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Durga Ashtami: Origin, Significance, Customs & Celebrations on The Eighth Day of Durga Puja

Durga Ashtami is around the corner and this only means the festivities have started in full swing. Know about the cultural significance, customs & how Maha Ashtami is celebrated, right here.

Durga Ashtmi Celebrations

Durga Ashtmi Celebrations

The month of October is one of the most popular times of the year. As the weather in most parts of the country starts to become more and more pleasant, October is the month of Durga Puja. The advent of Goddess Durga is celebrated with full fervor throughout the nation and even in the Indian communities residing outside the national borders of India. The festival is actually celebrated over a period of 10 days and the initial 9 days are popularly known as Navratri in many cultural and religious assemblages. Despite the magnificent celebrations across the lands, Kolkata is always held in high stead for providing an unparalleled religious and cultural experience on Durga Puja every year.

As Durga Dugga echoes through the Bengali households, one can find numerous pandals dotting the lanes with lights and joy. Out of these 9 days, Durga Ashtami also known as Maha Ashtami is one of the most auspicious days and it is the 8th day also known as "tithi". 

Durga Ashtami possesses a lot of significance in both the pujas celebrated at home as well as in pandals and this is why we are here to talk about the religious and cultural importance of Durga Ashtami and what exactly happens during the Durga Ashtami celebration. Read on to enjoy a mesmerizing journey through the marvelous celebrations, customs, and rituals of Durga Ashtami.

The Origin

durga puja

Image Courtesy: Devangshu Mandal for Calcutta Cacophony

The mention of Goddess Durga as a deity or Devi continues through the various religious and mythological texts right from the Vedic era along with Ramayana as well as Mahabharata. In fact, the rendition of Ramayana that was written as late as the 15th Century by Krittivasi speaks of the worship of Goddess Durga using 108 blue lotuses and 108 holy lamps by Lord Rama before he set out for his battle with Ravana. The day that Lord Ram defeats Ravana is the day we celebrate as Dussehra and is known as Dashami too. Many cultures demonstrate the whole exhibition through legendary Ramleela shows that end in the burning of an effigy of Ravana. 

The Day & Duration

Durga Ashtami Rituals and Celebrations

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As mentioned above, Ashtami is the eighth day of the Durga puja celebration. However, it has no particular date on the English calendar that is dedicated to the celebrations. The English date of Maha Ashtami changes year on year as the Hindu calendar follows a lunar year cycle that is different from the English calendar dates. It lasts through the day and is celebrated by people all decked up in beautiful outfits and amazing hairstyles visiting pandals - popularly known as pandal hoping by the people. However, there are certain pujas that need to be performed during this auspicious hour and they have certain dedicated hours of the day set aside for the propitious purpose. 

Durga Ashtami Rituals and Celebrations

Durga Ashtami Rituals and Celebrations

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The eighth day - Ashtami or Maha Ashtami is the day of colours, show, and absolute grandeur. This is also the day when the priests perform the Shondhi Aarti. On this day 9 small pots with flags of different colours are arranged in a line - each one representing different Shaktis (energies). These nine Shaktis are invoked and worshipped on Ashtami. Then the Anjali takes place where the devotees surround the idol of the goddess and throw flower petals as the priest chants mantras. 

Also Read: Style Inspirations for Your Ashtami, Navami and Dashami 2020 Looks

Durga Ashtami Rituals and Celebrations

Image Courtesy: Suman Basu Photography

On Maha Ashtami, a ritual called the Kumari puja also takes place. During this puja, a set of unmarried girls or one unmarried girl who has not yet reached puberty is worshipped as a form of the Devi. The girls are always aged between 1-16 years and they are worshipped in different forms of Durga based on their age. Flowers, sweets, and other gifts are offered to this girl deity known as the Kumariwho looks like a real-life goddess. 

And in the last 24 minutes of Ashtami through the first 24 hours of Navami, the Devi is worshipped in her Chandiavatar. The Markandeya Purana is recited during this puja that tells the tale of how Goddess Durga in her Chandi avatar killed the two Asuras - Chando and Mundo, and 108 lamps are lit as per the historical customary practice. The dhakis (men with dhaks) play an intoxicating tune and the people dance with joy even during the wee hours of the morning. You will be soaked in the joys and be transfused into a higher being during the process and the puja ends with the dhakis reaching a crescendo and then bhog (prasad) is distributed and you can wish Happy Ashtami or Happy Durga Ashtami to your near and dear ones post this puja.

People also get together on this day to dance the Garba in colourful clothes. This day is also known for 'Astra Puja' (Worshiping Weapons) as on this day the weapons of Goddess Durga are worshipped. The day is also known as Vira Ashtami as there are seen to use arms or martial arts on this. 

The Ashta Sati, also known as Eight Shaktis, are interpreted differently in different regions of India. But ultimately, all the eight goddesses are incarnations of Shakti. They are the same powerful Divine Feminine, representing different energies. The Ashta Shakti worshipped during Durga Puja are Brahmani, Maheswari, Kaumari, Vaishnavi, Varahi, Narasinghi, Indrani, and Chamunda.

Are you excited to dress up for the Maha Ashtami? Let us know your favorite ritual or the custom you enjoy the most on Durga Ashtami in the comments below.


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