Hindus all over Nepal is celebrating Maha Ashtami today, the eighth day of Dashain, by worshipping Goddess Durga.
From ritualistic aspects, Maha Ashtami holds very important value. On this day, the fiercest embodiment of the Goddess is worshipped. Goddess Durga is believed to bestow peace, longevity and perpetual happiness on her devotees.
People also read the Durga Saptashati scriptures today. The Durga Saptashati is divine recitals consisting of 700 slokas , or verses, divided into three parts – the first relating to Maha Kali, the second to Maha Lakshmi, and the third to Maha Saraswati.
Undertaking Durgasaptashati Patha is supposed to destroy fear and the devotee is blessed with a benevolent mind. Chanting sacred hymns of Durgasatshati is also believed to eliminate poverty and free the devotee of all the sorrows.
The Goddess Durga is described as Sarvaswarupa (the one which incorporates every kind of form), Sarveshwari (the one who observes the function of all) and is possessed of all the divine powers and attributes. Goddess Durga can destroy all the illnesses and physical maladies of her devotee.
Goddess Durga has 108 divine names and merely remembering or chanting the holy names can remove all the sufferings and bless the devotee with wealth and prosperity.
The divine principle of Goddess Durga is supposed to manifest in nine rupas (forms) during the auspicious period of Dashain (the auspicious period of nine divine nights) and these divine forms are deified as Navdurga (nine divine manifestations of Durga) which are ascribed these divine names:
1. Shailputri, 2. Brahmacharini, 3. Chandraghanta, 4. Kushmanda, 5. Skandamata, 6. Katyayani, 7. Kalaratri, 8. Mahagauri, 9. Siddhidatri.
Devotees throng the various shrines of the goddess in Kathmandu Valley from early morning today to offer prayers and to sacrifice animals like goats and ducks at different temples of Bhagwati including Bhadrakali, Kalikasthan, Guheswori, Mahankaal, Taleju Bhagwati, Daskshinkali, Sankata Shova Bhagwati and Naxal Bhagwati. Blood, symbolic for its fertility, is offered to the Goddesses.
Today, sacrifices and special offerings are made at Dashainghars and Kots as well. The old palace in Basantapur Hanuman Dhoka, is active throughout the night with worships and sacrifices in almost every courtyard. In Dasain Ghar at midnight , a total of 54 buffaloes and 54 goats are sacrificed in observance of the rites. After the offering of the blood, the meat is taken home and cooked as “prasad”, or food blessed by divinity. This food is offered, in tiny leaf plates, to the household Gods, and then distributed amongst the family. Eating this food is thought to be auspicious. Appropriately enough, the night of this day is called Kal Ratri (Black Night).
While the puja is being carried out great feasts are held in the homes of common people.
People who do not sacrifice animals offer sacrifices of various vegetables and fruits in place of animals.
Some Hindus will also be fasting this day.
In Newari culture, we eat Kuchi Bhwey to mark this day. We were invited for the feast at my cousin house.
It consists of 9 Newari dishes which are
- Chiura (beaten/flattened rice)
- Chicken curry
- Methi kerau
- Thulo kerau
- Golbera achar
- Aloo tama
- Methi salad