The spirit of Navaratri – a festival of nine (-nava) nights (-ratri) is a vibrant reminder to us of the power of the feminine in our lives. One aspect of the feminine is shakti – often described as power, or energy. The significance of shakti is perhaps explained best by the two words Shiva-Shakti. Shiva is the potential, Shakti is the energy that enables the realization of that potential.
Vasant Panchami (also known as Basant Panchami) is a festival in honor of Goddess Saraswati, the hindu Goddess of education, learning and the fine arts (music, writing, painting, etc.). The festival is celebrated on the fifth (panch) day after the new moon (amavasaya) in the month of Magha according to the Hindu calendar (usually occurs in late January or early February). It marks the onset of spring (vasant) according to the Hindu calendar and is marked with great gaiety and celebrations all across the northern states in India.
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I am often asked the question whether a particular mantra can be chanted or recited by a particular person from a particular caste. I am also often asked if certain mantras can be chanted by women. The answer to all such questions was eloquently given by one of the greatest reformers of the 19th century and the founder of the Arya Samaj, Swami Dayanand Saraswati. A summary of his explanation, based on the Vedas, is as