Seeta, Lord Rama’s wife had been abducted by the ten-headed Ravana. She was held captive in Lanka. Sri Rama and Lakshmana along with the army of vanaras headed by their King Sugreeva, his wise minister Hanuman and others crossed the ocean and reached Lanka and waged a war against Ravana. When Ravana lost all his mighty warriors, his brother Kumbhakarna and his sons, he finally came to the war-field to fight Lord Rama. There was a fierce battle between the two of them which was incomparable. A divine chariot and charioteer descended from the heavens for Lord Rama. Every time Lord Rama cut off one of Ravana’s head, another one manifested in its place! Ravana countered Sri Rama with all his might and strength.
When Lord Rama became exhausted, Sage Agastya came forward and taught the “ADITYA HRIDAYA” (a powerful invocation glorifying Sri Surya Bhagavan) to Sri Rama. As instructed by Sage Agastya, Lord Rama invoked Lord Surya by chanting the ADITYA HRIDAYA. With the grace and blessings, the power and strength of Surya Bhagavan, Rama was able to defeat and kill Ravana. Accompanied by Seeta and others, Rama went back to Ayodhya. He was crowned the King of Ayodhya. RAMA RAJYA was established.
Significance: Rama represents the INTELLECT and Lakshmana represents the MIND. Seeta stands for ABSOLUTE PEACE. The ten-headed Ravana is the EGO in the seeker with the ten heads representing the five sense-organs of perception and five organs of action. All of them are turned outward and hence Ravana is known as DASHAMUKHA. To conquer and destroy the EGO is extremely difficult. When one head is cut off, another one appears. When one sense impulse is conquered, another one gets strengthened. At that point of time, the Guru (Man of Realization) represented by Sage Agastya appears. Agastya Rishi is “Kumbhodbhava” (born out of a pot). Kumbha represents POORNATVA or “fullness”. He points out, directs and guides the advanced seeker to the “INNER (Hridaya) CONSCIOUSNESS (Aditya)” – Aditya Hridaya!
At this stage, the process of INTELLECTION is taken over by INTUITION and the seeker is able to liquidate the EGO (Ravana) within himself. This is the real DUSSEHRA or DASHA-PAPA-HARA which happens within the spiritual seeker and bestows on him the ETERNAL and EVERLASTING VICTORY – the VIJAYADASAMI. INNER PEACE (Seeta) is restored back. The couple SEETA-RAMA represents a Man of Inner Quietude or a Man of Realization. He alone can reach the REALM OF NO-CONFLICT (Ayodhya or A – yudha). Seated on the SEAT OF DHARMA (simha-asana) within himself, he is able to establish RAMA-RAJYA within! The VICTORY of GOOD over the EVIL within oneself and over the external circumstances is the real CELEBRATION OF DUSSEHRA – REAL AND EVERLASTING VIJAYA – VIJAYADASAMI !!
There are five NAVARATRI-s in a year. Vasanta Navaratri, Ashada Navaratri, Sharad Navaratri, Pausha Navaratri and Magha Navaratri. Amongst all of them, Vasanta Navaratri and Sharad Navaratri are considered to be important because they represent the arrival of Spring and Autumn and are associated with creative activity in Nature along with major climatic changes and solar influences. SHARAD NAVARATRI or SHARANNAVARATRI is also known as MAHA NAVARATRI and is considered even more important because it comes just after the rainy season. During this period, Mother Nature is at her creative best! Sharad or Autumn season represents creativity, change, newness, freshness and plentiful-ness. Most of the seasonal and non-seasonal flowers, fruits and vegetables are available during this period. SHARANNAVARATRI comes in the month of Aaswayuja.
The autumn season is very conducive for environmental changes; everything in Nature is changing for the better; everywhere creative activity is going on. Nature is but an extension of our mind. As in the macro, so in the micro. Therefore, it is easier to align the mind to its universal aspect in this season and bring about constructive changes in the mind, train it and redirect it in purposeful sadhana to reach the ultimate fulfillment of human life. Hence the importance of Upasana during this period.
Nature is in “creative-activity”, and Mother represents the Power of Creation. Therefore, during Navaratri, the Ultimate Reality or Supreme Universal Power is invoked and worshipped in feminine form, as DEVI – “Mother Goddess” (Mathru Roopa). In fact, the entire fortnight starting from the day after Mahalaya Amavasya upto Sharad Poornima is known as DEVI PAKSHA. On the Mahalaya Amavasya day, prior to Navaratri, Devi is worshipped as the “Mother who brings forth or delivers the Universe”. On this day, the alankara for the deity in the temple is known as “Jagat Prasuti Alankara” (One who has just delivered the universe – post natal alankara). The alankara of the deity as “mother” includes a child (represented by a doll) in her lap. The doll in Mother’s lap not only represents the entire universe of things and beings (macro) delivered (created) by Her, but the doll also represents each one of us (micro) who has come into existence by Her grace alone.
The nine days of NAVARATRI along with MAHALAYA AMAVASYA and VIJAYADASAMI (9+2 days) represent a seeker’s spiritual pilgrimage, from the darkness of ignorance to the Light of Spiritual Knowledge. Amavasya means “clothed in ignorance”. Mahalaya means “total dissolution”. Mahalaya Amavasya therefore means “total dissolution of spiritual ignorance”. To accomplish this pilgrimage within ourselves, the Navaratri Puja (9 days of Upasana) is undertaken. Sharannavaratri comes in the month of Aaswayuja. Yuj means “to connect with”. Swa means “tomorrow”. The elongated Aa indicates “along with”. Therefore the very name of the month, Aaswayuja signifies “to be always connected with the Higher at every moment!”. Ratri (night) again represents darkness or ignorance. Nava means Nine – the nine “steps” to be taken by an individual within himself to reach the State of Immortality, by discarding or transcending the nine “matter-vestures” (nava-avarana) around himself. Nava also means New or Fresh. Every day through spiritual sadhana, the seeker works upon himself so that he improves and evolves and “he is a better person today than what he was yesterday – he is a NEW PERSON (nava)”. The entire pilgrimage fulfills itself in Vijayadasami – the Everlasting and Ultimate Victory – the State of Enlightenment. Therefore, NAVARATRI Puja is an inner spiritual pilgrimage from MAHALAYA AMAVASYA to VIJAYADASAMI !!
The first three days, MAHA DURGA is invoked to destroy the negative qualities and rakshasic impulses in us. The next three days MAHA LAKSHMI is invoked to instill in us positive, noble and divine qualities. The last three days MAHA SARASWATI is invoked. With her grace and blessings, the seeker is initiated into the scriptural knowledge. Through intense contemplation, the seeker realizes the God State of Consciousness within himself, which is Real and Everlasting. This fulfillment is represented by the tenth day – the Vijayadasami (Ever Victorious). The auspicious Vijayadasami is also known as the Day of VIDYARAMBHA. AKSHARA ABHYASA is performed on this day and children are initiated into the Akshara-s (alphabets). Elders are initiated into the study of scriptures. Those who wish to pursue the Art-forms like music, dance etc., are also initiated on this day. The sequence of worship of the three deities (Maha Durga, Maha Lakshmi and Maha Saraswati) varies according to different traditions. However, the significance remains the same.
During Navaratri, apart from parayana of Durga Saptashati, Lalitha Sahasranama, Devi Stotras, etc., there is a beautiful tradition of singing the Sri Kamalamba Navavarana Krithis (composed by Muthuswami Dikshitar) or Sri Kamakshi Navavarana Krithis (composed by Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyer). They 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, 1- mangala) are deep in mysticism and rich in significance. The Navavarana Krithis signify the seeker’s spiritual journey from the outer pluralistic world to the Innermost Divine Centre within himself – the unveiling of the Divinity within himself. It is the transcendence of our outer personality-layers to ultimately reach Sri Maha Tripura Sundari, the personification of Parabrahma – the State of Sachidananda within ourselves.
During Navaratri, Upavasa (fasting) is observed. The seasonal change in Nature has a profound effect on our physical body, mind and intellect. Fasting is a discipline which helps to maintain health at all levels – physical, mental, intellectual and spiritual. In its broader perspective, Upavasa means “staying near or to connect with the God-principle”. Navaratri Upasana is also known as Dasara or Dussehra Puja. This is an abbreviation of “Dasha Papa Hara”. Therefore Dussehra Puja is that upasana which when undertaken helps an individual to liquidate the effect of karmas performed through the five sense-organs of perception and five organs of action. It is basically the Victory of Good over the Evil !!