Victorious beginners: importance and meaning of Navaratri festival

Amma’s message on Vijayadashami day

2nd October 2006 Amritapuri

Navaratri is a festival that is celebrated all over India. The word nava-ratri itself means “nine nights.” We are presently living in the night-i.e. in darkness, in the darkness of ignorance. The Navaratri Puja signifies the removal of this internal darkness and the dawning of the light of knowledge.

In this way, when the nine nights are finished, the 10th Day comes: “Vijayadashami.” Here, vijaya does not mean “victory” in the ordinary sense. Here, it means breaking the shackles and the limitations of the mind and attaining complete and total freedom.

The word navam also means “new.” When all the papas [negative tendencies] of the mind are washed away, we get a new birth;we are born again. We then understand that this body is the abode of the Parashakti [the Supreme Power], we experience the wonder and freshness of the Atma [Self] everywhere.

For the first three days of the puja, we worship Durga, whose mount is the lion. Durga is the embodiment of shakti [power]. She is the fierce aspect of God. We worship Durga with the intention of removing attachment and aversion as well as anger and desire from within us. Only if we have shakti will our resolve be firm. Only then will we be able to destroy our internal enemies. Durga is the shakti that arises when the mind becomes still. The sword in the hand of Durga is the symbol of vairagya [dispassion]. It is the sword of knowledge. The intense desire to know God is viaragya. It is only with this sword that we can destroy the demonic qualities of the mind. This is the principle behind Devi killing Mahisha Asura [the Buffalo Demon]. Actually, through the worship of Durga, we are awakening the indwelling shakti. Only by awakening that shakti can we wage war against the weaknesses of the mind and come out victorious.

After removing the negativities of the mind through the shakti of the Atma, the next step is to inculcate good qualities within. That is why we worship Lakshmi Devi, the embodiment of auspiciousness for the next three days. Through worshiping Lakshmi Devi, we should develop divine qualities such as love, compassion, kindness, charity, forgiveness and patience, etc. When the negativities have been removed and the divine qualities have been inculcated, then knowledge dawns. That is why we worship Saraswati Devi, the embodiment of knowledge for the final three days of the puja.

The 10th day is Vijayadashami. It is also known as dashara. The meaning of this word is dasha-papa-hara: destruction of the 10 papas [negative mental tendencies]. It is through the five organs of action and the five organs of knowledge that the mind experiences the worldly pleasures. That is why we are unable to realize the indwelling Lord. It is these 10 continuously extrovert organs that are meant by the “10 papas.” Vijayadashami is the day when one overcomes these 10 papas and achieves the victory of Self-knowledge.

In the Hindu scriptures, tremendous importance is place on the number three and its multiples;especially the number 18. Another name for the Epic the Mahabharata is “Jaya.” The Bhagavad-Gita [which is in the Mahabharata] has 18 chapters. There were 18 akshauhinis [battalions] that participated in Mahabharata war. That war on the Kurukshetra battlefield lasted for 18 days. It is through 18 indicators that the Lord describes one who is established in the Self [in the Gita]. And our Puranas [epics] and Upa-puranas [sub-epics] are each 18 in number. And in Nava-ratri, the number nine is there. Nine is half of 18. To put it succinctly, the essential principle of Navaratri is to defeat the non-Atma and achieve the victory of the Atma.

During Navaratri’s final three days, the workers and business owners, the pundits and the uneducated, the poor and the rich, the Brahmins and the non-Brahmins, the students the teachers all keep their tools and books for the puja. Throughout these days, they do japa and meditation. All that is sentient and insentient is worshiped on these days. Everyone offers obeisance to the Indestructible that is the foundation of knowledge and the indestructible Parashakti.

By writing “Hari Sri” as the first syllables, everyone from children to the elderly become tiny children in front of that Eternal Knowledge;they become beginners. If we keep this truth in mind, this life will be blessed. Then the Goddess who’s own nature is Shakti will bless us with victory.