Navratri is a Hindu festival celebrated to honor 'Goddess Durga' and her several incarnations. According to the Gregorian calendar it falls in October or November.

The festival also symbolizes victory over evil and light over darkness. The festival continues for nine nights and ten days. The last day of the festival is known as 'Dussehra'. It is a prominent festival in Maharashtra, West Bengal and Gujarat. An idol of goddess Durga is installed in big pandals and in homes, small idols are placed to worship the goddess. People observe fast and visit goddess temple to offer their gratitude and devotion.

Since the festival eliminates negativity, it is believed that prosperity and good health starts flowing. Small girls are worshipped by providing gifts and sweets.

The word 'Navratri' is divided into two words 'Nav' meaning nine and 'Ratri' meaning night. The festival also marks the victory over evil. In India, the festival is celebrated four times in a year and known by many names. Like 'Magha', 'Sharada', 'Vasanta' and 'Ashada' Navratri. Each holds a special significance and sacred meaning behind it. Among the mentioned Navratri, Sharada is the most famous and prominent festival across India.

The legend states that a demon king named as 'Mahishasura' acquired mighty powers and magic by pleasing lord shiva. After, emerging powerful, he started committing brutal acts on people who worshipped other lords than him. He was so consumed in his pride that he began to belittle other gods and considered himself as an invincible being. The other gods were petrified and pleaded the trinity of god - Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. They unified and combined their forces and created goddess Durga. When the demon confronted goddess, he was mesmerized by her beauty and got attracted. The demon wished to marry goddess Durga. She agreed on one condition that, he has to defeat her in a battle. The devil was over confident of his powers and accepted the challenge quickly. After that, the battle lasted for nine nights and on a ninth night the goddess killed the demon. Hence, the nine days is referred to as 'Navratri'.

People observe fast during the nine days and worship goddess Durga. Prayers are offered in order to seek prosperity, good health and happiness of the family. On the last day, people break their fast by performing 'Kanya Pujan' of little girls because they symbolize purity. They are offered various delicaQ.cies like money, clips, bangles and fruits. In Gujarat people celebrate the festival with great pomp and fervor. The women and menfolk dress up in traditional attires and enjoy together at a place where dandiya dance and garba dance is organized. The well known temple of goddess 'Vaishno Devi' witnesses a massive crowd of devotees visiting the temple during the festival. It is believed that if people visit the temple during the festival, their desires and wishes are fulfilled. West Bengal is the state known for the exotic celebration of Navratri festival. It is the most prominent and famous festival. Unique pandals are put up where the idol of goddess Durga is worshipped. The pandals are adorned with flowers and decorative materials. People play with dry colors and dance in the last day of the procession. Women wear traditional Bengali sarees and perform a unique kind of dance. This festival is celebrated with profound devotion and love towards the goddess Durga. It gives a cultural view with great diversity in the form of dance, music and play. The nine days are filled with enthusiasm, fun and happiness. People are excited to play garba and performed aarti to expressed their gratitude.

Navratri is the mirthful hindu festival dedicated to goddess Durga. People forget their worries and gather together to enjoy the fest. Not only Hindus but non-Hindus too participate in the celebration. India is a land of colourful festivals that overflow with joy and devotion. Festivals in India are celebrated by all communities & religions. There are festivals that celebrate nature and there are festivals that celebrate the harvest. There are also festivals that are dedicated to specific gods and goddess. In India Diwali, Id, Holi, Christmas and Navratri are celebrated with equal enthusiasm and fervor.

Navratri culminates with the celebration of the festival of Dussehra which is observed on the tenth day as 'Vijayadashmi'. On the first day, the goddess is worshipped as 'Shailaputri', which means 'Daughter of the Mountain'.

'Shailaputri' is Parvati the consort of lord shiva. On the second day another incarnation of Parvati called 'Brahmacharini' goddess is worshipped. On the third day of the Navratri festival other form of goddess is worshipped as' Chandraghanta' because of the half moon that adorns her forehead. The fourth day of Navratri sees the worship of goddess 'Kushmanda' the creative energy of the Universe depicted with eight hands and seated on a tiger. On the fifth day of the Navratri festival sees the worship of goddess 'Skandamata'. She is the deity who is worshipped as the mother of Skanda or Kartikeya. On the sixth day the goddess is worshipped as 'Katyayani' an incarnation of Durga, who is a warrior goddess depicted as seated on a lion and having four hands.

One of the very ferocious forms of the goddess named as ' Kalaratri' is worshipped on the seventh day, the goddess in this form killed the demons 'Shumbha and Nishumba'. She is as dark as the night. On the eighth day of Navratri 'Mahogowri' who is a serene and peaceful form of the goddess is worshipped. It is believed that Kalaratri after destroying the demons bathed in the river ganga and emerged as Mahogowri fair, shining & peaceful. 'Siddhartha' is the form of the goddess worshipped on the ninth and last day of Navratri festival. Siddhadatri is a benevolent form seated on lotus flower. She is believed to bestow various siddhis means supernatural powers.

Navratri like many other Hindu festivals celebrates the triumph of good over evil. It is marked by Durga puja celebrations in Bengal and other eastern states. In Gujarat and Maharashtra the nights come alive with dance, music and religious fervor as young and old participate in garba and dandiya ras programs. The northern states witness several Ramlila programs that enact the Ramayana which culminates on the day of Vijayadashmi the day after Navratri festival.

In the state of Karnataka, Navratri marks the build up to a grand Dussehra festival. Navratri like all other festivals too is a social occasion and celebrated within communities and residential complexes. It is an occasion to exchange greetings and best wishes between colleagues, friends and family members.

.    .    .