Navrathri means "nine nights" of worshipping of the Goddess in three of her most well known manifestations in the Hindu tradition. The goddess Durga is worshipped during the first three nights. The next three nights are devoted to Lakshmi, and the last three nights are devoted to Saraswathi.
One of the most empowering stories in Hindu tradition, especially for women, is the story behind Durga worship. One version goes like this: The gods were not able to defeat the powerful demon, Mahisasura (half man, half buffalo). They ran to the Goddess and begged her to help them. The Goddess took the form of Durga to defeat Mahisasura, which she did in an epic battle. As with so much of Hindu tradition, the story is understood on many levels. Good triumphs over evil. The gods needed the special qualities of the feminine to vanquish Mahisasura, who represents negative forces such as ignorance, inertia and darkness. By worshiping Durga, the devotee is summoning her or his inner Shakti or power, to destroy her or his inner negativity, so that she or he may lead a more enlightened, happier life.
Next, we worship Laksmi for material success in our chosen careers - and spiritual prosperity on the way there. We ask that she purify our minds so that we can more readily accept knowledge, and achieve real wealth: awareness, discipline, peace, strength and wisdom. This kind of wealth helps us put material wealth in a proper, non-destructive, context.
Last, by worshipping Saraswathi, we ask the Goddess to grant us knowledge and artistry, and perhaps more importantly we pray that she help us develop the skills by which such knowledge is acquired: focus, patience, a clear mind free of preconceptions, curiosity and passion.
So this Navrathri, we will be celebrating by eating great food, dancing the traditional dance of joy of the gopis, and spending time with our families and loved ones. But we are also celebrating the power of the Goddess for nine nights.
Finally, in light of recent events, let us be keenly aware that we as Hindus cannot worship the Goddess and celebrate her strength and magnificence without respecting all women. She is within all of us, whoever we are.
Here's a traditional Sanksrit version of the Mahishasura Mardini devotional: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3m84L2H3t80