On 28th September 2017, India will celebrate the 8th day of Navratri, which is also known as Durga Ashtami or Durgashtami. It is also known by the terms Mahashtami and Maha Durgashtami. It marks the second day of Durga Puja. Durgashtami is one of the most important days of Durga Puja. It begins with Mahasnan and Shodashopachar Puja, which is similar to Maha Saptami Puja except for the Prana Pratishtha part, which is performed only once on Maha Saptami. On Maha Ashtami or Durga Ashtami, nine small pots are installed and nine Shaktis of Durga are called upon them. The nine incarnations or avatars of Goddess Durga are worshipped during Mahashtami Puja.
On the eighth day of Navratri, Goddess Maha Gauri is worshipped. It is believed that the divine light of Goddess Maha Gauri illuminates the entire universe. She is adorned in a white garb and beautifully seated on her ‘sawari' – a bull. She protects and blesses her devotees with her four hands.
Durga Ashtami 2017 Puja Vidhi
Young unmarried girls are treated as the embodiment of Goddess Durga and are worshipped on Maha Ashtami. It is also known as Kumari Puja, Kumari meaning unmarried. In many regions of India, Kumari Puja is performed throughout the nine days of Durga Navratri. But particularly, it is preferred to be performed on Durga Ashtami.
The legendary Sandhi Puja also falls on Mahashtami. The time period of last 24 minutes of Ashtami Tithi and first 24 minutes of Navami Tithi is known as Sandhi time or the holy moment during Durga Puja. It is the most auspicious time during entire Durga Puja. Sandhi Puja is the conclusion point and the most important part of Durga Puja. Balidan or sacrifice is performed during this time. Devotees who don’t prefer animal sacrifice perform symbolic sacrifice with vegetables or fruits. Brahmins don’t appreciate any kind of animal sacrifice by scriptures and they only perform the symbolic sacrifice. The famous Belur Math in West Bengal performs symbolic sacrifice with a banana during Sandhi Puja. 108 earthen lamps are lightened during the Sandhi Time.
Kanya Pujan 2017 Puja Vidhi
The vidhi starts by washing the feet of Kanya/s and applying ‘tika' to their forehead. Then ‘kalawa' is tied to their hands. They are fed with the puri, halwa and chane ki sabzi which should be prepared the same day. Some people like to prepare more dishes too.
After the ‘prasad visarjan' to the young girls, one may touch their feet to seek their blessings and either give them money or gifts as per choice. One should keep his/her home clean and mind peaceful while performing ‘Kanya pujan'.
The vidhi has a lot of importance as the ‘kanyas' who visit one's home are considered to be forms of Maa Durga only and their arrival is considered as auspicious and blissful.
Maha Ashtami 2017 Puja Timings (Muhurat)
According to Drikpanchang.com, these are the Ashtami Puja timings of Navratri 2017:
Ashtami Tithi begins at 19:08 on September 27
Ashtami Tithi end at 21:36 on September 28
Maha Gauri Mantra
ॐ देवी महागौर्यै नमः॥
Om Devi Mahagauryai Namah॥
Maha Gauri Stuti
या देवी सर्वभूतेषु माँ महागौरी रूपेण संस्थिता। नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै नमो नमः॥
Ya Devi Sarvabhuteshu Maa Mahagauri Rupena Samsthita।
Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namah॥
The following mantra is chanted for Kanya Pujan –
मंत्राक्षरमयीं लक्ष्मीं मातृणां रूपधारिणीम्।
नवदुर्गात्मिकां साक्षात् कन्यामावाहयाम्यहम्।।
जगत्पूज्ये जगद्वन्द्ये सर्वशक्तिस्वरुपिणि।
पूजां गृहाण कौमारि जगन्मातर्नमोस्तु ते।।