Durga Ashtami or Maha Ashtami is the eighth day of navaratri and most important day of the ten days long Durga Puja festival celebrated every year with religious zeal. This day is attributed to Goddess Shakti, an avatar of Durga who is symbolic of eternal power and the victory of ‘good’ over the ‘evil’. In India, fasting is observed by devotees on this holy occasion. This day is also known as ‘Astra Puja’ (Worshiping weapons) as on this day the weapons of goddess Durga are worshipped.
It is believed in some religions, the Goddess Kali appeared on this day from the forehead of mother Durga and annihilated Chanda, Munda and Raktabija (The demons who were associated with Mahishasura). Several temples of the deity organize big scale pujas and ‘havans’ that are attended by devotees in large numbers. It ends with Sandhi puja, which converges into the next day which is known as Mahanavami day. This year, Durgaashtami will be celebrated on 17th October.
When is Durgashtami celebrated?
Durgashtami is celebrated on the eighth day of Navratri that commences from ‘Mahalaya’ in the Indian month of Ashwin. This falls in the Shukla paksha of the month. According to the Gregorian calendar, it is celebrated in the month of September-October every year. This year durgashtmi is celebrated on Wednesday, 17th October.
The 64 yoginis and Ashta Nayikas (the eight consorts of Goddess Durga) are worshiped during the Durga Puja rituals on Mahashtami. The Ashta Nayikas, also known as Eight shaktis, are interpreted differently in different regions of India. But ultimately, all the eight goddesses are incarnation of Shakti. They are the same powerful Divine Feminine, representing different energies.
The Ashta Nayikas worshiped during Durga Puja are Brahmani, Maheshwari, Kameswari, Vaishnavi, Varahi, Narasinghi, Indrani and Chamunda.
Goddess Durga is worshipped by establishing a ‘ghat’ in front, red sandalwood paste, fruits, flowers, sweets, betel leaves, cardamom and coins are distributed among the kin.
A tradition associated with Durga Ashtami originated in North India is to honor the Kanjaks in the home in the ritual known as Kanya Pujan. A group of young, unmarried girls (five or seven) are invited into the home to honor them. The tradition is based on the belief that each of these young girls (kanjaks), represents the shakti (energy) of Durga on Earth. The group of girls are welcomed by washing their feet, welcoming them into the home, and then the rituals are done as Aarti and Puja. After the rituals the girls are fed sweets and food and honored with small gifts.
It is believed that people who observe a staunch fast on this day to please Mother Durga are always taken care by her benevolence and such people are always free of delusions of any kind in life.
Most of us wait all year long for the Ashtami bhog. It is completely different than from the bhog on rest of the Pujo days. The khichdi or khichur using mixed vegetables (green peas,potato,beans,cauliflower) is served with sand payesh(kheer). Most of the pandals usually serve rice, chana dal, a curry of paneer, mixed vegetables, begun bhaja(eggplant fritters), tomato chutney, papad, rajbhog and the Payesh.
Here’s wishing you all a Happy Ashtami 2018 from whatSHElikes team!