NAVRATRI: THE MOTHER IN NINE NIGHTS
Shailputri: Parvati & Mother Earth
Navratri is celebrated April 10th-19th this year. We experience the Mother in all Her glory in nine different forms on nine nights. Vasant or Chaitra Navratri is the month when the Universe was created. Spring brings renewal of Mother Earth. All Her trees plants, flowers and creatures come out to greet the spring. It is Mother Earth who nutures them and allows the young ones to be birthed by their mothers.
The sacred text connected with the Mother is the Devi Mahatmya. She is described in this great text as, "Terrible with the sword and spear...with conch and bow, having arrows, sling and iron mace as her weapons...exceedingly beautiful. She is superior to the high and low, the supreme queen. Whatever and whenever anything exists, whether it be real or unreal, She has everything as Her very soul. Of all that, She is the power (shakti). How can She be adequately praised?"
In the Vedic tradition of Navratri, She has nine forms, worshipped on nine nights. One form is not enough to describe Her. Her shakti prevades everything and is the action principle in the Universe. Shailputri, Brahamacharini, Chandraghanta, Kushmaanda, Skandamata, Kattyaayini, Kaalratri, Maha Gauri and Siddhidatri are Her nine forms.
This time I will focus on Her first form, Shailputri, a combination of Parvati and Mother Earth. This form is worshipped on the first day of Navratri. She is called daughter of the mountain king, who was known as Himalaya. She is connected with the virtue of faith and being faithful and loyal to divinity within and without.
Her father lived in a state very in tune with Mother Earth. Mountains are solid and yet they move during earthquakes. Mountains change over time and become something greater than their original form. So we, ideally, change over time to become better human beings, something greater than what we were at our birth.
She wears a half moon, bears a trident, travels on Nandi, the bull, and bears the lotus flower. She is consort of Shiva, who also bears the trident, travels on the bull and is connected with the moon,
She is the absolute form of Mother Nature, very much connected to Mother Earth, like her father, Himalaya. We are connected to Mother Earth and we walk on Her every day. I look at Mother Earth as a temple which needs attention now with global warming happening. We need to look at what we are doing to help Mother Earth. We should not be using anything which is harmful to Her. All of us need to look at what we are doing. None of us should be complacent in what we are doing towards Her. We go out of our way for friends and family and want to know how they are doing in life, but what about our relationship with Mother Earth? We would not be here without Her.
Shailputri's story is told in two sacred texts the Shivapurana and Devi Bhagvatam. In her first incarnation She was Sati or Uma, the consort and wife of Shiva. She sacrificed Herself in the yogic fire because of Her relatives' disrespect of Shiva at a sacred ceremony. Very sad story. I do not recommend following Sati's example. In her next incarnation She appeared as Goddess Parvati. Shailputri and Himavati are the other names She was known by in the Vedic tradition. As Himavati She defeated all great gods as described in the Upanishads.
Parvati loved Shiva the most and wished to marry Him. She did many types of actions to attract His attention. She tried her homemaking skills by sweeping out His cave and bringing Him flowers. Although this was done right from the heart, this did not win Shiva's heart. It is always great to help your husband or wife with household tasks. This is very honorable, but you also have to have good inner qualities to attract God's attention. Shailputri realized more was required of Her to win Shiva's heart and affection. She performed austerities of meditation, prayers and simple living to win His heart. When we live this way, God enters into our hearts. Simple living is ecological living.
She is the aspect of the Devi which is part of the root chakra, who, when awakened, starts Her journey upwards. She is the Mooladhara Shakti to be experienced in the Higher Self and realized in Higher aspects in yogic meditation. When we are in alignment with our feminine aspects, we can reach our very soul and realize our own divinity within and without. Her mantra will help you start the process: "Vande Vanchitlabhaya Chandrakritshekharm/ Visharudh Shooldharan Shailputri Yashaswineem."
She is connected with love, devotion and compassion aspects of the Mother. Many of us admire these qualities in our own mothers. Shailputri showed Her great devotion and love for Shiva in Her spiritual practices. When we are compassionate to others, we are like Her. Think of the homeless ones without shelter. Donate money or time as volunteer at a homeless shelter, social service, humanitarian or spiritual organization which help the homeless. As part of my birthday celebration and Shiva Ratri, I donated to St. Stephen's Human Services in Minneapolis. This an example of one can do to experience compassion for those who have less than you in the material realm. There are many other possibilities to show love, devotion and compassion towards humans and nature. Ecological practices are a form of love for the Mother, too. One just needs to be open to these possibilities. It is an example of real-life worship of the Mother. Do this first. Then offer Her your flowers, rice, roli and sandalwood. All these are spiritual symbols of what you feel in your heart for the Mother. She is very much the action principle in the world. She loves compassionate actions. She is the intelligent One as Indra approached Parvati to receive the knowledge of Braham. The Goddess is experienced in our feminine aspects in every day life situations. These stories are ancient, but they show us how to be in the here and now of the present century. On the first day of Navratri, please remember Shailputri and Her great aspects in your own life. Plant a seed of love for Mother Earth in your heart which will grow into real-life action.
JAI SHRI NAVRATRI! JAI SHRI MOTHER EARTH! JAI SHRI SHAILPUTRI!