NAVARATHRI AND ITS ORIGIN.
There lived in the Tretayuga a king named Suketi endowed with all virtues. He married Sweti, a most devoted and faithful woman. His administration was a model of perfection. People lived in happiness and joy. He was a patron of all religious and charitable institutions. While thus passing his days happily, he hardly knew that a cloud was brewing in the atmosphere of his happiness. Suddenly he was visited by an evil star. A more powerful king invaded his dominions; unlike other kings he offered no resistance and yielded quietly. Himself and his family were taken prisoners and kept in dark dungeon to lead a life of hardship. On account of the virtuous deed he had done to his people, God took pity on him and brought about his release. Owing to the curse pronounced by a sage, they had to wander in a dense, uninhabited forest, subsisting on whatever they could get; not a single human being was to be found anywhere. After experiencing many difficulties and trials they succeeded in getting into a place where they found the sign of human habitations.
The scene here is a beautiful flower garden, birds fly in the air singing their melodious airs, and animals roam fearlessly at will in peaceful security. This law Panchavati that lent sweetness and joy to Rama and Sita in their exile. This was an Asrama where nature was profuse, and where the contemplative man would find an undisturbed calmness in the outer world which could harmonize with that of his own inner self. Here they found to their astonishment a sage seated on a deer skin, and offering his morning oblation to the supreme Lord.
They noiselessly approached the sage and stood at a respectful distance, till he finished his oblation, and on finishing, they prostrated themselves at his feet. The sage blessed them. He was anxious to know who they were and whence they came. From his Gnan-drishti he learnt all about them and said "Madam, I see from your appearance that you have once led the life of a queen. Why wander you now amidst the wilds of this region? Tell me what is the misfortune that has befallen you. I would most willingly do anything for you that lies in my power." The helpless lady was rejoiced at the soft words of the great sage, and humbly narrated all her difficulties from the time of the king's defeat till their arrival at the Asrama. He was deeply affected with her troubles and addressed her thus 'Madam be not afraid. This is the bank of the river Panchavati. Here is the abode of three Goddesses, Kali, Saraswathi and Lakshmi. She wishes to do good to you. Go to the temple and worship Her. To those that sincerely seek Her, She is never far off! She, that infinite ocean of mercy is the humblest servant of Her lovers. Who could be kinder than She from whom all kindness flows and who could be sweeter than She who is sweetness Itself? Blessed indeed are they that seek Her, only, madam, you should seek Her sincerely." An auspicious day was then fixed and she began the worship from the first day of the lunar half of the month of Asvayuja. The sage asked her to worship the Goddess Kali for three successive days, then to worship the Goddess Lakshmi for the next three days, then to worship Saraswathi for another three days. Goddess admired the patience with which she endured her sufferings. Pleased with the fervent piety and the saintly be blessed with a worthy child, and that child which was to be born of her shortly, would become a great hero, and his fame would cover the whole land. In accordance, with this blessings sometimes after, a male child was born to her, on looking at whose beauty, she was transported with joy and thankfully sang the praises of the great Goddess. The child who was named Bhaswara, became a boy. He is said to have mastered all the Sastras (the art of warfare included). The boy grew to manhood. He soon learnt the fate of his parents and advanced to meet his enemy to wrest his lost kingdom from him. War ensued; the enemy was completely defeated. Thus doing the duties of a worthy son he took his parents to the former capital and began to rule. He wielded the scepter with wonderful dignity and justice, and was very much liked by his subjects. Thus he reigned for many a happy year.
So the custom of Navarathri-pooja prevails in our land. They worship for the first three days, the Goddess Kali; the worship of Lakshmi is performed on the next three days and the Goddess Saraswathi is worshipped on the last three days. The festival is styled as Navarathri because it continues for 9 days. Our sages have laid down rules of the festival to suit the convenience of the people. If one feels himself unable to worship all the nine days, he may choose to worship for three days. Failing that too he is asked to worship the Goddess Saraswathi, on the ninth day. The tenth day or the Vijayadasami is the most important of all other days. It is on this day that our young boys are first taught their alphabet, and out women look cheerful and gay. Therefor our Scriptures say that the observance of this festival according to the rules, emancipates people from rebirths and secures them salvation. But you may say, "Sir, so many observe the festival; do all of them obtain Moksha? If so, the world must have become empty of its inhabitants." In the whole of this vast mass of humanity, there are not many that have the real and unswerving faith in the sacredness of the feast. The true and unwavering faith alone is the secret of mukti, and unless and until man has such faith he can never obtain salvation, although everyone glibly talks of it as saleable commodity.