20 to 30 September
Falling in the Hindu month of Ashwin and lasting for nine nights, Navaratri is the longest and the largest festival in the Hindu calendar. It ends with Vijayadashami, another big festival. With Nav meaning ‘nine’ and Ratri meaning ‘nights’, the festival takes its primary name from the length of the celebrations. However, the festival is often known as ‘Durga Puja’ because during the festival Hindus worship the Goddess Durga and, through her, the shakti (feminine power). While the festival is joyfully celebrated all over India, it has particularly popularity in the state of West Bengal.
Over nine nights, the Goddess Durga is worshipped in nine different forms: Durga, the invincible; Bhadrakali, the auspicious and fortunate; Amba or Jagdamba, Mother of the universe; Annapoorna, giver of food; Sarvamangala, giver of joy all around; Bhairavi, the terrifying; Chandika, the violent; Lalita, the beautiful; Bhavani, the giver of life; and Mookambika, the one who listens. Hindus eat only vegetarian foods during Navratri, with many choosing to fast during the festival. Clay idols of Goddess Durga are brought into Hindu homes or public venues and people show their respect for shakti through their worship of these. At the end of the nine days, the idols are immersed into water to liquefy and return to the riverbed. Traditional Garaba dances take place at cultural organisations, hotels, clubs and on the streets, often featuring well-known celebrities.
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