Durgashtami or Durga Ashtami is one of the most Auspicious days of Navratri Celebration. Durga Ashtami is also known as Mahashtami. It is celebrated on 8th day of Navratri which falls on the Ashtami Tithi of Chaitra month according to Hindu Calendar. In 2018, Durga Ashtami falls on Wednesday, 17th of October. In India, many people observe fast on this auspicious day. Durga Ashtami is also known as Astra Puja as on this day, the weapons of Goddess Durga are worshipped. This day is also known as Virashtami as there are displays using arms or martial arts.
According to Hindu mythology, Goddess Durga is the mother of mankind and is believed to be the power behind the creation, preservation and destruction of the universe. The Hindu warrior Goddess Durga is typically portrayed as a beautiful woman with ten arms that bear divine weapons to protect each one of us. Her role in Indian mythology is very strong and powerful. She has been worshipped as the supreme power of the universe. She is a multi-dimensional Goddess, with many names and many persons.
On the day of Durga Ashtami, Goddess Durga is worshipped as Maha Gauri, she is considered to be extremely beautiful, white like snow and she wears white colored ornaments. She represents calmness and exhibits Wisdom. Her power is unfailing and praying to her is instantly fruitful. The left upper hand holds a ‘Damru’ and the lower one is in the pose of granting boons to her devotees.
It is believed that Goddess Kali appeared on this day from the forehead of Durga Maa and annihilated Chanda, Munda and Raktabija who were the demons associated with Mahishasur. The 64 Yoginis and Asht Nayikas ( eight consorts of Goddess Durga ) are worshipped during the Durga Puja rituals of Durga Ashtami. The Asht Nayikas are also known as Eight Shaktis and are interpreted differently in different regions of India. Ultimately, all the eight Goddesses are Incarnations of Shakti and they are the equally powerful Divine Feminine representing different energies. The Asht Nayikas worshipped on Durga Ashtami Puja are Brahmani, Maheshwari, Kameshwari, Vaishnavi, Varahi, Narasinghi, Indrani and Chamunda.
Rituals of Durga Ashtami :
- Devotees of Goddess Durga observe a day long fast on Durga Ashtami
- All the Weapons and Artillery that were used to kill Mahishasur by Goddess Durga are worshipped along with Mantra Recitation. This ritual is known as Astra Puja.
- Several Weapons, Arms and Martial Art Calibers are displayed by experts on this day, and hence this day is also known as Virashtami.
- Asht Nayikas are worshipped during this day
- Goddess Durga is worshipped and sweets, fruits, coins etc are distributed among the people
- Durga Saptasati Path is recited along with Aarti of Goddess Durga
- 64 Yoginis are also worshipped
- Goddess Durga is worshipped as Maha Gauri. To observe this, 9 small girls are worshipped, their feet are washed & they are offered Sweets.