The immense merriment centered around navratri starts to reach its pinnacle with the celebrations of the eight day or Ashtami. It is one of the most auspicious days of the nine days and those who are not able to keep fast during the prior days, also observe vrat on this day.
The Maha Ashtami Tithi is dedicated to Maa Mahagauri and Kanya Puja. Nearing towards the final victory of good over evil that marks the celebration of Dussehra, Durga Ashtami brings in all the more enthusiasm amongst the devotees.
It instills the feeling that the victory is not far and sooner a brighter day will dawn where the wrong-doer will be punished. Maa Mahagauri’s worship adds further energy to the people who seek her with all their might.
One of the aspects that personally hits me hard is the blessing that idol-makers receive during this festival. This time of the year is much- awaited by them, as it’s the main source of income for them.
Imagine the happiness this festival brings in, along with prosperity to these idol- makers who almost have to pine to buy a day’s meal.
Indeed, Maa Durga is unfair to none and blesses all with utmost compassion and care!
Mata Mahagauri’s name is a combination of two words, where Maha means Extremely and Gauri means White. She is a highly revered form of Maa Durga who is believed to bless the devotees with an everlasting bond with their loved ones.
There are several legends concerning Maa Gauri, one of which states that after killing the demons as Kalratri, Maa Parvati was left with a really dark skin. This led her husband, Mahadev to tease her by calling her as Kaali. This made Maa Parvati agitated and she began observing a severe penance to get back her fair skin.
Seeing her penance, Lord Brahma was pleased and he asked her to bathe in the Mansarovar river. This act led to Maa Parvati regaining her fair complexion and she came to be known as Mahagauri or extremely fair.
Other legend narrates about the time, when Maa Parvati wished to get Shiva as her consort. For this, she observed severe penance and in doing so, she faced heat, cold, rain and other ravages of time. So, over a period of time, she got covered in soil and dirt.
Appeased by her devotion, Lord Shiva then accepted and bathed her in the holy river that flowed from his locks. Maa Parvati then came out as Maa Mahagauri with a very white complexion, clothed in white.
Significance of Goddess Mahagauri !
Maa Mahagauri has four arms and she mounts on a bull, holding a trident and a damaru. Her countenance is that of a cool moon that bestows great blessings upon those who fear and seek her. She wears white clothes and is thus, known as Shwetambardhara. Her hands are always in Abhaya Mudra and Varada Mudra.
Maa Mahagauri rules the planet Rahu and is believed to relieve the devotees from all the afflictions in horoscope that is caused by the unsuitable placement of the planet.
It is said, that she blesses the devotees with immense prosperity and spiritual enlightenment. Maa Mahagauri removes confusions of her adherent and brings in new hope and confidence in them.
Being extremely special of all the nine days of Durgotsava, the eight day or Ashtami includes various puja rituals. The prayer begins with devotees wearing yellow clothes and burning the lamp in front of Maa Gauri.
Night blooming jasmines or yellow flowers are bought for worshipping the deity . This is followed by chanting mantras. It said that the puja should be done at midnight as it is the most auspicious time to offer the worship.
Kajal, druva patra and bilvapatra are offered too. After Ganesh prarthna, shodaspachara is offered to goddess Mahagauri. Once, dhoopa and deepam is dedicated, prasad is given to Maa and arati is done. With her, Lord Shiva is worshipped too.
In many northern states of the country, Kanya Pujan is performed. It is done on the ashtami and navami of Durgotsava. In this, nine girls aged between five to nine years are called for the puja. Inviting these little girls is symbolic of inviting the nine avatars of Maa Durga.
During this pujan, all the girls are seated on a pedestal, near the photos of the goddess. Their feet are washed and they’re given new clothes. Red thread is tied round their wrist with best wishes from all. This is followed by putting rice, grains and vermillion on them. They are also given well-decorated plates with coins and gifts in them. The girls are offered a holy meal too, which includes special items like puri, kala chana and halwa.
Bhog always constitutes a major part of navratri. This is offered to the deity to seek her blessings and compassion. Different types of food items form the part of prasad made for the supreme being.
So, on the eighth day of Durga puja, Maa Mahagauri is offered the bhog which includes coconut. Offering them is said to fulfill the wishes of having a child to childless parents.
There is also a tradition of giving coconuts to the Brahmins. This mitigates the sins of the devotees and keeps them away from any kind of wrongdoings.
Navratri is surely a festival not just to celebrate but also to introspect. Each of the auspicious nine days, brings a new insight to all of us. It teaches us all to follow a righteous and just path, so that we do not end up away from the almighty’s presence.
Maa Mahagauri doubtlessly fills our lives with immense blessings and destroys the distresses and afflictions of life. She provides all the prosperity that is required to lead life to the fullest but punishes those who go astray.
Navratri thus, gives hope of a brighter tomorrow where only the truth will prevail and wicked and the wrong-doers would be punished!