Kumari Pujan, one of the most important rituals of Durga Puja, is observed during the Navratras. It is a ritual practiced in the state of Odisha specifically on the occasion of Maha Navmi. It is a tradition followed for years in this state and people celebrate it with pomp and show. This ritual holds purity and is considered the next big festival after the Rath Yatra.
On Maha Navmi, a ritual is performed in almost every house of Odisha where they worship young virgin girls aged 1-10 years. These young girls are believed to be incarnations of Maa Durga. Nine young girls are worshipped and treated as devis considering them the nine incarnations of the Goddess Durga during those auspicious nine days of Navratris.
The ritual is called ‘Kumari Pujan’ because only young girls who have not hit puberty are worshipped. These girls are considered to be the purest and most vulnerable creations of God. They are prayed for the innocence and purity they bring to the family. Once a girl hits puberty, she refrains from this ritual. These girls are called kanyas and are considered to be very auspicious.
The ritual starts from washing the feet of the girls to feeding them special dishes like Puri and Kheer and are offered ‘chunnis’ and ‘money’ as gifts. The member of the family who performs this ritual seeks blessings from the girls by touching their feet. The girls who are believed to be incarnations of the Goddess bless the house with happiness and prosperity.
This ritual is meant to be very auspicious and is also celebrated in other North Indian states like Bihar, U.P, Bengal, and Punjab apart from Odisha.