Nava – that also means 'new' – denotes 'nine' the number to which sages attach special significance. Hence, we have Nava-ratri (9 nights), Nava-patrika (9 leaves / herbs / plants), Nava-graha (9 planets), and Nava-Durga (9 appellations).
Here is a slide show of the 9 manifestations of Goddess Durga. Each goddess has a different form and a special significance. Nava Durga, if worshipped with religious fervor during Navaratri, it is believed, lift the divine spirit in us and fill us with renewed happiness.
All the nine names of goddess are narrated in ‘Devi Kavacha’ of the ‘Chandipatha’ scripture.
Every year during the lunar month of Ashwin or Kartik (September-October), Hindus observe ten days of ceremonies, rituals, fasts and feasts in honor of the supreme mother goddess. It begins with the fast of “Navaratri”, and ends with the festivities of “Dusshera” and “Vijayadashami.”
This festival is devoted solely to the Mother Goddess — known variously as Durga, Bhavani, Amba, Chandika, Gauri, Parvati, Mahishasuramardini — and her other manifestations. The name “Durga” means “inaccessible”, and she is the personification of the active side of the divine “shakti” energy of Lord Shiva. In fact, she represents the furious powers of all the male gods, and is the ferocious protector of the righteous, and destroyer of the evil. Durga is usually portrayed as riding a lion, and carrying weapons in her many arms.
Dusshera & Ramlila
Dusshera, as the name suggests occurs on the “tenth” day following the Navratri. It is a festival to celebrate the triumph of good over evil, and marks the defeat and death of the demon king Ravana in the epic Ramayana. Huge effigies of Ravana are burnt amidst the bangs and booms of firecrackers.
In northern India, especially in Varanasi, Dusshera overlaps with “Ramlila” or “Rama Drama” – traditional plays in which scenes from the epic saga of the mythical Rama-Ravana strife are enacted by professional troupes.
The Dusshera celebration of Mysore in southern India is a veritable extravaganza! Chamundi, a form of Durga, is the family deity of the Maharaja of Mysore. It’s a wonderful scene to watch the grand procession of elephants, horses and courtiers wending a circuitous way to the hilltop temple of Goddess Chamundi!