Sri Sri Ravishankar in this article explores the symbolic meaning and spiritual importance of Navratri.
What is the meaning of Navaratri? Ratri, "ra" means giving solace. Solace from three types of problems, that is "tri" - physical, ethereal and causal. Ratri relieves you and puts you to sleep. No animal needs to worry at night. Whether happy or unhappy everybody goes to sleep. In Sanskrit, words are connected to the meaning.
Navaratri has two meanings - “New Night” and “Nine Nights”. It takes nine months for a child to be born. The child rests in the womb during this period. Similarly in Navaratri you get back to the Self - self referral. Dip into yourself and then you come out with more creativity and be victorious. Negative forces - craving and aversion - get relief from all these. Go to the source of energy.
Craving and aversion are two asuras (demons) like "Madhu" and "Kaitabha". Then there is also "Raktabijasura", that which is in your genes. "Rakta" means blood, "bija" means seed. Raktabijasura is like gene in the blood. Sometimes your behaviour is not in your control - it's in your genes, Raktabijasura. Medication and meditation are required to tackle Raktabijasura. When such energy comes to you, transformation happens, the genes change.
Then there is "Mahishasura" - dullness. Dullness like a buffalo. You need "Shakti" (energy) to deal with this. When Shakti comes, inertia is lifted out. "Shumbha" and "Nishumbha" - doubting on everything. "Shumbha" means doubting oneself and "Nishumbha" means doubting others. Doubting at every step. These days people are so busy. Mind is so clogged, so occupied, no time to think of oneself. If someone insults you, don't think it as intentional.
"Chanda" and "Munda". Chanda means opposite head. Chanda will oppose anything you say. One who cannot agree with anything. "Munda" does not have a head at all. Whatever you tell them, it will all go in air. Then there is "Dhumralochana", "Dhumra" means smoke and "lochana" means eyes – smoky eyes. They see everything hazy.
All this is due to lack of Shakti. When you are full of energy and enthusiasm none of these rakshasas (demons) can come in you.
The nine days of Navratri are also an opportunity to rejoice in the three primordial qualities that make up the universe. The first three days of Navratri are attributed to tamo guna, the second three to rajo guna and the last three to sattva guna. Our consciousness sails through the tamo and rajo gunas and blossoms in the satva guna of the last three days. Whenever sattva dominates in life, victory follows. The essence of this knowledge is honoured by celebrating the tenth day as Vijaydashmi.
By worshipping the Mother Divine during Navratri, we harmonise the three gunas and elevate sattva in the atmosphere. Though Navratri is celebrated as the victory of good over evil, the actual fight is not between good and evil. From the Vedantic point of view, the victory is of the absolute reality over the apparent duality.
The Mother Divine or the pure consciousness itself pervades all the forms and has all the names. Recognising the one divinity in every form and every name is the celebration of Navratri. Hence, special pujas honouring all aspects of life and nature are performed during the last three days.