Celebrating Navratri this October

Loudoun County is rich with culture. As a melting pot community with over 45 percent of residents being people of color, our customs are as unique as our last names. However, despite our diversity, many are still learning about cultures beyond their own.

Growing up Indian American, I recall several holidays that cast unforgettable memories. Even thousands of miles away, these celebrations bring me closer to my home country of India. One celebration in particular is called Navratri. Occurring during October, Navratri is practiced over 9 days throughout India. Unlike many Indian festivals, Navratri is popular in America as well and varies in purpose depending on region. Many all-encompassing topics it includes are dance, self-reflection, and worship of the feminine power. Specifically, Durga, the Hindu goddess of protection and motherhood, is worshipped throughout the nine days.

Let’s explore Navratri through each day of the celebration so you can incite conversations in your community and next year join in the fun! 

Day 1

On the first day, Ghatasthapana is performed to seek blessings from Durga. As each deity has several different forms, this celebration worships Durga’s Shailputri avatar, who controls the moon. On this day, worshippers chant Adi Shakti mantras to overpower the moon’s negative effects. Each Navratri ritual differs in nature despite revolving around the same goddesses and the same is true with Ghatasthapana Puja. In one portion of the ceremony, the goddess resides in a sacred pot.

Day 2

On the second day, time is dedicated to the worship of Goddess Brahmacharini, another form of Durga. Women wear orange saris – a particularly auspicious color – and chrysanthemums adorn articles of clothing. In addition to a self-rejuvenation Atma puja, dandiya is often performed today. This style of dance has social and religious connotations to it as well, offering an attraction for everyone. The most striking aspect of this practice are the sticks. When dancing, participants strike bamboo sticks that are brightly colored and decorated with patterns such as lotuses. The dance progresses similar to that of a clock: Hindus gather in a circle and tap their sticks together as well as with others, moving in a circular pattern. Often, resting your ghungroo-chiming feet is impossible!

Day 3

On the third day, Chandraghanta appears as the avatar to worship. As mythology relates, time and time again humans grow deluded into darkness. Power, greed, and ignorance infest the light shined by the Gods. Chandraghanta, named for preserving the crescent moon on her forehead, offers a solution. This day she is reincarnated and fulfills devotees’ wishes with her blessings. The puja conducted involves chastity, purity, and physical health. Jasmine flowers, nuts, and fruits are offered in hopes of ridding their lives of diseases, fear, obstacles, and sorrow. 

Day 4

On the fourth day, Kushmanda is revered. Her name is derived from the roots Ku, which means ‘little’ in Sanskrit, Ushma, which means ‘energy’, and Anda, which means ‘cosmic egg’. Though the combination appears to be funny-sounding, the goddess represents the world as a cosmic egg and she is believed to end the darkness with her divine smile. In appearance, Kushmanda has eight arms and carries a spiritual token (a halo, bow, lotus, arrow, etc) in each hand. Royal blue is a particularly auspicious color today for saris, lehengas, and kurtas, which are all classically Hindu articles of clothing. In addition, when flowers are presented during puja, all are red and full of life, just as followers hope to be following the procedure. 

Day 5

On the fifth day, puja Vidhi is implemented for the worship of Skandamata. This form of goddess Durga is powerful and looks it: she rides a ferocious lion, has four hands, and holds the many-headed baby Kartikeya in her lap. Still, through her savagery, she holds lotuses in two of her hands. Just as with other forms of Durga, peace is at her centerpiece. Puja on this day is done at the hands of pure chakra, with cleansing and rebirth encircling the slokas chanted. Followers are asked to sit on the holy seat of Kush while praying, specifically presenting her with roses and bananas. To balance the two, worshippers offer channa dal as the primary donation while wearing peacock green attire. 

Day 6

On the sixth day, Katyayani is the guest of honor, who has a fascinating tale behind her creation. It begins with a great sage named Katya who wished that Durga be birthed as his daughter. To please the Gods, he maintained penance for several unbroken years. The Hindu triumvirate of Gods, made up of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, grew enraged with the magnitude of the request. As a result, they devised Goddess Durga, who emulated the qualities of all three. Her power was so strong that she overpowered Katya, who she was born to, but was named Kathyayani as a symbol of the story. This avatar of Durga differs from others in that she has three eyes in order to watch every woman’s trajectory of life, which is a very daunting task with just two! The classic lotus lies in one of her four hands while a sword contrasts it in another. As the overseer of love, she promises to grant the ideal husband if devotion is shown. However, if a follower is to disrespect her – watch out!

Day 7

On the seventh day, followers devote their prayers to Kalratri. The root “kaal” and its addition to “Kalratri” illustrates her purpose of destroying the evils of death and bringing light into the world. She vanquishes dark forces that plague good people. Still, as shown by the bloody cleaver in one of her hands, she maintains a darker side. Her other contains a torch. Kalratri can choose to lead the world into light or darkness depending on the strength and will of believers. She relates to us that pain, destruction, and death are unavoidable and eminent. These truths of life – though difficult to understand – must be eventually accepted. Durga’s seventh form can be the breeze under your wings to help you reach your goals while light still thrives, especially if you pray to her on this day.

Day 8

On the eighth day, Goddess Mahagauri graces temples. She has skin that resembles the moon in full glow and rides a bull when pictured. This day is one of the most important of Navratri as it is most auspicious and provides the greatest potential for growth and luck. Mahagauri has all-encompassing power and her pleasure results in the happiness of all other nine goddesses. In addition, Durga Puja swings into effect on this day and prior ones, spanning ten days in total. This celebration permits creativity to commence as worshippers perform songs, dance, and other kinds of artistic creation to depict their love for Durga. Rituals occur as group worship, with loud chants and drum beats, sacred images dipped in local rivers, and veneration shown to the goddess.

Day 9

The ninth and final day revolves around Mahanavami, the day when Goddess Durga killed the demon Mahishasura. Devotees break their nine-day fast with celebration and dishes like halwa, puri, and chana are served. Champa flowers are scattered across shrines and a sea of green is threaded through salwars and lehengas. They revere all forms of Durga, though on this day, Goddess Siddhidatri is the avatar highlighted. She stands out in a bright red sari among the green At the heart of Hinduism is freeing oneself from the eternal cycle of pain and suffering and finding moksha, or oneness. Siddhidatri helps followers to do so. If correctly exalted, she is said to provide the ultimate power to realize true existence.

Every one of these days introduces something new about themselves to celebrators. The process of a religious holiday is to cleanse the soul and praise the gods who helped to do so. With the knowledge and respect for the individuality of this holiday and each of its days, you can enjoy Navratri as well. Find your local Durga Puja, Dandiya Raas, and Navratri celebrations to find yourself among an enthusiastic community who enjoy this holiday as well. Namaste.


  1. https://datausa.io/profile/geo/loudoun-county-va/
  2. https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/loudouncountyvirginia/PST045219

Article by Kashvi Ramani

Photos courtesy of Krittika Sinha

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