This year, Navaratri starts on Oct 5, which is a nine day festival celebrated by Hindus of Indian origin all over the world. Navaratri literally means “nine nights”. It is celebrated for nine nights and ten days in the beginning of autumn culminating in Dusshera, which symbolizes the victory of good over evil. According to Hindu mythology, Dusshera was the day when Goddess Durga killed the demon Mahishasur and Lord Rama gained victory over the evil king Ravana.
Navaratri and Dusshera are celebrated in many places in Phoenix. Bharatiya Ekta Mandir and Indo American Foundation in north Phoenix are organizing special religious and cultural events all through the eight days (Oct 5-Oct 12). For more details of the events check the website http://ektamandir.org/2013/08/30/navratri-only-at-mandir/. Bengali Cultural Association of Arizona is organizing its annual Durga Puja festival at IACRF Hall in Maryland Avenue on Oct 19-20. It is a fun filled event with religious services, delicious food and multidimensional cultural programs on both days. This year they also have two guest artists (Bishakh and Torsha Sarkar) from India performing live on Oct 20. For details on events and ticket prices see the website http://www.azbengal.org/
Navaratri is also the time when a lot of people perform fasts and abstain from certain types for food. Usually people avoid meat, fish or poultry, eggs, any dish with onions, garlic etc. On certain select days (Sashti, day 6 or Ashtami, day 8) lot of people do not eat food cooked with grains like rice or wheat. So food eaten during fasts usually contains alternate grains like sago, semolina or khus khus and beans like Bengal grams. A popular vegetable for fasting is potato (both regular and sweet). Also many people do not cook food using table salt and instead use a kind of rock salt called sindhav namak. Check out the lists for five food items that can be eaten during Navaratri. All the recipes are very simple and ingredients are available in all Indian grocery stores in Phoenix area.