Durga Ashtami 2020: Durga Puja celebrations are in full swing in India, this year, people are engaging in merriment in a safe manner due to the novel Coronavirus. On the eighth day of Navratri, Goddess Mahagauri is worshipped, the day is celebrated as Durga Ashtami or Maha Ashtami. Also Read - 'Should Have Done My Research': Cardi B Apologises After Receiving Backlash For 'Goddess Durga' Look

Worshipping Goddess Mahagauri, the avatar of Goddess Durga is considered auspicious. She is the eighth manifestation of the goddess Durga and amongst the Navadurgas. The ten-armed goddess riding the lion is highly regarded and even the weapons of Goddess Durga are worshipped while reciting mantras in a ritual known as Astra Puja. Also Read - 'This is Disrespect': Rapper Cardi B Poses as 'Goddess Durga' to Advertise New Sneaker Collection, Indians Are Enraged

Durga Puja begins from the sixth day, i.e. Maha Sashti, and ends with Maha Dashami, the tenth day. The eighth day of Navratri is considered the most important day. Also Read - Kolkata's FD Block Durga Puja Pandal Gutted in Massive Fire Ahead of Idol Immersion

This time around there is confusion among the people regarding the dates of Durga Ashtami, Mahanavami, and Dussehra. The dates based on Hindi Panchang do not work the same way as the dates in the English calendar i.e. 24-hour pattern. These dates can be less than 24 hours and sometimes even longer. Many times, these tithis fall on the same date, leading to two fasts or festivals falling on the same day.

This year, the tithi for Maha Ashtami began a day early and hence both Ashtami and Nabami will fall on the same day.

Date and timing

Durga Maha Ashtami to fall on October 24, 2020. The tithi for Ashtami begun from 6.57 am on October 23 and will last till 6.58 am.

Understanding the significance of Maha Ashtami:

Durga Puja is celebrated across the country with much fanfare. Bengalis consider this festival one of the biggest in their community. On Maha Ashtami, people worship the incarnation of Chamunda, Goddess Shakti.
As per Drikpanchang, Durga Puja on Maha Ashtami begins with Mahasnan and Shodashopachar Puja (षोडशोपचार पूजा) which is very much similar to Maha Saptami Puja except Prana Pratishtha (प्राण प्रतिष्ठा) which is done only once on Maha Saptami.

On Maha Ashtami, nine small pots are installed and nine Shaktis of Durga are invoked in them. All nine forms of Goddess Durga are worshipped during Maha Ashtami Puja.

On the day of Ashtami, before breaking the fast, nine girls below the age of ten are worshipped and are fed sumptuously and, amongst other things, presented with new clothes. Worshipping of young girls during Durga Puja is known as Kumari Puja. In many regions, Kumari Puja is done during all nine days of Durga Navratri. Kumari Puja on a single day during Durga Puja is preferred on Maha Ashtami, as per Drikpanchang.

Bhog:

On this day, coconut is offered in the form of bhog to please the deity. For prasad, you can also make coconut ladoo or barfi. Apart from this, the traditional fare of poori, chana, and halwa is prepared on this day.

This year, instead of distributing Prashad or calling Kanya (girls) for puja at home, help the needy, in view of the Covid-19 outbreak.