Literal meaning – ‘nine nights’, this nine-day period from the
new moon day to the ninth day of Ashvin is considered the most auspicious
time of the Hindu Calendar and is hence the most celebrated time of
the year. Although it has different names in different parts of India,
it is celebrated by Hindus from all regions. It is celebrated with great
enthusiasm as the conquest of good over evil. Every region has its own
myths and reasons to explain this.
The nine different aspects of Devi are worshipped over the nine days. These are the most popular forms under which she is worshipped:
The festivities culminate on the tenth day, called variously Vijayadashmi, Dushehra when people in most parts of the country burn effigies of Ravana, Meghanatha and Kumbhakarna.
Some people fast on all nine days, eating only fruit and milk dishes.
Some fast only on the eighth or ninth day. As the festival is dear to
the mother goddess, on the eighth or ninth day many people invite over
nine young girls from the neighborhood. These girls are treated as the
goddess herself. People ceremonially wash their feet, worship them and
then offer food to the "girl-goddesses".