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Durga Ashtami


Durga AshtamiThe Hindu festival of Durga Ashtami, also known as Maha Ashtami, is celebrated o the eighth day of the auspicious nine-day period of Navratri. It commemorates for the time when Goddess Durga stepped into the state of extreme power and strength required to conquer and kill Mahishasura, the demon buffalo.

Time of Celebration
As already stated, it is observed on the eighth day of Sharada Navratri, which is observed from the first day to the ninth day of the month of Asvina in Hindu calendar. According to Georgian calendar, it usually falls either in the month of September or October.

Legend
There was a demon with the name of Mahishasura who was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva. Out of his immense devotion and determination, he was able to please him. Lord conferred him with the boon of eternity. Furthermore, Lord conferred that no one other than a female can kill him. Mahishasura readily accepted it as he was assured about his superiority over women. The factor of being indestructible turned into arrogance, and everyone on planet and heaven suffered the demon’s arrogance. Once, when he attacked on heaven, all deities came together to pray to Lords of trinity, i.e. Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu, and Lord Mahesh. Acting on their request, the three deities unite their supreme powers to create one supreme power in the form of Goddess Durga or Shakti.

On seeing Goddess Durga, Mahishasura got mesmerized with her beauty and proposed her to get married with him. Durga accepted the offer putting forth a condition that she would get married to him, only if he can defeat her in a battle. Arrogant about his superiority over female power, he accepted it. When he got into the fight, it got prolonged for seven days. On the eighth day, i.e. on the day of Durga Ashtami, Durga gained a boost in her strength and power, and on the ninth day, she eventually beheaded the demon.

 Significance
This festival is of extreme importance in the beliefs of Hindu religion. According to legend, it is on the day of Durga Ashtami that Goddess Durga, after a prolonged battle with the demon buffalo Mahishasura, gained a burst in her powers to eventually behead Mahishasura. On the ninth day, she actually beheaded him, and on the tenth day, i.e. on the day of Vijaydashami, the celebration for prevail of Goddess over demon is made. Out of this event, she gained prominence as Mahishasuramardhini. This festival conveys the eternal truth that ultimately, good prevails over bad. It is also believed that it is on this day that one gains an ability to conquer over all the internal and external demons of his life in permanence.

Rituals and Celebrations
1. Devotees, holding immense belief for Goddess Durga in their hearts, celebrate this day with utmost cheer and devotion. They offer prayers to Durga Mata to get conferred with her blessings. In different parts of the country, she is worshipped in different forms, such as Brahmani, Kameswari, Varahi, Indrani, Chamunda, Narasinghi, Vaishnavi, and Maheswari.

2. One popular way of conferring devotion to Goddess is by observing fast. Both men and women observe it. It is one of those most important days in the period of Navratri on which many people willingly choose to abide by fast, as doing so derives immense blessings of Goddess. Goddess Durga also confer that person with strength, courage, and determination enough to overcome and conquer all evils, fears, and negativities present within and around.

3. One of the major highlights of the celebrations as made on this day is the display show of martial arts, which also have use of arms and weapons. On the aspect of this context, the day is also referred as ‘Virashtami’, ‘Astra Puja’, and ‘Ayudha Puja’. This ritual is associated with the legend that it is on this day the Arjuna, the third of the five Pandavas, brought out his Ayudha from Shami tree.

4. On this day, married women of the household offer things which are typically associated with married women such as clothes, jewellery, bangles, kajal, bindi, etc. to Goddess Durga.

5. The entire family participates in the worship ceremony of Durga. In the end, Bhog is offered to Goddess.

6. The festive celebration of Durga Ashtami concludes with Sandhi Puja, which extends beyond to the next day celebrations of Mahanavami.

 

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