goddess who moves through us and manifests our talents, and is seen as the goddess of knowledge, music, literature, and the arts.
The tenth day after the ninth night is the festival of Dusshera, also called Vijaya Dashami. It is like being reborn – we have been cleared, we have been rebuilt strong, the wisdom flows through us. It is considered to be a particularly potent time to begin something new, especially something creative in the arts. As I experience each of these nights from sunset to sunset, for me, this tenth day is also the third day of Sarasvati, as it is the day after her third night. This year, Dusshera will occur on Wednesday October 24th.
For much of the world Navaratri started this year on Monday, October 15th. Yet because of the way the time of the new moon fell, for us here in the eastern time zone of the United States, Navaratri technically began on Tuesday, which is a rare yet occasional occurrence. And night three and four happen on the same night, the third night of Kali shifting into the first night of Laksmi. Which was last night, and as I experience it, into today.
Which fits perfectly with this rainy, vibrant Indian summer day. The reds and rust of Kali and the golden ochre hues of Laksmi dancing in the trees and mixing upon the ground. The rain cleansing and clearing the falling leaves, and the abundance of the harvest all around us. Both warm and cool, the between time. Shifting. As it is said in Celtic Paganism, the veil between the worlds is thin.
Each year this autumn Sharada Navaratri, the most important of the five Navaratris celebrated throughout the year, reflects the cadence of what is happening in my own life – a transition that clears the excesses of summer into the gathering of autumn, preparing and paring down to tune in and turn in towards the introspection of winter. I so appreciate this ritual that reminds me how we walk in rhythm with the natural world even when we are not necessarily paying attention – I usually don’t remember about Navaratri until someone reminds me and I say, Ah! Of course! And it excites me to slow down and notice what is happening inside me, and all around me, right now.
(This may not all be 100% technically correct, it is my interpretation, and as I am experiencing it as metaphor I feel alright about that. I in no way mean to offend. I am always interested in deepening my understanding, please share your own experience or information if you feel inclined…)