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Navratras, Story of Cosmic Evolution
By Pankaj Dixit 


NAVRATRA or nine auspicious nights signifies the basic principle of yoga that energies should involute back to the primal source to rejuvenate the individual form, which is the human body. This return brings out the union of the microcosmic individual, Pinda, and the macrocosmic consciousness, Brahmanda, passing through the entire cyclic process of creation because time and space are self-perpetuating.

In Navratra, Nav means nine and Ratra means night. In Indian philosophy the number nine is closely associated with the process of creation in the cosmic time cycle. The entire cosmic cycle consists of three phases -- creation, preservation and dissolution. Each of these three parts split into triads (3x3=9) brings the numerical order to nine. Adi Sankaracharya in the 8th century AD clearly indicated the significance of number nine in the Soundaryalahiri, 11th sloka: ``The four Siva chakras and five Sakti chakras create the nine Mula-Prakratis or basic manifestations, because they represent the source substance of the whole cosmos''.

These nine cosmic wombs or Nava-Yoni have a parallel nine categories of nature in the macrocosm. This nine-fold division is projected in nine apertures of the body -- two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, mouth, genitals and anus, nine psychic centres, nine planets, nine divisions of time -- ghatika, yama, ahoratra, vara, tithi, paksha, masa, ritu, nine gems, nine moods or Navras and nine forms of Goddess Durga or Tripurasundari worshipped during Navratras.

The intricate relationship of the number nine with creation is clearly visible in the nine months' gravidity of the human being. According to the Tantric concept of cosmic involution from the Sahasrara chakra, 56 rays are said to proceed to Muladhara chakra to constitute earth element, 52 in Manipur to form water element, 62 in Svadhistan to establish fire element, 54 in Anhata chakra pertains to the character of the air element, 72 in Visudhi chakra forms ether element and 64 in Ajna chakra shapes manas or mind.

In total, there are 360 rays or potencies of universal sakti represented by Maha Tripurasundari. It is vindicated in the form of a circle which has a 360 degree angle indicating fullness. This 360 digit again totals to nine, the number of creation. The universe is also composed of 36 tatvas unfolding from primal unity or Parama Shiva which again has the numerical value of nine. The days representing the 16 phases or kalas of the moon constitute a fortnight or poksha and two pakshas -- waxing and waning -- make a month. These tithis are also 360 in a lunar year again depicting a total of nine. Nine is considered to be complete, puran, because any number multiplied by nine gives a figure that totals to nine. Likewise nine added or deducted from any number gives a figure with the numerical total unchanged. This concept is explained in the famous santi path mantra of the Upanishads.

The other significant part of Navratras is ratra or night. The Rig Veda clearly says that before creation began everything was shrouded in the darkness of night and from that darkness creation came about. The same idea is reflected in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. These nine nights occur on equinoxes or equal nights when the sun is vertically overhead at the equator or centre. Hence the human body also attains equilibrium with nature and meditation and worship of Sakti with Beej mantras revitalises the body.

Therefore forms of Durga are worshipped with their respective yantras. Barley is sown in homes as a symbol of the creative power of the mother Goddess. In recognition of the importance of sakthi or feminine force, traditionally, little girls are symbolically worshipped on the eighth day, Ashtami.

The Navratras also celebrates the victory of Lord Rama over the demon Ravana and many chant the famous Ramrakshastotra in the mornings. In Bengal these nine days resound with devotion and dedication to Godess Durga. Durga Puja was initiated by the landlord Kans Narayan of Bengal in the 16th century. In South India, especially in Mysore, Dussehra celebrations , symbolises the triumph of virtue over vice.



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