Of Celebrations, Spring Detox, Femininity and Indian New Year
April 08th marked the arrival of Indian New Year according to the Vedic Calendars. It also marked the beginning of a 9 day long Indian festival that is celebrated to honor the Goddess in her different forms. Each of these 9 days celebrates one of her forms, those being- Creativity and Wisdom, Energy and Power (Like that of the Sun), Strength (Like that of a Mountain), Beauty, Sensuality, Love and Nurture, Determination and last but not the least Fierceness.
Essentially, it is a celebration of the feminine energy that is innately present in all the women of the world with no exception what-so-ever. It is a reminder that these qualities reside within each one of us and they need to be honed, they need to be celebrated. These are the qualities that define us a women and make us confidently carry ourselves through our days, through our lives.
The uniqueness of this festival is the way it is celebrated and the number of times it is celebrated during a year. The festival falls 4 times during the year, always at the turn of the season. However 2 of them are considered more important than the other 2 times. These are, the ones which are celebrated in Spring and Autumn. This means these are exactly celebrated when the seasons change and something in our day to day habits needs to be changed in order to maintain good health.
It is interesting to note the duration of this festival and also the way it is celebrated.
Firstly the way it is celebrated - Unlike other festivals, where festive meals and sweets form an essential part of the celebration, this festival is celebrated by observing either a complete or a partial fast. In a complete fast, you are not allowed to eat anything for the 9 days and can only drink water or fruit juices. Since this is extremely difficult and not suitable for people with health conditions, the second way to celebrate it is by observing a partial fast. Here one can have fresh or dried fruits, seeds, nuts, milk, buttermilk, fruit and vegetable juices, and starches that are not derived from grains, for e.g. potatoes, sweet potatoes, wild rice, sago, amaranth, chestnuts etc. Essentially one cannot eat grains, meat, foods containing high concentrations of sugar, oily or fried foods, processed foods or any heavy foods.
Now let us come to the duration. This festival is celebrated for 9 days at the turn of the season.
Now let us understand the reason behind having such a festival and celebrating it for a certain number of days. In modern days, we always find ourselves prone to seasonal allergies and flu like symptoms during spring and autumn. Ayurveda contributes this to reduced immunity and build up of toxins. When the seasons change, our bodies undergo various changes to adapt to the changing temperatures and environmental conditions. This takes a lot of energy and thus the immunity naturally goes down. At the same time environmental factors, lifestyle and eating habits during each season produce toxins in our bodies which need to be flushed out occasionally.
And this is where the 9 Day Festival of celebrating the Divine Feminity comes into picture. In order to completely detox our bodies from all the accumulated toxins and to build up immunity in order to adapt to the change of season, it is essential that we follow a certain diet and lifestyle regimen for a 9 day period. It is like going on a course of antibiotics. You need to complete the course or you wont get the full benefits. Similarly, 9 days is an optimum time frame to derive the maximum benefits without going overboard.
It is also interesting to note, that while this 9 day regimen could be followed by both men and women, the importance is laid more on women observing it. This is because we women put ourselves as the last priority after all the needs of the family, profession and society are taken care of. So here comes a time frame where we can put ourselves first and celebrate what is essentially "Being a Woman"