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Navaratri (नवरात्रि, นวราตรี)

Sanskrit-Thai. Annual Indian religious festival around the beginning of October, that extends nine nights and ten days, and in which daily puja ceremonies are held. The term derives from the Sanskrit words navam (नवम्) meaning ‘nine’ and ratri (रात्रि) signifying ‘night(s)’. The term can thus be translated as ‘nine nights’ but is also known as Dashara (Dushera), a corruption of Dazaaharaa (दशहरा), a compound word composed of dazaa (दश) meaning ‘ten’ and haraa (हरा) which translates as ‘garland(s)’ or ‘carrying’, and perhaps refers to the garlands made of flowers (puang malai) and lemons (puang manao) that are typically offered (fig.) or the fact that on the tenth and last day a procession takes place in which images of different forms of the goddess Uma, such as Kali and other deities, such as Kanthakumara, are carried around, outside the temple. Some sources however, say that the word haraa (हरा) actually means ‘day(s)’, perhaps a corrupted compound of aha (अहः) and vaara (वार) which both mean ‘day(s)’, and the term would then mean ‘ten days’, as opposed to the ‘nine nights’ mentioned above. During these nine nights, three different shakti are worshipped. The first three nights are devoted to the terrible and destructive Kali or Mahakali, an aspect of Uma, who also known as Durga, Parvati or Devi, and the consort of Shiva; the next three nights are held in honour of the gentle and prosperous Lakshmi, the consort of Vishnu and a form of Sri, who is also known as Sita, the wife of Rama, Rukmini, the wife of Krishna, Sri Mariamman and Padma; and the last three nights the wise and knowledgeable Sarasvati, the consort of Brahma, is worshipped. Over the nine nights Shaktas or shakti worshippers will meditate upon the Navadurga (नवदुर्गा), the ‘Nine Durgas’, i.e. the nine aspects of Durga. On the tenth and last day of the festival, known as Vijayadazaami (fig.), sometimes spelled Vijayadashami and literally translated as the ‘victorious tenth [day]’, the triumph of Good over Evil is celebrated, commemorating the victory of Rama over Ravana, and the defeat of the demon Mahishasura (fig.) by Chamunda, a form of Durga. It is the culmination of the festival, ending with a grand procession through the streets. During the celebrations, a ritual reading of the Devi Mahatmyam, a Purana text that describes the victory of Durga over Mahishasura, is held. On the evening of the day prior to the start of the ten day festival the image of Ganesha is carried around the bot three times in a pradakshina-like procession during which everyone inside the temple compound has to stand still and no one is allowed to enter or leave until the ceremony is completely over. Typical offers and attributes during the festival are: lemons, used to eradicate ominous spirits and ghosts, as well as bad things; coconuts, midair fruits representing frigidity and containing unadulterated juice and which are seen as immaculate; gluay naam wah (kind of banana), a symbol of fertility; sugarcane, representing refreshing sweetness and thriving growth; and kaanboon (camphor), which symbolizes consciousness and is burned to bring about purity as it burns without leaving an ash residue. The festival of Navaratri is also celebrated by Hindus in Nepal, where during the festivities there is a swing festival (fig.), which in appearance is very similar to the Akha-swing festival (fig.).