India is a land of folklores and tales. Our scriptures tell us an interesting tale about the beginning of Vasanta (spring) Navaratri that begins from Friday (April 8), this year. Arindam retells the story of the genesis of the Shakti puja (worship) at this time of the year.
Long ago, a lion killed King Dhruvasindu during his hunting expedition. Prince Sudarsana, son of Queen Manorama and grandson of King Virasena of Kalinga, was to be crowned the next king. However, King Yudhajit, father of Queen Lilavati and grandfather of Prince Satrujit, wished his grandson to secure the Kosala throne.
In a war of succession, King Yudhajit was victorious. King Virasena was slain in the war. Queen Manorama hid in a forest with her son and a eunuch. They took refuge in the Ashram (hermitage) of Rishi (sage) Bharadwaj.
King Yudhajit’s grandson, Satrujit was crowned the king, at Ayodhya, the capital of Kosala. Yudhajit was not at peace. He searched for Queen Manorama and her son. He found them and demanded that the Rishi should handover the mother-son duo to him. The Rishi declined. Yudhajit was in a rage. He wanted to attack the Rishi. His minister dissuaded him and explained the powers and truth of the Rishi.
Life had other plans for Prince Sudarsana, it seems. One day a hermit’s son said a Sanskrit word, Kleeba, a term used for eunuch. The prince did not understand it but just remembered the syllable ‘Klee’ and mispronounced it as ‘Kleem’. Interestingly, Kleem is a powerful beejmantra (seed syllable) of the Devi (Mother-goddess). As the Prince repeated the magical words, unknowingly, Shakti (Divine Energy) blessed him with blessed weapons and a quiver that would never exhaust.
Some messengers of the King of Banaras (Varanasi) happened to pass by the hermitage of Rishi Bharadwaj. They saw the handsome prince and suggested him as a suitor for their king’s daughter, Sashikala.
Sashikala’s swayamvar (a ceremony where the Princess chose her spouse) was arranged. Sashikala chose Sudarshana. Their wedding began. King Yudhajit was also present. He could not contain his envy and anger. He began bickering and fighting with the King of Banaras. The Goddess came to her devotee Sudarsana’s help. Yudhajit mocked the Devi.
Enraged, the Goddess burnt Yudhajit and his army to ashes. Pleased with the Devi, Sudarsana, his wife, Sashikala, and his father-in-law praised the Goddess. She commanded them to perform her worship, Havan, etc, during Vasanta (spring solastice) Navaratri and disappeared.
The Prince returned with his wife to the Ashram of Rishi Bharadwaj, who blessed them. The sage crowned him the King of Kosala. It is said that the new king, Sudarsana, his wife and his father-in-law, performed the first grand worship of the Divine Mother during the spring season. Sudarsana’s descendants, the kings of Ayodhya, including Lord Rama, performed this puja. That is how all of us came to celebrate Navaratri during this time of the year, say our scriptures.
Vasanta Navaratri (nine nights) has special significance. Those who fast and pray the Goddess are blessed with Divine Grace. The nine-day period is subdivided into three parts of three days each. The first three days are for Durga, the Goddess of Shakti. The next three days are meant for the worship of Goddess Lakshmi, the giver of wealth, prosperity and bounty. And the last three days are reserved for the worship of Goddess Saraswati, who blesses us with knowledge and justice, believe some.
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Arindam Roy has 37 years experience in various newsrooms. He was the Managing Editor of a reputed Gurgaon-based Citizen Journalist portal and has held senior positions in several publications. As Correspondent and Bureau Chief, he has written extensively for Associated Press, Times of India, Hindustan Times and multiple news outlets. He has contributed 13 chapters to various publications. Of these, seven chapters were published in two Coffee Table Books, published by the Times Group. He is a co-author of a novel, Rivers Run Back that he penned with Joyce Yarrow. The novel was launched at the American Centre, New Delhi, on January 2015. He lives in Allahabad.