According to the legend, it is said that Shiva gave permission to Durga to see her mother for nine days in the year and this festival also remembers this visit. Families make an attempt to return home on these days and leave on the tenth. The festival is dedicated to Durga, the mother goddess who also represents power. Durga annihilated the demon Mahishasura after a relentless battle lasting nine days and nights.
Rambha, the king of Asuras, was enticed by the beauty of a she-buffalo and eventually married her. The child who was born from this bestial union was named Mahishasura because he was half-buffalo and half-human (Mahisha literally means buffalo). As an Asura, Mahishasura wanted to wage war against the Devas, who were the Asuras’ arch-enemies. To make himself invincible Mahishasura performed austerities (tapas) to Brahma and asked to be granted immortality. Brahma refused him the boon of immortality and instead gave him a boon such that his death would happen only at the hands of a woman. Mahishasura imagined that this was the equivalent of immortality since he believed it was impossible for a woman to slay a person of his strength. Emboldened by this belief, he started a war with the Devas. In the battle that ensued, the Devas, led by Indra, were defeated. At this point, the Devas approached the trinity of Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu to seek help. The three great gods combined their divine energies and created a woman. The Goddess thus created was Durga. Durga led a battle against Mahishasura and killed him, thus fulfilling the prophecy that he would meet his death at the hands of a woman
During Navaratri, we invoke the energy aspect of God in the form of the universal mother, commonly referred to as “Durga,” which literally means the remover of miseries of life. Goddess Durga is also referred to as “Shakti” (energy or power). It is this energy, which helps God to proceed with the work of creation, preservation and destruction. In other words,it can be inferred that God is motionless, absolutely changeless, and the Divine Mother Durga does everything. Truly speaking, our worship of Shakti re-confirms the scientific theory that energy is imperishable. It cannot be created or destroyed. It is always there.
The art, literature and great festivals and temples of India are all themed to portray this complex and perpetual Deva-Asura struggle. They vividly portray the inner world of the universe, which human beings can only become aware of in a heightened state of spiritual awareness achieved through inner purification. Festivals like Navratri celebrate the ascendancy of the Devas in both our inner nature as well as in society. Navratri is celebrated according to Hindu calendar date, so there’s always confusion about exact date, and this year Navratri will last 10 days, not usual 9 days.
By: Saket Sharma