Durga Ashtami is a Hindu festival that celebrates the victory of Goddess Durga over the demon Mahishasura. It is also known as Maha Ashtami or Mahashtami and falls on the eighth day of the bright fortnight (Shukla Paksha) of the lunar month of Ashwin. In 2023, it will be observed on Sunday, 22 October

Durga Ashtami is one of the most important days of the five-day-long Durga Puja festival that honors Mother Goddess Durga as the supreme power and source of life. On this day, devotees worship Durga in her various forms and offer prayers, rituals and sacrifices to please her. Some of the common rituals performed on this day are:

  • Sandhi Puja: This is a special puja that marks the transition from Ashtami to Navami tithi (the ninth day). It is believed that at this time, Goddess Durga killed Chanda and Munda, two generals of Mahishasura’s army. Sandhi Puja involves offering 108 lotuses and lighting 108 lamps to Durga
  • Kumari Puja: This is a tradition that originated in North India and involves honoring young girls (kumaris) as manifestations of Durga’s energy (shakti) on earth. A group of five to seven unmarried girls are invited into homes or pandals (temporary structures for worship) and offered food, gifts and blessings
  • Maha Aarti: This is a grand aarti (ceremony of lights) that is performed at the end of Sandhi Puja or Kumari Puja. It involves waving lamps, incense sticks and flowers before the idol or image of Durga while chanting hymns and mantras

Durga Ashtami is also a day of joy and celebration for Hindus across India and abroad. People wear colorful clothes, dance to music, play games, exchange greetings and feast on delicious food items. Some popular dishes prepared on this day are khichdi (rice-lentil dish), puri (deep-fried bread), labra (mixed vegetable curry), payesh (rice pudding) etc.

Durga Ashtami symbolizes the triumph of good over evil, light over darkness and hope over despair. It inspires people to overcome their challenges with courage, faith and devotion to Durga.