Masik Durga Ashtami Vrat Vidhi
Masik Durgashtami Vrat is observed month on month on the Ashtami Tithi (eighth day) of Shukla Paksha (bright half of the lunar month). This is a day-long fast stretches from morning till evening. The day is marked with a customary puja to Mother Durga as per the injunctions given in the sacred scriptures. This is one of the most popular kinds of vrats observed in the Hindu tradition which is believed to bestow the ultimate blessings of Mother Durga.
Though the Durgashtami vrat can be observed every month, the most important ones of the year falls on the day called Mahashtami or the Ashtami day occurring in the month of Ashwin. Notably, this is the time when the Shardiya Navratri festival stretching over nine days is celebrated with great fervor. Those intending to observe Masik Durgashtami usually observe the month puja in a simple way while performing an elaborate puja on the Mahashtami.
On the dedicated day of Durgashtami, people worship the eight manifestations of Goddess Durga with great devotion. The dishes that are specially prepared at home and offered to Mother Durga during the puja include Kheer, Halwa and others. In the Durgashtami puja tradition, there is a customary practice of worshipping a small girl child denoting the nine manifestations of Mother Durga. During the puja, the chosen girl is offered Halwa Puri and dakshina in a way propitiating Mother Durga.
Durga Puja is dedicated to the eighth manifestation of Mother Durga namely Maha Gauri. This is one of the most benign and pleasing forms of Durga that has especially manifested to bless the devotees and relieve them of their sufferings and problems. Accordingly, those who observe the Masik Durgashtami with diligence as per the procedures have reaped great results as assured in the scriptures that has made this fast a highly popular one.
In the typical puja set up, a Ghat or holy pot is established on an altar. Usually, a copper pot is advised for this though other variations like panchaloga (combination of five metals), silver or earthen pots are also allowed as per availability. The Ghat is decorated with water and spices inside and mango leaves and coconut kept on top of it with the face pointing downwards. An image of Mother Durga is installed on the coconut or the Ghat.
The observer of the vrat should take flowers in both the hands and offer at the idol of Mother Durga while chanting the divine names of Mother Gauri. This process installs the Shakti of Mother Durga in the Ghat set up. The puja includes divine bath and sixteen types of offerings to the idol. Panchamrit or a salad made of five items including curd, milk, honey, cow’s ghee and sugar is the most important component of this puja. Some of the typical offerings made include fruits, dry fruits and resins, betel leaves and nuts, cloves and cardamom. At the end of the puja, arti or waving of camphor is done seven times.
The end of the puja is marked by inviting nine small girls, washing their feet with holy water and performing puja to them with offerings. Once all this is over, the day long fast is completed invoking the blessings of Mother Durga.
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