At the beginning of the month, I attended what is called Navratri or nine nights at a local yoga studio. Every evening during these nine nights, devotees come together to worship the Goddess Durga (Goddess of the Sacred Female Power) and her different forms. Now, I had never been to one of these gatherings before, but had always been curious. This celebration occurs twice a year in days that are close to the spring & fall equinox, so the next one will be in September/October if you are curious.
Each night we did 3 different chants: the Mahamrityunjaya mantra, the Gayatri mantra both 108 times and then we would chant the 32 names of Durga 9 times. These chants are supposed to help us clean out the maya (veils) of ego and whatever other muck and remove difficulties that we've been experiencing and been carrying around with us and make room for us to gain clarity, spiritual knowledge and prosper.
At first, I felt like I was fumbling over the words even though I had my mantra sheet gripped in my hands...but then as I kept chanting and feeling the rhythm, the words started to just flow off my tongue and it was really almost like entering a trance like state. I have to admit, I hadn't heard two of the mantras, but the Gayatri mantra we had chanted in my yoga teacher training. But even that sounded completely different as we were chanting it in a completely different rhythm. By the ninth night though, I could close my eyes and make it through the first two mantras pretty well. The 32 names of Durga was not as easy to remember, and I was still fumbling on that last night, but that's okay.
After we finished the 108 times of the two mantras and the nine times of the names of Durga, a little hand drum was pulled out and we did some kirtan and sang to whichever version of Durga we were worshiping that evening...Kali or Lakshmi or Durga. It was really quite moving. I found myself tearing up a bit. It felt good to just to release through singing with these other people in this joyous way. The energy just overtook me.
I have always wanted to go to a kirtan concert and although this was different from that, finding how much love and energy just explodes out of this chanting and singing, I believe I will finally make my way now. I encourage you to give it a shot sometime, you may just surprise yourself.
At the end of the last night, Swami Atmarupa, who was leading these sessions told us that it is actually encouraged that we chant all 3 of these mantras every single day 11 times each right when we wake up to "cleanse" ourselves before starting our day. Even before we get out of bed.
Here are the Mahamrityunjaya & Gayatri mantras along with their translations if you are interested:
Om Tryumbakam Yajamahe
Mrityor Mukshiya Maamritat
We meditate on the Three-eyed reality
Which permeates and nourishes all like a fragrance.
May we all be liberated from death for the sake of immortality,
Even as the cucumber is severed from bondage to the creeper.
Om Bhur Bhuva Svaha
Tat Savitur Varenyam
Bhargo Devasya Dhimahi
Dhiyo Yo Nah Pracodayat
We meditate on the Divine Light of the radiant source.
May that inspire our hearts and our thoughts.
O, nourishing solitary traveler, controller, source of life for all creatures spread your light
And subdue your dazzling splendor so that I may see your blessed self.
Even that very self I am.
As for the 32 names of Durga, here they are:
Durga (The reliever of difficulties), Durgatirsamini (who puts difficulties at peace), Durgapadvinivarini (dispeller of difficult adversaries), Durgamacchedini (who cuts down difficulty), Durgasadhini (performer of discipline to expel difficulties), Durganasini (destroyer of difficulty), Durgatoddharini (who holds the whip of difficulties), Durgenihantri (who sends difficulties to ruin), Durgamapaha (who measures difficulties), Durgamajnanada (who makes difficulties unconscious), Durgadaityalokadavanada (who is fire for mighty tree like demon civilization), Durgama (mother of difficulties), Durgamaloka (perception of difficulties), Durgamatmasvarupini (the intrinsic nature of the soul of difficulties), Durgamargaprada (who searches through the difficulties), Durgamavidya (the knowledge of difficulties), Durgamasrita (the extrication from difficulties), Durgamajnanasamsthana (the continued existence of difficulties), Durgamadhyanabhasini (whose meditation remains brilliant when in difficulties), Durgamoha (who deludes difficulties), Durgamaga (who resolves difficulties), Durgamasurasanhantri (the annihilator of the egotism of difficulties), Durgamayudhadharini (bearer of the weapon against difficulties), Durgamangi (the refinery of difficulties), Durgamata (who is beyond difficulties), Durgamya (this present difficulty), Durgamesvari (the empress of difficulties), Durgabhima (who is terrible to difficulties), Durgabhama (the lady to difficulties), Durgabha (the illuminator of difficulties), Durgadarini (who cuts off difficulties).
I hope that you too can find clarity and feel any difficult times disappear.