Durgashtami – Worship of the Great Fair Goddess
Durga Puja Ashtami is considered as the most important day of the Durga Puja Festival. The pan-Indian festival of Navratri spans nine nights and ten days. During this festival, the nine forms of Goddess Durga are worshipped. Hence, Ashtami, the eighth lunar day of Navratri or Durga Puja, is known as Durgashtami (Durga Ashtami) or Maha Ashtami.
“Om Devi Mahagauryayi Namah”
Navratri is a commemoration of the triumph of Goddess Durga over the demon Mahishasur. The nine-day celebration represents the nine days of the battle of the good against evil and the ultimate triumph of the good. The Navratri festival of the autumn season, known as Sharada Navratri, is celebrated from the Pratipada (the phase after the new moon) to the Dashami (tenth lunar phase) during the Shukla paksha (bright fortnight) of the Ashwin month. The last five days of this festival, from Sashti (sixth lunar phase) to Dashami, are celebrated as Durga Puja. Durgashtami or Maha Ashtami (the eighth lunar phase) is one of the most auspicious days of Navratri and Durga Puja festivals.
Durga Ashtami 2021 Date & Important Timings
When is Durga Ashtami 2021
2021 Durgashtami is on October 13, Wednesday
Ashtami Tithi Begining: 21:49:38 on October 12, 2021
Ashtami Tithi Ending : 20:09:56 on October 13, 2021
Sandhi Puja timing: 07:43 PM to 08:31 PM on October 13, 2021
Mahagauri: Form of Durga worshipped on Maha Ashtami
During Navratri, each day is dedicated to a separate form or manifestation of the goddess, and on Ashtami (eighth lunar day), the form Mahagauri is worshipped. Goddess Mahagauri is known for fulfilling the wishes of her devotees. According to the legend, she is so fair that her skin tone is comparable to jasmine and Chandan. This is why the devotees call her Mahagauri, ‘Maha’ means great and ‘Gauri’ means fair. She has four arms, and she rides on a bull. Her one right arm stays in Abhaya Mudra, and the other holds the Trishul (trident); on the left side, one arm holds the Damru (a small hand drum), and the other stays in Varada Mudra.
On Maha Ashtami, women pray to Mahagauri to bless them with happiness and abundance. Also, it is believed that worshipping her will help to reduce the ill effects of Rahu, the shadowy planet.
Durga Ashtami Puja and Other Rituals
Worshipping Goddess Mahagauri on Durga Ashtami is considered auspicious. She is the eighth among the Navadurgas, the nine manifestations of Goddess Durga. The process of worship on Durga Ashtami is the same as that of Saptami except for the Pran Prathishta, which is done only on Saptami. Durga Puja on Maha Ashtami begins with Mahasnan and Shodashopachar Puja, which is very much similar to Maha Saptami Puja. In the Mahashtami Puja, all the nine forms of the supreme Goddess Durga are worshipped. This involves installing nine small pots and invoking the nine Shaktis or avatars of Durga in them.
Durga Ashtami 2021 is also special because the Ashta Sakthi or the eight consorts of Goddess Durga are worshipped on the day. The Ashta Shakti includes Brahmani, Maheswari, Kaumari, Vaishnavi, Varahi, Narasinghi, Indrani, and Chamunda, who are all different representations of the same divine feminine energy, Goddess Durga.
The other rituals of the day include Astra Puja, Kanya Puja and Sandhi Puja. Devotees also observe a day-long fast or Vrat to seek her divine protection and blessings for peace, prosperity, and happiness. This is also a day of zesty celebrations. People erect enormous Puja Pandals (tents), install idols of Durga, and celebrate by dancing and wearing traditional outfits.
Astra Puja is an important ritual observed on the day of Durgashtami. As per the belief, ten-armed Goddess Durga, carrying various weapons, slew the evil Mahishasur. The Astra Puja ritual involves worshipping the weapons of the goddess. This ritual is observed in various regions of India with some variations. In South India, the ritual Ayudha Puja is observed on Mahanavami (Ninth day of Navratri), which involves the worship of tools used for working and studying.
The devotees, on this day, clean their tools and arrange them along with the goddess idol or picture for worshipping. All work equipment, including industrial machinery, vehicles, computers, books, mechanical tools, artist tools, study tools, etc., are worshipped on this day. This act of worshipping tools is an expression of gratitude for the prosperity received in the previous year. Also, worshipping tools alongside God is symbolic of worshipping one’s own profession or job.
Kumari Puja or Kanya Pujan is a tradition followed in North India on the occasion of Durgashtami. It’s a ritual in which unmarried girls are worshipped like Goddess Durga. Some people observe this ritual on Navami too. The traditions associated with Navratri and Durga Puja give more importance to women, which is a stark reminder of the power and status held by women in ancient India.
Kumari Puja ritual involves inviting nine young girls into the home and worshipping them as the nine avatars of Goddess Durga. As per some scriptures, girls between the age between 2 and 10 are considered appropriate for Kumari Puja. On the day of Ashtami, before breaking the fast, a group of girls are invited into the home and are honored. They are welcomed by washing their feet, and the rituals of Aarti and Puja are conducted. After Puja, the girls are fed with sweets and honored with some gifts. In some regions in India, this ritual is observed on all nine days of Navratri. This tradition is based on the belief that young girls (kanyaka/virgins) represent the Shakti (Energy) of Durga on Earth.
Sandhi time or Sandhi Kaal refers to the time when Ashtami Tithi (eighth lunar day) ends and Navami Tithi (ninth lunar day) begins. It begins from the last 24 minutes of Ashtami and ends after the first 24 minutes of Navami. This period is considered as the most auspicious occasion to perform Durga Puja for the belief that Goddess Durga slew the demons, Chand and Mund, during this time. At the end of the Mahashtami, Sandhi Puja and hom/yagna are performed, and devotees offer bananas, pumpkins, cucumbers, etc. Lighting 108 clay lamps is another ritual performed during Sandhi Kaal.
Durgashtami Mantra, Prarthana, Stuti, Dhyana & Stotra
Om Devi Mahagauryayi Namah
Shwete Vrishesamarudha Shwetambaradhara Shuchih
Mahagauri Shubham Dadyanmahadeva Pramodada
Ya Devi Sarvabhuteshu Maa Mahagauri Rupena Samsthita
Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namah
Vande Vanchhita Kamarthe Chandrardhakritashekharam
Simharudha Chaturbhuja Mahagauri Yashasvinim
Purnandu Nibham Gauri Somachakrasthitam Ashtamam Mahagauri Trinetram
Varabhitikaram Trishula Damarudharam Mahagauri Bhajem
Patambara Paridhanam Mriduhasya Nanalankara Bhushitam
Manjira, Hara, Keyura, Kinkini, Ratnakundala Manditam
Praphulla Vandana Pallavadharam Kanta Kapolam Trailokya Mohanam
Kamaniyam Lavanyam Mrinalam Chandana Gandhaliptam
Sarvasankata Hantri Tvamhi Dhana Aishwarya Pradayanim
Jnanada Chaturvedamayi Mahagauri Pranamamyaham
Sukha Shantidatri Dhana Dhanya Pradayanim
Damaruvadya Priya Adya Mahagauri Pranamamyaham
Trailokyamangala Tvamhi Tapatraya Harinim
Vadadam Chaitanyamayi Mahagauri Pranamamyaham
Durga Ashtami Legends
Navratri is a celebration of the victory of good over evil. It commemorates the slaying of Mahishasura by Goddess Durga. When Lord Indra was vanquished by Mahishasura, the holy trinity, Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, created Goddess Durga, and each part of her body was blessed with the energies of different Gods. As per some scriptures, the soul of Goddess Durga came into existence on the day of Shukla Paksha Ashtami.
Another legend surrounding Durgashtami is that Goddess Chamunda appeared from the forehead of Mother Durga and annihilated Chanda, Munda, and Rakthabija.
Goddess Durga, in the form of Maha Gauri, is worshipped on Durgashtami. The story of Mahagauri is another legend associated with Durgashtami. The tough penance which Parvati had gone through for getting Shiva as her husband hampered her skin and turned it black. When Shiva accepted her finally, he cleaned all the impurities off her body in the river Ganga, and her complexion became extremely white, for which she is called ‘Maha Gauri’.