Navratri…. Celebrating the Girl Child

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Durga- Female energy

The fabric of our society and religion is woven with reverence, regard and worship for the female energy.  So what is going awry that is ripping this fabric apart……..!!

Navaratri celebrates the power of the female goddess in all her manifestations. This festival is celebrated all over India in the months of October / November. This year the celebrations begin on the thirteenth of October, 2015.  Nava in Hindi means new, as well as, nine, ‘ratri‘ means nights. Each day is dedicated to different aspects of Goddess Durga where she is worshipped in her benign, angry, forgiving, peaceful, devouring, self-denying, mothering, nurturing, and victorious form.  She is Prakriti or Mother Nature and sustains mankind.  This festival of fasting, thanksgiving, and celebration lasts nine days culminating on the ninth day.

Rituals may differ from region to region and community to community.  In our house on the first day of Navratri, we establish the Goddess.  In a steel pot (Kalash) water is half filled and coins put.  Dry coconut is covered with a red cloth and tied with kalava or the sacred thread.  This is then placed on the mouth of the pot.  On a low wooden stool (chauki) a satya (swastika) is drawn and the Kalash placed on it.  This now represents the goddess and will be worshipped for the entire period.  Next to it, a full areca nut (supari) is placed signifying Ganesh.  Prayers are performed morning and evening with flowers, incense, and a small earthen lamp.  On the first day, some Jau (oats/barley) seeds are sown in a small terracotta container with mud.  This is watered every day after prayers in the morning. Food consumed is different as fruits, Sama rice (barnyard millet) kuttu atta ( buckwheat flour), sabudana or sago, potatoes, arbi (Colocasia.) are the main ingredients to prepare the various dishes.

Ashtami (eighth day) after seven days of fasting, and Naumi (ninth day) after eight days of fasting are celebrated.  We celebrate Ashtami and on this day eight young girls who have not attained puberty are worshipped representing the various forms of the Goddess.  These girls are venerated and prayed to, given gifts and food offered as prasad.  On this day the menu is halwa (sweet) made of semolina, puri made of wheat flour, and boiled black gram is eaten and served as ‘prasad‘. After this, we go back to regular food.

The worship of a young girl as Devi is the worship of the creative force, the creator of the universe. Devi transforms as a wife and becomes Parvati.  She is considered Laxmi, Goddess of wealth as a housewife.  Devi takes on the mantle of Saraswati, Goddess of learning as a teacher and guide to her children. She is the protector and also the destroyer of obstacles for her family in her form of Durga.  As a mother and housewife, she cooks and provides food and sustenance thereby taking on the role of Annapurna Goddess.  Kali is the form of Goddess who punishes, steers the path of the family in the right direction.

This festival is observed all over India and the basic underlying celebration is the same i.e. worshipping young girls as Goddess Durga.  The question which perplexes and worries me is what has changed in the perception of society at large that so many crimes are committed against young girls with such impunity.  The fabric of our society and religion is woven with reverence, regard, and worship for the female energy.  So what is going awry that is ripping this fabric apart……..!!

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