Ashtami is considered an important day in Hinduism. Goddess Durga is worshiped and fasted on the day of Ashtami. Durgashtami fast is observed in every Hindu month on the Ashtami date of Shukla Paksha. This fast is also called the monthly fast of Goddess Durga. Ashtami comes twice in the Hindu calendar, one in Krishna Paksha and the other in Shukla Paksha. Goddess Durga is fasted on the Ashtami of Shukla Paksha.
The eighth day of Sharada Navratri or Durga Puja celebrations is known as Durga Ashtami. It is also known as Maha Ashtami and is one of the most auspicious days according to Hinduism. It falls on bright lunar fortnight Ashtami tithi of Aswina month according to the Hindu calendar. Ashtami marks the eighth day of the festival and on this auspicious day, devotees tend to observe rigorous fast, feast and worship for Goddess Durga who symbolizes strength.
Ashtami be observed on 23 and 24th October, this year. This year Saptami & Ashtami Overlap on 23 October and Ashtami & Navami Overlap on 24 October, but at different mahurat, which is why we have only nine Navratris in 2020. As per the muhurat, there is no overlapping in the timings of both the days. One muhurat is ending and another is starting,”
Every region celebrates Durga Ashtami differently. particularly in West Bengal, it is celebrated with huge enthusiasm, passion and fervour. It is also known as Maha Ashtami. This day is also known as Astra Puja, which means worshipping weapons. The ten-armed goddess riding the lion is highly regarded in this part of the country and even the weapons of Goddess Durga are worshipped while reciting mantras in a ritual known as Astra Puja. The Ashta Shakti worshipped during Durga Puja are Brahmani, Maheswari, Kaumari, Vaishnavi, Varahi, Narasinghi, Indrani and Chamunda. A sacrifice is offered to please the Goddess Durga. Since animal sacrifice has been prohibited in India, a vegetable like a pumpkin is sacrificed on this day.
In north India, the Kanya Pujan is performed during this day. A group of unmarried women and young teenagers (a group of five or seven) are invited to the home to Honor them. The faith behind this tradition is that these young women ( kanyaka ) represent the shakti (energy) of Durga on Earth. The group of girls’ feet is washed with water before they enter the house. The girls are prayed considering them to be an incarnation of Goddess Durga. After the rituals, the girls are fed sweets and foods and honoured with small gifts.
In Kerala and in some parts of Karnataka three days: Ashtami, Navami, and Vijaya Dashami of Sharada Navarathri are celebrated as Sarasvati Puja in which books are worshipped. The books are placed for Puja on the Ashtami day in their own houses, traditional nursery schools, or in temples. On Vijaya Dashami day, the books are ceremoniously taken out for reading and writing after worshipping Sarasvati. Vijaya Dashami day is considered auspicious for initiating the children into writing and reading, which is called Vidyarambham, which introduces young children into the world of knowledge, letters, and the process of learning.
It is believed in some regions, the Goddess Chamunda appeared on this day from the forehead of Mother Durga and annihilated Chanda, Munda, and Rakthabija (the demons who were associates of Mahishasura). The 64 Yoginis and Ashta Shakti or matrikas (the eight ferocious form of Goddess Durga) are worshipped during the Durga Puja rituals on Mahashtami. The Ashta Sati, also known as Eight Shaktis, are interpreted differently in different regions of India. But ultimately, all the eight goddesses are incarnations of Shakti. They are the same powerful Divine Feminine, representing different energies.
Over the course of the nine days, the different avatars of Goddess Durga are honoured They are Goddess Shailputri (Day 1), Goddess Brahmacharini (Day 2), Goddess Chandraghanta (Day 3), Goddess Kushmanda (Day 4), Goddess Skandamata (Day 5), Goddess Katyayani (Day 6), Goddess Kaalratri (Day 7), Goddess Mahagauri (Day 8), Goddess Siddhidatri ( Day 9 )