Traataka – Peace for the Mind

The practice of Traataka – candle gazing, is a centering practice for the Mind in times of external and internal turmoil. It is a practice that helps a distracted mind and practically speaking and in my view, it is great practice for those lost in social media and the blue light of their computer.

Traataka is a reputed to be a helpful practice for emotional disturbance, giving focus and working out what really is going on. It is a simple practice but as in most simple practices, profound.

In its most simplest understanding, it’s gazing at a candle flame without blinking. You want to sit about 3 feet away from a candle flame and stare at it without blinking. Ensure the candle flame is not disturbed by wind.

You may want to start with 3 minutes and then after about 5 days increase this to 6 minutes then 5 days later 9 minutes until you get to 15 minutes.

When tears start to flow from the eye/s, gently close the eye lids, wipe your tears and imagine the candle flame deep in the forehead space. When the image begins to disappear, open your eyes and continue at staring at the candle flame.

It is an excellent practice for focus, determination. and dealing with a distracted mind, giving great peace to a disturbed mind.

The essence of the practice is people do not see what is in front of them. What they see is coloured by their viewpoints and thoughts that come and go. When people first start this practice they do not really see the candle flame although that is what they are staring at – in other words they are not present to the flame. They are only present to the movie clips of the mind. This practice allows you to pierce through the movie of the mind and introduces you to your own light.

This practice brings peace and light to the mind reminding it of its intrinsic nature. It is a foundational practice for many advanced practices. You can add to the practice by adding a mantra such as So Hum and combining this mantra with breath or recite the Gayatri mantra.

This practice is contra indicated if you have cataracts, myopia glaucoma, astigmatism or epilepsy. If in doubt please consult with your yoga teacher.

Rajesh Rai

Knowing the Force of Nature -Navraatri, the 9 nights dedicated to the divine mother

Knowing the Force of Nature and its recipe

Navraatri, 9 nights dedicated to the divine mother

In 2023 Navraatri celebrations start 15 October 2023 and end 24 October 2023

I was asked the question what can we do to acclimatise to the changing season? It inspired me to share what I do during a special period called Navrātri, which starts in autumn.

Navrātri means nine nights and is a period which occurs at least twice in a year; when winter turns to summer (Spring Navrātri) and when summer turns to winter (Autumn Navrātri). Navrātri is based on the lunar cycle, so start and ending dates vary from year to year.

The Spring Navrātri is called the Vasanta Navarātra and occurs in the lunar month of Caitra (March-April). It starts on the 1st day of the bright fortnight and ends on or after the 9th night.

The autumn Navrātri , called Sarannavarātra, occurs in the lunar month of Aasvina (Sept-Oct). It starts on the 1st day of the bright fortnight and ends on or after the 9th night. In fact the day after Navrātri, the 10th day is called Vijayadasami (day of victory).

The Navraatri period and Vijayadasami is celebrated throughout the sub-continent.

This is a spiritually charged period. It is a great time to replenish, to deepen and recommit to meditative practices and give attention to the body, mind, spirit matrix.

Tremendous change occurs in nature during the transition periods from winter to summer and summer to winter. From summer to winter; it gets colder, evenings and mornings are darker, the earth and plants begin their period of conservation. A period of abundance, growth gives way to a period of hibernation and restoration.

The peak period of this transitioning in nature is said to occur during these 9 days and nights called Navrātri.

If there is no change in habits to accommodate for the new season then colds and illnesses tend to follow.  Our inherent intelligence knows of the change occurring in the fabric of nature but our senses hold onto our habits of the last season. We need to attune to this change.

I was introduced to Navrātri in or around 1997 by Divya’s family. Although my family celebrated Vijaydasaami (also known as Dussehra), the celebrations around Navrārti were new to me. Many people in India commit to a Vrat, a fast and eat one sattvic meal (a gentle balanced meal designed to promote stillness) a day and recite an esoteric hymn called the “Durga Saptashati otherwise called the Devi Mahātmyam”. This can be translated as 700 verses to the divine female force in the form of Durga – a hymn to the divine feminine. This is practice is common in Garhwal region of the Himalayas.

Other parts of India celebrate this period in their own unique way. For example, in Bengal elaborate rituals are invoked to different facets of the female energy and in Gujarat, it is celebrated by dressing up and dancing throughout the night. This dance is known as Navrātri Gharba.

For whatever reason, I started to discipline my diet for these 9 days. I allowed myself one meal a day, usually a vegetarian khichari (see below for the recipe). My Navrātri practice has developed since 1997. In this time I have experimented with the practice and in the process have a glimpse into the importance of this period filled with the energy of transformation.

The Navrātri period is infused with change. The attribute of this change, the latency of the change, the causal connection through which change occurs is a power, a force known as Shakti. Shakti, simply translated is power, force or energy. It has vibrancy and a nurturing quality and regarded as feminine in nature. By attuning into this change we can attempt to have a glimpse of this nurturing force, to its latent power and to its energy.

Nature is singing a hymn giving praise to this power effecting change which restores and then nourishes in preparation for next year’s spring Navrātri. It is a hymn whose rhythm is captured in the Durga Saptasati. The Durga Saptashati is an esoteric text multi layered with meaning.

Navrātri is a great time to give the body a break, and allow body, mind and spirit to align and to rejuvenate. Commit to a meditative practice during this period and become aware of what is happening; the changing colours of nature, how plants cease their external growth, to animals changing habits, to the skies, the wind and to your own energies.

Following a practice during this period gives insight into the practical applications of Ayurveda, Tantra, Yoga and develops intuition. It allows one to be in touch with the forces of nature.

The first day of Navraatri is devoted to goddess Shailputri, who brings wealth and the colour orange is worn.

The second day is dedicated to goddess Brahmacharini, who brings wisdom and understanding and the colour white is worn

The third day is dedicated to goddess Chandraghanta who brings grace and valour, and the colour red is worn

The fourth day to goddess, Kushmanda and her colour is royal blue, and she brings power and wealth

The fifth day to goddess Scandamata, who brings happiness, peace and wealth. Her colour is yellow.

The sixth day to goddess Katyayani who brings peace. Her favourite colour is green

The seventh day to goddess Kalaratri who brings strength and resilience. Her colour is grey

The eighth day to goddess Maha Gauri, who brings Tranquility and endurance. Her colour is purple

Ninth day to goddess Siddhidatri, who brings success and wealth. Her colour is Peacock green.

Below is an abridged translated verse from my favourite portion of the Durga Saptashati.

To that divine feminine force that manifests itself as wisdom, I welcome and give homage and respect,

To that divine feminine force that manifests itself as abundance, I welcome and give homage and respect,

To that divine feminine force that manifests itself as strength, I welcome and give homage and respect,

To that divine feminine force that manifests itself as faith, I welcome and give homage and respect,

To that divine feminine force that manifests itself as compassion, I welcome and give homage and respect,

To that divine feminine force that manifests itself as peace, I welcome and give homage and respect,

Peace, Peace Peace

Kichadi recipe for Navrātri


My staple dish throughout the Navrātri period is Kitchadi. Kichadi forms the core of Ayurvedic nutritional healing as the  food is easily digested and also draws out impurities from the body.

As a child, I recall my grandmother would always make either a dish called sondh (a sabzi made up of ginger) or what I now know to be Kichadi. The sondh recipe I use is a panacea for cold or flu but Kichadi is an all-round gentle dish ideal for promoting healing and to help with any detoxification programme. 

Rice and Daal slowly cooked together with gentle spices forms the basic kitchadi dish. The range of spices used differs depending on what you wish to achieve. You can have kichadis, for example, that improves digestion, lung function, liver function, those that cool and so on. This Kichadi recipe is designed to aid digestion.   


1 tablespoon of cumin seeds                                      2 teaspoons ghee or Oil (sunflower or cold pressed organic rapeseed)

1 bay leaf                                                                        2 peppercorns

1 tablespoon coriander seeds                                   1 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon haldi powder                                           1 teaspoon coriander powder

½ teaspoon hing (optional)                                      ½ teaspoon of sea salt

2 tablespoon ginger root (grated)                          ½ cup basmati rice/brown

1 cup split mung daal                                                  6 cups of water (more if required)

3 cups of seasonal organic vegetables (eg carrots/broccoli/courgettes/sweet potatoes/spinach/spinach/sweetcorn)


1.               Wash rice and Split Mung Daal and drain

2.               Warm ghee/oil (in a preferable iron pan)

3.               Add cumin and coriander seeds (about 1 minute)

4.               About 1 minute later add peppercorn

5.               Then add hing, oregano, grated ginger root and fry for about 2 minutes

6.               Add haldi and coriander powder and fry for about ½ minute.

7.               Add rice and daal and water

8.               Bring to the boil and simmer for at least 40 minutes.

9.               Add salt and vegetables and simmer for another 10 -15 minutes.


© Rajesh Rai

18 September 2014

Edited 2nd October 2023



Peace and the Oldest Temple in the World

Gobekli Tepe means “pot belly” and it was, until recently, the name of a hill located in the South-Eastern Anatolia region of Turkey. It is now the name of an extraordinary discovery buried in the belly of the hill.

 About 30 years ago, excavations began at Gobekli Tepe revealing a megalithic settlement dating back 12,000 years. The whole site covers an area of about 12 football pitches and the structures are so old and monumental, they are changing our understanding of civilization.

Gobekli Tepe is now described as humanity’s first temple. It consists of limestone T shaped pillars arranged in a a number of circular enclosures built over a period of a 1000 years. The pillars have mysterious symbols of wild animals carved on them. At the centre of each enclosure are two large megaliths, about 6 metres in height with human like figures engraved on them.

 A visitor centre constructed a 2-minute drive from the site, whose modernity juxtaposes the ancient structure showing how far civilization has developed in its art and craft, plays a 2 minute video about the site explaining

“.. A new theory begins to emerge, opening a unique window into our very early spiritual world. The carved human like pillars may represent gods. Animals may be totems or protectors. And a vulture like bird, lifting what could be a disembodied head into the air may hint at ritualised sky burials. The evidence points to Gobekli Tepe as the world’s first known sanctuary. Multiple temples were built over the course of 1000 years, forming an ancient cult centre, bringing people from across the region together for worship”

In 2018 Gobleki was granted UNESCO world heritage status because “The communities that built the monumental megalithic structures of Göbekli Tepe lived during one of the most momentous transitions in human history, one which took us from hunter-gatherer lifeways to the first farming communities. The monumental buildings at Göbekli Tepe demonstrate the creative human genius of these early (Pre-Pottery Neolithic) societies.”

The region around Gobekli Tepe is also seeped with ancient myth and includes the city of Harran, designed in the shape of a crescent moon and regarded as the sacred city of the moon god “Sin”. Other ancient cities including Mardin, Batman, Dyabakir are within 100 km of Gobekli Tepe, all containing memories of ancient pagan belief systems.

The nearest city to Gobekli is Urfa aka Sanlurfia and fabled as the city of prophets. It is reputed to be the birthplace of Abraham, father of the Jewish, Christian and Islamic religions. You can visit the cave where Abraham was born and listen to the gentle and mesmerising dhikr recited daily at the site.

Similar sites to Gobleki have also been found within 100km of Gobleki and include Hamzen Tepe, Sefer Tepe, Tasli Tepe, Sefere Tepe, Tasli Tepe, Kurt Tepe. They are collectively known as Turkey’s pyramids but built 7000 years before the Egyptian pyramids and 6000 years before Stonehenge. The Turkey pyramids are opening a window into an era and belief systems where even the memory of civilization had been lost.

Gobekli Tepe was discovered because of a mulberry tree that stands silently on top of “the pot belly” hill. It was known as the wish tree and people have been going there to make wishes since, it is claimed, ancient times. Locals would travel to the top of Gobekli Tepe and tie a ribbon around branches of this tree or make sacrifices under the tree. The locals believed this tree granted wishes, especially to those who could not have children. It was a tree of fertility. It was on one of these visits that a worshipper uncovered some sculptures in the  buried site.

Nature’s ability to hold memory is astounding. This tree held the remnants of a memory many, many, many, thousands of years old of a magnificent place of worship, buried by time.

Locals would go to pay respect to this wish tree, not knowing that this tree stood on an ancient place of worship. They did not know why this tree, and no doubt trees that stood in the same place before this tree, were regarded as fertility/wish tree.

I travelled to Gobekli Tepe recently with Divya to fulfil a long-held wish to visit the oldest temple in the world, which I first read about in an article in National Geographic titled The Birth of Religion in 2011. I also wished to visit the surrounding heritage and to pay respect to this remarkable tree, which kept, in its own way, the memory of Gobekli alive.

Whilst sitting under this tree I was struck by the capacity of nature to hold information in its very fabric. Under this tree, whilst looking out across the plain, my eyes ran along to the horizon. They were met by the sky and experiencing the silence filling the space between the sky and plains, I was reminded of a peace mantra that pays homage to peace in the very fabric of the elements of nature.

The peace mantra is to be found in the Yajur Veda, one of the four books of the Vedas written many thousands of years ago.

The peace mantra is an ode acknowledging peace in the elements of nature. These elements hold humanity. The voices of conflict have the capacity to drown out peace, rather like Gobleki being covered for many thousands of years. This mantra is a reminder, rather like the mulberry wish tree, that peace is omnipresent. Nature is pervaded by it. It’s in the vastness of the sky, in the stillness and flow of water, in the capacity of space to be everywhere and be filled, in the earth’s ability to digest and give life to plants and in turn, their ability to nourish.

The mantra is a reminder of peace, and if you do not see it, where to find it.

shanti, shanti, shantih

If you would like to know how to recite this mantra in sanskrit, follow this link (The Peace Mantra at Gobekli Teppe wish fulfilling tree)

English translation of Universal Peace Mantra 

May there be peace in the Space

May there be peace in the Sky

May there be peace in the Earth

May there be peace in the waters

May there be peace in plants

May there be peace in the herbs

May there be peace in the forces

May there be peace in Brahman

May there be peace everywhere

May peace itself be peaceful

Peace Peace Peace


In Sanskrit

Om Dyauh Shaantir

Antariksham Shaantih

Prithivi Shaantir

Aapah Shaantir

Oshadayah Shaantih

Vanaspatayah Shaantir

Vishve Devaah Shaantir

Brahma Shaantih

Sarvam Shaantih

Shantireva shaantih

Saa Maa Shanti Edhi

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti


Rajesh Rai

11 October 23