- The Navaratri (Navaratra) or Nine Nights festival is celebrated for nine days in the lunar month of Ashvin (September–October). It is a pan-Indian festival that takes different forms in different regions.In most Hindi-speaking areas of North India Navaratri is celebrated as Rama Lila (the mysteri-ous divine magic of Lord Rama), a commemo-ration of the RAMAYANA epic. Each day features readings from the medieval Hindi TULSIDAS Rama-yana; in most places plays are presented depicting scenes from the Ramayana story, sometimes on a grand scale.The largest of the Rama Lila plays is staged across the river from the holy city BENARES (Varanasi), where the kings have established an immense field as a stage for the Ramayana story. Actors go from station to station on different days as the story develops. On Vijayadashami, the day after Navaratri, effigies of Rama’s ene-mies—the demon king RAVANA, his son Megha-nada, and his brother KUMBHAKARNA—are burned to celebrate the victory of Rama over the demons or Rakshasas.In Bihar, Bengal, and Assam Navaratri is cel-ebrated as a DURGA festival. The festival begins by awakening Durga, who is asleep, and continues by manufacturing a temporary image of her that is enlivened for the purpose of the festival. PUJAS or worship services are performed for Durga on the last three days of the festival. On Vijaya-dashmi the image of Durga is taken in a great procession to be immersed and left in a tank, a river, or the ocean.In South India SARASVATI, goddess of learning and the arts, is worshipped on the seventh day of the festival and Durga on the eighth day. On the ninth day there is a worship of instruments and implements of livelihood, which are taken out to be honored with mantras and small offerings.Further reading: Diana L. Eck, Banaras, City of Light (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999); H. V. Shekar, Festivals of India: Significance of the Celebrations (Louisville, Ky.: Insight Books, 2000).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.