Navratri is a festival dedicated to the worship of Goddess Durga, the manifestation of Hindu Diety in the form of Shakti (Energy or Power). Navaratri, in Sanskrit means, nine nights, nava means nine and ratri means nights. The Nine day festival culminates with Vijayadashmi or Dussehra, which falls on the tenth day. During these nine nights and ten days, nine forms of Shakti or Mother Mahisasura-mardini (Durga) are worshipped, with great fervor and devotion. Navrathri is celebrated five times a year. They are Vasanta or Chaitra Navaratri, Ashadha or Gayatri or Shakambhari Navaratri during Ashadha Shukla Paksha, the Sharada or Sharad Navaratri celebrated in the month of Puratashi (Ashwin) or Sharad and the Paush/Magha Navaratri.
The Sharada Navratri commences on the first (pratipada) of the bright fortnight of the lunar month of AsvinaAswayuja and ends on the tenth day of the bright half of the lunar month Navarathri in 2011 starts on 28 September and concludes with Vijayadashami on 6 October . The Chaitra Navratri culminates in Ram Navami and the Sharad Navaratri culminates in Durga Puja and Dussehra.
In Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Orissa, Assam exquisitely crafted and decorated life-size clay
idols of the Goddess Durga depicting her slaying the demon Mahishasura, are set up in temples and other places. They are worshiped for five days, known as Durga Puja. and immersed in the river, on the fifth day . In Gujarat, Garba and Dandiya-Raas are held.
In Goa, zatra begins during Navratri, entire Antruz (Ponda) is highly ornated. The Saraswat Brahmin temples are beautifully decorated and the idols are dressed and adorned with flowers, sandalwood paste, turmeric and kumkum. Devotees come for darshan and to partake the Kaul Prasad. The Dasha Maitrikas namely, Shantadurga, Aryadurga, Mahalasa, Katyayani, Mahamaya, Kamakshi, Vijayadurga, Bhumika, Mahalakshmi and Navadurga, are taken out to worship -.
In T.N. and Karnataka, people set up steps and place idols on them called Golu.. and Kerala, three days: Ashtami, Navami and Vijaya Dashami of Sharad Navarathri are celebrated as Sarasvati Puja, in which books are worshiped. The books are placed for Puja on the Ashtami day in houses, traditional nursery schools, or in temples. On Vijaya Dashami day, these books are ceremoniously taken out for reading and writing, after worshiping Sarasvati. Vijaya Dashami day is considered auspicious for initiating the children into writing and reading, which is called Vidyarambham. Tens of thousands of children are initiated into the world of letters on this day in Kerala.
Navratri is divided into sets of three days to adore three different aspects of the supreme goddess or goddesses. On the first day, the goddess is propitiated as Shakti or Durga (Kali), in order to destroy all our impurities or enimies. On the second day, the Mother is worshipped as Mahalakshmi, as a giver of inexhaustible, spiritual and material wealth. On the last three days goddess of wisdom Saraswati, one who grants knowledge, is worshipped.