Navratri is one of the biggest festivals of the Hindu culture. It is a celebration that prolongs for nine days and nights. The ways of celebrations vary across the country but not the devotion.
The eighth day of the festival is called Ashtami or more popularly as Durga Ashtami.
There are two reasons to celebrate Sharad Navratri. One is the victory of Lord Rama over the evil king Ravana and the other is the victory of Goddess Durga over the demon Mahishasura.
Though the message behind the two fables is the same, that is, the victory of good over evil, Ashtami celebrates Goddess Durga’s victory. Ashtami is, in essence, the celebration of womanhood.
Each day of Navratri has its own meaning and importance, however, Ashtami has its own significance and rituals. Let us know more about the eighth day of Navratri.
Ashtami 2020 Date and Time
In 2020, Navratri is a month late due to Adhik Maas in the Hindu calendar. Find our article explaining more about why Navratri is late by clicking here. The Navratri is from 17th October 2020 to 25th October 2020.
The date and tithi for Sharad Ashtami 2020 are as follows:
Maha Ashtami: 24th October 2020 (Saturday)
- Ashtami Tithi Begins: 06.57 am on 23rd October 2020
- Ashtami Tithi Ends: 06.58 am on 24th October 2020
- Abhijit: 11:43 AM to 12:28 PM
- Amrit Kalam: 03:44 PM to 05:25 PM
- Sarvartha Siddhi Yoga: 06:28 AM to 02:38 AM, Oct 25
- Ravi Yoga: 02:38 AM, Oct 25 to 06:29 AM, Oct 25
- Vijaya Muhurta: 01:58 PM to 02:43 PM
- Godhuli Muhurta: 05:32 PM to 05:56 PM
- Sayahna Sandhya: 05:43 PM to 07:00 PM
- Nishita Muhurta: 11:41 PM to 12:32 AM, Oct 25
- Brahma Muhurta: 04:47 AM, Oct 25 to 05:38 AM, Oct 25
- Pratah Sandhya: 05:12 AM, Oct 25 to 06:29 AM, Oct 25
Why Ashtami Is Importance?
The eighth day of Navratri is highly auspicious. It is the day that celebrates Goddess Durga’s victory over the devil Mahishasura. It is prominently celebrated in the eastern parts of India.
The puja done on the eighth day of Sharad Navratri is very significant. It is believed that during this time, spiritual fervor reaches its highest peak. Many people break their fast and observe Kanya Pujan on this day.
The prime significance of Ashtami is to celebrate the essence of womanhood. It is a way to pay gratitude to the Goddess in every woman.
This is the reason why Hindus across India observe Kanya Pujan. It is an old but very apt ritual in accordance with the significance of Ashtami.
Navratri sees a load of rituals on each day of the festival. Kanya Pujan is one such tradition that is followed by everyone around the country. The detailings might differ but the essential ritual stays the same in all parts of the country.
Kanya literally translates to a virgin and Pujan means worshipping. For Kanya Pujan, nine young girls are worshipped. These nine girls are believed to represent the none forms of Goddess Durga.
The rituals of Kanya Pujan are as follows:
- The girls are welcomed into the house with utmost love and respect.
- Their feet are first washed, then moli or red sacred thread is tied around their wrists and a tilak is done with red vermillion.
- Some people even perform arti of the girls. They are then seated down in a row.
- The host offers them delicacies which are the traditional Durga bhog. It comprises of chana, poori, and halwa.
- Along with the food, people also offer subtle gifts to each girl in the form of either money or toys or anything similar.
- The girls then savor the prasad.
- Once the girls are done, the host touches their feet and the girls shower blessings, wishing the host prosperity for the coming year. Then they finally take leave.
Why Is Ashtami Also Known as Durga Ashtami?
The Ashtami Tithi or the eighth day of Shukla Paksha (waxing phase of the Moon) in the lunar cycle according to the Hindu calendar, is dedicated to Goddess Durga. Hence, Ashtami is known as Durgashtami.
Ashtami marks the eighth day of Navratri and on this auspicious day, devotees observe rigorous fast and worship Goddess Durga who symbolizes strength.
Since Ashtami is the commemoration of Goddess Durga’s victory over the devil Mahishasura, it is rightly called Durga Ashtami. Devotees fast and spend the day hailing the Mother Goddess by singing hymns and reciting shlokas.
Durga Puja celebrations run parallel with Navratri. Ashtami, in particular, is celebrated with a great passion and fervor in the eastern parts of India. Especially in West Bengal, Durga Ashtami is the most pivotal day of the whole festival.
Durga Ashtami is a celebration of traditional culture and customs. Massive idols of Goddess Durga are installed at enormous puja pandals. These pandals are set up at various places for devotees to visit and worship collectively.
The idols are also special. Goddess Durga is portrayed as a ten-armed goddess riding a lion, holding each of her weapons in all her 10 arms. This form is highly regarded as the supreme avatar in this part of the country.
It is not just about the mother goddess. Even the weapons of Goddess Durga are worshipped while reciting mantras in a ritual known as Astra Puja.
People, dressed in fresh clothes, flock the pandal early in the morning for Puspanjali, where they offer flowers to the Goddess after the holy incantation.
One of the other highlights of Mahashtami is the Shodashopachar Puja. In this puja, nine earthen pots are placed in the center ahead of the clay idol of Goddess Durga. The ritual is believed to invoke the nine Shaktis of Durga.
Prasad of Durga Ashtami
The eighth day of Navratri is celebrated as Durga Ashtami as discussed earlier. It is also the day of the culmination of the nine-day puja. People organize bhoj and Bhandara. Also, there is Kanya-Pujan.
All these are mere ways of spreading the word of Goddess Durga and her blessing of food to more people. One thing common is the prasad that is distributed.
Navratri Prasad consists of Puri, Halva, Chana, Coconut, and Banana. This is the standard Navratri prasad that is distributed across the country.
As of the prasad of Durga puja, it is different from the rest of the country. Ashtami Bhog of Durga Puja comprises of anything from khichuri to pulao, mixed vegetable to paneer or chana. Tomato chutney, papad, roshogolla, and paayesh are some other festive staples you are most likely to find in this special bhog.
Besides, people also distribute other treats among the poor and the needy. Some distribute sweets, fruits, clothes, and even money to the needy. Navratri prasad has one aim and that is to spread brotherhood among the humans.
Chanting Durga Mantras
Every Navratri brings with it a sense of divine power. People chant mantras to absorb such power and respect it. This Durga Ashtami you should also chant some powerful Mantras.
These will help you to derive strength, courage, and seek the blessings of Goddess Durga. Also, they are believed to empower you to win over your fears and leap over your hurdles in life.
- ‘Sarva Swarupe Sarveshe, Sarva Shakti Samanvite
Bhaye Bhyastraahi No Devi, Durge Devi Namostute’
This mantra helps you fight your fears and anxieties. By chanting this mantra, you can embolden yourself to get rid of your stress too.
- Etatte vadanam saumyam lochana trayabhushitam
Paatu nah sarvabhitibhyah kaatyaayani namostute
This mantra is dedicated to the Katyayani form of Durga. It helps devotees to derive strength and courage in difficult and trying times.
- Jwala Karala Matyugram Sheshasura Sudanam
Trishulam Patu No Bhiter Bhadrakali Namostute
The above mantra is dedicated to the Bhadrakali avatar of Durga. It helps devotees to seek refuge under the shield of her trishool. It is believed that this mantra invokes her and she eliminates all the difficulties that challenge us.
- Sarva Mangala Mangalye, Shive Sarvartha Sadhika
Sharanye Trayambake Gauri, Narayani Namostute
Chanting the above mantra, a devotee prays for the welfare of the universe. In trying times, this mantra helps heal the world.
- Sarva badhavinirmukto dhan dhanya sutanvitah
Manushyo matprasaden bhavishyati na sanshayam
The above mantra eliminates all kinds of hurdles and obstacles. However, remember that perseverance and devotion hold the key to attaining peace of mind.
Devotees also read the Devi Mahatmya, also known as Durga Saptashati or the Chandi Path. It is a text derived from the Markandeya Purana that tells us tales of Goddess Durga and her avatars.
Story Behind Durga Ashtami
Ashtami or Durga Ashtami celebrates the victory of Goddess Durga over the evil buffalo demon, Mahishasura. Legend has it that Mahishasura was an ardent devotee of Lord Brahma.
Delighted by his devotion, Lord Brahma bestowed upon him a boon that he could only be defeated by a female warrior. God’s land was full of gods and there was no female warrior then.
Taking advantage of this fact, Mahishasura declared war on the lords. When Lord Indra was vanquished in the battlefield, the holy trinity, Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, created Goddess Durga.
Each part of her body was blessed with the strengths and energies of all different male Gods. She entered the battlefield then and on the day of Ashtami, she defeated Mahisasura with her trident.
Hence, at this festival, the center stage is gladly offered to women. This festival is a stark reminder of how women used to hold a lot more power and status in ancient India.
According to the scriptures, the cusp of the ending of the eighth day and beginning of the ninth day of Navratri is considered to be the moment when Goddess Durga engaged in a fierce battle against Mahishasura.
At this precise moment, she was also attacked by the demons, Chanda and Munda. Goddess Chamunda emerged from the third eye of Goddess Durga, killing Chanda and Munda.
This moment is marked by the sandhi puja. The puja is performed in the last 24 minutes of Ashtami and the first 24 minutes of Navami.
The rituals involve an offering of 108 lotuses and bilwa leaves and lighting of 108 earthen lamps or diyas. It is a forty-eight-minute long ritual commemorating the climax of the mythological battle.
In some regions of the country, devotees mark this moment by sacrificing an animal such as a buffalo or goat. In others, a symbolic sacrifice substitutes the actual sacrifice. The effigy is smeared in red vermilion to symbolize the spilled blood.
After the sandhi puja is concluded, the goddess is offered food (bhog).
Navratri is a Hindu festival that comprises of nine days and nights. It always invites a lot of vigor and fervor from all parts of the country.
Ashtami is the eighth day of the Navratri festival. It has a significance of its own. It is also known as Durga Ashtami and Mahashtami quite justifiably. The reason for the same we have mentioned in detail in the article above.
Ashtami has a special significance due to Durga Puja. Ashtami is the utmost important day of Durga Puja. Various rituals and traditions decorate the nine-day long festivities. Even the prasad is deliciously crave-worthy.
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