New Delhi, Oct 16: As India is geared up to celebrate Sharad Navratri 2018, one can see festive mood prevailing all around. Sharad Navratri and Chaitra Navratri are celebrated all across the nation by the devotees of Goddess Shakti.
The festival lasts for nine days and holds great significance for Hindus all over the globe. During these auspicious nine days, devotees offer prayers to the nine incarnations of Goddess Durga also known as Navdurga.
Among all the nine days of Navratri, each day has a special significance and dedicated to one form of the goddess. During all the nine days, devotees prefer to wake up quite early and take their bath. After bathing, devotees offer their prayers to the goddess with several offerings such as sugar, milk, and fruits.
Significance of Durga Ashtami:
Durga Ashtami is an important festival in india and hold special significance for Hindus. Hindu families organise Kanya Puja on Durga Ashtami. On the day, nine kanyas are welcomed into the households. Their feets are washed and then a moli (red thread) is tied around their wrists. These girls are seated in a line and served a delicious bhog of halwa, poori, and chole. The girls are also offered gifts like pencils, tiffin boxes etc. These young girls who have not hit puberty yet are seen as embodiment of Goddess Durga herself. Some observe the ritual of Kanjak on Navami or the ninth day of Navratri too.Ashtami or Durga Ashtami for the Bengali communities is believed to be the most important day of Durga Puja. People prefer to dress up in new clothes and visit the beautiful pandals in early hours of morning for pushpanjali. Durga Puja on Maha Ashtami begins with Mahasnaan of the idol. This is followed by the Shodashopachar Puja. Nine earthern pots are placed in the centre and worshipped in the pooja. The ritual is believed to invoke the nine shaktis of Durga. In afternoons, devotees gather for special 'Ashtami Bhog'. Ashtami bhog usually differs from the bhog on rest of the Pujo days. Instead of khichdi, mixed vegetables and payesh(kheer), pandals usually serve rice, chana dal, a curry of paneer, mixed vegetables, begun bhaja(eggplant fritters), tomato chutney, papad, rajbhog and the ever-so-delectable payesh.Special pujas like 'Astra Puja' and 'Sandhi Puja' take place in Puja pandals on the day of Ashtami. As part of Astra Puja, Goddess Durga's weapons with which she defeated the buffalo demon Mahishasura are worshipped with much fervour. According to Hindu Mythology, it is said that it was on the day of Ashtami, after a long drawn battle between Goddess Durga and Mahishasura, Goddess Kali appeared from Durga's forehead to annihilate Mahishasura's demons - Chando, Munda and Rakthabija.