Thursday, April 11, 2024

Navratri - culture and science behind it

The term "Navratri" is derived from two Sanskrit words: "Nav" (meaning nine) and "Ratri" (meaning night), symbolizing a celebration of the divine feminine power in nine forms, also known as the avatars of Goddess Durga - the ultimate feminine power. The festival occurs twice a year, during the transitional seasons of spring and fall, aligning with the equinoxes recognized by various cultures worldwide.

The first day of spring Navratri marks the beginning of the Hindu New Year, known as Varsha Pratipada, with various regional names across India. The festival is observed through fasting and the consumption of only specific fruits and Saatvik (pure and wholesome) foods. The nine forms of the divine goddess represent distinct aspects of her divine nature:

  1. Shailaputri: Known as the "Mother of Nature," she embodies purity and innocence.
  2. Brahmacharini: Bestows success and victory upon her devotees.
  3. Chandraghanta: Represents courage and strength, promoting justice and righteousness.
  4. Kushmanda: Brings energy and light to the world.
  5. Skandamata: The mother of Kartikeya, a deity associated with yoga and spiritual advancement, also known as the “god of war.”
  6. Katyayani: A fierce form of Durga, she dispels darkness and evil, bringing peace to her devotees.
  7. Kalaratri: Known for her menacing form, she provides fearlessness and favorable outcomes.
  8. Mahagauri: Symbolizes tranquility and serenity, alleviating the suffering of her devotees.
  9. Siddhidatri: Grants happiness and wisdom while instilling devotion in the hearts of her followers.

Navratri serves as both a cultural and scientific milestone, marking natural and astronomical events embedded in tradition. Observed for thousands of years, the festival recognizes the impact of weather changes on our biological rhythms, including sleep-wake cycles, during the period.

As the seasons change, our immunity tends to weaken. Exposure to extreme temperatures can impact the immune system's strength. Studies suggest that seasonal changes influence the composition of our blood, fat, and immune cells.

During Navratri, practitioners engage in intermittent fasting (upvas) for nine days and consume satvik foods known for their purity and wholesomeness. These foods aid in cleansing the body and providing rest for the digestive system.

Experts recommend fasting during Navratri for its detoxifying benefits, as it aligns with scientific principles. The practice involves giving the digestive system a break by eating lightly or fasting occasionally throughout the week. This fasting process allows the intestines to cleanse and strengthens their lining.