The eighth day of Navratri celebrations is called Ashtami and is considered as one of the most significant of all the days of festivities and prayers. Devotees maintain a strict fast and worship goddess Durga on this occasion, to mark the victory of the goddess over demon god Mahishasura. According to Hindu mythology, Kali Mata is said to have emerged from the forehead of Durga to kill Chanda and Munda, the demons of Mahishasura.
Ashtami begins with Mahasnan and Shodashopachar Puja which is very similar to Saptami Puja. On Maha Ashtami, nine small pots are put up and the nine forms of goddess Durga are invoked in them. Thereafter, all the nine avatars of Durga are worshipped. In some regions of India, Kumari Puja is also observed. It involves worshipping young and unmarried girls who are treated as Durga herself.
Sandhi Puja also falls on Maha Asthami and starts when the Ashtami tithi ends and Navami tithi begins. The last 24 minutes at the end of Ashtami and the first 24 minutes at the start of Navami are considered the most auspicious time during Durga Puja. It is customary to perform balidan or animal sacrifice during this sacred time. Devotees, who do not sacrifice animals, perform the bali with vegetables and fruits like banana, cucumber or pumpkin.
On Ashtami and the following two days, Navami and Dashmi, there is a ritual of serving delicious ‘bhog’ or ‘prasad’ to the devotees. Khichdi, mixed vegetables, papad, tomato chutney, roshogolla and payesh are some of the delicacies one would find at a Durga Puja bhog.
Here are the Ashtami Puja timings for this year, according to Drikpanchang.com
Ashtami Tithi begins at 19:08 on September 27
Ashtami Tithi end at 21:36 on September 28