Linda Horan of Los Angeles,California sent us this writing which we include as part of the celebration of NavRatri, the nine nights of the Divine Mother.
It was the Monday after our India retreat last February  and I was milling around the ashram. Everyone had a free day to spend as they wished. Cynthia and Gigi were going to walk to the nearby Durga roadside shrine to say their goodbyes and Cynthia invited me to join. She asked if she should bring a flower to Durga. I said yes. Out came the scissors from her pocket and with one swift cut, she severed the rose from the Fire Mountain rose garden--a perfect, long-stem rose, the first flowering of Jeanette and Davhee’s meticulous loving attention. Uh-oh. Had I just given my encouragement to do that? Oh my.
[The Durga Temple, or Gau Devi Temple
as it is known in Nimboli. On the pathway to the RakHadi Baba Temple ]
Cynthia handed the flower to Gigi and the three of us proceeded along the path. I took a few photos of the children in front of the tiny temple. Then I snapped a shot of Gigi as she was about to offer the rose in front of the shrine door. When it was my turn to offer my prayers, I would, as before, take a photo of Durga through the iron grill.
Then from the direction of the Hanuman Temple came the old priest with the bent back. To my amazement and joy, he proceeded to unlock the door and go inside to do puja. In the years I had visited the Durga shrine, I had never seen it unlocked.
As the priest performed his rituals, Gigi went inside and offered the rose. Then Cynthia. Then me.
It was as if Durga opened her door to receive the Fire Mountain rose. They were inseparable. I took my photos and took my leave.
Blissful in Nimboli, Linda Horan
What is Navratri?
'Nav' means 'nine' and 'ratri' means 'night'. Thus, 'Navratri' means 'nine nights'. There are many legends attached to the conception of Navratri like all Indian festivals. All of them are related to Goddess Shakti (Hindu Mother Goddess) and her various forms. It is one of the most celebrated festivals of Hindu calendar, it holds special significance for Gujratis and Bengalis and one can see it in the zeal and fervor of the people with which they indulge in the festive activities of the season. Dandiya and Garba Rass are the highlights of the festival in Gujarat, while farmer sow seeds and thank the Goddess for her blessings and pray for better yield. In older times, Navratri was associated with the fertility of Mother Earth who feed us as her children.
The first three days of Navratri are dedicated to Goddess Durga (Warrior Goddess) dressed in red and mounted on a lion. Her various incarnations - Kumari, Parvati and Kali - are worshipped during these days. They represent the three different classes of womanhood that include the child, the young girl and the mature woman. Next three days are dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi (Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity), dressed in gold and mounted on an owl and finally, last three are dedicated to Goddess Saraswati (Goddess Of Knowledge), dressed in milky white and mounted on a pure white swan. Sweetmeats are prepared for the celebrations. Children and adults dress up in new bright-colored dresses for the night performances.
In some communities, people undergo rigorous fasts during this season that lasts for the nine days of Navratri. The festival culminates on Mahanavami. On this day, Kanya Puja is performed. Nine young girls representing the nine forms of Goddess Durga are worshiped. Their feet are washed as a mark of respect for the Goddess and then they are offered new clothes as gifts by the worshiper. This ritual is performed in most parts of the country. With commercialization, the festival has moved on to be a social festival rather than merely a religious one. However, nothing dampens the spirit of the devout followers of Goddess Durga, as they sing devotional songs and indulge in the celebrations of Navratri, year by year.
Sharad Navratri: October 8, 2010 to October 17, 2010.
Here is a link for a gorgeous youtube video that Linda sent us the link for: