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Posted By Susan Bernhardt
 
Nine Days of the Goddess - A Celebration of Women and the Earth

A few weeks ago, Hindus all over the world observed a nine day 
festival called Navratri dedicated to their Mother Goddess, 
Goddess Durga. It is a festival that is observed twice each year, 
at the junctures of the changing of the seasons, from spring to 
summer and in the autumn. On the surface the festival is about 
religious tradition, but it is also about a celebration of 
feminine energies, adapting the body and our food habits to the 
change in seasons, and of being in tune with the agricultural 
cycle.

Goddess Durga of the Hindu tradition is akin to Goddess Athena of 
the Greek tradition…sometimes she is the mother goddess, sometimes 
the virgin goddess; she is the goddess of war and warfare, of 
women and children, food and agriculture; the goddess of the 
household and domestic arts, of learning and wisdom, music and 
fine arts. 

Over these nine days, observers worship her in three major forms – 
as Durga/Shakti, the primordial and pure energy; as Lakshmi, the 
goddess of all material energies and activities relating to human 
existence, from farming to the household, to business and wealth; 
and finally as Saraswati, the purveyor of the intellectual and 
spiritual pursuits. Each of the nine days is further dedicated to 
a different goddess, who is simply a personification of each of 
the different aspects of pure energy, representing all the facets 
of womanhood.
 
The festival is mainly celebrated by women because it equates the 
energies of the earth and the seasons to feminine energies. While 
fasting and changing of the diet are part of the religious 
practice, they are really meant to cleanse the body of toxins and 
avoid foods (usually grains and meat) that are considered 
detrimental to the body at the juncture of the seasons. Whether 
fasting or not, women get together to socialize and make merry, 
and celebrate with special foods and the exchange of small 
household articles. One day is specifically set aside to honor and 
celebrate little girls – neighborhood girls are invited into homes 
and honored with a ritual washing of their feet, are given treats 
of food and small toys or money for gifts.

Farmers observe the festival to honor the earth and the bounty 
that it gives them. Depending on the climatic region in the 
country, the celebration is either a preparation for planting or 
harvest. They even worship their implements because they are the 
means of their livelihood. Carpenters and artisans worship their 
tools, businessmen worship their factories, musicians their 
instruments, and students their books and computers.

While specific practices vary from region and family, and can be 
very simple to very complex and grand, particularly in the fall, 
the overall idea and purpose is the same regardless of tradition. 
The idea is to acknowledge that we and our existence is a 
microcosm of a larger whole, and that we need to be in tune with 
and honor that whole.
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