Eight little girls arrived at the abode of Sandhya. Welcoming them, Sandhya offered them to sit and rushed inside, only to return with a copper plate and vessel filled with water. One by one, she washed the feet of the little angels, wiped them, applied kumkum to their toe, touched their feet to show reverence and offered asana to sit on the floor. Once they did, she served them with delicious Kheer and Puri. And after they were done, she gave each one of them, a nice gift and eleven rupees. The girls were more than happy when they left her home.
This is a very common vista of Kanya Pujan on Durgashtami in India. Durgashtami falls on the 8th day of Navratri which is celebrated twice in a year in India as per the Hindu calendar. Of all, the one commemorated in Sharad month (winter) is the most important one and also called MahaNavratri. This is also the time when Bengalis celebrate Durga Puja in India. Many also celebrate Navratri which falls in Chaitra month of Hindu calendar as well.
Legends say that it was on the day of Durga ashtami that Goddess Kali appeared from the forehead of Devi Durga and killed the demons – Chanda, Munda and Raktabija. According to another legend, Bharaivnath was beheaded at the hands of Maa Vaishno Devi. Later Maa forgave him and granted him a wish. Likewise, there are many legends associated with different swarups of Maa Shakti.
The importance and relevance of Kanya Puja on Durgashtami is connected to worshipping 8 swarups of Maa Shakti Devi Durga namely, Varahi, Indrani, Kameswari, Brahmani, Vaishnavi, Maheswari, Chamunda and Narasinghi. They are also called Ashta Nayikas or 8 forms of Shakti or Power. Along with Maa Durga, her 64 associates who are called chaushast yoginis, are also worshipped on this day. Astra Puja is also performed wherein weapons of Maa Durga are worshipped. Exhibits of arms or martial arts is one of the appealing sights on this day. The event is also called Virashtami. Both, men and women observe fast and offer their homage to Maa Shakti on this day.