The nation is celebrating Sharad Navratri 2019. The nine-day festival commenced on 29th September and would conclude on 7th October 2019. One of the biggest festivals of India, Navratri is dedicated to the worship of Goddess Durga. Devotees worship nine incarnations of the Goddess on these auspicious days. The eighth day of Navratri is Ashtami. In many households, Ashtami is celebrated with much fervour. It is also considered as the most important day of Durga Puja by Bengalis. Here's why the day is so significant to Hindus.
When Is Ashtami? Ashtami Date and Puja Time:
This year Ashtami falls on 6th October 2019
Ashtami Tithi Begins - 09:51 AM on Oct 05, 2019
Ashtami Tithi Ends - 10:54 AM on Oct 06, 2019
Sandhi Puja Muhurat - 10:30 AM to 11:18 AM (Source: Drikpanchang.com)
Significance Of Ashtami, Sandhi Puja And Kanjak
Ashtami, the eighth day of Navratri is dedicated to Goddess Mahagauri. Many people observe ritualistic vrat as a mark of respect to the deity. Some people also do kanya puja or kanjak on the auspicious day. They invite nine young girls to their place and wash their feet with water. These girls are then served a prasad of halwa, poori and black chana. They are also given cute gifts like clips, tiffin box etc. These nine pre-pubescent girls are seen as the embodiment of Durga. Some people observe kanjak on the ninth day of Navratri, or Navami.
(Also Read: What Goes into Making the Big Bengali Bhog for Durga Puja)
For Bengalis, Durga Ashtami is the most pivotal day of the whole festival. People, dressed in new clothes, flock the pandal early in the morning for Puspanjali, wherein they offer fragrant flowers to the Goddess after the holy incantation. One of the highlights of Mahashtami is the Shodashopachar Puja, wherein nine earthen pots are placed in the centre ahead of the clay idol of Goddess Durga. The ritual is said to invoke the nine shaktis of Durga. The afternoons of Mahashtami day is a matter of great gaiety, as people gather once again for the delicious' Ashtami Bhog', which can comprise anything from khichuri to pulao, mixed vegetable to paneer or chana. Tomato chutney, papad, roshogolla and paayesh are some festive staples you are most likely to find in this special bhog.
Also Read: Durga Puja 2019: When Is Durga Puja, Significance Of The Festival And Festive Foods
On Ashtami day, special pujas like 'Astra Puja' and 'Sandhi Puja' are also carried out by priests. For Atra Puja, Goddess Durga's weapons are worshipped. With the help of these ten weapons, she defeated the mighty demon Mahishasura. It is believed that on the day of Ashtami, Goddess Kali appeared from Durga's forehead to kill Mahishasura's demons - Chando, Munda and Rakthabija.
Sandhi Puja Significance
The Sandhi puja is performed in the most auspicious juncture of Mahashtami and Navami. The Sandhi time falls in the last 24 minutes of Ashtami or first 24 minutes of Navami, during which the puja is carried out. One hundred and eight earthen lamps are lit during the Sandhi time; moreover, the Goddess is offered 108 lotus flowers and bilwa leaves. The puja is meant as an ode to Goddess Kali, who appeared out of Goddess Durga's third eye on her forehead when she saw Mahishasura breaching the rules of the battle.
If you are planning to go around your city's puja pandals, you must take a tour during evenings for the grand aarti, which is often accompanied with dhol beats and dhunuchi dance (dancing with earthen pots comprising flared coconut husks).
Here's wishing you all a very Happy Ashtami, Durga Puja and Navratri 2019!