Shubh Navratri

Dear Editor,
Once again, Hindus, devotees, lovers, friends and followers of Hinduism throughout the world, including Guyana, are proud and lucky to have the golden opportunity of celebrating Vasant or Chaitra Navratri.
Navratri, the auspicious festival of commemorating nine nights/days of the nine forms of Divinity of the Universal Mother, Durga Mata, is observed twice per year: in Spring (March/April as per the Gregorian calendar), and in Fall, October/November (Sharad Navratri).
With the repercussions of the deadly disease of COVID-19, this pandemic has certainly taken a heavy toll, and many people have suffered losses of their dear ones. As we observe Vasant or Chaitra Navratri, our thoughts and prayers are with the departed souls, as we remember them and miss their loving presence.
This year, Navratri commences on April 1st and concludes, as usual, with the grand culmination of Ram Navami on April 10th. While most of the customs and rituals are fundamentally the same for both seasons, traditions and practices may vary as per the different ways and means practised in the different parts of India, and inherited by the descendants who migrated and settled in various parts of the world.
In Maharashtra, for instance, the first day is called Gudi Padwa; and in Kashmir, it is known as Navreh. The first day of Chaitra Navratri falls during the full moon phase, which is known as Shukla Paksha phase, marking the first day of the Hindu calendar. Ghatasthapana is one of the significant pujas during Navratri, and it marks the beginning of the nine days of festivity. This is the invocation of Goddess Shakti, and must be performed as per the stipulated rules and guidelines of the scriptures.
Nav (nine) Ratri (night) is a dedicated period to specifically revere the Divinity of Mata Durga, who is the Universal Mother. In Shaktism, the word Ratri (night) is symbolically derived from the root ra, “to give,” and is taken to literally mean “the giver” of bliss, peace and happiness. This is a time when Hindus go the extra mile to prepare themselves mentally, spiritually and physically to undergo this period of penance, including cleansing, fasting, and praying in order to seek the blessings of Mata Uma.
Attention is also paid to the surroundings, for cleanliness and the restriction of anything sacrilegious, or the consumption of anything considered unholy. Under normal circumstances, devotees would flock all the mandirs throughout the country, but the pandemic has placed restrictions; and although the protocols require limiting the seating capacity, and free flow of movement and participation has been lifted, there is still a degree of the reservation to attend.
In our prayers, we ask and beg Bhawani Ma to bless all those who are no longer with us, and give them peace and bliss, as we seek solace and refuge in chanting Her prayers, serenading Her numerous names, and glorifying Her heroic stories.
As we request Amba Maa to satisfy our quest for Her to shelter us under Her umbrella of protection, and shield us from any form of endangerment, we specifically request Her to sanitize the universe, in order for this virus to be eradicated completely from the environment; and the earth will be free of this deadly disease, so that people can be restored to an orderly lifestyle once more as fast as possible.
Durga Maa enjoys being addressed by 108 names, with each adorned with its separate significance. As the Trinity of Parvati, Lakshmi and Sarasvati, the Divine Mother blossomed from the attributes of Lord Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, and is gifted with the presents of all the deities and devas. Identified as AdiShakti (Primal Power), the goddess of war, her manifestation centres around combating evils and demonic forces that threaten peace, progress and prosperity.
The triumph of good over evil, to restore faith in confidence and restore Dharma over Adharma, provides the pinnacle for the essence of Navratri. Worship is dedicated to the feet of Durga Ma, the protector of mankind, who was called upon to reveal Her prowess in Her nine Avatars to battle the forces of physical and psychological negativity. In as much as the joy and fervour remain enthusiastically inclined for devotees to celebrate this festival in all its pomp and glory, amid this pandemic, socializing freely becomes challenging, and many may be confined to their homes rather than visiting the holy places or mandirs. The season may, again, be observed in a low-key manner. Nevertheless, this is the ideal occasion to learn about all The Universal Mother’s features, characteristics, significance, purpose, and scriptural history, while staying indoors.

One can read, look at virtual programmes, recite the scriptures, observe fast, look at religious films, listen to bhajans, pray, and also give to charity. This doom-and-gloom will eventually dissipate as more and more persons get being vaccinated and the protocols are observed. Prayers and praises of the Mother, practice and protection as mentioned, perseverance and performance as mitigated, all these elements, when factored together, will restore a belief that better days are ahead with the intervention of the Divine Mother.
May Ma Durga’s blessings be showered on all, enabling them to enjoy peace, bliss and happiness. Shubh Vasant Navratri.

Jai Lall