Kanya Puja is one of the most essential aspects of Navratri. It is performed on a single day, that is, either Ashtami or Maha Navami day in reverence to Maa Durga. This puja honours the nine forms of Durga - Kumarika, Subhadra, Shambhavi, Chandika, Trimurti, Rohini, Kali, Kalyani and Durga.
How Kanya Puja is performed
Kanya puja, ‘Kumari’ puja or ‘Kanjak’ puja is performed with small but symbolic rituals. Nine girls between the age of two and ten year old are invited. They are supposed to represent the nine manifestations of Maa Durga. Before starting the rituals, women take a bath early morning and perform puja to Maa Durga with vermillion, flowers, diya and incense sticks along with chanting of mantras from Durga Saptashati. However, as per ancient belief, five or seven or nine girls can be invited.
Kanya Puja Vidhi
- The house is cleaned and decorated to welcome the girls.
- The kanyakumaris’ feet are washed and tilak or kumkum is put on their forehead.
- They are made to sit in a row on a pedestal or an elevated platform.
- Food is served to them. The meal mainly comprises chana, puri and halwa, prepared in ghee.
- Women devotees touch their feet with respect and give them gifts.
- There is also a practice of giving clothes or money before sending them.
Performing this puja also requires that the girls are healthy and not afflicted with any disease.
Why it is celebrated
As one of the most significant rituals observed during Navratri, Kanya Puja is observed to get the blessings of Maa Durga. As the nine manifestations of the Goddess each represent a special power, women perform this puja to attain the ideals of Moksha, Karma, Dharma and Arth. It is believed that the goddess, pleased with the successful completion of the puja, grants the devotee peace, wisdom, fame, prosperity and power. The devotees also gain relief from poverty and ailments, while also gaining control over sense perceptions and enemies.
One of the legends is associated with the killing of Kalasura by Mahakali, while the other is associated with the penance done by Ma Durga, Ma Saraswati and Ma Lakshmi to gain extraordinary powers to kill demon god Mahishasura. By performing Kanya Puja, the devotees honour Maa Shakti and her glorious capabilities and power.