Navratri 2022: what is the Hindu festival about and how is it celebrated?

In honour of the deity Durga, it is observed with colourful celebrations and rituals

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The festive season has officially begun in much of India with Navratri, one of the most important Hindu festivals of the year.

The nine-day festival will then be followed by Dussehra, Dhanteras and Diwali, the festival of lights, later in October.

Scroll through the gallery above for more pictures of Navratri celebrations across India

What is Navratri?

An artisan gives final touches to a clay idol of the Hindu deity Durga at a workshop ahead of Navratri, in Allahabad. AFP

There are four Navratri festivals annually in the Hindu calendar. However, the sharada Navratri, which means the autumn Navratri, is the most important.

Celebrated in honour of the deity Durga, festivities take place across nine days. The name Navratri comes from Sanskrit — nava means nine and ratri is night.

How is Navratri celebrated?

A woman picks up an idol representing deities and characters from Hindu mythology, used as a decoration ahead of the Navratri festival, in Chennai. AFP

In India and among Hindu communities around the world, Navratri is celebrated in different ways, but all in honour of Durga, a deity associated with protection, strength, motherhood and destruction. The festival is also a bank holiday is most parts of India.

In eastern India, it's marked by Durga puja, which celebrates the victory of Durga over the demon Mahishasur. Intricate idols of Durga are set up in marquees across various communities where songs and dances are performed across nine days. On the 10th day, the idols are immersed in water, in rivers and lakes, amid dances and celebrations.

In South India, the Durga is revered as Kali, one of her many avatars.

In North India, Ramlila events are observed, where the story of the deity Ram is enacted as per the Hindu epic Ramayana. Translating to Ram's play from Sanskrit, the age-old performance then culminates in Dussehra, where an effigy of Ravana, the demon king, is burnt, signifying the victory of good over evil.

Both the Ramlila and Durga puja are inscribed in Unesco's list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Another highlight of Navratri is the performance of garba, the communal dance which originated in the western Indian state of Gujarat. Groups of people dressed in colourful traditional clothes form circles and dance in coordinated movements using dandiyas or sticks. The garba can be quite a spectacle, with dance circles sometimes reaching hundreds of people.

Students of Swaminarayan Gurukul in traditional attire practice the garba ahead of Navratri in Ahmedabad. AP

Navratri celebrations around the world, including in the UAE, often feature concerts by top artists, with crowds performing the garba in unison.

Navaratri Utsav — Dandiya Nights, featuring top Bollywood singers, is being held this year for two nights on October 1 and 2 at Zabeel Park in Dubai. Tickets, starting at Dh20, are on sale online.

When is Navratri 2022?

The dates for Navratri changes every year, as it falls in Ashvin, the seventh month of the Hindu lunar calendar. Festivities usually begin on the new moon. So this year, it begins on Monday.

Dussehra will fall on October 5.

Updated: September 26, 2022, 8:40 AM