Sri Sri Ravishankar has expounded on the symbolic meaning and spiritual importance of vratri thus:
“What is the meaning of varatri? Ratri, ‘ra’ means giving solace. Solace from three types of problems, that is ‘tri’ - physical, ethereal and causal. Ratri relieves you and puts you to sleep. No animal needs to worry at night. Whether happy or unhappy, everybody goes to sleep. In Sanskrit, words are connected to the meaning.
varatri has two meanings – ‘New Night’ and ‘Nine Nights’. It takes nine months for a child to be born. The child rests in the womb during this period. Similarly in varatri, you get back to the Self — self referral. Dip into yourself and then you come out with more creativity and be victorious. Negative forces — craving and aversion — get relief from all these. Go to the source of energy.
Craving and aversion are two asuras (demons) like Madhu and Kaitabha. Then there is also Raktabijasura, that which is in your genes. ‘Rakta’ means blood, ‘bija’ means seed. Raktabijasura is like gene in the blood. Sometimes your behaviour is not in your control — it’s in your genes, Raktabijasura. Medication and meditation are required to tackle Raktabijasura. When such energy comes to you, transformation happens, the genes change.
Then there is Mahishasura — dullness. Dullness like a buffalo. You need ‘Shakti’ (energy) to deal with this. When Shakti comes, inertia is lifted out. Shumbha and Nishumbha — doubting on everything. ‘Shumbha’ means doubting oneself and ‘Nishumbha’ means doubting others. Doubting at every step. These days people are so busy. Mind is so clogged, so occupied, no time to think of oneself. If someone insults you, don’t think it as intentiol.
Chanda and Munda. ‘Chanda’ means opposite head. Chanda will oppose anything you say. One who cannot agree with anything. ‘Munda’ does not have a head at all. Whatever you tell them, it will all go in air. Then there is Dhumralocha, ‘Dhumra’ means smoke and ‘locha’ means eyes — smoky eyes. They see everything hazy.
All this is due to lack of Shakti. When you are full of energy and enthusiasm, none of these rakshasas (demons) can come in you.
The nine days of vratri are also an opportunity to rejoice in the three primordial qualities that make up the Universe. The first three days of vratri are attributed to tamo gu, the second three to rajo gu and the last three to sattva gu. Our consciousness sails through the tamo and rajo gus and blossoms in the satva gu of the last three days. Whenever sattva domites in life, victory follows. The essence of this knowledge is honoured by celebrating the tenth day as Vijaydashmi.
By worshipping the Mother Divine during vratri, we harmonise the three gus and elevate sattva in the atmosphere. Though vratri is celebrated as the victory of good over evil, the actual fight is not between good and evil. From the Vedantic point of view, the victory is of the absolute reality over the apparent duality.
The Mother Divine or the pure consciousness itself pervades all the forms and has all the mes. Recognising the one divinity in every form and every me is the celebration of vratri. Hence, special pujas honouring all aspects of life and ture are performed during the last three days.”
— the harbinger