Maha Ashtami - Sacrificial Day of Dashain Festival
The eighth day of Dashain Festival is named as Maha Ashtami. In this day, people sacrifice the animals to worship Goddess Bhadrakali.
Maha Ashtami marks the eighth day of a 15 days long Dashain festival. People celebrate the festival in Ashoj Shukla Ashtami as per Bikrama calendar. It usually falls in September / October. Nepalese deities flock to various Durga temples early in the morning and then start the day after the worship.
People believe Goddess Mahakali killed the demon ' Mahisasura' on Ashtami. They make sacrifices of various animals on this day. Since, Mahisasura was a demon with buffalo's head so they mainly sacrifice buffaloes and goats.
On this day, people also worship Trishakti; MahaKali, Maha Lakshmi, and Maha Saraswoti, the representation of power, wealth, and knowledge. Nepali army and police worship their armories, following a tradition written in the book of Mahabharata. General people worship cars, and machinery as per Vedic rites and present sugarcane, maize as Jamara to these machines.
People go to Taleju Temples around in Bhaktapur and Lalitpur and pay their respects to the goddesses at Dashain ghars. At midnight, a unique ‘Kalaratri' celebration is held at the ‘Dashain Ghar' in Hanumandhoka.
Generally, Ashtami brings a great feast in Nepalese households. People who sacrifice animals to goddess Durga start feasting with family and friends and those who oppose killing or are vegetarians create a goat or a buffalo out of vegetables and cut them off as a homage to Durga. Ashtami is a family reunion time and a time to eat healthy together.
On the eighth day of Dashain Festival, people also worship young girls before breaking the fast. People worship nine girls under the age of 10 as the form of goddesses. They also fed these young girls lavishly, and gave them new clothing, among other things. This special Puja is termed as Kumari Puja.
Myths about Maha Ashtami
Goddess Bhadrakali, the strong and ferocious manifestation of Goddess Parvati, was born on Ashtami. Goddess Parvati manifested Bhadrakali from her hair alongside the other 64 yoginis. All together they fought and defeated Mahishasura (demon with buffalo’s head).
As per Mahabharata’s legend, a day before Pandav came out of their 14 years long hiatus, they went to get back their weapons which they hid on the branch of a Peepal Tree. But, when they went back to get their weapons, it was totally covered in branches. After trying many things, Pandav realised that they should worship Goddess Durga who was protecting the weapons from the past 14 years. So, Pandav worshipped Durga Bhawani and were able to retrieve their swords, bows and arrows, spears and daggers.