Sri Matre Namaha
Sharadaradhya – The One Hundred & Twenty Third name in Lalitha Sahasranamam.
She is worshipped in the autumn or the rainy season. And the goddess is also worshiped during the nine days in the spring. (navarthri)
Saradaih (=visaradaih) aradhya
She is worshiped by scholars.
Sharada means Sarasvathi, the Goddess of speech. She is worshiped by Sarasvathi. Sharada could also mean the vak devis, the authors of this sahasranamam. In India, She is worshipped for nine days in the month of October or November and this is called ‘navaratri’, meaning nine nights. Shakthi worship is always done in the nights as per tantra sastra. It is said that Vishnu is to be worshipped in the morning, Shiva in the evening and Lalithambigai in the night. Apart from the navaratri falling in the month of October/November, there are two other navaratris that are celebrated. They are called vasantha navaratri and sharada navaratri. Possibly this nama could mean sharada navaratri. Kalika purana says ‘Once upon a time in spring, in the ninth day you were awakened by devas. Hence you are known to the world by the name Sharada”. This nama means that she is worshipped by knowledgeable (knowledge gained from Vedas and sastras) men.
She who is to be worshipped during Navarathri celebrated during autumn.
Here I have to mention that she is worshipped round the year and many of us worship her at different times.
Navaratri is celebrated four times a year. They are Basantha Navaratri, Ashada Navaratri, the Sharana Navaratri, and the Poushya/Magha Navaratri. Of these, the Sharada Navaratri of the month of Puratashi and the Vasantha Navaratri of the Vasantha kala are very important.
1. Vasantha Navaratri – Basantha Navrathri, also known as Vasant Navratras, is the festival of nine dedicated to the nine forms of Shakti (Mother Goddess) in the spring season(March – April). It is also known as Chaitra Navratra.
The nine days of festival is also known as Raama Navratri.
• The Story Behind the Origin of Vasanta Navaratri
In days long gone by, King Dhruvasindu was killed by a lion when he went out hunting. Preparations were made to crown the prince Sudarsana. But, King Yudhajit of Ujjain, the father of Queen Lilavati, and King Virasena of Kalinga, the father of Queen Manorama, were each desirous of securing the Kosala throne for their respective grandsons. They fought with each other. King Virasena was killed in the battle. Manorama fled to the forest with Prince Sudarsana and a eunuch. They took refuge in the hermitage of Rishi Bharadwaja.
The victor, King Yudhajit, thereupon crowned his grandson, Satrujit, at Ayodhya, the capital of Kosala. He then went out in search of Manorama and her son. The Rishi said that he would not give up those who had soughts protection under him. Yudhajit became furious. He wanted to attack the Rishi. But, his minister told him about the truth of the Rishi’s statement. Yudhajit returned to his capital.
Fortune smiled on Prince Sudarsana. A hermit’s son came one day and called the eunuch by his Sanskrit name Kleeba. The prince caught the first syllable Kli and began to pronounce it as Kleem. This syllable happened to be a powerful, sacred Mantra. It is the Bija Akshara (root syllable) of the Divine Mother. The Prince obtained peace of mind and the Grace of the Divine Mother by the repeated utterance of this syllable. Devi appeared to him, blessed him and granted him divine weapons and an inexhaustible quiver.
The emissaries of the king of Benares passed through the Ashram of the Rishi and, when they saw the noble prince Sudarsana, they recommended him to Princess Sashikala, the daughter of the king of Benares.
The ceremony at which the princess was to choose her spouse was arranged. Sashikala at once chose Sudarsana. They were duly wedded. King Yudhajit, who had been present at the function, began to fight with the king of Benares. Devi helped Sudarsana and his father-in-law. Yudhajit mocked Her, upon which Devi promptly reduced Yudhajit and his army to ashes.
Thus Sudarsana, with his wife and his father-in-law, praised Devi. She was highly pleased and ordered them to perform Her worship with havan and other means during the Vasanta Navaratri. Then She disappeared.
Prince Sudarsana and Sashikala returned to the Ashram of Rishi Bharadwaja. The great Rishi blessed them and crowned Sudarsana as the king of Kosala. Sudarsana and Sashikala and the king of Benares implicitly carried out the commands of the Divine Mother and performed worship in a splendid manner during the Vasanta Navaratri.
Sudarsana’s descendants, namely, Sri Rama and Lakshmana, also performed worship of Devi during the Vasanta Navaratri and were blessed with Her assistance in the recovery of Sita.
2. Gupta Navaratri – Gupta Navratri, also referred as Ashada or Gayatri or Shakambari Navratri, is nine days dedicated to the nine forms of Shakti (Mother Goddess) in the month of Ashada (June – July). Gupta Navaratri is observed during the Ashada Shukla Paksha (waxing phase of moon). Ashada Navratri is very important festival for those who worship Goddess Varahi, one of the Saptha Matrukas (Seven Mothers) who helped Devi in slaying the demons Shumbha and Nishumbha.
During Ashad Navratri,Gayathri devi is worshipped as the main deity in her Navdurga forms (9 avatars). In some regions Maa Shakambari Devi is worshipped for nine festive nights with utmost devotion. In Viajayawada Kanaka Durga Temple, Badrakali Temple in Warangal (Andhra Pradesh) Shakambari Navratras are celebrated jubilantly. Ashada Navratri are celebrated as Guhya Navratri in Himachal Pradesh.
3. Sharana Navaratri – This is the most important of the Navratris, and is simply called Maha Navratri (the Great Navratri) and is celebrated in the month of aashivina. Also known as Sharad Navaratri, as it is celebrated during sharad (beginning of winter, Sept-Oct). There are several and legends associated with celebration of this Navratri Festival.
As per one legend Mahishasura the mighty demon worshipped Lord Shiva and obtained the power of eternity. So he started to kill and harass innocent people and set out to win seven lokas. Intimated by his power all the gods from swargaloka appealed to Lord Shiva to tame the demon. Then Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwar (Shiva) united their supreme powers and created a divine being called Shakti or Durga the Warrior Goddess. Mahishasura who happened to see this divine beauty Durga got mesmerized by her beauty and approached her with the intention of marriage. Goddess Durga agreed to marry him but in one condition that Mahishasura should win over her in duel. Mahishasura who was proudy of his power agreed for the duel. The duel went on for 9 nights and the end of 9th night Goddess Durga beheaded Mahishasura. So the nine nights for which the war was fought is called Navrathri.
The tenth day is celebrated as Vijayadashmi.
• According to other legend King Daksha of Himalayas had a beautiful and Virtuos daughter Uma who had a wish to marry Lord Shiva. As a result she worshipped Lord Shiva and pleased him. Lord Shiva married Uma. Once Uma visited her parents to participate in a Yagna conducted over there, during that time King Daksha insulted Lord Shiva unable to bear the insults meted on her husband Uma decided to end her life by jumping into the agnikund where she was united with the eternity. Henceforth she was also known as Sati. Sati was reborn again and peace was restored between her and parents. In that birth also she married Lord Shiva and lived happily thereafter. It is believed that Sati comes to stay with her parents for 9 days in every year and that time is celebrated as Navarathri.
• One hypothesis states that in ancient times Kshatriyas debarred themselves from participating any warlike activities during monsoon season. Once monsoons got over they found the time to start afresh with their war activities. So before the start of their war journey these Kshatriyas worshipped different aspects of Devi for 9 days which is today celebrated as the Navratri.
• According to one legend Lord Rama who wanted to release Sita from the clutches of mighty demon king Ravana prayed Goddess Durga in nine aspects for nine days in order to gather the strength and power to kill Ravana. Those nine nights became to be known as Navrathri and on the tenth day Rama killed Ravana that day is called Vijayadashmi or Dashera
4. Poushya Navaratri – Poushya Navratri, is nine days dedicated to the nine forms of Shakti (Mother Goddess) in the month of Poushya (Dec – Jan). Poushya Navaratri is observed during the Poushya Shukla Paksha (waxing phase of moon).
5. Magha Navaratri – Magha Navratri, also referred as Gupta Navratri, is nine days dedicated to the nine forms of Shakti (Mother Goddess) in the month of Magha (Jan – Feb). Magha Navaratri is observed during the Magha Shukla Paksha (waxing phase of moon).Devi is beautiful and bountiful, beneficent and terrifying, compassionate and ruthlessly righteous. She is Durga and Kali in Bengal, Ambika and Bhadrakali in Gujarat, Vaishnodevi in Jammu and Kashmir, Chamunda in Karnataka, Santoshi Ma and Bhavani in Maharashtra and Kamakhya in Assam. She is invoked in many more forms that symbolize the Devi’s characteristic attributes. To most of us she is just Ma, the universal mother, who is conceived as protector of those who need her protection.
A whole chapter in the tenth mandal of the holy Rigveda deals with the devotional sadhanas of Shakti. A hymn here describes – “I (Shakti) am the Omnipresent Power. I am the ultimate savior, who stretches and empowers the arc of Rudra to ruin the demonic evils. I alone generate the valor and move the forces in the battlefronts. I am the Mother (Genesis) and the sole Protector of the whole creation. I am in every living being (as the source of life-force). I am the paramount divine power, which knows its unity with the Para Brahm; I am the absolute reality”. The “Devi Sukta” and “Usha Sukta” of the Rigveda and “Ratri Sukta” of the Samveda similarly sing paeans of praise of sadhanas of Shakti. Before the beginning of the Mahabharat war, Lord Krishna had worshipped Durga – the Goddess of Shakti– for the victory of the Pandvas, on whose side laid justice, morality and wisdom. The epic Ramayana also describes Rama’s worship of Goddess Durga.Worship of shakthi in different forms has been popular in Buddhism as well.
Theupasana of Shakthi is the basis of all tantrika practices. The Puranas also describe in parables, stories and anecdotes the pre-eminence of Shakti. In fact, one of the Puranas- “Devi Bhagavat”- is exclusively devoted to the Divine exploits of Durga. The “Markandey Purana” describes the manifestations of the Supreme Shakthi as Mahakali, Mahalakshmi and Mahasaraswati. Mahakali destroys the forces of the evil, crushes ego and eliminates ignorance. Mahasaraswati is the deity of discerning intellect, pure knowledge and creative talents. Mahalakshmi is the Goddess of beauty, harmony, prosperity and progress. The hymns describing the magnificence of the great manifestations of Shakthi and the 700 mantras of its sadhanas are compiled as “Durga Saptashati” in this Purana.
The Skanda Purana describes the epic incarnation of Goddess Durga. The Brahm Purana and Brahmvaivarta Purana also narrate the divine descent of the powers of the supreme Shakti. Lord Brahma is cited in the Markandey Purana as mentioning to Rishi Markandey that the first incarnation of Shakthi was as Shailputri. Other incarnations of the Divine Mother are: Brahmcharñi, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skandamata, Katyayani, Kalratri, Mahagauri and Siddhidatri in that order. These nine manifestations of Shakti, are worshipped as “Nava-Durga”. The fifth chapter of the Rudra Sanhita of Shiva Purana also vividly describes the various Divine Emanations of Durga. Shakti is the original power at the root of creation, limitless expansion and expressions of Nature. It is also referred to as the Âdi Sakthi or Brahm Shakti. All the visible and invisible plays of Nature are reflections of this eternal Shakti. All powers originate from it; all existence emerges from it. She is who enables the creation, growth and protection of the universe. She is the Mother of Trinity- Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. The Skanda Purana describes this fact in a telling manner– Lord Shiva without Sakthi is like a shava (a corpse); Lord Shiva is “Shiva” because of the presence of Sakthi in Him. The Cosmic Consciousness. Force and its endless expressions also emanate from Shakti. This alone is expressed in the beings as life-energy, consciousness, vigour, courage, intelligence, radiance, thought-power, memory, steadiness, contentment, compassion, generosity, intrinsic light, faith, emotions, etc. The Primordial Sakthi generates the potential and tendency of motherhood in the living world. Its different manifestations in the cosmic creation are indeed countless. Sakthi is Mahasaraswati, Mahalakshmi, Mahakali as manifested respectively through its sublime, eternal attributes (guñas) of sat, raj and tam.
In fact, all the manifestations of divine powers emanate from and merge into the single Brahm Shakti, which is known in the spiritual literature as Gayatri. Since the Vedic Age of the Rishis, the devotional practices recommended during Navratri are primarily those of Gayathri Anushthana. The varied customs of arbitrarily worshiping of this Omniscient Sakthi are offshoots of the medieval era of religious anarchy and cultural pollution. In spite of the ignorance and superstitions introduced in this period, the sadhana of Gayathri has maintained its pre-eminence. The light of Culture could not be extinguished even in the dark phases of our history. In the Vedic Age of the Indian Culture, the religious philosophy and devotional practices were focused towards true knowledge and ultimate realization of the supreme power ofGayatri (Bram Shakti). The Vedas were the basis of all streams of spirituality and science those days.Gayatri has been the source of the divine powers of the gods in the heavens and their angelic manifestations and incarnations. Gayatri sadhana was also paramount in the higher level spiritual endeavors of the yogis and tapaswis. Gayatri Mantra was the core-focus of daily practice of sandhya-vandan (meditation and devotional worship) for everyone.
As guided by the rishis, specific sadhanas and upasanas of the Gayatri Mantra were sincerely practiced during the festival period of Navaratri by every aspirant of spiritual enlightenment. The nine-day period of Navarati is of supreme importance for physical, mental and spiritual health as it lies at the juncture of two seasons. The nourishing energy currents in Nature are at their peak during this transitive phase to eliminate the harmful, negative elements and impressions from our gross and subtle bodies. The sublime domains of consciousness force as stabilized in earth consciousness by the rishis and yogis are most active during this special period. It thus offers us a rare opportunity of expeditiously accomplishing the sadhanas of spiritual elevation. It assumes greater significance in the first decade of the 21st Century, which is prophesied to be the heralder of a new era of Divine Manifestation of life, love and light on earth – through humanity. Laghu Anushthana sadhana of Gayatri is recommended as most suitable for the Navarati period. It consists of twenty-four thousand japa (repeated rhythmic chanting) of the Gayatri Mantra with meditation on the rising sun and adoption of certain self-control disciplines.
Mental or upanshu japa of twenty-seven rosaries (malas) needs to be completed every day for this purpose. This can be done in about three hours’ duration by the people who are used to daily practice of the japa of this mantra. Completion in one sitting in the early morning (by commencing the japa two hours before dawn) is the best. However, depending upon one’s constraints, it could be completed in two to three sittings at convenient times. But the regularity of timings and place where the japa is carried out should be maintained. Ideal sitting posture is sukhasana with erect spinal column. One should not sit directly on the earth. Sitting on kusha mat or cotton cloth is most suitable. Essential disciplines include strict chastity of body and mind and prohibition of using anything made of leather. The subtle properties of what we eat have great impact on our mind. Fasting is therefore prescribed during this sadhana.
Depending upon one’s health and level of self-control, the fasting could be observed by consuming only milk or fruits once or twice a day; taking tasteless (without salt and sugar) food; or taking simple and light vegetarian food only once a day, etc. The other common disciplines include – austere life-style; sleeping on a mat on the floor or on plain wooden cot; attending to one’s personal tasks by oneself; observing honesty and humility in conduct. The advanced devotees may also adopt some higher level disciplines that serve the dual purpose of cleansing and purification of the body and the mind and thorough practice of self-restraint. A havan (yagya) should be performed on the last day of theanushthana to mark its completion. The number of herbal oblations (along with loud chanting of the Gayatri Mantra) made in the sacred fire of this yagya should be at least one hundredth of the total number of japas completed. Those who cannot do twenty-four thousand japas, may do the sadhana of chanting the Gayatri Chalisa two hundred forty times or that of writing two thousand four hundred Gayatri Mantras in the nine days, along with adoption of as many of the above mentioned disciplines as possible.
The sadhana-anushthans of Gayatri accomplished during the shakti Parva (Navaratri) will prove to be milestones along the path of spiritual elevation. The grace of Divine Mother bestowed upon the sadhaka would orient his otherwise dry knowledge and ego-centric scholarly attainments towards sagacious activities and altruistic purposes. This would transmute his religious faith and devotion into inner enlightenment without which these are nothing better than emotional excitements and superficial rituals of worship. The hidden force of sakthi awakened within the sadhaka transforms his shraddha (deep intrinsic faith) into nishtha (firm motivation and enlightened faith) towards divine values and noble deeds. The same shraddha, which was evaporating in the void without Shakti, could now be the source of supramental attainments and spiritual awakening.