Navaratri is a Hindu festival that is celebrated for nine nights. There are four Navaratri that take place in each of the different seasons, but the post-monsoon autumn festival called Sharada Navaratri has the largest celebrations and is in honor of the divine feminine goddess, Durga.
Navaratri is celebrated in western and northern states of India including Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu. The eastern and northeastern states such as West Bengal, Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, and Tripura celebrate this holiday as Durga Puja.
The legend behind Navaratri centers on the story of the victory of Durga over the demon king Mahishasura. This festival is celebrated for nine days, where each day is dedicated to each of the nine forms of the goddess.
For each of the nine days, worshippers will wear a different color. In West Bengal, you can see large clay statues of Durga which are ceremoniously walked to the river or ocean and submerged at the end of celebrations. In North Indian cities, you can watch reenactments of the story of Lord Rama and Ravana.
Why You Should Experience Navaratri in India
- Watch the burning of effigies of Ravana which symbolizes the victory of good over evil.
- See the great procession of Durga Puja where large clay idols of Durga are paraded to a body of water and submerged.
- See the thousands of temporary stages called pandals and their respective statues of Durga that are built in West Bengal.
- Watch performances of the story of Rama, the seventh avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu, and Ravana, the great king of Lanka.
- See the tradition of Bathukamma, an event full of artistic flower decorations in Telangana.
Navaratri, also called Navratri, is a major Hindu festival that is celebrated for nine nights and ten days every year in the autumn. According to the Hindu calendar, there are four seasonal Navaratri. However, the one that takes place post-monsoon in the autumn is the most celebrated.
The festival takes place during the waxing moon period of the Hindu month of Ashvin. This typically falls in September or October in the Gregorian calendar.
The legend of Navaratri focuses on the battle that took place between goddess Durga and the demon king Mahishasura, who represents selfishness. All the nine days of the festival are dedicated to each distinct avatar of the goddess.
During this festival, devotees of Durga observe a fast and pray for the protection of their health and property. As a period of introspection and purification, Navaratri is traditionally an auspicious time to start new ventures.
Statue of Durga and other Hindu deities
Differences Between Navaratri, Durga Puja, and Dussehra
The autumn months in India is the time of many Hindu festivals. While the western and northern parts of India gear up for Navratri, the east and northeast celebrate Durga Puja.
Both of these festivals worship the Goddess Durga but which different traditions and in different regions of India. Both festivals are also celebrated by fasting.
||Worshipping Goddess Durga in her nine forms
||Celebrates the victory of Goddess Durga over the demon Mahishasura
||Celebrated after Navaratri on the tenth day, marking the end of Ramlila and recalls Lord Rama’s victory over Ravana
||October 7th to 15th
||October 7th to 15th
|Main places that celebrate
||Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu
||West Bengal, Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, and Tripura
||Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu
||Worshipping Goddess Durga in her nine forms by wearing specific colored clothes each day of the festival
||Idols of Durga are erected in pandals and worshipped. On the last day, they are carried to nearby seas or rivers and immersed
||Effigies of the king of Lanka, Ravana, his brother Kumbhkarana, and his son Meghnada are burned
While they seem quite similar, there are many differences between the two holidays. Firstly, Navaratri is celebrated for nine days, while Durga Puja is celebrated for ten days. Navratri focuses on worshipping Durga in her nine forms and ends with a celebration of Lord Rama’s victory over Ravana while Durga Puja celebrates the victory of Durga over the demon Mahishasura.
Durga Puja ends with Sindoor Khela, where married women put vermilion on each other before the immersion of Durga’s idols in nearby rivers. On the other hand, Navaratri ends with Dussehra, which marks the end of Ramlila and recalls Lord Rama’s victory over Ravana.
Navratri, Durga Puja, and Dussehra all overlap and which holiday is celebrated depends on where you are in India.
When is Navaratri
Navaratri occurs over nine days during the month of Ashvin in the Hindu calendar, which usually falls between September and October. The festival ends with Dussehra on the tenth day.
Dussehra also starts the preparation for one of the most important and widely celebrated Indian holidays, Diwali, which is celebrated only twenty days after this festival.
- 2020: October 17 to 25
- 2021: October 7 to 15
- 2022: September 26 to October 4
Navaratri Legends and History
There are two major legends surrounding Navaratri.
According to one legend, there was a powerful demon called Mahishasura who by worshiping Shiva became immortal and could not be killed by any weapon. Because of this new power, he became arrogant and started killing innocent people.
Worried by this, Lord Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, and some other deities all combined their powers to create Shakti, the divine feminine form of power and strength. This is how Goddess Durga was created. She fought with Mahishasura for nine days and on the tenth day, she finally won and beheaded the demon.
Another story behind Navaratri is the legend of the goddess Sati. It is believed that the daughter of King Daksha, Uma, married to Lord Shiva against the wishes of her father. One day the king held a large party and invited every deity except for Shiva.
Uma’s father often spoke badly about Lord Shiva to Uma during the party and because she was not able to bear the insults directed at her husband, she jumped into the fire and died. Uma was then reborn as Goddess Sati and remarried Lord Shiva. The nine days that Sati stayed at her parents’ home are known as Navaratri.
How Navaratri is Celebrated in India
During Navaratri, Goddess Durga is worshiped in each of her nine forms. Durga is an incarnation of the Goddess Parvati and their names are often used interchangeably. Durga is considered to be a brave and violent version of the benevolent Parvati.
There is also a custom of wearing different colored clothes each day.
Day 1: Shailaputri
To mark the commencement of Navaratri, a ritual called Ghatasthapana is performed to invoke the energy of the goddess. On this day, the goddess is worshiped as Shailaputri, an incarnation of Goddess Parvati meaning "Daughter of the Mountain".
It is in this form that the goddess is worshiped as the wife of Shiva. She is often depicted riding the bull, Nandi, with a trident in her right hand and a lotus in her left.
The color worn on this day is orange, which represents energy and happiness.
Day 2: Brahmachari
This day is when Durga is worshiped as Brahmacharini, another incarnation of Parvati. In this form, Parvati transformed into Sati. The goddess is worshiped for the ability to give peace and prosperity to her followers.
In this form, she is depicted as walking barefoot and holding a japamala or a string of prayer beads and a kamandal or an oblong water pot in her hands.
Worshippers wear white on this day, which is a symbol of peace and purity.
Day 3: Chandraghanta
This day celebrates the worship of goddess Chandraghanta, who is the married form of Parvati. Her name is derived from the half-moon on her forehead, which looks like a bell. She is depicted riding a tigress and is associated with bravery and the courage to fight evil.
On this day, people wear red-colored clothing as it symbolizes beauty and fearlessness.
Day 4: Kushmanda
Goddess Kushmanda is worshiped on the fourth day. She is believed to be the one who lived inside the sun and created the universe, giving it light and energy. She represents the form of Durga that is the source of all.
Kushmanda is depicted as having eight arms and sitting on a tiger.
Kushmanda is depicted as having eight arms and sitting on a tiger
The color worn on this day is royal blue as it is considered to be good for one’s health and wealth.
Day 5: Skandamata
Skandamata is the form of Durga who is the mother of Skanda, the son of Shiva and brother of Ganesha. She is depicted as riding a ferocious lion, having four arms, and holding her baby.
Yellow is the color worn on this day as it stands for happiness and brightness.
Day 6: Katyayani
Goddess Katyayani, whom Goddess Durga morphed into to fight and destroy the buffalo demon Mahishasura, is worshiped on this day. Known as the warrior goddess, she is considered as one of the most violent forms of the goddesses Parvati and Durga.
In this incarnation, Katyayani rides a lion and has four hands.
People wear green on this day to signify new beginnings and growth.
Day 7: Kalaratri
Considered to be the most ferocious form of Durga and representing protection from all troubles, Kalaratri is worshipped on the seventh day. She is the incarnation of Durga that destroyed some particularly evil demons in the battle against Mahishasura.
The color worn on this day is gray, which stands for the strength of transformation.
Day 8: Mahagauri
Ashtami, the night of the half-moon, is when the goddess is worshiped as Mahagauri, the younger version of Shailaputri who had a very fair and perfect complexion. She represents grace, the cleansing of sins, and the betterment of society.
The color worn on this day, purple, signifies the power of intellect and peace.
She represents grace, the cleansing of sins, and the betterment of society
Day 9: Sidhidhatri
The festival, also known as Navami, is when people pray to Sidhidhatri, the goddess who embodies all eight siddhis or supernatural powers. She is believed to have granted them to Lord Shiva when he worshiped her, and she also bestows them upon her devotees.
On this day, teal is worn as it is believed to symbolize the fulfillment of the desires of devotees.
Where Should you Celebrate Navaratri in India
Navaratri is celebrated in different ways and with different traditions across India. Here are some of the best places where travelers get to see different rituals being performed during the festival.
Navaratri is celebrated as Durga Puja in West Bengal. It is the most important annual festival for the local Bengalis and is a major social and public event. Thousands of temporary stages called pandals are built in community squares, at roadside shrines, and in large Durga temples.
Large clay statues of Durga are then created and placed inside the pandals where she is worshipped for nine days.
On the tenth day, a grand parade is held where the statues of Durga are ceremoniously walked to a body of water and immersed as a solemn goodbye.
During the ritual, many worshippers mark their faces with vermilion and wear red. It is an emotional day and the audience sings goodbye songs to the goddess.
After the procession, many distribute sweets and gifts and visit their friends and family members.
In North Indian cities, Navaratri is celebrated with numerous Ramlila events. Episodes from the story of Rama, the seventh avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu, and Ravana, the great king of Lanka, are enacted by teams of artists in rural and urban centers, temples, or in temporarily constructed stages.
Songs, narrations, and dialogues are all performed and are based on the Hindu text Ramacharitmanas by Tulsidas, a Hindu saint and poet.
Dialogues are all performed and are based on the Hindu text
At the end of Navaratri, effigies of Ravana, Kumbhakarna who is Ravana’s brother, and Meghanada who is Ravana’s son are burnt to celebrate the victory of good over evil.
Navratri celebrations in Maharashtra are personal and spiritual. People here observe a special ritual called Ghatasthapana on the first day of Navaratri. During this ritual, an earthen pot filled with water is placed on a bed of mud and prayed to for nine days.
On Dussehra, men collect the leaves of an Apta tree from forests and farms. Then the children and adults visit their neighbors and exchange leaves.
On Navaratri, a copper pitcher surrounded by clay is installed in the Hindu temples in Goa. The pitchers are then filled with nine varieties of grain. During the nine nights of the festival, devotional songs and religious shows are performed. Artists arrive to perform folk music.
The image of Durga is also placed in a specially-decorated colorful silver swing, known as Makhar. For each of the nine nights, she is swung to the tune of temple music while devotees wave lamps.
In Kerala, the last three days of Navratri, are most important. On these days, books are placed in the worship rooms of houses and temples and are prayed to.
On the 9th day, a ritual called Ayudha Puja is performed. During the ritual, all tools, machines, and instruments that help one earn a livelihood are worshipped. On the closing day, these are taken back for re-use.
On Vijaya Dashami (Dussehra), the books are taken out for reading after the worship of Goddess Sarasvati. This day is also considered auspicious for introducing children to the skill of reading.
A notable Telangana tradition during Navaratri involves a large event called bathukamma where women create artistic flower decorations and towers. Bathukamma celebrations start a day before Navaratri.
The main deity of worship is in Telangana is Goddess Gowri, who is a form of Parvati. Gowri is symbolized in a turmeric powder idol and placed on the bathukamma decorations.
The festival will go on for nine nights and involves the women rotating the bathukamma while clapping their hands and a recitation of the Hindu epic Ramayana and stories of Shiva.
Every night after the rituals, the old bathukamma are immersed in water and a new bathukamma is made the next day.
How to Celebrate Navaratri as a Traveler
If you would like to join in the spiritual side of the holiday, the easiest thing to do is to keep your mind and thoughts pure.
Navaratri focuses on cleansing negative feelings like hatred, jealousy, anger, and violence. Avoid negative thoughts about other people and try to remain positive throughout the day.
Travelers can bestow gifts like sweets and traditional food to young girls. Durga is said to be exemplified by young girls, so it is common to give them treats like fruits during the celebration. Since many people fast during the day, the gifts are given at night to break the fast.
Travelers can also participate in charity work. Navaratri encourages people to give back to their community with the gift of food during the celebration. You might also choose to buy meals for elderly people or needy people in your area.
Travelers can bestow gifts like sweets
Tips for Experiencing Navaratri
- In addition to garlic, onion, grains, and salt, people should try to avoid eating non-vegetarian food during the festival out of respect for the worshippers.
- Navratri is a colorful celebration period, so you should wear bright-colored clothing and avoid wearing black.
Experience Navaratri with Asia Highlights
If you want to celebrate Navaratri in India but don’t know how to plan a trip, contact Asia Highlights. Our experts here can help tailor-make your Navaratri vacation based on your preferences in order to provide you with the best holiday experience.