In Hinduism, Navratri (Sanskrit: “Nine Nights”) is a major festival dedicated in honour of the divine feminine. Navratri is also spelled Navaratri. Navratri is celebrated for nine days in the month of Ashvin, or Ashvina (typically September–October in the Gregorian calendar).

On the tenth day, the festival of Dussehra (also known as Vijayadashami) is usually celebrated. Dussehra is regarded a major point of the festival in various parts of India, extending the holiday to ten days rather than nine.

Furthermore, because Navratri is based on the lunar calendar, it may last up to eight days in some years, with Dussehra falling on the ninth day. There are four comparable celebrations, also known as Navratri, that take place throughout the year. The most important event is Sharad Navratri, which takes place in early October. It begins on the same day as Durga Puja, a 10-day festival commemorating the goddess Durga’s victory that is especially popular in eastern parts of the country.

Navratri is celebrated in a number of ways across India. It is a time of religious introspection and fasting for many individuals, while it is also a time of dance and feasting for others. Fasting customs include following a strict vegetarian diet and abstaining from alcohol and some spices. Garba is a popular dance in Gujarat, especially. The nine nights of the festival are usually devoted to various facets of the divine feminine energy, or shakti. While the sequence varies by location, the first third of the festival is often devoted to characteristics of the goddess Durga, the second third to the goddess Lakshmi, and the third to the goddess Sarasvati.

Offerings to the goddesses and their many aspects are frequently made, and ceremonies are performed in their honour. Kanya Puja, which takes place on the eighth or ninth day, is a popular ceremony. Nine young girls are costumed as the nine goddess aspects celebrated during Navratri and are adored with ritual foot washing and food and clothes offerings in this rite.

The celebration is known as or overlaps with the Durga Puja (“Rite of Durga”) among some worshipers of the goddess Durga, who are particularly prevalent in Bengal and Assam. Durga’s special pictures, commemorating her victory over the buffalo-headed monster Mahishasura, are worshipped every day, and on the tenth day (Dussehra), they are carried in celebratory processions to surrounding rivers or reservoirs and immersed in water. The puja, or ritual, days are marked by public concerts, recitations, plays, and fairs, in addition to home observances.

In some areas, Dussehra is combined with Navratri, and the full 10-day festival is referred to as such. Dussehra is a time to commemorate the triumphs of good over evil, such as Durga’s victory over Mahishasura, whether during the festival or on the 10th day.

Dussehra is related with the victory of the god Rama over the demon-king Ravana in several parts of India. The Ram Lila (“Rama’s Play”) is the festival’s centrepiece in northern India. The procession is always climaxed with the burning of enormous effigies of the demons.

Different incidents of the epic poem the Ramayana are portrayed by young performers lavishly costumed and disguised on successive nights. Hunting expeditions and athletic tournaments are frequently organised. Some people celebrate by creating monuments. Bonfires and burning Ravana effigies, which are occasionally filled with fireworks. In many cultures, Dussehra is regarded as a good time to begin educational or artistic endeavours, particularly for youngsters.

Indian men and women in traditional attire pose for photographs after a practice session of Garba, a traditional dance of Gujarat ahead of Navratri festival in Ahmadabad, India, Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012. Navratri, or the festival of nine nights will begin from Oct. 16. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)

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