Durga Ashtami – Victory of Good over the Evil !
Durga Ashtami is thought to be among the most auspicious days of the year. This year Durga Ashtami falls on 22nd October. It is basically the 8th day of Durga Navratri. This festival is celebrated all over India with differed rituals and practices. This festival is celebrated as a victory of Goddess Durga over the demon Mahishasur. The devotees of Durga ask for her blessings and offer prayers on Durga Ashtami.
Durga Navratri or Durga Puja is celebrated with immense joy across the nation. The period of nine days of Navratri is filled with essence of spirituality. Temples of Goddess Durga is decorated with flowers and lights. Devotees are noticed to be singing devotional songs or ‘bhajans’ the whole day and abstain from eating non vegetarian food
Rituals and Festivities
Durga Ashtami is also known as Maha Ashtami which is one of the most important day of Navratri. Astra Puja is performed during this day. It is the ritual of worshipping the weapons of Goddess Durga used to kill Mahishasur. This day is also called as Virashtami and many shows are put up to portray the significance of martial art forms and use of arms and weapons.
Kumari Puja and Kanjak Puja also takes place on the day of Maha Ashtami. People carry out puja for seven young girls on this day. Girls are treated as goddess and are offered food like ‘puri-halwa’ along with gifts or money. People take blessings by washing and touching the feet of young girls.
On this day new clothes are offered to the idol of Goddess Durga along with other items like jewellery, kajal, dhoti, aalta etc. On this day both men and women observe fast and offer prayers to the goddess. Shakti temples of goddess organise special pujas and are visited by millions of devotees. The day comes to end with ‘Sandhi Puja’.
A special type of ritual called as ‘sandhi puja’ is also performed on the juncture of Ashtami and Navami. During this puja, Goddess Durga is thought to be in her most powerful form, ‘Chamunda’. Sacrifices are offered in various places during this time.
Places to visit
West Bengal: Durga Puja is celebrated most among the Bengalis. If you are a festival fanatic and want to celebrate Durga Ashtami with all rituals then West Bengal is your place. In places like Kolkata, the city seems to halt for ten days in order to celebrate Durga Puja. Puja tents or pandals are spread over all places. Competitions are also held for the most beautiful pandals and decoration. Kali temples in Kolkata organise for sacrifices during the time of Sandhi Puja. Buffalos and goats are sacrificed in front of goddess to portray her superior power.
Gujrat: The custom of Garba Dance and Dandiya takes place in Gujrat on the day of Durga Ashtami. This custom symbolises the divine maternal energy. Garba dance originally originated in praise for Goddess Mahishasura Mardini who killed the evil Mahishasura and protected million lives. Whereas, the sticks used for Dandiya Raas dance symbolises the sword in the hand of Durga.
(Author: Nishita Banerjee)