Navaratri – overcoming our ‘Mahisasuras’

  • Sri Bimal Mohanty
  • India
  • Oct 03, 2014



People often wonder about the significance of worshipping Durga for nine continuous days, whereas to other Divine Gods a single day or at best three days are assigned. Durga is all-powerful, having drawn power from various divine forms of Brahman the Lord. Why did she take nine days to vanquish one ‘asura’? Why was not a single stroke enough? This is another unique concept of ‘Sanatan’ philosophy, to drive home a point. This philosophy allows for many interpretations of a central truth, so that anyone can get to that truth in the best way that it is understood by him - without deviating from the esoteric. As Ramakrishna Paramahansa said: ‘Nana muni nana mat’: many saints give many interpretations, keeping in focus the same thing. One such interpretation runs as follows: 

Mahisasura was an asura. What is an asura? ‘Asusu ramate iti asurah’: those who revel in enjoying the pleasures of physical existence, in contrast to a transcendental existence (or, in ‘adhibhautika’ pleasures, in contrast with ‘adhyatmika’ pleasures), are asuras – having a demonical character. Durga, Mahisasura and all other divine concepts are symbolic representations of the many aspects of Brahman. What does Mahisasura symbolically represent? There are basically nine important aspects of the asura, which Durga is telling us to systematically wipe out, one after the other, from our minds. The first six evils are: ‘Dambha’, or vulgar display, of luxury and wealth (like Ravana had in the golden Lanka); ‘Darpa’, or arrogance, which all demons (like Hiranyakasipu, Bali) demonstrate after having received some boon from the Gods; ‘Abhimana’ or ‘Ahamkara’; ‘Krodha’, or anger; ‘Parusya’, or harshness; and finally ‘Ajnanata’, or foolishness. These are well captured in the ‘sloka’: ‘Dambhah darpah abhimanah ca krodhah parusyam eva ca Ajnanam abhijatasya partha sampadam asurim’ (Gita 16.4). The last three evils are ‘Kama’, ‘Lobha’ and ‘Krodha’ (Krodha has been repeated here because this is one of the worst evils; it is the root of all miseries, because its seed is in our attachment to worldly objects). These three evils are more serious aberrations of character and are said to be the three gates to hell that destroy the soul: ‘Trividham narakasya idam dvaram nasanam atmanah’ (Gita 4.21). Two slokas of the Gita, 2.62 and 63, capture the total picture of destruction. It is not easy to eliminate the nine evils. It requires a long period to overcome them, and to get united with God. At the final end comes the victorious day, the ‘Vijaya Dasami’. The long period of dark ignorance ends only with the dawn of awakening, after overcoming the Mahisasura within us. While ‘ordinary’ people need a specific Navaratri occasion to remind them of the purification process of the soul, for people of wisdom Navaratri is a continuous way of life.


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