The Human Cohesion Project — 26 Sep 2022
It is the first day of Navaratri this year, and also Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. There is the backdrop of violent unrest in Iran after the death of Mahsa Amini earlier in the month, while the Ukraine war rages on. Unrest prevails in most parts of the post-Covid world, even as the good that exists quietly sustains life.
I’m egging myself to write again after a five-month break (overwhelm, rather, at work) where I switched to audio logs instead of the daily blog on non-violence that I had begun earlier this year. It’s been a year of loss and grief in more ways than one, and yet, there has been beautiful life sprouting from the ashes. Perhaps it is that which energises me to reconnect with this project, which began in the Ramadan of 2020, during the peak of the first wave of Covid-19, as a way to re-engage with religion in the face of polarisation and violent religious conflict.
For readers who are not familiar with the earlier versions of The Human Cohesion Project, it often takes the form of a series of (and sometimes a one-off) blogs during festivals across the globe, in a bid to capture personal reflections and also hopefully stir public conversation. As always, my hope is that it triggers a personal exploration for you as well, in terms of your relationship with faith, and of your engagement with the world as a planetary citizen. This is a space of questions more than answers, discomfort more than comfort, seeking more than knowing.
And with that, I come back to the theme of Navaratri (literally translated as the nine nights). The autumn version of this festival — Sharada Navaratri — begins after the fortnight of Pitrupaksha, where, according to the Hindu tradition, the veils between realms are supposed to be thin and hence offerings are made to ancestors, to acknowledge the past personally and collectively, receive the gifts that come from one’s ancestry, and release the trauma that flows through bloodlines. Needless to say, this is a process that is done year after year, to acknowledge the cyclicity of life, as well as the presence of trauma as the backdrop of the human experience.
The form of the feminine energy that is invoked on the first day (Pratipada) of Navaratri is called ‘Shailaputri’. In mythology, she is referred to as the daughter of the mountains (the peaks of consciousness), the consort of Shiva, the primordial masculine. In a sense, it is an invocation to the child (the accessible form) of the highest aspects of our own consciousness — the inner mountains — to unleash its feminine flow and begin the festival of the nine nights, where other aspects of the feminine are eventually invoked. Like most festivals around the world across faiths and traditions, the rituals and processes of Navaratri guide us into our psyche, to summon aspects of self we have not yet evoked. The external aspects of the festival merely serve to accelerate the process, by tuning the body and mind to certain frequencies that facilitate the psychic process. For example, colour of the day on the first day of Navaratri is yellow — the colour of the energy centre at the solar plexus, the seat of the inner child.
What is your inner Shailaputri like? What gift does she bear for you/through you, this year?
Shubh Navaratri. May She bring in with her, the aspects of consciousness that we need the most now.
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