Ashtami and Nauvmi kanya puja have been one of my most favorite childhood memories. The local girl gang would be welcomed and worshiped by known and unknown neighbors. The sweet taste of halwa puri and the lure of many girly gifts – bangles, chunni, bindis, hair clips etc. – got me and my friends excited for a whole day of festivities. Most importantly it was one day where our society gave the female gender so much value! I mean just the fact that my neighbor for one day touched my feet and bowed to me was the most “Godly” feeling I ever got!
Sadly I hit puberty and the Devi in me disappeared! Unfortunately our society equates puberty to loss of innocence and impurity. I remember being super jealous of the young “pure” girls when they collected their halwa puri and gifts and swore that when I get to perform this puja I would do things differently.
This is my fifth year of annual ashtami puja and here’s what I do:
- All kids are welcome, girls, boys, young and old. Although technically Ashtami puja calls for worshiping nine young girls signifying nine forms of Durga, I truly believe God prevails in all children. God instills innocence in all children and if it is this innocence and purity we seek to worship then we must empower and worship both sexes.
- Puberty does not take away purity. I cannot and will not look down upon an older girl. Puberty has made her a more powerful woman and instilled powers to bear pain and motherhood. Isnt that proof enough that Devi still resides in her?
- Gifts with a purpose. What will girls do with packets of bindis, bangles and chunnis? and why should Devi be signified by just these ornamental things? Empowerment comes with education and strength. I made it a point to gift all children books to encourage them to read and chose a path of knowledge.
On the auspicious eve of Ashtami Goddess durga defeated the demon Mahisasura. Life is a constant battle and there are so many demons to fight, why not enable ourselves and our children to face the fight with the right weapons. I know this is a small drop in the ocean but its my little step to bless and seek blessings.