Everything You Need to Know About Durga Ashtami
The eighth day of Durga Puja celebrations is known as ‘Durga Ashtami’ or ‘Maha Ashtami’ and considered as one of the most auspicious days of the year, according to Hinduism. In the Hindu calendar, Durga Ashtami falls on the Ashtami tithi of the Aswina month. This day is celebrated with great enthusiasm where devotees observe fast and worship the 64 Yoginis and Ashta Shakti (Eight Shaktis of Goddess Durga) during the Durga Puja rituals. The idols of Goddess Durga are installed across India while huge Durga Puja pandals are set up for people to worship and seek the blessings of the Divine Shakti. On this day, men and women wearing vibrant and traditional clothes dance late into the evening in honour of Durga. In northern India, this day is celebrated by performing ‘Kanya Puja’, a ritual in which nine girls who are below the age of 10 years are invited to the house, worshipped, offered clothes, and fed with a holy meal. Some devotees also offer Dakshina to Brahmins.
Why do we celebrate it?
As per scriptures, it is believed that the trinity, Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva gave their divine weapons to Goddess Durga and blessed her with powers of different Gods, as she was preparing for the war with the demon ‘Mahishasura’. On the day of Ashtami, Goddess Durga made use of all her power and weapons, and defeated Mahishasura. Therefore, this day came to be called as ‘Durga Ashtami’, and the ‘Maha Ashtami Puja’ is performed where all nine forms of Goddess Durga are worshipped. Devotees perform a ritual known as ‘Sandhi Puja’ or ‘Astra Puja’ where instruments and tools used in daily life are worshipped as an expression of gratitude to them.
Durga Ashtami Vrat
People in many parts of India observe the Durga Ashtami Vrat with complete devotion and dedication. Vrat is an important ritual where men and women abstain from eating or drinking throughout the day. Some people only eat fruits and drink milk on this day. Smoking, consumption of alcohol, or eating non-vegetarian food is not allowed. Devotees chant various mantras and read the Durga Chalisa. The Durga Ashtami Vrat Katha is read during the puja, and the fast is concluded after the puja, in the evening. The practise of observing a Vrat is a great way to cleanse our body from toxins, calm our mind, and improve metabolism naturally. In some parts of northern India, people follow a ritual of sowing barley seeds during the Vrat, which is later offered to the Goddess and distributed as prasad to devotees.
What Puja Samagri do I need to perform Durga Ashtami Puja at home?
- Idol or a picture of Goddess Durga
- Incense sticks
- Rice grains
- Ghee jot
- Betel leaves
- Rudraksha bead bracelet
How do I perform the Durga Ashtami Puja at home?
On the day of Durga Ashtami, a ritual is performed where nine earthen pots are placed during the puja and worshipped, as it is believed that these will invoke the nine shaktis of the Goddess. The Maha Gauri form of Goddess Durga is worshipped on the Ashtami Tithi. In front of the idol or picture of the Goddess, a saree, sacred water in a Kalash, rice grains, betel leaves, coconut, and vermillion are placed. The idol of the Goddess is decorated with jasmine flowers. One can wear a Rudraksha beads bracelet while performing the Ashtami Puja. A Ganesh Puja is performed at the beginning to seek the blessings of the Lord. Maa Mahagauri is worshipped by chanting mantras and the Panchopchara Puja is performed, where 5 different items are offered in which each item represents the five elements of the universe - Gandha, Pushpa, Dhupa, Dipa, and Naivedhya.
After that a ghee jot is lit along with incense sticks, and a prayer is offered to Goddess Durga. Some naivedhyam, fruits, and flowers are offered to the Divine Shakti. The following Ashtami mantra is chanted by the devotees –
‘’Sarva Swarupe Sarveshe, Sarva Shakti Samanvite
Bhaye Bhyastraahi No Devi, Durge Devi Namostute’’
After that, the Shri Durga Chalisa is recited, and the Ashtami Puja is concluded by an Aarti. Once the Puja is over, the naivedhyam is distributed among everyone.
May Maa Durga illuminate your lives with divine blessings of joy, wealth, and good health.
India Sajawat & Puja Hut wishes you a Happy Durga Ashtami!