The 8th day of Navratri, also known as Ashtami, is the day when Maa Gauri is revered. She is the eighth incarnation of Maa Durga. She symbolizes purity, serenity, peace and calmness through her tranquil form.
She blesses her devotees with extreme love and brings end to their miseries.
Legends say that she came to be known as Maa Gauri due to a reason. She underwent hardships and severe penance in Himalayas due to which she turned dark in complexion. But Lord Shiva, appeased by her efforts, sprinkled ‘Ganga jal' on her and blessed her with an extreme white complexion. This is also the reason why she is known as Maa Gauri (which means extreme white).
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.
One should pray her with this mantra –
या देवी सर्वभूतेषु माँ गौरी रूपेण संस्थिता।
नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै नमो नम:।।
She is also the one who killed the demons Shumbh and Nishumbh hence protecting the various lords from the atrocities of the two. Some people end their Navratri fast by doing Kanya Pujan on the eighth day only.
As per customs, one can choose any day out of eighth and ninth for the Kanya pujan. One should prefer wearing pink color on this day.
For Kanya puja, one needs to prepare ‘Halwa', ‘puri' and ‘chane ki sabzi' and feed young girls at their home.
One should start performing the vidhi by lighting a ‘diya' in the temple infront of Maa Durga's idol and reading out the thirteenth and the last chapter of Saptshati Path.
Then one should start the Kanya Pujan. Any number of Kanya (unmarried/virgin girls) can be chosen for this vidhi.
The following mantra is chanted for Kanya Pujan –
मंत्राक्षरमयीं लक्ष्मीं मातृणां रूपधारिणीम्।
नवदुर्गात्मिकां साक्षात् कन्यामावाहयाम्यहम्।।
जगत्पूज्ये जगद्वन्द्ये सर्वशक्तिस्वरुपिणि।
पूजां गृहाण कौमारि जगन्मातर्नमोस्तु ते।।
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.