Durga Ashtami is one of the most widely observed and celebrated days in the Hindu culture.
Durgashtami is celebrated every month on the Ashtami tithi (eighth day) of Shukla Paksha. This is why this day is often termed as Maas Durgashtami or Masik Durgashtami. However, Durga Ashtami during Navratri, especially Chaitra Navratri and Shardiya Navratri are considered the most auspicious days to seek Goddess Durga’s blessings. Durga Ashtami during Shardiya Navratri is also known as Maha Ashtami and is held in reverence by Hindus across the world.
Durga Ashtami is observed throughout India, but followers of Maa Durga in eastern states of India, particularly West Bengal, take the cake in terms of pomp and scale of celebrations. The image of Goddess Durga riding a lion and killing the dreaded demon Mahishasura with her ten arms fanning out has become synonymous with Shakti (Power). Her idol cast in the same image has come to symbolize the power of a woman when fully unleashed, and is worshipped throughout the nation.
Durga Ashtami represents the eighth day of the Navratri festival. It is believed keeping fast on this auspicious day gets you the blessings of Goddess Durga. Massive idols of the deity are installed at various pandals, homes, and offices in her reverence. Devotees throng the pandals and offer their prayers to Goddess Durga.
Durga Ashtami, as the name suggests, is dedicated to Goddess Durga. According to legend, one of Maa Durga’s avatars, Chamunda, appears on her forehead to eliminate the evil demons Chanda and Munda who aided Mahishasura in carrying out his nefarious plans. Devotees observe a day-long fast on this day to seek blessings of Goddess Durga. It is believed that one who performs Durga Ashtami Vrat with devotion is bestowed with good fortune, success, and happiness.
In several communities in India, Astra Puja (worshipping the weapons) or Ayudha Puja is also conducted in honour of Maa Durga’s chivalrous act. This day is also known as Vira Ashtami.
Navami (ninth day) and Ashtami are regarded as two auspicious days for celebrating the essence of womanhood. On the eve of Durga Ashtami, the ritual of Kanya Pujan is performed across India.
During Kanya Pujan, young girls are worshipped and are offered delicacies like Chana (chickpeas), Halwa and Puri. The feet of these young girls are cleaned by women as a mark of respect to Goddess Durga. Tilak is applied on the forehead of the young girls and they are sent off with gifts.
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