Pradeep Pattanayak

Today is 'Durga Ashtami’, the eighth day of the nine-day-long Navaratri. Devotees cutting across all age groups have started thronging mandaps across the State to offer prayer to Goddess Durga on this auspicious day. 

In the twin cities of Cuttack and Bhubaneswar, 'Maha Ashtami' is being celebrated with traditional pomp and dazzle. Mandaps at Alisha Bazaar, Choudhury Bazaar, Balu Bazaar, Chandini Chowk, College Square, Sheikh Bazaar and other places in Cuttack and at Saheed Nagar, Jharpada, Rasulgarh, Station Bazaar, Baramunda, Patia and other places in Bhubaneswar started witnessing large footfall from the morning itself.

Clad in new sarees, women who are observing ‘Vrat’ on ‘Maha Ashtami’ are thronging the mandaps to perform special puja. 

‘Maha Ashtami’ rituals begin with the completion of ‘Pushpanjali’, followed by ‘Bhrungari Snana’, ‘Astha Kumbha Snana’ and ‘Sodasa Upachara Puja’. 

The main puja will start at noon when Lord Ganesha, Lord Kartika, Goddess Laxmi and Goddess Saraswati and demon king Mahisasura are worshipped. Another essential ritual is offering puja to the Lion, the vehicle of Maa Durga. 

Besides ‘Ashtami Puja’, other rituals performed on the occasion of Maha Ashtami are ‘Maha Alati’, ‘Yagna’ and ‘Ahuti’ and most importantly ‘Sandhi Puja.

Sandhi Puja is observed at the juncture or sandhi of the 8th and 9th lunar days.