Navaratri

English meaning of the festival

Nava means nine and Ratri means night. Navaratri symbolises the victory of good over evil.

How the date is decided annually

Navaratri is observed during Shukla Paksha (waxing moon phase) in the Hindu month of Ashwin.
 
Significance of the festival to Hinduism

In this age of Kali (Kaliyuga), we have to annihilate continuously the baser animal qualities in us. The aspect of mother that enables us to achieve this is Kali or Durga. She is the destroyer of all those factors that bind us to this world. However, life is not just about getting rid of the negative qualities. Once this is done, we replace the negative qualities with divine qualities. We need to spend our entire lives in the accumulation of immense spiritual wealth so that we can pay the price of divine wisdom. The accumulation of spiritual and material wealth is possible through the grace of Mother Luxmi. When the evil qualities are killed off and replaced with pure divine qualities, then we are ready for supreme wisdom or Divine Knowledge. The bestower of Divine Knowledge is Mother Saraswathi. It is important to understand that spiritual advancement is only possible through constant worshipping and meditation. Performance of prayer and divine deeds should become part of our daily lives. A prominent feature during Navaratri is the recitation of the Durga Saptashati. The Durga Saptashati is a holy collection of 700 verses in praise of the Divine Cosmic Mother Durga and her different manifestations. The Durga Saptashati is contained in the Markandeya Purana and it exists in the form of a dialogue between Markandeya and Kroshtuki. Some of the 700 verses in the Durga Saptashati are used to describe the battles of the different manifestations of the Divine Mother. Some great saints and scholars have reminded us that the Durga Saptashati has to be audibly recited. They say that it should not be silently read. As the recitation goes on, the word power of the Sloka pervades and purifies the surrounding atmosphere and prepares it for receiving the Divine Presence. The whole place where the text is recited becomes flooded with waves and waves of vibrations, immersing the Sadhaka in thrills of devotion and delight.

How to observe/practice
Daily a lamp is lit, flowers are offered to the Divine Mother, and Aarti is performed. Offering of Arghya (commonly referred to as dhaar) to the Goddess is considered to be very auspicious during Navratri. Prasadh in the form of halwa puri and kheer is offered to the Mother. Many devotees observe a strict salt less fast during the nine days. A prominent feature during Navaratri is the recitation of the Durga Saptashati. The Durga Saptashati is a holy collection of 700 verses in praise of the Divine Cosmic Mother Durga and her different manifestations. The Durga Saptashati is contained in the Markandeya Purana and it exists in the form of a dialogue between Markandeya and Kroshtuki. Some of the 700 verses in the Durga Saptashati are used to describe the battles of the different manifestations of the Divine Mother. Some great saints and scholars have reminded us that the Durga Saptashati has to be audibly recited. They say that it should not be silently read. As the recitation goes on, the word power of the Sloka pervades and purifies the surrounding atmosphere and prepares it for receiving the Divine Presence. The whole place where the text is recited becomes flooded with waves and waves of vibrations, immersing the Sadhaka in thrills of devotion and delight.