In India, the festival of Durga Puja, which is also celebrated as Navaratri, is one of the grandest religious celebrations ever. While in Bengal, it is celebrated as Durgo Pujo, in Maharashtra and Gujarat, it is celebrated as Navaratri. Navratri is a nine days long festival, which ends on the 10th day that is, Vijayadashami, also known as Dussehra. These nine days begin right after the celebration of Mahalaya. Whereas in the culture of Bengal, it is on the sixth day that the main celebrations of Durga Pujo begins, as on Shashti (sixth day) the bodhon, which is welcoming of the goddess happens, and it is from the seventh day that the main rituals start. Despite the differences in the two cultures, one thing that remains common is that Maa Durga is worshipped, for her wisdom, strength, and knowledge.
In this regard, Maha Saptami has a big significance in these whole nine days stretch of the festival as according to Hindu mythology, it was on the seventh day (MahaSaptami) that Goddess Durga had waged a war against the buffalo king: Mahisasura, and this war had finally ended on the 10th day, known as Vijayadashami, depicting the win of good over evil.
On the other hand, the day following Maha Saptami is known as Maha Ashtami, or Durga Ashtami. It is one of the most significant days in the whole of the nine days of the festival and most devotees observe full day fast on this day. On this day, Goddess Durga’s weapons are worshipped, which she used to kill the demon Mahisasura. In many places, this day is also referred to as Vira Ashtami. Bengali women prefer donning off white sarees with deep red borders on this day as well as on the day of Vijayadashmi as they celebrate the last few days of this long and special festival together.
The ashta nayikas of Maa durga too are worshipped on this day, which are: Brahmani, Maheswari, Kaumari, Vaishnavi, Varahi, Narasinghi, Indrani, as well as Chamunda.
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