Navratri is observed in the Hindu calendar month of Ashwin.
2011, Navratri starts on Sept. 28 and lasts until Oct. 6.
Durga Puja celebrations begin on Oct. 1, 2011.
Navratri is the
festival of nine nights dedicated to the glorification of
the feminine form of the Divine. During these nine nights, the
mother goddess is worshipped in nine different forms.
Navratri culminates on the 10th day with the festivities of
Vijayadashami, also known as Dusshera. A common greeting during this
festival is Shubh Navratri (Happy Navratri).
Navratri is celebrated all over India and among the
Hindu diaspora with great fanfare. Prior to the festival, skilled
artisans prepare clay models of the goddess in her various
manifestations. Many Hindus take part in special ceremonies, rituals,
fasts and festivities. People buy new clothes, prepare delicious sweets
and buy gifts for family and friends. During
Navratri, many Hindus in Gujarat and elsewhere wear colorful
costumes and perform a special type of vigorous dance known as
garba. Traditionally, garbas are performed around an earthen lamp or
images / statues of the mother goddess.
In eastern India and in the Bengali diaspora, during the last six
nights of Navratri,
goddess Durga is worshipped in a grand manner. She is venerated in
the form of a fierce, but kind many-armed goddess riding atop a lion or
a tiger, and stamping on the demon Mahishashura. On the 10th day
following Navratri, the statue of the goddess Durga is taken through the
streets in a procession accompanied with singing and dancing to be
immersed in a river or the sea.
In north India,
Vijayadashami, also known as Dusshera is the 10th day following
Navratri. It celebrates the triumph of good over evil, and marks the
victory of Lord Rama over the demon king Ravana. Huge effigies of Ravana
are burnt on this day.