The Essence of Navratras
By Yogi Ashwini
Navratras come twice a year and mark transition in seasons, winter-summer and summer-winter. According to ayurveda, during this time, one should consume nourishing foods and in minimal quantities to rid the body of the toxins collected during the rains. The nine nights and ten days of navratras hold within them the energy of ten forms of shakti– shailaputri, brahmcharini, chandrakanta, kushmanda, skandmata, katyayani, kaalratri, mahagauri, siddhidatri and aparajitha thus each navratra has a specific purpose. In the navratras weather changes, ie, various energies of this creation move from imbalance towards a new normalcy, including our body.
In these nine days the prana shakti inside our body undergoes a process of re-alignment, ie from imbalance to new balance for new season.
For this re- aligning the body has to be kept light. Therefore our ancients prescribed fasting or upvaas in these nine days.Upavaas has a much greater connotation than what it is generally misunderstood as - mere holding back from eating certain foods.
At Dhyan Ashram, sadhaks observe Upavaas in its aunthentic sense, that is, giving up pleasure to observe austerities during sadhna. This is done by celibating, eating food for energy, not sensual pleasure, following a niyam of the sadhna your Guru has given you - a mantra, dhyan or a tantric practice where senses are kept under strict control and the focus is your ishta deva and all your thoughts and actions during those days are devoted to the ishta-deva. Charity and service are an intrinsic part of such sadhnas. During navratras these fasts are observed for purification as well, both etheric as well as physical.
Apart from fasting, there are certain mantras also which are chanted on these days for a complete body detox. For the beginner, these nine days may be divided into 3 parts of 3 days each for the three parts of body- the region below the navel, between navel and shoulders and the upper head region, corresponding to the energies of goddess sarawati, goddess lakshmi and goddess durga respectively. The 9 devis originate from these 3 devis which in turn have their origin in Adi shakti. These 3 parts are further divided into 3 parts each, thus the body is divided into 9 parts in all.
In the first 3 days the sadhak stops having spicy food and performs a havan at the morning and evening sandhya with the chants invoking ma durga. Offering of kala til along with ghrit is made and desi cows upla and palash samedha is used. In the next three days, sadhak stops intake of anna and only light foods are ingested in order to keep the body light. Havan for Ma Lakshmi is done at the two sandhyas by making offering of a sweet along with ghrit . In the last three days, the sadhak only consumes water and juice (not even milk as it is considered an animal product) and havan for Ma Saraswati is performed at the two sandhyas by making offerings of ghrit and guggal. On the 10th day, complete fast is kept and once more Ma Durga or Ma Kali is invoked as on this day Ravan had invoked Ma Kali and Ram had invoked Ma Durga.
This process brings about the required re-alignment. After this, the sadhak performs his sadhna and chants specific mantra as prescribed by his/her Guru. With yog sadhna, all the energies that are invoked come to the sadhak. Navratras are days to prepare your body in order to accept the new energies of the coming season. For 9 days you re-align you body and after that on the 10th day accept new energies
Most people lighten their bodies by fasting for 9 days, only to make it heavy on the 10th day by crowding to restaurants and liquor shops. It is something like you clean your room and after that you bring all the garbage back to the room. Fasting or any such technique will bear fruits only if carried out with a sense of detachment, for the purpose of evolution. The Guru knows the capacity of a shishya and prescribes a fast depending upon his/her requirements. Therefore it is of utmost importance to observe fasts in tandem with yogic practices such as the Sanatan Kriya under the sanidhya of a Guru to reap maximum benefits.
Yogi Ashwini is the Guiding Light of Dhyan Foundation and an authority on the Vedic Sciences. His book, 'Sanatan Kriya, The Ageless Dimension' is an acclaimed thesis on anti-ageing. Log onto to www.dhyanfoundation.com for more
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