The Hindu festival of Navaratri, which begins on the first day of the Hindu lunar month of Ashwin, began Oct. 12 this year and ended Oct. 20. The name of this Hindu festival, derived from Sanskrit, literally means “nine nights.” During Navaratri, Hindus around the world celebrate God as Mother.
The nine days of Navaratri are split into three-day units that revere three different manifestations of Shakti, or cosmic energy.
For the first three days, Durga, the powerful mother goddess, is invoked as people pray for assistance in ridding themselves of weaknesses and negative traits. The next three days are devoted to Lakshmi, the goddess of spiritual wealth, and the final three are spent worshipping Sarasvati , the goddess of knowledge, who may help believers attain self-realization.
Durga is said to have fought the demon Mahishasura in a battle that lasted nine days and nine nights, and thus, the tenth day is referred to as Dasera, or the day of victory.
The tenth day, which falls on Oct. 21 this year, marks the triumph of good over evil in the climax of the epic Hindu tale the Ramayana, when Lord Rama defeats the evil demon Ravana, who abducted his wife. Often, effigies of Ravana are burned on this day.
Hindus mark Navaratri with a variety of activities, including fasting, feasting, getting together with loved ones and performing traditional dances. One of those dances is the garba, where dancers, typically in a circular formation, move their hands and feet in a choreographed manner to an increasingly fast rhythm.
Shanthi Mandir Hindu Temple and Community Center of Mid-Missouri held prayers, discussions and a short cultural program Oct. 21 in celebration of Navaratri.
Sources: hinduism.about.com; bbc.co.uk/religion