During the time of the harvest in India, as the monsoon season ends, the rice fields across the countryside are verdant and abundant. So, too, are the fields of people’s hearts—they are full of exuberance. People cannot help but offer their gratitude to Mother Earth, the great Goddess, and the various forms in which she manifests. Therefore, people throughout the country come together to celebrate the festival of Navaratri by worshipping the Devi in different ways—through participating in puja, singing hymns of praise, storytelling, fasting, preparing and sharing sumptuous foods, and performing jubilant dances called garba. This festival spans nine nights, and culminates on the tenth day with the celebration of Dasera, also known as Vijayadashami, which is, according to the Indian calendar, panchanga, one of the three and a half most auspicious days of the year.
On the Siddha Yoga path, when we observe Navaratri, we are honoring the Devi as the embodiment of Kundalini Shakti, the spiritual energy that Shri Guru awakens within us with the bestowal of grace, shaktipat diksha.
For this year’s celebration of Navaratri, Management in the SYDA Foundation invited Santosh Mudgal, a Brahmin priest from Vajreshwari, India, to perform puja on each of the nine nights. For two generations, priests in Santosh bhau’s family—first his father and now Santosh bhau himself—have been performing many pujas and havans in Gurudev Siddha Peeth, the Siddha Yoga Ashram in Ganeshpuri, India.
The title of this photo gallery, Oṁ Namaścaṇḍikāyai, is a mantra that invokes the blessings of the Devi. Baba Muktananda loved to sing hymns extolling the greatness of the Devi. You can listen to Baba singing these Devi hymns, including the stirring invocation Oṁ Namaścaṇḍikāyai, on Shri Devi Stotram, a recording in the Siddha Yoga Bookstore.
The Oṁ Namaścaṇḍikāyai gallery depicts the celebration of Navaratri in Shree Muktananda Ashram, including the puja performed by Santosh bhau to three main forms of the Devi that are honored during this festival: Mahadurga, Mahalakshmi, and Mahasarasvati.
Some of the images of the puja in the gallery depict the yajaman, a ritual role traditionally fulfilled by a married couple, who make offerings on behalf of everyone participating in the puja.
As you view photos of the Navaratri puja at Shree Muktananda Ashram, you may wish to hold an awareness of the intention for the puja. You may also wish to read about the symbolic significance of the altar and offerings for the Navaratri puja and listen to a recording of dhyanam mantras.