Ghatasthapana, also known as Kalashsthapana Puja, is performed on the first day of Navaratri and Dashain. The day is observed by sowing seeds of Jamara (sacred plants) at home and temples. Mantras have a significant role while performing the rituals. While sowing grains, the mantra chanted is the one dedicated to Lord Varuna. Dashain, the first day of the festival, is dedicated to the worship of Durga, goddess of power.
Ghatsthapana means invoking Goddess Shakti in a kalash and symbolically on the growing shoots of grains. It marks the beginning of the nine-day festivity. Scriptures have defined guidelines to perform Ghatasthapana, which is prohibited during Amavasya (no moon day) and at night.
Historical aspect of this celebration is the religious observance as advocated by sage Narada to Lord Rama so that the latter could slay Ravanna. After its completion, Rama attacked Lanka and finally killed Ravanna. The female deity combated the demon Mahishasur for nine days from the first ‘pratipada’ to the ninth day ‘navami’ and finally slayed him on the ninth night. Since then She has come to be known as ‘Mahishasuramardini’.
On this day, people clean up their homes early in the morning and prepare for Ghatasthapana, which literally means placing of the pot. Ghata means pot and sthapana refers to placing it. Lord Ganesh is worshiped on the day and kalasha and diya are placed before reading scriptures. Jamara includes seeds of barley, rice, corn and wheat, which are planted on a leaf plate traditionally known as Tapari and Bohta. Jamara is kept as the blessing of Goddess Durga on the 10th day of Vijaya Dashami.
The person performing Ghatasthapana rites must either be the family priest or the eldest member of the family. Sand is first laid at a place chosen for the purpose, followed by the ceremonial jar being placed in the middle of it and barley seeds strewn all over with the chanting of hymns to Durga. The worshipper then covers the silt by a huge clay pot. The seeds will grow into their full splendour in the following nine days. After the Ghatasthapana, idol of Goddess Durga is placed in a sanctified area prepared in the house. This female deity with eight arms is riding a lion. Many believe that this is the best time of the year to evoke the goddess for fulfillment of their desires.
A virgin girl is worshipped daily for nine consecutive days and is offered meals. It is also believed that during this period, one should develop a detached conduct by not shaving, observing celibacy, avoiding sleeping on a bed or mattress, remaining barefoot. Devotees visit various Shakti Peeths (power centres) of Goddess Durga to receive her blessings. Jamara is offered as blessings by elders to younger on the 10th day.
Some devotees fast for the prosperity of family members. On the auspicious occasion of Ghatasthapana and all through Navaratri, people chant bhajans at home and at Shakti Peeths. All nine nights are named after nine incarnations of Goddess Durga. The tenth day of Dashain is considered to be the most important day. According to the Puranas, this is the day when Goddess Durga killed demon king Mahishasura and rescued Her devotees from a reign of terror. This event understandably enough symbolises her victory over vice which eventually marks the closing of Dashain commemoration.