The sound of temple bells at dawn woke me up from my deep slumber indicating the arrival of Adi Shakti (the supreme power) for the next ten days into our lives. An instant nostalgia gripped me and made me reminiscent of the days when my grandmother would describe the ardhagini of Lord Shiva, Maa Durga as the slayer of all misfortunes and demons. An awe-inspiring image of a beautiful woman clad in a blood red sari, endowed with ten arms and seated in all elegance on the mighty lion appeared before my eyes and filled me with vigor. For a moment I bowed my head to the revered goddess and could not ignore but think about the importance of the upcoming nine-day long festivities. Yes, it is that time of the year again when one can hear clapping of Dandiya sticks, enjoy the sound of dhol and witness the streets swirling up with life; Navratri is here!

It is a delight to see people around the country celebrating it in different styles; while down south one can experience the exchange of auspicious betel leaves and nut during this festival, the graceful sound of Raas Garbha can be heard in the west; while up north one can encounter the celebration of victory over evil forces. However, being a part of this spectacular affair is truly a treat to the eyes and a feast to the taste buds.

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According to Hindu mythology, the all powerful, invincible and potent Goddess takes nine forms during the navratras namely Śhailaputrī, Brahmachāriṇī, Chandraghaṇṭā, Kuṣhmāṇḍā, Skandamātā, Kātyāyanī, Kālarātrī, Mahāgaurī and Siddhidātrī, each depicting a unique virtue. However, the ferocity of the Goddess knows no bounds when she descends upon the demons in her Kali avatar. All the gods are said to be scared of her wrath that spares nobody.

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This is how a woman is manifested in our scriptures, true to the new woman of today. Unlike earlier times, when women were subjected to sati and sexual abuse. The new woman is fearless, competent and ambitious. She is no longer cocooned in the vicious web of fake morality or cowed down by the patriarchal order. Yes times are changing…

After facing years of suppression and constantly being at the receiving end of grave atrocities, today she has stirred up the avatar of Maa Kali; one of the forms of Durga. She can fight back now, stand up for herself and unleash her wrath upon the perpetrators of crime, much like how Goddess Durga annihilated the very existence of a powerful demon like Mahishasura.

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Her transformation from the meek and shy to the bold and assertive woman has been quite inspiring. Much like the nine forms of Goddess Durga that is celebrated during the nine day festivities, the woman today also has various roles to play. She is a responsible daughter, a caring mother, a hard-working employee and a loving wife. I believe Kali dormantly sits within each woman. It only emerges when evil has surpassed its limits and the chaotic world is in the need for a change.

So let us not just celebrate this Navratri with the mere rituals, but also re-define the true spirit of womanhood. Let it be a tribute to all women who have broken the shackles of unjust society and reinforced the “Shakti” within. Let us celebrate the rise of feminine power over male egos. Let us invoke the Durga Goddess within!

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