Saturday, September 27, 2014

Navaratri, Nine Nights of Durga

During this time of year the festival Navaratri is celebrated in honor of the Hindu Goddess Durga. The festival begins at the new moon near the equinox which was September 25 and it will last until October 3. Since the dates for this festival are according to the lunar calendar they are slightly different each year. The celebration lasts for nine nights and each day a different form of Durga is honored. The word "nava" means nine so "Navadurga" means "Nine Durga's" and Navaratri means "nine nights".

Navaratri is celebrated differently in different areas around India. In some parts people fast for nine days while in other areas people dress in the colors associated with each day and dance. In West Bengal, life-sized clay dolls or idols of the goddess Durga are made and then worshiped in the temples. 

Below is a list of the nine manifestations of Durga with the corresponding day for the festival.

Shailaputri - The first form of Durga honored on the first night of Navaratri. Daughter of the mountains and was born in the Himalayas. Also known as Sati Bhavani or Parvati. Shailaputri is the first form of Durga. She rides a bull and carries a trident and a lotus in her hands. 

Brahmacharini - The second form of Durga and honored on the second night of Navaratri. She is known as "One who observes penance" and practices celibacy. She holds a pot of water in one hand and a rosary in the other. This form of Devi stands for love, loyalty and enlightenment.

Chandraghanta - Third form of Durga and honored on the third night of Navaratri. This form of Devi has a moon (Chandra) on her forehead and carries a bell (ghanta) to scare off demons. She rides a lion and stands for power and bravery.

Kushmanda - Fourth form of Durga honored on the fourth night of Navaratri. She is considered the creator of the universe and shines brightly like the light of the sun. She rides a lion and has eight hands in which she holds various weapons as well as a rosary.

Skanda Mata - Fifth form of Durga honored on the fifth night of Navaratri. She is mother of Lord Skanda who was in charge of the army for the Gods in their war against demons. She has four arms and three eyes and is often depicted sitting on a lotus flower.

Katyayani - Sixth form of Durga honored on the sixth night of Navaratri. She was daughter to the great sage Kata. It is said that Kata wished for a daughter in the form of a goddess. He underwent penance and long austerities to receive the grace of the Mother Goddess. Durga granted the sage his wish in the form of Katyayani.

Kalaratri - Seventh form of Durga and honored on the seventh day of Navaratri. She has a dark complexion and a fearless posture. She has three eyes, a necklace of lightning and she rides a donkey. Flames come from her breath and she holds a sword in her right hand.  Kalaratri represents protection.

Maha Gauri - Eighth form of Durga honored on the eighth night of Navaratri. It is said that Maha Gauri spent a long time in the forest of the Himalayas in devotion to the goddess and her complexion became dark. When Lord Shiva cleaned her with water from the Ganges she regained her original beauty and shine and her skin was pure white. She has four arms, rides a bull and wears white clothes. She represents peace, purification and intelligence.

Siddhidatri - Ninth form of Durga honored on the ninth night of Navaratri. She is known for her supernatural healing powers and blesses all Gods, saints, yogi's and other devotees of the Mother. She is depicted with four arms and riding a lion. She is seen as being blissful and happy.

Navaratri blessings!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Pachamama, Inca Goddess of the Earth

Pachamama was honored as an Earth Mother Goddess by the Inca people. She was worshiped in the Andes Mountains in an area that stretched from Colombia to Argentina which also includes Peru, Bolivia and Chile. She was seen as a dragon woman who lived in the mountains and when she moved she created earthquakes. She was also viewed as the universe itself and the Great Creatrix. Her name translates to mean "World Mother".

Pachamama is also honored as a goddess of planting and harvesting and as such was honored at harvest festivals. Often referred to as the "Good Mother", Pachamama is said to be the mother of the sun and moon. Her consort in myth is Pacha Camac although some sources say that it is Inti, the sun god. Pachamama and Inti were both worshiped as benevolent deities and were both seen as extremely important deities in the Inca pantheon.

The month of August was especially sacred to Pachamama as this was the coldest month of the winter for the Inca people. Illness was more prevalent during this time so families performed cleansing rituals in their homes in order to scare off evil entities. On the eve of August 1, families would cook a lavish meal in honor of Pachamama. Before anyone was allowed to eat they first had to give a plate of food to Pachamama. Holes were dug in the ground and if the soil was in good condition it signified a bountiful year. If not it was a bad omen for the coming year.

Pachamama was also honored throughout the year in many other festivities. Before every festivity people would make a toast in her honor by spilling some chicha, a fermented drink, on the floor and then drinking the rest. This toast is known as challa and it's said to be made almost everyday. Also sacred to Pachamama is "Challa's Tuesday" where people would bury food and burn incense in her honor. During these festivals people would sacrifice llama's to the goddess for good luck. The most important ritual in honor of Pachamama was said to be the Challaco. During this ritual families were said to cook a special food and take it to a nearby pond to give to Pachamama as on offering. They would then give a series of different offerings to Pachamama that consisted of drink, food, coca leaves and cigars.

Pachamama's sacred animals are the puma and the snake. The dragon is also sacred to her as she herself is viewed as a dragoness. The puma was also seen as a sacred animal to the Inca people in general.  Pachamama represents the fertile earth and the mountains as well as the sun, moon and stars. She is the Great Creatrix of the universe and she is the universe itself. Pachamama teaches us to care for her fertile world and if we do she will be bountiful. 

Picture courtesy of Hrana Janto
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