India: The vibrant celebrations of Shardiya Navratri are reaching their peak as devotees eagerly anticipate the auspicious occasion of Ashtami, which falls on October 22, 2023. Ashtami, also known as Maha Ashtami or Durga Ashtami, is the eighth day of Shardiya Navratri and the second day of Durga Puja, holding immense significance in Hindu mythology.
On this day, devotees across the country worship the eighth form of Goddess Shakti – Maa Mahagauri. According to Hindu mythology, Goddess Shailputri, known for her extraordinary beauty and fair complexion, is revered in this form as Mahagauri. Mounted on a bull, she is also known as Maa Vrisharudha and is often symbolically compared to a conch, the moon, and the white Kunda flower due to her fairness. The Goddess, clad in white attire, is affectionately referred to as Shwetambardhara.
Rituals and Celebrations:
Devotees begin the auspicious day with a purifying Mahasnan (ritual bath) to cleanse themselves of impurities, followed by donning new clothes as a mark of devotion. Homes are adorned with nine pots, representing the nine shaktis of Maa Durga, inviting a divine aura into the surroundings. One of the key rituals observed on Ashtami is the Kanya Puja, wherein nine young unmarried girls are welcomed into homes and worshipped as incarnations of Goddess Durga. Devotees perform traditional rituals, including washing the girls’ feet, applying tilak (vermilion) on their foreheads, and offering prasad comprising puri, halva, and black grams.
Additionally, the day is marked by the legendary Sandhi Puja, a sacred ritual observed at the juncture of Ashtami and Navami, signifying the divine transition of Goddess Durga’s powers. In the Bengali community, Maa Chamunda is worshipped on Ashtami, commemorating her triumph over Mahishasura’s demon associates Chanda, Munda, and Raktabija.
Guidance for Devotees:
For those observing Shardiya Navratri and planning to worship Maa Mahagauri on Ashtami, various resources detailing the significance, puja vidhi (rituals), timings, samagri (offerings), and more are available to guide them through the day’s festivities.
As the country immerses itself in the divine fervor of Navratri, the celebrations continue to unite communities, fostering a sense of spiritual devotion and cultural harmony across India.