Today marks the start of Navratri (‘The Nine-Nights’) the festival of the Divine Mother in Her three forms, or the trinity known as the ‘Tridevi’, that is formed by Durga, the goddess of strength, steadfastness, and courage, Lakshmi, the goddess of abundance and beauty, and Saraswati, the goddess of learning, wisdom, and communication. This major festival is celebrated with various prayers, gifts, fasts, and feasts, where each goddess represents an aspect of achievement and perfection within one’s own life journey.
The Tridevi (English: three goddesses; Sanskrit: त्रिदेवी tridevī) is a concept in Hinduism joining a triad of eminent goddesses either as a feminine version of the Trimurti or as consorts of a masculine Trimurti. This triad is typically personified by the Hindu goddesses Saraswati, Lakshmi, and Durga (Durga/Parvati/Kali). In Shaktism, these triune goddesses are the manifestations of Mahashakti, the supreme divinity (also known as Sri Lalita Tripura Sundari).
In the Navratri ("nine nights") festival, "the Goddess is worshiped in three forms. During the first three nights, Durga or Parvati is revered, then Lakshmi on the fourth, fifth and sixth nights, and finally Saraswati until the ninth night."
Saraswati is the goddess of learning, arts, and cultural fulfillment, as well as consort of Brahmā, the creator. She is cosmic intelligence, cosmic consciousness, and cosmic knowledge.
Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth, fertility, and material fulfillment, as well as consort of Vishnu, the maintainer or preserver. However, Lakshmi does not signify mere material wealth, but also abstract prosperity, such as glory, magnificence, joy, exaltation, and greatness.
In Navratri celebration, the third and central aspect of the Triple Goddess is most often represented as Durga Ma. However, she is herself recognized to have the triune aspects of Durga, Parvati and Kali. The central Maha Shakti (Supreme Goddess) is best understood as Sri Lalita Tipurasundari (Beautiful Goddess of the Three Aspects). Sri Lalita (the focal point of my personal devotional Bhakti practice) is the unitary source of the Triple Goddess.
Durga, is the goddess of power, love, and spiritual fulfillment, as well as consort of Śhiva, the destroyer or transformer. She also represents the transformational power of divinity, the power that dissolves the multiplicity of the Hindu gods into their unity.
Note that Durga carries the Trident (Trishula) like her consort Shiva, which also clues us into her triple nature. Also note that her vehicle is a Tiger (sometimes a Lion), which signifies the ferocity with which she protects and nurtures her devotees.
I attribute my most recent significant spiritual development to Durga Ma. I was performing japa (internal silent mantra) to her as I was descending an isolated mountain in the dark (a dangerous situation), requesting protection and strength. I was bitten in the leg by a rattlesnake and I have every reason to believe that Durga Ma granted me the boon of transmuting the venom into the nectar of bliss. Not only was I unaffected by the poison, the next day I experienced extraordinary well-being in every way. Jai Durga Ma!
The right handed aspect of Durga is Parvati. She is beneficent, motherly, kind, gentle, fair and beautiful. She is dedicated to Divine Union and as such is the consummate Partner and Wife to Shiva and she is generally depicted together with her mate. In the Tantras she asks the counsel of Lord Shiva in spiritual matters and her incisive questions spark the dialogues from which the cloth of the Tantric teachings is spun. If the Goddess is approached with humility and surrender and egolessness, this benevolent aspect of Divine Mother comes forth to help us along the spiritual path.
The left-handed aspect of the central Goddess is represented as Kali. Kali is the Wrathful aspect of Durga. She is not only the Destroyer of demons but the corrector of all imbalances. Her action is ferocious and relentless. Entering the spiritual realm without preparation or with an inappropriate attitude will bring forth Kali's rage. As children need an appropriate punishment from Mother when their behavior is unbalanced, so Kali dispenses the harsh discipline that we need when we fail to learn our lessons.
Kali Ma can also be seen dancing over the sleeping form of Shiva, signifying her active aspect in the phenomenal Universe of Existence while the Consciousness aspect of Shiva is still and silent.
It's worth noting that the when the three Goddesses of Navratri are multiplied by the triple nature of the central Goddess, we get the number 9. Three and Nine are the central components of the all-powerful energetic diagram of Sri Lalita, the Sri Yantra (Sri Chakra):
Navratri is a perfect opportunity to explore the Triple energies of the Divine Mother to gain insight into the ways in which they interplay in ourselves and in our world. Each Goddess has a mantra that can be recited to invoke her, but you can also just keep it simple and all inclusive:
Jai Ma! Praise to Divine Mother!
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