The life around is reaching its natural completion, the cycle of life ready to wither away, recycle and to be reborn in the very lap of nature. As the nights grow longer and days shorter, the spirit of nature has become gentle, subtle and even more feminine.
If we were to take cues from nature, this is a time which also marks the slowing down of life, when the leaves are shed, the sap of trees returns back to its roots, some lives disappear and some die. Animals and plants find their own spaces to retreat, both in the physical world and their inner world, to hibernate, save for the winter and prepare for the spring. The green of summer settles into the fire of autumn.
In the northern hemisphere, the change of seasons is denoted by the autumn equinox, as the earth unleashes the spirit of autumn. It marks the beginning of a lot of festivities throughout the world. In India, Mahalaya Amavasya which falls in the month of September-October, the big night of the new moon, signifies such a shift. Mahalaya Amavasya, a day to offer gratitude and oblations to our ancestors, also marks the beginning of Devi Paksha or Devi Pada – the time of the feminine. This movement towards the feminine continues itself into the beginning of Uttarayana in December. Nine days that follow this Amavasya is known as Navratri, the nine nights of the Devi. This signifies a journey of moving away from earth bound tendencies towards a higher consciousness. Different forms of the Divine Feminine energy or Shakti is worshipped and celebrated beyond gender, caste, religious and caste barriers across the country during this period. Everything that is celebratory is feminine and the nine nights are no exception. In different parts of India, it is celebrated in a unique way, be it the Garbha or the Pujo or Golu or the Bathukamma. The stories, context, name, rituals and the celebration differ from region to region. Immersed in dance, music, prayers, chanting, fasting, meditation, adorning oneself, meeting friends and family and exchanging delicacies and savories are some of the ways the spirit of Navratri or Dussehra or Pujo is celebrated. While there are several stories that are connected to the spirit of Navratri, there is one theme that is common in all these celebrations. As much as this is about honoring the Goddesses, it is also an expression of the feminine to honor the Shakti within and around us.
This is a time for feminine expression. It is a time to look within, spend time in reflection, and to think about how we can best nurture and nourish ourselves. It is also a creative time and hence a space where one can manifest their dreams and envision all that one would like to achieve.
While we spend a major part of the year doing things outside and achieving results, the time of the feminine is a reminder to bring some balance into our lives and respect the feminine or Devi within us. While the feminine is ready to flow, the immense importance we tend to place on the masculine aspects of life tend to denigrate the flow of the feminine.
As we become something from a state of simply being, it is the Shakti within a man or woman that embarks on a continuous movement. This very energy keeps the feminine alive within as it moves from a dormant state towards expression, as sounds, words, poetry, art, music, dance and painting. It also finds expression in healing, rejuvenation, seeking and nourishing. This is the spirit of Navratri.
All celebration during these nine days and nights of the Shakti can be seen in this light. Many of its symbols and what it exactly means might elude our understanding but the way of the feminine in both men and women finds its expression in celebration and appreciation of the subtler aspects of things.