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The month September started with one of the most awaited festivals, Navratri. Dedicated to goddess Durga, the celebration continues for nine days and nine nights. The eighth day of Navratri, Mahashtami or Durga Mahashtami, is one of the most important and auspicious days of Navratri. Durga Ashtami is also the second day of Durga Puja, which is one of the biggest festivals in West Bengal. Many rituals are followed on Ashtami puja. This is also the day when weapons are worshipped, which is known as ‘Astra Puja’. Also Read - 'Extend Lockdown Period Till April 30 to Contain COVID-19,' CAIT Writes to Centre

This year Ashtami tithi started at 9:24 pm on October 8 and will end at 10:30 pm on October 9. Also Read - Dream11 Team Prediction Managua vs Deportivo Ocotal Nicaragua League 2020: Captain, Vice-Captain And Football Tips For MNG vs OCO Today's Match at Estadio Nacional de Futbol 4AM IST

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According to legends, goddess Kali appeared from the goddess Durga’s forehead on Ashtami to annihilate Rakthabija, Munda and Chanda, who were the associates of the Mahishasur. So, the people follow the tradition of worshipping the eight consorts of goddess Durga or Ashta Nayikas and the 64 yoginis on the day of Mahashtami. The Ashta Nayikas (Maheswari, Brahmini, Vaishnavi, Varahi, Kameswari, Indrani, Narasinghi and Chamunda) are the eight incarnations of Durga and represents the divine energies of the goddess.

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The Mahashtami puja vidhi

Mahashtami puja starts with ‘Mahasnan’. After taking a bath, Shodashopachar puja is performed. Goddess Durga is worshipped with kumkum, lamp, flowers and dhoop. Nine small pots are installed on this day and the goddess’ nine Shaktis are invoked in these pots by performing a ritual. The goddess is offered puri, halwa and black chana. A diya is made using wheat flour or atta. This diya or lamp is lit and placed in the middle of the offerings. The following shloka is also chanted:

“Sarva Mangala Maangalye, Shive Sarvaartha Saadhike

Sharanye Tryambake Gaurii, Naaraayanii Namostute”

halwa puri

The lamp made of atta is later placed under a tree near a temple or is flattened out to make a puri. On Ashtami, the food is made without using onion or garlic.

In North India, young, unmarried girls are worshipped on Ashtami. This tradition is known as Kumari Puja in which the kanjaks or the young girls are honoured and worshipped. It is believed that each of these kanjaks represents Durga’s shakti on earth. A group of seven to nine girls are invited home. One boy below the age of seven is also invited and in some regions, he is called the ‘langura’. They are welcomed by the ceremonial washing of feet and are fed puri, black chana, halwa and other sweets. They are also given a small gift.

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Another ritual followed on Ashtami is the Sandhi Puja. This puja is performed during the period between the last 24 minutes of Ashtami and the initial 24 minutes of Navami. This time period is believed to be very auspicious and is called Sandhi time or Sandhi kaal. This puja is the festival’s most important ritual as it is believed to be the culmination point. Animal sacrifice or bali is performed on this day at sacred places. Symbolic bali with vegetables is performed by those who do not believe in sacrificing animals. As part of the ritual, 108 earthen lamps are lit during the Sandhi period or Sandhi kaal. Goddess Durga is also offered gold ring, flowers, a nose ring, a small sari, a piece of iron, a small mat and bhog. Devotees perform aarti and distribute Prasad.


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