The 8th day of Durga Puja to honour goddess Durga, Durga Ashtami also known as Maha Ashtami is the most important day of nine Divine Nights of Navratri. On this day, all the eight incarnation of Goddess Shakti named Chamunda is venerated. It is believed that Goddess Kali appeared on the day of Maha Ashtami and annihilated Mahishasura’s demon associates, Chanda, Munda, and Rakthabija. Disciples of the goddess on this specific day undertake a fast or Kanya Puja to please Ma Durga, if they have not done so during the previous seven days of Navratri. Kanya puja is a way of recognising the feminine power within a girl child and honour them on this day.
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There are several mythological stories related to this day. The most common is that Durga Ashtami commemorates Goddess Durga's victory over the demon, Mahishasur. As such, disciples on this day take out time to for divest, to get rid of all the life energy that leads to inner destruction. In all, it is a day to renew the commitment to actions that venerate Durga, and ALL the feminine energy around.
Since, this auspicious ten days celebrate the power of the Feminine, on this day the kanjaks or a group of young and unmarried girls are honoured. According to the age-old tradition, these unmarried young girls represents consort of Goddess Durga personifying her energy and power.
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The kanjaks or young girls are welcomed by washing their feet and applying Alta on their feet. They are then fed sweets and delicious food and bestowed gifts.