Shakti worship during Navaratri

Navaratri is attributed to 9 days when Shakti is worshipped in all her forms. The three primary forms of Shakti worshipped are Durga, Saraswati and Lakshmi. Durga renders courage while Saraswati gives knowledge and education and Lakshmi brings home wealth and prosperity.

During the first three days, three forms of Durga are worshipped respectively. They are Maheshwari, Gaumaari, and Varahi who are Durga swarupinis. On the next three days Lakshmi Swarupinis are worshipped and they are Mahalakshmi, Vaishnavi and Indrani respectively. On the last three days three forms of Saraswati are worshipped and they are Brahmi, Narasimhi and Chamundi respectively.

The origin of Navaratri came about when Adi Shankaracharya gave Upadesham to the people at two primary locations during the installation of the Sri Chakra. He delivered his Upadesham at Srisailam(Andhra Pradesh) and Koolurmugambika(Karnataka). He directed the women folk to worship the Goddess and seek her blessings for wealth, prosperity and long life for their husbands and overall hapiness in the family.

Shakti is worshipped through puja, music, rangolis as well as through daanam all of which are done at the same time.

Shakti worship in Puja:

Navaratri is the time when the great Rishis performed puja through the medium of fire. This is known as Sri Mangala Chandi Maha Chandi Homam(Havan). Markandeya Rishi gives references of 108 forms of Shakti from the Devi Bhagavata in 700 mantras
spread across 13 chapters. During the worship through fire, banyan sticks and ghee offerings are made along with the offering of a saree into the flames of the yagna. Mantras sung during this Homam offer worship to SriMahakali, SriMahalakshmi,
SriShankari, SriJayadurga, SriMahasaraswati, SriPadmavati, SriRajamathangi, SriBhavani, SriAarthaambika, SriKameshwari, SriBhuvaneshwari, SriAgnidurga and SriShivadharika Parameshwari who is another form of Ardhanaarishwara. During the worship, the Goddess reveals each of these forms during the time of Navaratri.

While Rishis perform through the medium of fire, women at home perform the same puja through the medium of water. Water, considered as the essence of the Goddess Herself is taken in a brass Kalasham(pot) on which sandalwood paste is applied. Turmeric powder and Kumkum are smeared on the sides of the Kalasham. The mouth of the pot is covered with mango leaves held in place by a coconut. The Kalasham is covered with a red cloth and this whole arrangement is placed over raw rice.

The arrangement of dolls on steps follows this where all the Gods and Devas are arranged at home. This is called Gollu puja in the south of India.
The significance of keeping Gollu at home is to teach the yourger generation of children the tradition of worship of the Goddess through a medium best understood by them. Oil lamps are lit for all the Gods and this ensures that the oncoming
generations of the family do not move away from the spiritual path or tradition.

Shakti worship in music:

Carnatic music makes references to the 108 forms of the Goddess through songs composed in her praise. These songs are sung during this period in 9 ragas namely Todi, Kalyani, Kambodi, Bhairavi, Banduvarali, Neelambari, Bhilahari, Punnahavarali and Vasanta Ragas.

Shakti worship through rangoli:

9 types of rangoli are made at home for each day.
Day 1: Rangoli is made with dots
Day 2: Rangoli is made with squares
Day 3: Rangoli is made with flowers (lotus, rose etc)
Day 4: Rangoli is made with steps (like gollu puja)
Day 5: Rangoli is made with birds
Day 6: Rangoli is made with one of the names of Shakti
Day 7: Rangoli is made with Vittarani (designs from the palm of the Goddess's hands, like shanka, flowers etc)
Day 8: Rangoli patterns with the trishul (trident) she holds in her hand
Day 9: Rangoli is made with Hridaya Kamalam (Lotus of her heart)

Shakti worship through daanam:

Married women( sumangalis) are invited home during this period and offerings of gingerli oil, turmeric powder, kumkum, rose water, sandalwood powder, cosmetics oils, nalangu manjal (a red paste made of kumkum and turmeric and applied to the hands and feet), ground mehandi and flowers are made.

This completes the worship of Shakti during the 9 auspitious days of Navaratri.


Bija mantras and life's experiences

"Mere kismat mein likha hai" or "My talai ezhutu"

It is an expression in Hindi as well as in Tamil, which reflects those moments of suffering in our lives when we blame "that which fate has written for us and therefore we have to suffer it."

Its a simple line that is very expressive, but we seem to have lost the origins of how this phrase even came about. The literal translation of this term is "that which is written within my head" is not entirely figurative.

It is believed that like the Gods, we as mortal human beings are assigned "Bija mantras" or seed mantras, which are single syllable words that define our entire personality and the lives we lead (Eg: The bija mantra for the Mother Goddess Bhuvaneshwari is Hrim). This makes the Bija mantra the fundamental expression of all that exists at all levels, be it Gods humans or demi Gods.

Brahma, the Lord of creation before we take on the next birth, decides this potent little word written in Grantham. This appears as an inscription engraved within the head, at the zone of the Sahasraha chakra, and it stays with us thereafter its character changing subsequently with every karma we do, good or bad. It enhances its potency with every additional step we take in the direction of spiritualism be it in the form of puja or bhajan sung with bhakti (devotion). This is probably why they say "be good, do good".

This Bija mantra is an outcome of our past karmas and punyams (good deeds) in our previous births. This Bija mantra decides whether we are subjected to rebirth, and the treatment we will receive at Yamaloka and the next birth characteristics decided at Brahmaloka. So life doesn't seem to end on this planet or in this life alone.

This bija mantra has a character that changes with our nature as we mature as individuals. This can be altered if we perform Parigarams (special pujas) at few select temples to render us better living at least for this life. The parigaram needs to be performed to Lord Kalabhairava, a form of Shiva, who is the lord of time controlling all the planets, and is the deciding factor of our horoscope. Apart from Him chandikeshwara who gives spiritual knowledge and uplifts us should also be worshipped.

The potency of Chandikeshwara is defined in the following temples, which are designed specifically for this purpose. For this, one needs to visit an old Shiva temple at one of these places; Thiruvaiyaru, Srivanjiyam, or at the village of Sembian Mahadevi called Anthakudi, near Nagapattinam. The temple at Anthakudi is the most potent of them all.

What is it about the Shiva temple at Anthakudi that makes it so important? It is believed that the area between the Mother Goddess shrine and that of Chandikeshwara in this temple is very potent and still holds very strong vibrations. Hence the value of the worship is enhanced here and the result thereafter is far more fruitful.

And how do we get there? Finding the way to this temple is not half as simple. It requires enough devotion and vigor to want to locate this temple and perform the parigaram there. So finding these temples is our "talai ezhutu"!


A reflection on Lord Shiva

A gesture simple
A face so divine
A form so glorious
A world so new
A hand so firm
A blessing so true
Fear not, The Lord is here
Oh Lord I surrender to Abhaya

A smile enrapturing
Eyes so powerful
A face so handsome
Yet a step so sure
You kill my ego
You kill my ignorance
You reveal the truth
O Lord, crush Apasmara

Hair so wild,
a knot so tight
These wavy locks
Bind the river Goddess herself
A gentle nudge with her feet
Loose they fly,
Releasing her to freedom
She flows down to earth
O Lord, Gangadhara

A chill in the night
Calmness to thy fiery self
Eyes closed in peace
Eyes closed in dhyanam
Just revealed
By a tossing moon
Crescent light glows forth
O Lord, Chandrashekara

A dance so wild
The beat in my heart
The rhythm of the universe
At your feet
Pulsating in every breath
To thy steps, I reveal
My self completely
O Tandava Nataraja, pure beauty within.