Maha Navratri or Sharad Navratri is the most significant of the four Navratris – Chaitra Navratri, Paush Navratri, Magha Navratri and Sharad Navratri- celebrated throughout the year. This year, Navratri began on September 21 and will continue till September 29. The ninth and the last day of Navratri is known as the Mahanavami.
It is also the third day of Durga Puja and the final day of Durga’s fight with the demon Mahishasura, whom she defeated on the tenth day or Vijayadashmi. On this day Durga is worshipped as Mahishasuramardini, which means the Goddess who killed Mahishasura, the buffalo demon.
The Navami rituals are meant to bid farewell to Durga who is supposed to ride back to heaven. It starts with a holy bath and then followed by a special Shodhasopachar of the deity. In areas of Bengal, this festival is celebrated with great gusto. Huge pandals are set up and the devotees participate in the festivities by dressing up for the occasion, partaking of the delicious meals and organising cultural events.
In parts of India, unmarried girls who have not attained puberty are worshipped as Durga. Their feet are washed and decorated with Alta and are also given halwa, puri, chana and gifts by the devotees who invite them to their houses for the ritual.