Durga Maha Ashtami Vrat is an important Hindu ritual dedicated to Goddess Shakti (Goddess Durga). The monthly Durga Ashtami is a monthly event celebrated on the Ashtami date of the Shukla Paksha of every month on the Hindu calendar. Of all the Durga Ashtami days, the Ashtami of the Shukla Paksha of Ashwin month is the most popular and hence it is called Maha Ashtami or Durgashtami. Durga Ashtami falls during the last 5 days of the 9-day Navratri festival. Maha Ashtami is scheduled to take place on 13 October in 2021.
The weapons of Goddess Durga are worshiped on this day and the festival is known as Astra Puja. This day is also known as Veerashtami due to the performance of weapons and other forms of martial arts. Hindu devotees offer prayers to Goddess Durga and fast for her divine blessings.
Maha Ashtami Vrat is observed with full reverence in the northern and western regions of India. In some regions of Andhra Pradesh, Durga Ashtami is celebrated as 'Bathukamma Panduga'. Durga Ashtami Vrat is an important philosophy for the followers of Hinduism.
Rituals during Maha Ashtami Vrat:
On the day of Maha Ashtami, devotees pray to Goddess Durga. They wake up early in the morning and make several offerings to the goddess in the form of flowers, sandalwood and sunlight. At some places, Kumari Puja is also performed on the day of Durga Ashtami. Hindus worship girls of the age of 6-12 as the Kanya (virgin) form of Goddess Durga. During this time special 'Naivedyam' is prepared to offer to the Goddess.
Fasting is an important ritual of the day. Those following the Durga Ashtami fast observe food or drink throughout the day. Fasting is maintained by men and women alike. Durga Ashtami Vrat is kept to get spiritual benefits and to get the blessings of Goddess Durga. Some devotees observe fast by drinking only milk or eating fruits. On this day, the consumption of non-vegetarian food and alcohol is completely banned. Followers of Maha Ashtami Vrat should sleep on the floor and stay away from amenities.
It is also customary to sow barley seeds in some areas of Western India.
Devotees chant various goddess mantras on this day. On this day, there is also the result of reading Durga Chalisa. At the end of the puja, the fasting story of Durga Ashtami is also read by the devotees.
Hindu devotees offer food and sacrifices or dakshina to Brahmins after completing worship rituals.
Palanhars of Maha Ashtami fast go to Shakti temples in the evening. Special poojas are performed on the day of Maha Ashtami observed by thousands of devotees.
Importance of Maha Ashtami Vrat:
In Sanskrit, the word 'Durga' means 'what no one can beat' and 'Ashtami' means 'eight days'. According to Hindu mythology, the fiery and powerful form of Goddess Durga, popularly known as 'Goddess Bhadrakali', emerged. The day of Durga Ashtami is celebrated as the victory of Goddess Durga over a demon named Mahishasura. Due to this, Maha Ashtami fast is kept by devotees with full dedication.
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