It appears appropriate that I chew over Kshudha or hunger, this first day of Navratri when I undertake fasting on the occasion. It’s actually a picture of a laden festive thali on Facebook that got me mulling on the subject. And even though Kabir the no-boundaries, bare-footed pragmatist poet offers no mysticism in his pithy verse when he states tersely — Kabir Kshudha hai kookari, karat bhajan me bhang, Yako Tukra Darike, sumiran karo nishank, I am left wondering.
The hoary weaver says that hunger is like a bitch that will keep barking until you give it a morsel. So it is better to satisfy ones hunger in order to sit down to pray. Well he certainly makes a point about the bodily needs for nourishment so that you may function to carry on with your spiritual needs. O yes food is an important aspect of life, even so most religions advocate fasting.
In Hinduism ancient rishis share this aspect and so when we pray to the deity during Navratri, fasting becomes an essential part of the rituals. The prayers being offered tell us that the goddess is omnipresent in all aspects of life including kshudha and that we bow to this aspect of her divinity.
ll Ya Devi Sarva Bhuteshu, Kshudha Rupen Sansthita,
Namas Tasyay, Namas Tasyay, Namas Tasyas Namo Namah ll
Actually the entire concept of this prayer is extraordinary. Whoever thought of it must have contemplated on life very seriously to have included it as part of the prayers. These ancient mantras have a deeper meaning than what appears to be. Hunger and thirst are nurturing attributes of life that spur us into action. And especially at this time of the year abstinence from regular food can be quite advantageous.
In the changing season we can readily teach our body to detoxify and assist it to be disease free. Also the renewed vitality will accrue rejuvenated senses, enhance memory power as also our energy levels. Self denial then becomes a means to refurbish bodily requirements along with our enjoyment of a sense of spirituality.
Interpretations of these sacred prayers handed down from times immemorial all elucidate the universality of our well being as a key to our emancipation. Kshudha allows the body to regulate to the changing season. And when we invoke the deity by prayers our mind too benefits from chanting of Mantras. Even simply listening to mantras being chanted offers a salubrious effect in the body. Navratri then is time to rejuvenate yourself inside out.
– Sunita Shukla