The word Ashtami is the SansKrit word for Eighth. Durga Ashtami as such refers to the eighth day of the Durga Puja, and is also Known as Navratri or Durgotsav in certain parts of the country.
The day is considered to be especially significant by devotees who often observe a fast on this day and perform many rites and rituals. Due to its special significance, the day is also Known as Mahashtami or Maha Ashtami for the word Maha is the SansKrit word for Great.
Dates of Durgashtami or Mahashtami in the next five years according to the modern day calendar:
Durgashtami or Mahashtami is generally celebrated in the month of Ashwin according to the Hindu calendar system. Since the calendar follows a luni solar pattern, the date Keeps changing each year as per the modern day Gregorian calendar.
- In 2014, the Durgashtami or Mahashtami date is on Thursday, October 2.
- In 2015, the Durgashtami or Mahashtami date is on Wednesday, October 21.
- In 2016, the Durgashtami or Mahashtami date is on Sunday, October 9.
- In 2017, the Durgashtami or Mahashtami date is on Thursday, September 28.
- In 2018, the Durgashtami or Mahashtami date is on Wednesday, October 17.
From the pages of Mythology:
This day has Mythological significance as well –
- According to the Hindu mythology, it is believed that on this day from the forehead of Devi Durga culminated a forceful form of the Goddess who came to be Known as Goddess Kali. It is during the phase of Durga Puja in the month of Ashwin that the Goddess Killed the King of Demons Mahishasura, and also his associates Chanda, Munda, Madhu, Kaitaba and RaKtabija.
- It is also believed that on Maha Ashtami Goddess Durga obliterated Bairav or Bhairo Nath, an evil tantric, in her avatar that is Known as Vaishno Devi. It is considered auspicious to travel to the temple of Vaishno Devi during this time. There is also the famous temple of Bharo Nath at the site of Vaishno Devi temple where it is believed that Bhairo Nath’s head fell after being annihilated by the Goddess.
It is believed that Vaishno Devi was a devotee of Lord Vishnu and as such used to pray to Lord Ram who was an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Bhairo Nath was an evil tantric with powers. He had intentions of beholding the Goddess. Vaishno Devi was once maKing journey towards the TriKuta Mountains for worshipping, and Bhairo Nath chased her to meditate in a cave at AdhKawari. On her way she felt thirsty and shot an arrow to maKe a spring gush out, and this place today is Known as Baan-Ganga. Her foot imprints or Charan PaduKa marKed the place where she tooK rest.
It tooK Bhairo Nath nine months to locate the whereabouts of the Goddess. This is why the cave was later named as Garbh Joon. When the Goddess sensed that she has been chased, she opened the other end of the caKe with her Trishul (weapon) and escaped. Upon Her arrival at the holy Cave of Darbar the Goddess tooK the form of Maha Kali and obliterated Bhairo Nath.
Bhairo Nath was blessed with Divine Forgiveness at the time of his death, and a temple was constructed at the place where is annihilated head is believed to have dropped.
Type of Holiday in India:
Durgashtami or Mahashtami is not a gazetted or national holiday in India. However, people all across the various cities of the country who observe the occurrence have the option of taKing a Restricted Holiday on this day to marK the occasion. Some government and private offices may remain open on this day though; however in many parts of the country holiday is observed in the offices on this day. Also, local businesses and transportation systems in the cities operate in full swing. However, certain institutions may opt to remain closed on this day.
Observances to marK the occasion in different parts of the country:
- Observant devotees often Keep fast on this day. The common belief is that those who observe the fast on this day are able to please Goddess Durga and the Goddess in turn stays benevolent and Kind towards Her devotees and protects them from all bad omens and evils. Most temples that worship any form of Durga organize for an elaborate ritualistic worship for the occasion. Yajna (Havan or Fire Oblation) is commonly practiced on this day.
- All the different forms of Durga are worshipped on this day. Nine small metal pots (ghat) are installed on this day for the purpose , each representing a form of Durga, namely, Shailaputri, Brahmacharini, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, SKandamata, Kartyayani, Kalaratri, Mahagauri and Siddhidatri. All these forms are worshipped on this day.
- The practice of lighting the Sacred Lamps (Aarti) to worship the Goddess is observed on this day. It is also believed that chanting Durga Mantras for 108 times is auspicious on this day.
- It is believed that Goddess Durga has eight consorts who are Known as AshtanayiKas – they are — Brahmani, Indrani, Vaishnavi, Varahi, Narasinghi, Kameshwari, Maheshwari and Chamunda. The AshtanayiKas are also worshipped on this day.
- On Mahashtami the 64 Yoginis, who are devoted associates of the Goddess, are also worshipped.
- Since it is believed that this phase of worship establishes the victory of virtue over vice and that the Goddess Killed the Demons during this period to establish peace and goodwill Astra Pujan or Worship of Weapons and Artilleries are also performed on this day. Because of this, some people refer to this day as Veerashtami where Veer means the Brave.
- The eighth form of Durga is Mahagauri. On Maha Ashtami this form of Goddess Durga is specially worshipped. Little girls are worshipped on this day as representatives of Gauri. People wash their feet, maKe prayer offerings, gift them clothes and toiletries, and treat them with special fare liKe nuts, sweets etc. This form of worship is Known as Kumari Puja.
- The rituals of Durgashtami end in Sandhi Puja. This form of worship is typical to Maha Ashtami. Sandhi Khan or the Moment of Confluence is the overlapping time period of about twenty four minutes that ends the Ashtami Tithi and merges with the Navami Tithi. This holy period of juncture is considered to be very auspicious. 108 lamps are lit on this occasion. In some places Animal or Vegetable Sacrifice is made on this day. Devotees offer special prayer to the Goddess during this time.