The most auspicious day of Shardiya Navratri is here. The eighth day of Navratri, Maha Ashtami — also known as Durga Ashtami — is when the eighth form of Nav Durga, Mahagauri, is worshipped. This year, Maha Ashtami will be observed and celebrated on October 13, which is today. Goddess Mahagauri is the most radiant and beautiful form of Navdurga.
There’s an interesting story that tells how Goddess Mahagauri got her name. It is believed that Goddess Shailputri, who did hard penance (tapasya) to win over and marry Lord Shiva, became Goddess Parvati after she tied the knot with Mahadev.
But because of years of severe penance, the skin of Goddess Parvati had turned dull and black. Impressed by what the Goddess had gone through and the sacrifices she made to marry him, Lord Shiva washed her with Ganga water, her skin turned white, and she began glowing like a pearl. Because of this reformation, Goddess Parvati was named Mahagauri.
Gauri, who earned her name due to her mesmerising whitish skin tone, can be seen draped in a white saree, and hence, she is also revered as Shwetambardhara. The four-armed Goddess carries a Trishul in one right hand, and the second right hand can be seen in an Abhaya Mudra. While she holds a Damaru in one left hand, her other left hand is positioned in Varada Mudra. Mahagauri rides a white bull (Vrish) and is also known as Vrisharudha apart from Shwetambardhara.
On the day of Ashtami, many major rituals like Kanya Puja, Sandhi Puja, and Shodashopachar Puja are performed. Ashtami celebrations begin with Mahasnan, the grand holy bath which is done to get rid of all the impurities. Devotees then install nine earthen pots and invoke the nine avatars of Maa Durga and worship them. Halwa, puri, and black chickpeas are offered to Mahagauri as a bhog. Devotees also offer yellow flowers, sindoor, shringar, red dupatta, and haldi-kumkum to Maa Gauri.
Kanya Pujan, also known as Kanjak or Kumari Puja is the most important part of Maha Ashtami, where devotees invite nine young girls and one boy at their home where they offer them food, gifts and worship them. With all love and devotion, the kids are fed halwa, puri, and Chana (black chickpeas), the same bhog which was made for the Goddess.
It is believed that the nine young girls are the manifestations of Maa Durga, and the boy is the avatar of Bhairavnath. Before offering them food, the feet of all the kids are washed, each kid is welcomed with an aarti, and a tilak is applied on their foreheads. After the kids finish eating, a red dupatta, a small gift, a fruit, prasad, etc., is given to them. A one or two rupee coin is also given to them as a token of gratitude.
Mahagauri is the Goddess of peace and endurance. It is believed that all the desires are fulfilled by worshipping her on the day of Maha Ashtami. Mahagauri is the one who brings an end to all the sufferings in life. On this pious day of Maha Ashtami, if a devotee worships her with pure heart, Maa Mahagauri will surely bless him/ her with purity, calmness, wisdom, and happiness.
‘Om Devi Mahagauryai Namah’