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Observing Navratri as a celebration of women’s empowerment

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Navaratri celebrations were popular long before the International Women’s Day and the International Day of the Girl Child were conceived. India’s psyche resonates with the stories of the Saptashati. Rather than preserving the stories and their messages, it was more unfortunate that they were overlooked. These messages must be rekindled and reestablished to fight some of the stereotypes against women ingrained in the popular imagination. Women from Bengal enjoyed the festive atmosphere of Durga Puja celebrations. The topic of women’s empowerment and female leadership is more prominent than ever today, but did you know that we already have a legacy of powerful female icons from ancient times?

In our understanding of human existence, goddesses, and worship, it played an important role. Navratri is often associated with women’s empowerment because Goddess Durga is worshipped. Power, truth, education, peace, rebelliousness, and a caring mother are considered the attributes of the deity. It could be argued that Goddess Durga’s nine faces represent the right of every woman to be angry, rebel, pursue education, find love, and embrace motherhood in their way. The nine-day festival is rooted in the idea that Goddess Durga is a married woman who comes back to her parent’s house for a few days when she is treated and worshiped like a queen.

Ten days later, she must depart again for her matrimonial home. The idea that the real home of a woman is her husband’s, while her parents’ is a guest home, reinforces the binary aspect of marriage. Even today, society peddles the idea that women are alienated from their parents. The argument legitimizes the idea that women are uprooted from their own families after marriage, able to visit them only with permission from their husbands.

Sankhya’s ancient philosophy recognizes the feminine factor in the concept of Purusha and Prakriti, known as “the field and the knower of the field” in the Bhagavad Gita. In Prakriti, there are four states: active, changeable, earthly, and eternal entity. They both represent creation’s feminine side. This whole universe is a product of Prakriti. According to Sankhya philosophy, the world is created as a result of the union of Purusha and Prakriti, where Purusha means spirit or pure consciousness and represents the male aspect of creation. Prakriti and Purusha are the two main causes and reasons for existence: two fundamental, independent, and eternal principles.

Goddesses were worshiped as consorts of gods since they were the ‘shakti’, the divine strength and cosmic power of their husbands and wives, or the ‘Shakta’s. It was the goddess who was active and immanent, as opposed to the god who was inactive and transcendent. This union of divine forces can be represented by the icon of the ‘ Ardhanarishwara’, who is half-Shiva and half-Shakti. Similar to Shiva, Mahakali has a third eye, wields the trishula (the trident), and sometimes has matted hair. These two deities are unique because both have ugra roops (the angry persona) and Saumya roops (the benign, peaceful persona); this is one of the reasons why they are so mysterious.

Her creation, battle, and victory are celebrated during the Durga Puja. During Dashami, the tenth day of Dashami, she killed the buffalo demon Mahishasura, hence her name Mahishasuramardini. A multi-headed demon king named Ravana was killed on Dusshera day, which coincides with Dashami of Durga Puja. During the nine days of Navratri, people worship goddesses and their forms. Durga worship encompasses ten aspects called the Dasa Mahavidyas. As the destroyer of evil forces such as greed, jealousy, prejudice, hatred, anger, and ego, Durga protects mankind from evil and misery.

 The festival of Navratri also commemorates the three Gunas-  Tamas, Rajas, and Sattva, which are represented by Durga, Lakshmi, and Saraswati. “Trigunatmika”- the Devi represents the owner and master of all three Gunas. Having a divine consciousness can refine our inherent qualities called Gunas. A physical entity cannot exist without these three dimensions. Gunas are responsible for our behavior. Every being in this creation is affected by Gunas. Tamas is ignorance or inertia.

The Tamas are not in balance when we experience delusion, misunderstandings, and dullness. The Tamas are not in balance when we experience delusion, misunderstandings, and dullness. Our Tamas are not balanced when we experience delusion, misunderstandings, and dullness. Rajas are activity, greed, or desire. When we have the Rajas trait prevailing in our personality, we are restless, crave money, and have too many thoughts in our heads. “Sattva” means transcendence. Having a sense of lightness, happiness, pleasure, being alert, and being awake are symptoms of Sattva in our environment or our bodies.

While we celebrate Durgotsav and seek Durga’s blessings, it is important to internalize and follow her moral values and rationale, regardless of our gender. The most important thing women can learn and imbibe from Goddess Durga is righteousness, courage, and ethics. The thought, ‘I am Durga,’ should be invoked and practiced by every woman reading this. With its help, she can face even her tiniest problems with wisdom and ease. As much as possible, we should tell ourselves: “I am not a powerless, submissive woman, I am Durga.” Since I have all the necessary ‘weapons,’ I now can fight. My strength, intelligence, and worthiness are unmatched. I can use rational thinking, be decisive, and solve my problems, while also maintaining the characteristics of a mother, such as maternal love, forgiveness, compassion, patience, and dignity.” We will be empowered, evolve, achieve and live in peace and prosperity when we celebrate human values together with the strength of Goddess Durga.

“Primitive and feminine, the moments that are left unsaid
Gliding on expression’s watery crests
To create a mosaic that has value,
There is one present and one destiny….”



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