Today is an auspicious day in the Hindu calendar as it marks goddess Durga’s victory over the demon Mahishasura after nine nights and one day of battle. My wife and I were not born into Hindu faith, but we have been observing Navratri for the past two years of the festival. I believe it has helped us withstand the demands we have faced over the past two years with her father’s passing and new caregiving duties of her mother-in-law.
I like how Navratri makes you focus on each aspect of Durga’s shakti. She comes in many forms and all have a distinctly feminine power. She is giving, forbearing, fierce, forgiving, bestowing, and patient among other qualities.
The nice thing about this holiday is it celebrates the feminine as a greater power than masculine. Given the above qualities of Durga’s shakti, this is really true. There are “masculine” mantras and there are “feminine” mantras one can chant. For example the “masculine” ones to Ganesh, Shiva, Vishnu are great for a bhakti practice sustained for a long period of time, but the “feminine” mantras contain the shakti that gets things done with quickness and precision. Very much like my wife and me. I like to sit and think about things, but when the decisive action needs to be made, like Durga, my wife gets it done while I’m just watching with a dropped jaw. I think many men would not admit this, but know it’s true about their female partners.
The last manifestation of Durga during Navratri is Siddhidatri, or the one who bestows the eight powers mentioned in the third Pada of the Patanjali Yoga Sutras. She is said to have even given Shiva his powers. If one is ardent in one’s practice, siddhi-s are bestowed upon the practitioner.
I find that these festivals and rituals give deep meaning to my yoga practice as they have done for others for centuries. Even simply reading about them ties up a lot of loose ends one may find in studying the Yoga Sutras or Bhagavad Gita. Yoga has such a rich and deep history, to not recognize these other parts of it aside from asana practice limits one’s ability to make these connections. And only practicing one limb gives only one flavor to a practice that is supposed to contain all the flavors of the cornucopia.