Nine Nights of the Goddess

The Navarātri Festival in South Asia

Edited by Caleb Simmons, Moumita Sen, and Hillary Rodrigues

Subjects: India And South Asian Studies, Hindu Studies, Religion, Ethnography, Cultural Anthropology
Series: SUNY series in Hindu Studies
Hardcover : 9781438470696, 374 pages, August 2018
Paperback : 9781438470702, 374 pages, July 2019

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Table of contents

List of Figures and Tables

Introduction: Movements of Navarātri
Caleb Simmons and Moumita Sen

Navarātri in the Court

1. The Splendor of the Sun: Brightening the Bridge between Mārkaṇḍeya Purāṇa and Devī Māhātmya in Light of Navarātra Ritual Timing
Raj Balkaran

2. Which Durgā? What avarātra? Remarks on Reconfigurations of Royal Rituals in the Kathmandu Valley
Astrid Zotter

3. The King and the Yadu Line: Performing Lineage through Dasara in Nineteenth-Century Mysore
Caleb Simmons

4. Dasara and the Selective Decline of Sacrificial Polity in a Former Princely State of Odisha
Uwe Skoda

Navarātri on Display

5. Politics, Religion, and Art in the Durgā Pūjā of West Bengal
Moumita Sen

6. Durgā Pūjā Committees: Community Origin and Transformed Mediatized Practices Employing Social Media
Xenia Zeiler

7. Navarātri in Benares: Narrative Structures and Social Realities
Silje Lyngar Einarsen

8. Dolls and Demons: The Materiality of Navarātri
Ina Marie Lunde Ilkama

9. Ritual Complementarity and Difference: Navarātri and Vijayadaśamī in Kāñcipuram
Ute Hüsken

Navarātri Inside

10. Bengali Durgā Pūjā: Procedures and Symbolism
Hillary Rodrigues

11. The Internal Navarātri: Sarkar baba of Benares and the Goddess Within
Jishnu Shankar

Navarātri at Home

12. Kolus, Caste and Class: Navarātri as a Site for Ritual and Social Change in Urban South India
Nicole A. Wilson

13. Display Shows, Display Tells: The Aesthetics of Memory during Pommai Kolu
Deeksha Sivakumar

14. Royal Darbār and Domestic Kolus: Social order, Creation, Procreation, and Re-creation
Vasudha Narayanan

15. Navarātra and Kanyā Pūjā: The Worship of Girls as Representatives of the Goddess in Northwest India
Brigitte Luchesi

Hillary Rodrigues


Explores the contemporary nature and the diverse narratives, rituals, and performances of the Navarātri Festival.


Nine Nights of the Goddess explores the festival of Navarātri—alternatively called Navarātra, Mahānavamī, Durgā Pūjā, Dasarā, and/or Dassain—which lasts for nine nights and ends with a celebration called Vijayadaśamī, or "the tenth (day) of victory." Celebrated in both massive public venues and in small, private domestic spaces, Navarātri is one of the most important and ubiquitous festivals in South Asia and wherever South Asians have settled. These festivals share many elements, including the goddess, royal power, the killing of demons, and the worship of young girls and married women, but their interpretation and performance vary widely. This interdisciplinary collection of essays investigates Navarātri in its many manifestations and across historical periods, including celebrations in West Bengal, Odisha, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, and Nepal. Collectively, the essays consider the role of the festival's contextual specificity and continental ubiquity as a central component for understanding South Asian religious life, as well as how it shapes and is shaped by political patronage, economic development, and social status.

Caleb Simmons is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Arizona. Moumita Sen is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Oslo, Norway. Hillary Rodrigues is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Lethbridge, Canada. His books include Ritual Worship of the Great Goddess: The Liturgy of the Durgā Pūjā with Interpretations, also published by SUNY Press.


"…Nine Nights is credible research on the nine auspicious nights of the Navarātri. The narrative of the authors and their experiences in conducting the research make the book an engaging text. It is an informative read for those inquisitive about the festival's textual sources and the ways of practicing the festival that may or may not reflect the textual descriptions, making the book a valuable contribution to the existing literature on tradition of Hindu festivals." — Reading Religion

"…Nine Nights of the Goddess is a masterfully edited and handsomely produced collection of studies of outstanding scholarship on a very popular Hindu religious festival … This is undoubtedly a scholarly magnum opus on the Magna Mater of Hindu South Asia." — Nidān

"This is a unique collection of marvelously diverse perspectives on one of the most prominent contemporary Hindu festivals. Even those who know much about Durgā Pūjā should prepare to be fascinated by the work of these scholars." — Patricia Dold, Memorial University