Navaraatri and Dassara (Vijaya Dasami)
Time measures me [Source]
Time is nothing but company with divinity. It is also non-stop exhortation that I am that divinity.
But I don’t pay attention to time. I do not notice it when I see the clock on my cell phone, home, office or on my wrist. I do not notice it when I see the sunrise or sun-set or count the days, weeks, months or years. Or when I celebrate birthdays. I do not notice this formless thing that is eating me up with every breath I take and emptying the stock of my heart-beats. I do not notice its power and control over me. I do not notice it when I foolishly want to “manage” it when I don’t even know what it is.
No, I don’t pay attention to time, let alone keep its company as divinity itself. Therefore, I miss its lesson.
But, time, the best teacher that it is, does not give up on me. It appears as prescribed festivals and reminds me to pay attention.
Navaraatri and Dassara are two such festivals that follow one after the other in the waxing phase of the moon during mid-September to mid-October (Bhaadrapaadam or Purattaasi month). Navaraatri means nine nights, nava – nine, raatri – nights. Nava also means “ever new”. Dassara means “doing a wonderful thing”. It also means “removal of ten sins” as in dasahara, dasa– ten sins, hara – remove. Dassara is also called Vijaya Dasami, meaning “victory on the tenth day”.
The Splendor of Vijaya Dasami[Source]
“Life is a challenge, Meet it” is the command. Life is full of challenges. But the challenges are not outside me. They are within me. Totally. The challenges are the constant “tug of war” in my mind.
The tug of war in my mind [picture: ]
I battle both sides in this “tug of war” game, pulling from both sides at once. I spend energy in this process. I use various resources – my faculties, food, wealth, strength, abilities etc. I also use skills, knowledge and wisdom.
The energy aspect of my life is called the Durga devi. The resources aspect is Lakshmi Devi. The knowledge aspect is Saraswati Devi. All three are inseparable from each other and are very much with me at all times, in all places. But I take them for granted and don’t notice them that much.
I worship the energy aspect of my life as Durga Devi during the first three days and nights of the Navaraatri festival. Durga is prana (the life-force) and is also rajasic guna (the aggressive,action-oriented impulse).
Durga, the energy aspect of life [Source]
During the second three-nights, I worship the resources aspect in my life as Lakshmi Devi. In this sense, Lakshmi is the body, senses and mind, and is also tamasic guna (the inertial impulse).
Lakshmi, the resources aspect in life [Source]
I worship the skills, knowledge and wisdom aspects of my life as Saraswati Devi. Saraswati is the buddhi, the discriminating ability and is also satvic guna (the balancing impulse).
Saraswati, the knowledge aspect in life [Source]
The “tug of war” goes on seemingly endlessly in my life in the effulgence of these three aspects of divinity. This game is denoted beautifully by the Sanskrit word Navaraatri. Nine (nava) is actually an infinite number as those mesmerized by the inherent dance of numbers know, and denotes the cyclically repetitive nature of this battle in my mind. Nava also means “ever new”. The battle is also ever new in that it is kaleidoscopic in nature. It is called “raatri” or night because night denotes darkness and ignorance. The “tug of war” takes place only in ignorance.
When does the “tug of war” end? The moment I pay attention to the game and seek the company of divinity, it ends.
Then, the good forces in my mind overcome the evil ones, the impulse to be selfless overcomes the impulse to be selfish, narrow-mindedness gives way to the all encompassing broadness of the heart. The moment I keep and live in the company of love, I’m not led astray by my senses any more. This is the significance of Dasahara, the “removal of the ten sins”. Each of my ten senses does a sinful action when it takes me away from divinity.
When I keep the company of love and become more and more loving, my anger subsides, jealousy and hatred vanish; my desires decline, pride is pulverized and greed tumbles away. The demonic tendencies – my six internal happiness-robbers [desire,anger,pride,delusion, miserliness, jealousy], dissolve and disappear. Finally, as I keep its company, the Love itself will dissolve my feeling of separation from It. This is the victory that Dassara or Vijaya Dasami teaches. This is the victory that Sanjaya proclaims in the Bhagavad Gita:
Significance of Vijaya Dasami[Source]
When man engages in the battles of life in the company of the most attractive Love that Krishna is, he is assured of permanent right conduct, permanent well-being, permanent wealth and permanent victory.
yatra yogeswarah Krishno yatra Paartho dhanudharah | tatra srih vijayo bhootih dhruvaa neethih ||(18.78)
Vijaya Dasami is a very special day.
- Sri Rama was coronated about two million years ago in Treta Yuga on this day
The coronation of Rama [Source]
- The Pandavaas completed their “live – incognito” period and emerged about a million years ago in Dwaapara Yuga on this day
The Panadavas emerge from in-cognito period[Source]
- Sri Shirdi Sai Baba ended the sojourn of His physical body about a hundred years ago In Kali Yuga on this day
Shirdi avataram leaves the physical form It adopted[Source]
The festivals of Navaratri and Dassara remind me to seek, worship and keep the company of the Divine Force appearing as time. On a personal level this is nothing but love. God is Love. To live in Love is to meet the challenge of life.
This is the efficacy of Navaratri and Dassara. More on this here.
Navaraatri and Dassara festivals are celebrated with vibrancy, spirit of togetherness and joy throughout India, in Gujarat, West Bengal, South India, etc. There is color, dance, music and food during these ten days. (Ah , yes, the food!)
The majestic and joyous Kolu [Source]
In South India, the celebrations include kolu, arrangement of arrays of dolls of different types and sizes on a structure of steps. The arrangement brings out the imagination and creativity of the host family. The whole family – husband, wife, children all work together in setting up the kolu. Their working together is a good thing and their product is normally amazing and breath-taking.
The kolu is a symbolic representation of the world we live in. The worship performed to the kolu – the set of dolls – denotes that we must worship the real people in our lives as embodiments of divinity itself regardless of color, character, religion, language, appearance and size. The kolu also symbolically depicts scriptural stories of high moral value. This practice reminds us of these valuable stories and lessons and exhorts us to practice them in life. The number of steps used in the kolu structure, 5, 7, 9 or 11, also have a great spiritual significance. 5 represents the five elements of nature and our body, 7 represents the seven effulgences of divinity (sound, movement, bliss, delusion, wealth, lordship, eternal auspiciousness), 9 represents infinity and cyclicality, 11 represents the ten senses and the mind. So a kolu arrangement is a simple and powerful reinforcement of remembering and worshipping the one divinity that appears as many in our lives.
It is also customary to start the education of children on Vijaya Dasami day.What better education can be given to young minds than the lesson of keeping the company of Love that Vijaya Dasami signifies?
Beginning education in the company of Love[Source]
What better time to do it than the Vijayadasami day when we keep the company of Love, when the evil tendencies within us are completely eliminated in the fragrance of Love?
Eradicating the evil tendencies in me [Source]
A question arises. How is it possible to embrace the company of Bhagavan specifically on the Vijayadasami day that falls on the tenth day in the waxing phase of the moon in Bhaadrapaada (Purattasi) month (October 13-22 this year)? The scriptural calendar itself facilitates that. The festival of declaring “I have enough. I want no more”, the Mahaalaya Paksham, is the day before the beginning of Navaraatri. If I do this declaration truthfully and celebrate Mahaalaya Paksham properly, then it is easy for me to recognize the effulgences of Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati in my life during the Navaratri and transition to the Krishna aspect, the Love itself, on the Vijaya Dasami day.
Of course, keeping the company of Bhagavan is not prescribed for only a certain time, in a certain way. It is sarvadaa sarva kaaleshu sarvatra. It is to be practised in all ways, at all times, in all places. I can do it, in fact must do it, this very moment itself. But since I don’t do it, these festivals come my way with the time-blessed opportunity to do it.
Time is divinity itself, beckoning lovingly to itself in the forms of Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswati and Krishna during Navaratri and Dasara. I can’t afford to put its call on hold.
“To secure the grace of the Lord, you must have purity of heart, purity in speech and purity in action. This triple purity is described in Vedantic parlance as Tripurasundari. Lakshmi, who is the embodiment of all prosperity, is represented by the heart. The mouth represents Saraswathi. Purity in action (Kriya Shuddhi) is represented by Durga. By celebrating the Navaratrifestival, you must get rid of the darkness within by cultivating this triple purity. You must also use the Navaratri celebration to revere Nature and consider how natural resources can be used properly in the best interests of mankind. Resources like water, air, power and minerals should be used wisely and not misused or wasted. Economy in the use of every natural resource is vital. Pollution of the air has many evil consequences. The significance of observances like Nagarasankirtan and bhajans is this – to fill the atmosphere with sacred vibrations and holy thoughts.”
– Sri Sathya Sai Baba, September 27, 1992 Divine Discourse