Navratri is a festival that’s dedicated to the nine incarnations of Maa Durga. The nine days of Navratri are dedicated to celebrating the feminine divinity of the nine forms of Shakti. During the nine day long festival, devotees try to seek the divine blessings of Goddess Durga with abundant prayers and making several offerings. On the final two days, Ashtami and Navmi, the devotees close the celebration with the ritual of Kumari Poojan or Kanjak Poojan, which involves feeding seven to nine young girls, who are believed to be a manifestation of the nine forms of goddess Shakti.
Kanjak puja is a ritual that is carried out on either Ashtami or Navami. On kanjak you must feed seven to nine girls, but now, little boys are also part of the pack and accompany the girls in their morning Kanjak rounds. The traditional fare of halwa, poori and chana is made at home in pure ghee and served fresh. The head of the household welcomes these girls into the house, washes their feet, feeds them with delicacies and then showers them with gifts. This ritual is followed in many parts of India such as Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and even in the Eastern parts of India such as West Bengal.
So what’s the significance?
Navratri is a festival that’s dedicated to the nine incarnations of Maa Durga: Sailaputri, Brahmacharini, Andraghanta, Kusamanda, Skandamata, Katyayani, Kalarati, Mahagauri and Siddhidatri. And Kanjak is celebrated on either ashtami or navami (the eighth or ninth day) of Navratri. It’s just another way of paying gratitude to the Supreme Goddess. Tradition says that the lady of the house welcomes nine girls into the house by first washing their feet and then tying moli (red thread) around their wrists. These girls are seated and given halwa, poori and chole(also known as ‘bhog’) along with all kinds of gifts: pencil boxes, hair clips, clothes etc. Young girls that haven’t yet hit puberty are seen as the embodiment of goddess Durga.
Legend has it that it was on the ninth day that Shakti had taken the form of goddess Durga, on the request of the devtas, to kill a demon called Kalasura, who had been causing a ruckus all over the world. Goddess Durga is also known by the name of Kumari, and is the strongest of all the forms. Hence, on the ninth day, to honour the strength she embodies, Kumari Poojan is performed.
The goddess had killed the demon on the 10th day, which is celebrated as Vijaya Dashmi, the victory of good over the evil, throughout the country.
Who are worshipped at Kanjak ?
- The little girls who have not hit the puberty yet, are worshipped.
How to perform the Kanya/ Kanjak Poojan ?
1. It is often observed during the day time. Often a brunch or early lunch is served to the little girls.
2. The ladies and men of the house take a bath early in the morning and wash their heads. Cleanse and sanitize the kitchen. Then the “Saatvik Bhoj” is cooked. It comprises of Poori, Halwa and Sookhe Kaale Chane!
3. Athavari This is the offering prepared as Prasaad to Ma Durga. 8 Pooris are stacked together and a bit of halwa and Kaale Chane are placed on top of it. Some money is kept too.
4. The Durga idol or picture is worshipped. The Durga Arti is sung. The Athavari is offered to Ma Durga and that becomes Prasad then to be fed to the little girls. A small bite of poori, halwa and Chane from the Athavari is offered in the agnee lit in front of the Devi.
5. The little girls are invited. They are seated on the ground in a line (pankti/pangat).
6. The ladies and men wash their tiny feet in a big bowl (paraat) of water. Then dry their feet.
7. Put kumkum or Roli Chawal teeka/Bindi on their foreheads.
8. Tie the mauli/kalawa (red colored holy thread) on their tiny right hands.
9. Offer the Arti to them in clockwise direction.
10. Bow to them. Touch their feet. Seek for their blessings.
11. Serve them the food. Feed them with love and devotion.
12. Then give them gifts before sending them back home.
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