Explanations based on the teachings of Swami Shivananda, Rishikesh

The Ken Upanishad, part three, known as Yaksha Prashna says:
"The supreme power of God is manifested as KNOWLEDGE,

The Bhagavad Gita describes the same in different words.
Ch14,Verse 5."Purity, passion and inertia- these qualities, born of nature, bind fast in the body".

These three qualities are known as gunas - Sattwa- Rajas and Tamas.

Each of these three gunas is represented by a colour. Sattwa is white (colour of purity). Sattwa is represented by that aspect of mother Durga we worship as goddess Saraswati. Saraswati wears white. Sattwa binds by attachment to happines and knowledge. Sattwa is luminous and healthy.
(Gita Ch.14-Verse 6.)

The colour of Rajas is red, represented by that aspect of mother Durga we worship as goddess Lakshmi. She wears red. Rajas is of the nature of activity, passion and ambition, the source of thirst for physical enjoyment. Rajas binds fast one by attachment to action. (Gita Ch.14. Verse 7.)

The Rajasic person runs after power, position, name, fame and comforts, and involves himself in endless activities to acquire material wealth.

When we worship goddess Lakshmi for spiritual wealth, she bestows on her devotees the inexhaustible divine wealth or Daivi Sampat (which is described in the Gita, Ch.16, Verses 1,2
and 3). Divine wealth or the wealth of 26 divine qualities,brings with it material prosperity as well.

Tamas is black, represented by that aspect of mother Durga we worship as goddess Kali. She is sometimes depicted in dark blue.

Tamas is born of ignorance, deluding all embodied beings. Tamas binds fast in heedlessness, sleep, indolence, laziness (Gita Ch.14 Verse 8). Tamas is that binding force with a tendency to lethargy (lack of energy, vitality), sloth and foolish actions. It causes non-discrimination or delusion. It binds one who associates the Self with the body. A tamasic person acts under the compulsion of the body. He has no power of judgment. His actions are not guided by reasons. His senses are dull.

These are all baser animal qualities, the lower diabolical nature in man.We pray to mother Kali, as Durga the terrible, as supreme power and force, to destroy all our impurities, our vices, our defects. She is to fight and annihilate these demons. This is the 'strength' aspect of shakti as mentioned in the Upanishad. Mother Kali is the power that guides and protects the devotee's spiritual practice from its many dangers and pitfalls. Mother Kali represents the ferocious and destructive aspect of TIME.

In contrast with creative force in nature, this power is ever active disintegrating forms and structures. It drives heavenly bodies back into their nebulous state.

In the Kenopanishad, part three, (Yaksha Prashna), 12th Mantra, the Divine Mother is described as a woman wonderously fair, daughter of the snowy mountain Himavat, her name Hemavati or Uma.

She is the energy aspect of the Lord. Her other name is Durga. This cosmic energy or shakti is the omnipotent power of the Lord. We call her Durga, the Divine Mother.

Lower states of ignorance and egoism are typified by or personified as demons with such names as Dhumralochan, Chanda and Munda, which should be destroyed by the sudden burst of energy and rough handling. Dumralochan (the smoky-eyed, a person whose understanding is clouded by ignorance) stands for the grosser state of ignorance and egoism. Munda means the low. Munda is the low profile of our egoism. Chanda means fierce. Chanda is the more horrible and fierce side of it. Shumbha and Nishumbha signify more enlightened aspects of egoism. Shumbh means to shine.

Mahishasur stands for ignorance and stubborn egoism. Raktabij represents the more subtle states of desire which multiply endlessly to create more problems.

NAVARATRI (nine nights) - DURGA

The nine days'  worship is divided into three days worship for each of the three goddesses-
1. Kali, the goddess of strength for protection and valour
2. Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth
3. Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge.

Three days are allotted to indicate the discipline and training to be practiced at the three levels of personality namely physical, mental and intellectual to achieve the goal set for each type of worship. The nine days of spiritual discipline and training are only symbolical. In actual practice, the time required to achieve such discipline will run into many months if not a few years


Date : Navaratri or the nine nights sacred to the Mother Goddess are celebrated in the beginning of summer and the beginning of winter. These are two every important junctions of climatic and solar influence. These two periods are taken as sacred opportunities for the worship of the Divine Mother. They are indicated respectively by the Vasant-Navaratri in the Chaitra (April-May) and the Durga Navaratri in Aswayuja (September-October). 

Legend : It commemorates the victory of Goddess Durga over a demon, Mahishasur. Endowed with power, by the blessing of Lord Shiva the demon started destroying innocent people. The gods invoked Goddess Durga and asked for her help. The goddess, astride a lion fought with the demon and cut off his head.

Practice : It is an occasion for vibrant festivities throughout the country. During Navaratri, devotees of Durga fast and pray for health and prosperity. Different manifestations of Durga or Shakti are worshipped every night. Devotees and young enthusiasts dance the Garba or Dandiya-Raas throughout the night, in keeping with the exuberant nature of this festival.

The Navaratri festival celebrations at Ahmedabad and Baroda are famous throughout Gujarat. Here the evenings and nights are occasions for the fascinating Garba dance. The women dance around an earthen lamp while singing devotional songs accompanied by rhythmic clapping of the hands. In Punjab, Navaratri is a period of fasting. In Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka dolls called Bommai kolu are placed and decorated. Goddesses' Lakshmi, Durga and Saraswati are worshipped for three days. Gifts of coconuts, clothes and sweets are exchanged. Scenes culled from various stories in the epics and puranas are displayed.


Dates : Festivities commence on the first night in the month of Ashwin (September / October). Nine nights are spent in worship and the tenth day is devoted to goddess Durga, who occupies a special position in the Hindu pantheon of gods and goddesses.

Legend/s : Durga is Shakti, the cosmic energy that animates all beings. According to a Puranic legend attached to this day, demon Mahishasur vanquished the gods and their king, Indra, who approached the Holy Trinity, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. They in turn sought the help of the divine mother Durga who, equipped with lethal weapons, riding a ferocious lion, in all her awesome majesty, killed Mahishasur. This day, thus, also celebrates the magnificence and omnipotence of Goddess Durga.

Practice : Durga pooja is celebrated extensively in North India where beautiful idols of the Mother Goddess are worshipped in elaborate pandals for nine days, and on the tenth day, these are carried out in procession for visarjan (immersion) in a river or pond. The face of the goddess remains covered until the bodhon (unveiling) ritual is performed on Sasthi - the sixth day of the moon. It is Sarat, or autumn, and Nature adorns herself to welcome the advent of the Mother Goddess, Durga. Rabindra Sangeet, dances and various programmes form a part of the celebrations.

The Goddess is worshipped as a kumari or young girl, and reveals herself in her true form Mahasaptami (the seventh day of the moon). On Mahastami (eighth day) and Mahanavami (ninth day) the celebrations reach a fever pitch. On Dashami (tenth day) the idol of Durga is immersed in water. The ten-armed goddess dazzles the devotees with her splendour and appearance of fiery valour during her short stay every year.

In the older days of zamindars (landed aristocracy) there used to be a Barwari pooja (community pooja) financed by the local zamindar who usually had a huge Nat Mandir or Mandap (out-hall) for pooja purposes, where the entire village congregated. All found employment of some kind - from the Brahmins performing the rites to various artisans of lower castes. Even women had their share of work in the preparations

The time of immersion is a sad occasion and the Devi is repeatedly requested to return to shower bliss on devotees whenever invoked. The festival sees a boom in pre-pooja sales. All trade and commerce gears up to meet the challenge of coping with the frenetic shopping spree. Whole communities of artisans spend their busiest time to ensure the netting of a sizeable income that will sustain them for several months to come. It is a time of activity and employment for all. Artisans build the mammoth pandal (a pandal constructed in 1994 as a replica of the Belur Math, was almost 90 ft high, required 3500 bamboo poles, 5000 planks of wood and over 2000 metres of cloth and cost Rs 5 lakh.). Weavers are kept busy, as are the craftsmen who model the exquisitely chiseled features and limbs of each figure in the pooja tableau from clay; electricians who ingeniously devise the decorative illuminations (everything of topical interest from the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park to World Cup football, to nuclear testing is portrayed); the dhaakis whose unsurpassed virtuosity finds expression in frenzied pounding on huge barrel-shaped drums, invoking an almost hypnotic rapture. Everybody is involved, and there is profit and fun for all. 

It is a time of prosperity also for publishing houses - the pooja Editions capitalize on the festive mood of the reading public. From big established dailies to little magazines, all thrive this season. There is also a big demand for audiocassettes, which are Pooja Hits. Today pooja pandals seem to sprout like mushrooms - practically one every 100 yards. Apart from loudspeakers blaring forth pop and Hindi film music and other forms of entertainment (there are also cultural programmes), there is a fierce competition among organisers to compete with and outdo each other in the extravagant and lavish show they put up. pooja committees are known to spend in lakhs on attractive pandal decor. Galaxies of twinkling lights make Technicolor pageants out of the dingiest lanes.

The para poojas become grander still each year, as the poojas are an occasion people look forward to. Money is not a constraint, as people donate generously. poojas are a convenient occasion for fun-loving denizens to forget their cares and let their hair down. Multitudes throng the streets - people from all communities are agog - shopping, gorging themselves or gazing on Durga who is a shimmering vision - power personified - tresses streaming, a flickering tongue of flame. Durga Pooja is celebrated with more fervour by Bengalis than any other community in India. With the Bengali, Bijoya evokes sentiment. It is a time of renewal of ties of kinship with friends and relatives. Thus Kolakuli echoes the Id embrace among Muslims. Durga Pooja is a festival Bengalis celebrate without religious inhibition. The nine days of pooja are synonymous with the Navratras and the tenth day is celebrated as Vijayadashmi in some parts of India.