Lasting nine nights, this Hindu festival celebrates the triumph of good over evil and honours God as a mother figure.
Durga has 10 arms. She is always accompanied by a lion or tiger and she is a destroyer, but only of what is evil. In particular, she is the destroyer of a mighty buffalo demon called Mahishasura (Mahisa), which could be killed only by a woman. The battle between them lasted nine days and nights but eventually Durga thrust her trident into the monster's chest.
For Hindus, Durga is the most important goddess and her festival consists of nine nights of dancing and music, plays, shopping, feasting and fireworks. It's a time when women wear their newest and brightest clothes and it is supposed to be a good time for buying gold or starting new projects.
Besides being a destroyer, Durga is also tender and protective. In eastern India, her festival is known as Durga Puja. In western and northern India, she is honoured in three forms (Saraswati, Lakshmi and Durga) and the festival is known as Navaratri (or Navratri), meaning "nine nights". At Dassehra (meaning the 10th day), statues of Durga are taken to a river and washed. As the statues disappear under the water, the river carries away all unhappiness and bad luck.
The festival is celebrated in many ways but (especially for young people) the nightly feasting and dancing matter most. In many areas, barley grains (or seeds of nine different plants) are sown in pots of mud at the start of Navaratri and watered and blessed daily. At Dassehra, the seedlings are given to family and friends as a blessing. In parts of India (and in Brent, north London), Gujerati communities perform stick dances in which dancers strike each other's hand-held coloured sticks.
In other places, of a demon king, Ravanna, are built out of wood and paper.
Ones in New Delhi are 30 metres high. They are packed with fireworks and then set alight when an actor shoots a blazing arrow into them.
Grow seedlings over the 10-day period. Create Durga Puja greetings cards.
Invite an Indian dance teacher to the school.
Accounts of Navaratri in Leicester:
www.bbc.co.ukradio3worldonyourstreetnavratri.shtml and www.bbc.co.ukleicestermusicworld_on_your_street200210navratri_festival_ hruti_arts.shtml