Navaratri is one of the greatest Hindu festivals. True to the literal meaning of its name in Sanskrit, is lasts 9 nights (10 days).
This year Navaratri runs from 29th September to 7th October. It symbolises the triumph of good over evil. Also known as Durga Puja, it takes place around Harvest time.
Durga is the Hindu mother goddess who represents power. Durga annihilated the demon Mahishasura after a relentless battle lasting nine days and nights. It is said that Shiva, one of the 3 main gods in Hinduism, gave permission to Durga to see her mother for 9 days in the year, so this festival also remembers this visit. Hindu families make an attempt to return home on these days, and leave on the tenth.
Typically the festival’s 9 nights are dedicated to different characteristics of the feminine aspects and energy of the divine. It is said that Hinduism is the only religion in the world which has emphasised the motherhood of God to such an extent.
Women also take a front role in the harvest aspect of Navaratri. To celebrate a good harvest, women plant 9 different kinds of food grain seeds in small containers during the festival period, and then offer the young saplings to the goddess.
During Navaratri, some devotees observe a fast, cutting most everyday foods from their diet and eating potatoes and fruit instead. Prayers are offered for the protection of health and property. A period of introspection and purification, Navaratri is traditionally an auspicious time for starting new ventures.
Each day of the festival is allocated a different colour, and some wear clothes in that colour. Each one signifies a different positive aspect and is a focus for reflection. For instance, today (day 4) is royal blue which is considered good for health and wealth.