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What is Navaratri?

Navratri, also spelled Navaratri, is a Hindu festival celebrated for nine nights and ten days. 

Some Sikh and Jain communities also observe Navaratri. The word Navratri is a combination of “nava” (meaning nine) and “ratri” (meaning nights). Each year, the dates of Navratri festival are set based on the lunar calendar. In 2021, the festival takes place from Thursday, October 7th to Friday, October 15th. Hindus commemorate Navratri for various reasons and in different ways, reflecting the diversity of the South Asian diaspora. 

Navratri honors three major goddesses in Hinduism:

  • Durga, the goddess of energy, strength, determination, and protection
  • Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, good fortune, power, and beauty
  • Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, music, and art

Navratri is a celebration of women and empowerment in Hindu culture. It honors the victory of good over evil. The first three nights celebrate Durga, the next three celebrate Lakshmi, and the final three celebrate Saraswati. 

How is Navaratri observed?

Every Hindu celebrates Navratri in a unique way. Some may fast or eat vegetarian food, while others dance and feast. Most festivities include family, feasts, dances, and religious ceremonies. Garba and Golu are also common parts of the celebration.

Garba, most famous in Gujarat, is a folk dance accompanied by a live orchestra. Hundreds to thousands of people of all ages and backgrounds dance in concentric circles through the night. Many of these dances include coordinated steps with dandiyas or wooden sticks. 

Golu is a festive display of idols, mostly celebrated in South India. Displays are typically organized on an odd number of steps and depict religious stories or family events. Over the course of the festival, families visit each other’s golu displays, sing devotional songs, and share a traditional meal.

The festival ends on the tenth day, on Dussehra or Vijayadashmi. Dussehra celebrates the triumph of good over evil. Some Hindus celebrate Durga puja, a ritual commemorating Durga’s victory over the demon Mahishasura. A large procession carries the clay statues of Durga that they have celebrated throughout Navaratri to the closest river or ocean where the statues are submerged. Other parts of India honor Rama’s victory over the demon Ravana. Vijayadashami celebrates the goddess Saraswati. Devotees worship the tools they use for their livelihood at the altar, now featuring textbooks and laptops.

How can you be respectful of Navaratri and those who are celebrating it?

Navratri honors strong women in Hinduism. Employers can take action to honor Navratri by creating a workplace that is inclusive and supportive to all women. Investigate pay equity within your organization to better understand potential gender pay gaps. Celebrate the accomplishments of women in your industry, and take the time to ask your existing women employees how you might better support their success.

People observe Navratri in unique ways depending on their family history and customs. When you wish your employees a “Happy Navaratri” over social media, it’s helpful to use language like blessed, joyous, prosperous, and happiness. For instance, you might say: 

  • We wish you a prosperous Navaratri with your loved ones.
  • Wishing you a happy and prosperous Navratri. May this festival bring you happiness and success. 
  • Happy Navratri to you and your family. May the nine days of Navratri light up your lives with love, laughter, and positivity.

Or consider using this moment to share what you’re learning about Navratri, perhaps even linking back to this blog. For example: 

  • Navaratri is a Hindu festival honoring the three Hindu goddesses of strength, prosperity, and knowledge. At our company, we celebrate the women that have contributed to and led our organization over the years. Happy Navratri!

By learning more about different cultures, holidays, and traditions, we can better understand how to be respectful and inclusive of each person’s intersecting identities, backgrounds, and experiences. As part of Global Diversity Awareness Month, Happy Navratri from The Diversity Movement!