Monthly Archives: September 2022

Navaratri Devi Pooja – Significance

SRI LALITHA MAHA TRIPURASUNDARI, the Mother of All, is invoked during the auspicious Sharannavaratri. The Sharad-Kaala (Autumn Season) represents the Creative Aspect of Nature. Since CREATION is synonymous with MOTHERHOOD, the Divine God-Principle is invoked as the MOTHER (Mathru-swaroopini) of the entire Universe of things and beings, of which we are also a part of. On the Mahalaya Amavasya day, Devi is invoked in her Jagat Prasuti Form – One who has delivered (created) the universe. With her grace and blessings alone the seeker can hope to totally dispel (Maha-Laya) the spiritual ignorance (Ama-Vasya) within himself. During the next nine days referred to as NAVARATRI, Devi is invoked and worshipped as MAHA DURGA (first three days), MAHA LAKSHMI (next three days) and MAHA SARASWATI (last three days). The sequence of worship of Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati is different in different traditions and states, but the significance remains the same. The tenth day after Navaratri is known as VIJAYADASAMI (the day of Everlasting Victory – Mukti or Enlightenment).

DEVI DURGA is invoked during the first three days. Durga means “one who helps us to overcome our difficulties and negatives.” It is with her grace alone that the seeker can eliminate all the negative qualities lurking in him. They are represented as the various rakshasas whom Durga annihilates. She is depicted in red attire to represent Activity. In her hands, she carries different instruments of annihilation to destroy the various rakshasas. Mother’s destruction is ‘constructive destruction’ – it is creative and purposeful, it is for the sake of Dharma. Hence Durga is depicted as riding on a Simha (lion). SIMHA stands for Righteousness or Dharma. Its opposite is HIMSA which denotes violence and adharma. Simha also stands for “fearlessness”. 

The next three days, GODDESS LAKSHMI is worshipped. Lakshmi means “to guide” the seeker on the path of spirituality to reach the Ultimate Goal of Self Realisation (Lakshya). Lakshmi represents the WEALTH of Sattvik qualities (Lakshana-s, like Truthfulness, Humility, Nobility, Devotion, Faith, Compassion, Courage, etc.) that an individual has to nurture and nourish within himself. Sri Lakshmi’s attire is depicted in different colours depending on what she represents: White for Purity and Knowledge, Red for Selfless Activity and Material Wealth, Green for Plenty, Prosperity and Food, etc. The lotus which is associated with her represents Knowledge, Beauty, Symmetry as well as Moksha. She represents both, the Standard of Life and Standard of Living. When Goddess Lakshmi signifies material wealth she is portrayed as riding on the owl. She rides on an elephant when she is invoked for a higher and purposeful life. As the bestower of Mukti (Liberation), she along with her consort, Lord Narayana are shown seated on Garuda (eagle).

During the last three days, SRI SARASWATI is invoked and worshipped. SARA means “essence” and SWA means “one’s own”. Saraswati means “one who facilitates the individual to understand and experience his true Higher Nature (State of Immortality) within himself.” Therefore, Sri Saraswati represents Spiritual Knowledge and the Higher Divine Experience. She is always depicted in white attire indicating a pure, tranquil and contemplative mind. In one hand she holds a mala which signifies the akshara-mala or the alphabets. In the other hand she holds a book signifying knowledge. SARASWATI is invoked at every stage – right from AKSHARA-ABHYASA (initiation into the alphabets) through VIDYA-ABHYASA (study of scriptures) to DHYANA-ABHYASA (practice of contemplation). She sports a veena in the lower pair of hands. The veena represents an individual who has totally surrendered unto Mother Saraswati as an empty and willing instrument. When she uses such a devotee to accomplish her divine work, her Will and the Expression of it becomes the beautiful music of life – the Glory of a Man of Realisation! Goddess Saraswati’s vahana (vehicle) is the Hamsa (Swan). Hamsa is a mystical bird which has the ability to separate milk from water from milk-water mixture. This signifies the discrimination between the Real and the Permanent (milk) from the Unreal and the Impermanent (water). Therefore Hamsa represents a Man of Realisation. The Jivanmukta is known as “Supreme Swan” – PARAMAHAMSA. 

Alternatively, in some traditions, the sequence followed is: Maha Lakshmi, then Sri Saraswati and finally Sri Durga. Initially, a spiritual seeker invokes Goddess Lakshmi to cultivate within himself the noble and virtuous qualities. After that Sri Saraswati is invoked for Adhyatma Knowledge. Finally, Goddess Durga is invoked. By her grace alone, Mahishasura, the ego can be annihilated. Mahishasura is destroyed with the help of her trident (Trishula), which signifies the transcendence of the tri-groups (three gunas, three states of consciousness, three periods of time, the three equipments – body, mind and intellect, the three worlds, etc). This leads to the State of Self-realisation.  

During Navaratri, apart from the parayana of Durga Saptashati, Lalitha Sahasranama, Devi Stotras, etc., there is a beautiful tradition of singing Sri Kamalamba Navavarana Krithis (composed by Muthuswami Dikshitar) or Sri Kamakshi Navavarana Krithis (composed of Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyer). The krithis are based on Sri Vidya Upasana and are structured around the 9-layered Sri Chakra. The 11 Krithis (1- dhyana, 9 – one for each of the 9 days, and 1- mangala), are deep in mysticism and rich in their significance. The krithis signify the seeker’s spiritual journey from the outer pluralistic world to the Innermost Divine Centre within himself. It is the unveiling of the Divinity present within us. It is the transcendence of our outer personality-layers to ultimately reach Sri Maha Tripura Sundari, the personification of Parabrahma – the Sarvanandamaya State within ourselves.

Therefore, the entire Navaratri Puja wherein Mother Goddess is invoked as Devi Durga, Maha Lakshmi and Sri Saraswati represents the spiritual journey of a seeker from the darkness of Spiritual Ignorance to the Light of Spiritual Knowledge – from the State of Mortality to the State of Immortality – from Mahalaya Amavasya to Vijayadasami !!

Ya Devi Sarvabhuteshu Buddhi Roopena Samsthita I

Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namaha II 

Ya Devi Sarvabhuteshu Lakshmi Roopena Samsthita I

Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namaha II

Ya Devi Sarvabhuteshu Shakti Roopena Samsthita I

Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namaha II 

Ya Devi Sarvabhuteshu Mathru Roopena Samsthita I

Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namaha II

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Origin of Sri Venkateshwara Suprabhatam!

Hasthigirinatha Annan (14th century) was born in a Sri Vaishnavite family residing in Kanchipuram whose descendants were the disciples of Sri Ramanujacharya. Annan was the disciple of Nayana Varadacharya, the son of Sri Vedanta Desika. In time he mastered all the branches of knowledge and became an accomplished scholar. During this time, Narasimha Mishra, a great scholar and exponent of Vedanta came to Kanchipuram and challenged Nayana Varadacharya to a debate. The acharya was not inclined towards participating in the debate; but refraining from going would mean accepting defeat. Not knowing what to do, the acharya was in a dilemma. Annan noticed that something was bothering his Guru. He approached his Guru and asked him the reason. Varadacharya told him everything. Annan humbly prostrated to his Guru and asked permission to participate in the debate on his behalf. The Acharya consented. With his profound knowledge and communicative skills, Annan easily won the debate. Guru Nayana Varadacharya heard his disciple’s stellar performance. Overjoyed, the acharya conferred on him the title: PRATHIVADHI BHAYANKARA (Terror to the Opponent) !! 

Annan continued to offer his services to Lord Varadaraja of Kanchipuram. Having heard of the glories of Lord Venkateshwara of Tirumala, Annan decided to go to Tirumala for the Lord’s darshan. Accompanied by his wife he reached Tirumala. He associated himself with the descendants of Anantazhwar, and engaged himself in the “abhisheka kainkaryam” of Lord Venkateshwara. Daily he brought waters from Akasha Ganga, added fragrant ingredients to the water as per the custom and tradition, and then handed over the water to the purohit for the abhisheka. One day, as he was carrying the waters to the temple, he met a devotee from Sri Rangam. The devotee narrated in length, the glories of the great saint, Manavala Mamunigal, residing in Sri Rangam. Annan was overwhelmed and wanted to hear more of the saint. He lost sense of time and even forgot about the water that he was carrying for the Lord’s abhisheka. On the other hand, the purohit having waited in vain for Annan came searching for him. On seeing Annan engrossed in satsangh, the purohit took the vessel of water and hastily proceeded to the temple to finish the rituals in the prescribed time. Suddenly, Annan realised that the fragrant ingredients had not been added to the water as was customary. He ran behind the purohit, but by the time he reached the sanctum, the purohit had started the abhisheka. Annan was very unhappy at his own negligence. He silently prayed to the Lord and sought forgiveness for the lapse. Annan heard a divine voice which consoled him saying that the abhisheka waters were exceptionally fragrant, in fact more fragrant than on other days because they carried the divine “fragrance of satsangh!” Indeed, the Lord was more than pleased with the services of Annan. 

Annan realised that this was all because of the glory of the great Manavala Mamuni. Longing to have the darshan and blessings of the saint, he proceeded to Sri Rangam. He became the disciple of Mamunigal and was given the deeksha name, Sri Vaishnava Dasan. Sri Vaishnava Dasan learnt the doctrines of Sri Vaishnava Sampradaya from his Guru and devoted himself to the propagation of the Sri Vaishnava Philosophy. Many scholarly works are attributed to Sri Vaishnava Dasan. Since he was a great exponent of Sribhashya, he became known as Sribhashyacharya as well. 

Sri Vaishnava Dasan and Mamunigal undertook a yatra and they finally reached Tirumala. Mamunigal asked his disciple to compose a SUPRABHATAM for Lord Venkateswara. Sri Vaishnava Dasan composed the famous SRI VENKATESWARA SUPRABHATAM which has four sections: Suprabhata (29 verses), Stotra (11 verses), Prapatti (16 verses) and Mangalam (14 verses). The Acharya was immensely pleased with the composition of his disciple and ordained that, all through the year (except in the Margazhi month during which Sri Andal’s Tiruppavai is chanted), every day, early in the morning, the SUPRABHATAM will be recited at the sanctum. The beautiful SUPRABHATAM which consists of the glories of Lord Venkateswara, composed by Sri Vaishnava Dasan are chanted during the opening of the sanctum till date.

श्री पद्मनाभ पुरुषोत्तम वासुदेव 

वैकुण्ठ माधव जनार्धन चक्रपाणे ।

श्री वत्स चिह्न शरणागत पारिजात

श्री वेङ्कटाचलपते तव सुप्रभातम् ॥ (Suprabhata: Verse #22)

विना वेङ्कटेशं न नाथो न नाथः
सदा वेङ्कटेशं स्मरामि स्मरामि ।
हरे वेङ्कटेश प्रसीद प्रसीद
प्रियं वेङ्कटॆश प्रयच्छ प्रयच्छ ॥ (Stotra: Verse #9)

श्रीमन् कृपाजलनिधे कृतसर्वलोक
सर्वज्ञ शक्त नतवत्सल सर्वशेषिन् ।
स्वामिन् सुशील सुल भाश्रित पारिजात
श्रीवेङ्कटेशचरणौ शरणं प्रपद्ये ॥ (Prapatti: Verse #2)

श्रियः कान्ताय कल्याणनिधये निधयेऽर्थिनाम् ।
श्रीवेङ्कट निवासाय श्रीनिवासाय मङ्गलम् ॥ (Mangala: Verse #1)

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