We all know that ‘nava rathri’ means the festival of nine nights, when we worship Mother Goddess in Her various forms: first three nights as Durga; the next three nights as Lakshmi; and the last three nights as Saraswathi. Navarathri is also an important social occasion for ladies – thanks to ‘kolu’. An earlier article - Navarathiri The Mother of all Pujas - explains various aspects of this Mother of all pujas.
Kanchi Paramacharya clarifies: “Whether we worship Devi in the form of Durga, Lakshmi or Saraswathi, we really worship the ultimate Sakti – ‘Parasakti’. In Lalitha Sahasranamam Devi is at once described the creator (Shrishtikarthee and brahmarupa), the preserver (gopthri, govindarupini) and destroyer (samharini, rudrarupini). In both Lakshmi and Saraswathi astothrams, we call Her ‘brahma-vishnu-sivathmikaaya’, signifying that Durga, Saraswathi and Lakshmi are one and the same.”
“Durga is ‘malai magal’, the daughter of mountain or Himavan: we worship Her to give us valour and sakthi. Mahalakshmi is ‘alai magal’, one who appeared out of water – to Her we pray for wealth. Saraswathi is ‘kalai magal’, the repository of arts and science and all knowledge: from Her we seek jnana.”
Deeper Significance of the Pujas for these Nayakis
Navarathri concludes with Vijayadasami on the tenth day. Vijaya means "victory" and what we seek to achieve is the victory over our own minds. For such a victory, why do we have to worship Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati? Swami Tejomayananda explains.
The first step to achieving victory over minds is getting rid of all the evil tendencies in our mind. This destruction is what we seek by praying to Goddess Durga. Durga is durgati harini - one who removes our evil tendencies. This is why she is also called Mahishasura Mardini, the destroyer of Mahishasura (demon). Mahisha also means buffalo, the tamoguna that resides in us, reflected in laziness, darkness, ignorance and inertia. Although we may be blessed with a lot of potential energy within us, we often laze like a buffalo, do nothing and just lie in a pool of dirty water. In the Puraanas, Durga Devi's killing of the Mahisha demon is, symbolically, the destruction of the tamoguna within us that is very difficult to destroy.
Having got rid of evil tendencies, next, we have to purify our minds before knowledge dawns within us. It is for this purpose that we worship Lakshmi Devi, Goddess of wealth. Wealth often means to us just material wealth. The real wealth is however the inner wealth of spiritual values that we need to acquire and practise in our lives. Only when we have this wealth, even the material wealth we have, we will make good use of.
In Taittriya Upanishad, even as Rishis asked for material wealth, they first asked to have noble virtues fully developed in them. Wealth of virtues is true Lakshmi. In Vivekachudamani , Adi Shankaracharya also outlines sat sampati, or, six forms of wealth - comprising calmness of mind, self-control, self-withdrawal, forbearance, faith and single-pointed ness - that need to be cultivated before attaining
wisdom. As the ultimate goal is victory over the mind, Lakshmi puja gives us the required mental preparation and readiness to receive jnana.
Ultimately victory over mind can be achieved only through knowledge and Goddess Saraswati represents the highest knowledge of the Self. Although there are many aspects of knowledge as we normally understand the term, the real knowledge is in the spiritual knowledge. Bhagavad Gita says, "The knowledge of the Self is the knowledge" and Lord Krishna adds, "It is my vibhuti, my glory." In other words, we may have knowledge of many subjects and sciences but if we do not know our own Self, then that is not real knowledge. The supreme knowledge is the knowledge of the Self
represented by Goddess Saraswati.
Thus, during Navarathri, Goddess Durga is invoked first to remove impurities from the mind; Goddess Lakshmi to cultivate the noble values and qualities; and, finally, Saraswati is for gaining the highest knowledge of the Self. This is the significance of the three sets of three nights of pujas. Once we succeed in these three, there will be Vijayadasami, the day of true victory!
Kanchi Paramacharya advises us to reverentially meditate on the image of Saraswathi while doing the puja and in particular reflect on how She is represented. Saraswathi, along with Dakshinamurthi, is vidhya devatha and there are lot similarities in how the two are shown. White is the dominant colour – in Muka Panchasathi, where Kamakshi is treated as Saraswathi, a sloka starts with a description of Her as ‘vimalapati’, or, one who wears spotless white. White, not one of the rainbow of colours but the totality of all colours, represents the state of pure ‘sudda satva’. The true learning that She will bestow on us will be pure and cool like the moon on Her forehead and the sky during the sarad season. Japa mala and book are both symbols of jnana and we find them in Her hands - as indeed in the hands of Dakshinamurthi, also adorned in white clothes. She is ‘sakala kalavani and vidhya swarupini.
In this Vijaya varusham, the Navarathri begins on Saturday, the 5th October, 2013: may we all pray to Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswathi: with impurities removed from our minds, with noble values and thoughts abounding in us, may we all be on the path to achieving the highest knowledge of the Self.