Navaratri is a festival dedicated to the worship of the Hindu deity Durga. The word Navaratri means 'nine nights' in Sanskrit, navameaning nine and ratri meaning nights. During these nine nights and ten days, nine forms of Devi are worshipped. The tenth day is commonly referred to as Vijayadashami or "Dussehra" (also spelled Dasera). Navaratri is an important major festival and is celebrated all over India and Nepal.
Nine forms of Shakti are worshipped during the Navaratris. The Devis worshipped depend on the tradition of the region.
• Amba or Jagadamba, Mother of the universe
• Annapoorna devi, The one who bestows grains (anna) in plenty (purna: used as subjective)
• Sarvamangala, The one who gives happiness (mangal) to all (sarva)
• Chandika or Chandi
On the first day of Navaratri, Following Ganapathi pooja, a welcoming ritual is performed for Goddesses Saraswati, Parvati and Lakshmi by a Vedic ritual called Kalasa Avahanam which is performed by an elderly male or female of the family. This is then followed by building a rack of odd-numbered shelves of Kolu (or Padi) (usually 3, 5, 7, 9, or 11), set up using wooden planks. After the Kolu has been covered with fabric it is then adorned with various dolls, figurines and toys according to their size, with the deities at the top. The Kolu is predominantly displayed with depictions from Puranas, court life, royal procession, ratha yatra, weddings, everyday scenes, toys, miniature kitchen utensils, anything a little girl would have played
In the evenings, women within the neighborhood invite each other to visit their homes to view the Kolu displays; they also exchange gifts and sweets. A Kuthuvilakku lamp is lit, in the middle of a decorated Rangoli, while devotional hymns and shlokas are chanted. After performing the puja, the food items that have been prepared are offered to the Goddess and then to the guests.
On the 9th day Saraswati Puja, special pujas are offered to Goddess Saraswati, the divine source of wisdom and enlightenment. Books and musical instruments are placed in the puja and worshipped as a source of knowledge.
The 10th day, Vijayadasami, is the most auspicious day of all. It was the day on which evil was finally destroyed by good. It marks a new and prosperous beginning. New ventures started on this day are believed to flourish and bring prosperity. Kids often start tutoring on this day to have a head start in their education
In the evening of "Vijayadasami", any one doll from the "Kolu" is symbolically put to sleep, and the Kalasa is moved a bit towards North to mark the end of that year's Navaratri Kolu. Prayers are offered to thank the Lord for the successful completion of that year's Kolu and with hope of a successful one the next year. Then the Kolu is dismantled and packed up for the next year.