Navaraathiri is the 9 day Hindu festival, occurring in Autumn, usually in October, celebrating the Goddess Durga with the strengths of three different forms to defeat the demon Mahishasura – a victory of good overcoming evil.

Specifically, the first three days are to worship Durga: the Goddess of strength, bravery and protector of all that is good. Then the next three days praise Lakshmi: the Goddess of material and spiritual prosperity. Finally the last three days focus on Saraswathi: the Goddess of wisdom and knowledge, particularly of the arts.

Normally, it is celebrated animatedly through the use of prayer, music and dance. However, this year due to coronavirus, the festivities were unfortunately minimised, because of the lack of people allowed to enter temples. This resulted in a quieter celebration. However, no amount of masks could cover or quiet our spirits....

It was during this time where I found myself appreciating this beautiful festival even more, as it enabled me to reflect upon my many years of performing Bharatanatyam ( Indian classical dance) at temples, embracing gratitude for my rich, colourful and unifying culture.

Additionally, it was a time of individual reflection of how acknowledging personal struggles throughout this stressful and testing year, illuminates the importance of small wins, such as staying positive and hopeful on days where this has felt impossible, especially in our current circumstances. Like Durga, it is a reminder of the message of fighting courageously day by day, little by little. No, victory and peace may not always be reached after 9 days or even 9 months, but at the heart of Navaraathiri lies the significance of its implicit message: ‘keep fighting’.

Finally, I’ll leave you with this: embrace and appreciate your culture and roots, regardless of external problems, because you will learn more about part of who you are. Who are you? What struggles have you personally overcome so far this year? Once you remember what that is....celebrate it!

- Saambavii Suthakaran, Caterham High School