In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Navarātri (Navarātra)

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Ritual Worlds of Navarātri
  • Navarātri and Kingship
  • Navarātri and Sanskrit Texts
  • Recent Rethinking of Navarātri
  • Navarātri and Arts
  • Multimedia Resources

Hinduism Navarātri (Navarātra)
Caleb Simmons
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 September 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 September 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399318-0258


The Navarātri festival, also known as Dasain, Dasara, Durga Puja, Mahanavami, and Navarātra, depending on what part of the world the celebration is taking place in, is performed and commemorated throughout India and all over the world. The festival’s name, “Navarātri,” means “nine nights,” which also describes the length of the celebration, which culminates in the final tenth day, known as the “the victorious tenth day” or Vijayadashami. Navarātris are celebrated at different times of the year, the most common celebrations taking place in spring and autumn. Of these two, the autumnal Navarātri festival that takes place during the Hindu month of Ashvina (September-October) is the most ubiquitous. Due to Navarātri’s importance throughout South Asia and in many different Hindu traditions, there exists great diversity in historical and regional celebrations of the festival. Most likely this has always been the case, with innumerable local, regional, and non-Brahminical versions of the festival and its narratives. However, there are also standard points of convergence that united most if not all Navarātris. These include an emphasis on the goddess, the killing of demons, royal power, worship of weapons, worship of young girls and married women, and puja to the shami tree. Scholarly discussion and analysis of the festival, as well as the interpretation of the myths related to it, vary widely, being approached by a wide range of academic disciplines.

General Overviews

Concise general presentations of the Navarātri can be found in Crooke 1915, Foulston and Abbott 2009, and Fuller 1992. Coburn 1991 provides a more in-depth analysis of the ritual role of the Devimahatmya in Navarātri. Finally, Simmons, et al. 2018 and Hüsken, et al. 2021 provide introductions to the festival in general, as well as edited collections of essays that study various aspects of Navarātri throughout South Asia.

  • Coburn, Thomas B. Encountering the Goddess: A Translation of the Devī-Māhātmya and a Study of its Interpretation. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991.

    This text is much more than a translation of the Devi Mahatmya, and its lasting value is in its study of the use of the text in ritual contexts. The direct discussion of the role of the text in Navarātri (referred to as Durga Puja in the text) can be found on pp. 149–156.

  • Crooke, William. “The Dasahra: An Autumn Festival of the Hindus.” Folklore 26.1 (31 March 1915): 28–59.

    DOI: 10.1080/0015587X.1915.9719701

    In this dated article, the author provides an interesting overview of the celebration of both the spring and autumnal celebrations of Navarātri/Dasara. The article in rapid fashion covers a broad swath of regions and styles of celebrations. While the article does not follow many of our contemporary scholarly conventions, the breadth of the essay and its examples provide a solid starting point for understanding the diversity of the celebrations of Navarātri.

  • Foulston, Lynn, and Stuart Abbott. Hindu Goddesses: Beliefs and Practices. Eastborne, UK: Sussex Academic Press, 2009.

    This book provides an introduction to Hindu goddesses and their attendant systems of belief and ritual. In its chapter on “Goddess Festivals,” the authors provide a very succinct overview of Navarātri, focusing on Durga Puja in Kolkata, pp. 156–169.

  • Fuller, C. J. The Camphor Flame: Popular Hinduism and Society in India. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992.

    This book is an overview of Hindu traditions. Navarātri is mentioned in several sections of the text, but Navarātri is one of the primary focal points for its chapter on rituals of kingship (pp. 106–154). In this chapter, the author discusses the ritual timing of Navarātri and its celebrations in historical context in the Vijayanagara kingdom, in contemporary Mewar, and as a village festival.

  • Hüsken, Ute, Vasudha Narayanan, and Astrid Zotter, eds. Nine Nights of Power: Durgā, Dolls, and Darbārs. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2021.

    This anthology of essays is the follow-up to the Navarātri anthology edited by Simmons, et al. 2018 This text has a greater emphasis on visuals and expands the regions of study into different regions of India, as well as studies of its iterations in Western Europe and North America.

  • Sarkar, Bihani. “Towards a History of the Navarātra, the Autumnal Festival of the Goddess” In Śaivism and Tantric Traditions. Edited by Dominic Goodall, Shaman Hatley, Harunaga Isaacson, and Srilata Raman, 321–345. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2020.

    DOI: 10.1163/9789004432802_015

    This chapter provides an important historical survey of many of the early Navarātri descriptions and hermeneutics of the festival’s rituals throughout the varied traditions that celebrate it. Sarkar systematically traces these references to consider how regional Navarātris were shaped through this historical and theological process. Especially helpful is Table 13.1 (pp. 326–328), in which the author maps the development of Navarātri festivals through a timeline of four important historical periods.

  • Simmons, Caleb, Moumita Sen, and Hillary Rodrigues, eds. Nine Nights of the Goddess: The Navarātri Festival in South Asia. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2018.

    This collection of essays was the first of its kind to focus solely on Navarātri. Growing from the Navarātri working group from Oslo University, this anthology explores a wide array of historical and contemporary iterations of the autumnal Navarātri celebration in South Asia in both public and domestic settings. Its essays focus on Navarātri in Bengal, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Nepal, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, and Uttar Pradesh.

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