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On the eighth day or Ashtami of Navratri, Kanjak puja is performed. Kanjak Puja is done basically for worshipping all the forms of Goddess Durga through little girls. The prepubescent girls are dressed up as Goddess Durga and worshipped in the same way as the Goddess.
Kanjak puja is a ritual that is carried out on either Ashtami or Navami. Usually, nine girls are invited to the households for the ritual. 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. Here is the complete information on how to do Kanjak Puja at home.
Certain items are essential before you start the Kanjak puja. Here is the list:
- Kalash (pitcher)
- Mango leaves
- Roli (kumkum)
- Red sacred thread
- Betel leaves
- Betel nuts
- Bel leaves
Take bath early in the morning and wear washed clothes before starting the puja. Clean the place where the Kanjakas or the little girls would be sitting.
Decorating The Kalash
Fill the kalash or the pitcher with water up to its brim. Place the mango leaves at the mouth of the kalash. Tie the sacred thread at the neck of the kalash. Place the idol of Goddess Durga near the kalash and worship her with turmeric, kumkum, flowers, rice, bel leaves etc.
Washing The Feet
Once the girls arrive, be ready with water to wash their feet. Place their feet on a pedestal and wash them.
Worshipping The Kanjakas
Worship the Kanjakas in the same way as you did for the idol of Goddess Durga. Apply turmeric, kumkum, rice etc. Light a lamp and incense in front of the girls.
Feeding The Kanjakas
The food for the Kanjakas should be pure vegetarian and cooked in ghee. Usually, the Kanjakas are fed with poori, kala chana, and halwa. Some even prepare aalo sabji and kheer also.
After feeding the girls, offer them gifts. The gifts should comprise of a chunri, bangles, kumkum, turmeric, sweets and money. However, in most of the cultures, all these are offered to the Kanjakas before offering the food.
Kanjak puja is a mark of respect for Goddess Durga. Hence this ritual is performed to pay gratitude to the Goddess. Every little girl is a symbolic representation of the powerful Goddess. The blessings of the girls are considered equivalent to the blessings from the Goddess.