Maha Ashtami, also known as Durgashtami is the eighth day of Navaratri. This is one of the most auspicious days of Durga pooja. On this day, Goddess Durga is worshipped as Goddess Mahagauri.
According to the myths, the death of Goddess Sati moved Lord Shiva to isolation. Unknowing of Goddess Sati’s rebirth as Devi Parvathy, Lord Shiva continued to spend his life mourning over the loss and meditating. He didn’t even mind to look at Devi Parvathy.
Upon Rishi Narada’s advice, Goddess Shailaputri, also known as Parvathy, performed severe penance in order to get Lord Shiva as her husband. She sat on a secluded corner of a forest and continued to meditate for years. She hardly ate or took care of her physical needs. As a result, she became extremely thin. Also, dust and dirt accumulated on her body and she lost all her radiance and beauty.
With years of meditation, Devi Parvathy proved her devotion and true love towards Lord Shiva. Overjoyed by the return of his beloved, Lord Shiva opens his hair and let the water of Ganga fall on Devi Parvathy. The water reversed all the damages that happened to Devi Parvathy’s body. As the water flows through her body, Devi Parvathi sheds her dark skin and the white and radiant skin underneath reveals. This new form of Devi Parvathi came to be known as Mahagauri, which means extremely white.
Mahagauri is one of the most beautiful forms of Devi Parvathi. In Sanskrit, ‘Maha’ means extreme and ‘Gauri’ means white. Hence, Goddess Mahagauri is extremely fair in complexion. Her complexion is described to be similar to pearl or jasmine flower or couch. She is extremely radiant as well. Goddess Mahagauri is dressed in a pure white saree and hence known as Shwetambardhara. She has four hands and luminant eyes. Two of her hands hold a trishul and a damaru. The other two hands give blessings and protection to her worshippers. She wears white and golden jewellery and is seated on a bull. Goddess Mahagauri is described as extremely graceful in appearance.
Maha Ashtami: Celebration
During the Maha Ashtami pooja, nine small earthen pots will be installed in the houses to invoke nine different forms of Goddess Durga. Kanya Pooja is an important practice on this day. As a part of Kanya Pooja, nine young girls will be invited to the houses and will be worshipped as Navdurga. This will be followed by Sandhi Pooja. Sandhi pooja usually starts at the last twenty-four minutes of Maha Ashtami and it continues till the first twenty-fourth minute of Maha Navami. According to the myths, this is the exact time when Goddess Durga killed Chanda and Munda, in the form of Goddess Chandika.
Maha Ashtami: Significance
Maha Ashtami celebrates the union of Lord Shiva and Devi Parvathy. So, this day is considered auspicious for unmarried women to pray for a partner like Lord Shiva. Goddess Mahagauri, being the symbol of austerity gives a message that no devotion and efforts will be left unnoticed. Goddess Mahagauri is a symbol of purity and serenity. Having Abhaya mudra in one of her hands, it is said that Goddess Mahagauri protects her worshippers from the evil eyes of Rahu and thereby showering comfort and happiness. On the Maha Ashtami day, families pray to Goddess Mahagauri for peace, prosperity and health. The goddess also removes confusions and worries from the minds of her worshippers by replacing it with hope.