Ashutosh Vardhana:
Celebrating the Divinity in Woman:
The Festival of Navarátri
(Version 2)

Ashutósh Várdhana: Celebrating the Divinity in Woman: The Festival of Navarátri (Version 2)
Version 2: Length: 454 words = 2599 characters
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Note for Editors:

There are two versions of this article:

  1. Version 1, length 914 words
  2. Version 2, length 454 words

Alternative titles:
- Hindus Celebrate Nine-day-Festival in Honour of Woman
- Celebrating the Divinity in Woman: The Hindu Festival of Navarátri
- Why we Celebrate Navarátri

Editorial introduction

On 14 Oct this year, Hindus celebrate the festival of Durgáshtami, the worship of Goddess Dúrga. From 7 to 15 October they celebrate Navarátri, the Nine-Day-Festival, during which the great battles of the Goddess against the forces of evil are commemorated. Ashutósh Várdhana, a Hindu writer who lives in England, explains what the festival means to Hindus.


Version 2: Length: 454 words = 2599 characters

Ashutósh Várdhana:
Why we celebrate Navarátri

Whenever evil becomes too powerful on earth, God appears in order to 'tidy up' by punishing bad people and by teaching us how to lead good and happier lives. That is the basic meaning of those of our festivals where God goes into battle with demons.

The ancient stories speak of battles with chariots, lances, arrows and magic weapons, of good kings and bad demons, but what is really meant is the battle between good and evil in our hearts. The stories are meant to encourage us to live better lives. The battle fields are within us.

There was once a demon king so powerful that none of the gods (all male) could oust him. Therefore all the gods came together to create a 'supergod' with the combined power of all of them. That supergod was a woman, the Dévi.


Durga Devi riding into battle with the weapons of all the gods  
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The Dévi went into battle against the demon armies. They despised her because she was a woman, a weak woman, as they thought. But she, who was in fact identical with Bráhman, the Absolute, defeated all of them.

Navarátri, the Nine-day-Festival, commemorates the battle. During this period we worship the Dévi (God in its manifestation as a woman)

Navarátri is celebrated differently in different parts of India. In Bengal it is the greatest festival of the year.







Stick dance (Ras) of Gujarati children at Navarátri  
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Gujuratis in Blackburn (UK) dancing ras, the stick dance  
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We Gujarátis dance for nine evenings round a shrine of the Dévi. The noise of ras, the stick dance, where the dancers hit each other's batons, is an echo of the noise of the great battle.

On the ninth day of Navarátri we celebrate Durgáshtami, the high-point of the worship of Dúrga.

Apart from the personal lesson to fight evil within us, the festival also teaches us something about relations between men and women.

They gradually change over the centuries in society and in our religion, which reflects and informs that society. That is good. Our religion grows organically (like a tree) and adjusts itself to the needs of our society.

The story of the Dévi shows woman far superior to man. That is a useful message, especially in view of the fact that many other ancient texts suggest that woman is inferior. Today we must renounce that notion. Navarátri teaches us that woman is ***equal*** to man.

When an ancient Hindu scripture said, 'Treat your parents as God, treat your husband as God, treat your teacher as God, treat your guest as God,' today we have to add, with equal vigour and authority, 'treat your wife as God', which is another way of saying: 'Treat every woman as God.'

An ancient Sanskrit verse puts it quite plainly:

Wherever women are treated with respect
the gods rejoice and bless that place.


Copyright 2001: Ashutosh Vardhana