Kojagari Lakshmi Puja or Sharad Purnima is a day of great significance amongst the Hindus. It is a harvest festival basically and signifies the end of the monsoon and ushers in autumn.
The Kojagari Lakshmi Puja or Sharad Purnima is also known by the name of the Kaumudi celebration as Kaumudi means moonlight and this puja is carried out in the evening, while the moon is there.
In some parts of India like West Bengal, Assam Odisha etc this is the most important and auspicious day to worship Goddess Lakshmi. The Kojagari Lakshmi Puja or Sharad Purnima is observed on the purnima in the month of Ashwin according to traditional Hindu calendar or on the full moon night in the month of October. In 2016, the Kojagari Lakshmi Puja or Sharad Purnima will be observed on the 15th of October, Saturday.
Legend behind Kojagari Lakshmi Puja or Sharad Purnima
Behind this observance of worshipping Goddess Lakshmi, there are a number of legends associated. One such is that long ago, there was a king who had fallen into very difficult times. The queen, his wife kept praying ardently to the Goddess Lakshmi, who is the Goddess of wealth to alleviate their situation and to rid them of their poverty. She would also keep awake at night and keep praying. Seeing her deep devotion, Goddess Lakshmi blessed her and they could regain their prosperity once again.
There is another episode where there is a mention of the Kojagari Lakshmi Puja or Sharad Purnima, in Sanatkumar Samhita. The tale involves a poor Brahmin named Valit, who left house because of his terribly quarrelsome wife. He ventured into the forest in search of wealth and prosperity and came across the Naga Kanyas belonging to the Kaliya Nag family observing the Kojagari Lakshmi Puja or Sharad Purnima vrat. Valit was also fasting on that day and he too performed puja along with them. Since it was mandated that they had to remain awake, they all sat together gambling and in which Valik list everything he had. Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Vishnu was passing by that place and knowing Valik’s fast and worshipping Goddess Lakshmi blessed him with handsomeness as Kamadeva, the God of love. Seeing Valik turning dashing and handsome, the Naga Kanyas got attracted to him and married him. Valik in turn also received enormous riches. After some time Valik returned home, and understanding her own mistake, his wife too mended her ways and welcomed him with warmth.
There is also the legend that on this auspicious night of Kojagari Lakshmi Puja or Sharad Purnima, Lord Krishna played Maha Raas with the gopis in Vrindavan.
It is also believed that Goddess Lakshmi was born on this auspicious day.
Apart from the mythical tales, there is also a logic behind the Kojagari Lakshmi Puja or Sharad Purnima’s staying awake at night is that , it is observed that on this particular night, the Moon comes very close to the earth and it has certain healing powers, which nourishes the body as well as soothes the soul. Thus the mandate of this puja of being kojagori , or who stays in jagaran or awakening.
Celebrations of the Kojagari Lakshmi Puja or Sharad Purnima
Kojagori literally means who is awake, and thus it is believed that on this night Goddess Lakshmi goes around from houses to houses to observe who all are awake, and those whom she finds awake, she blesses them with wealth and prosperity.
- o In Maharashtra, people celebrate this is a harvest festival and fast by taking only liquids such as coconut water and milk, or kheer.
- o In Gujarat this auspicious night is known as Sharad Poonam and on this night Garba and Dandiya Raas etc are organized.
- o In West Bengal this is the most auspicious day of invoking the Goddess of wealth. On this day the house is cleaned and alpona or rangoli made of rice paste are made on the floor to beautify the house. These rangolis also contain patterns of the Goddess’s footprints coming inside the house. There are lots of foods which are offered to the goddess on this day. At some places even fishes are considered to be auspicious to be offered to Goddess Lakshmi on this day, and thus offered. Thus various kinds of bhogs and upachars are made on this day for the Goddess and offered onthis auspicious day.
- o In the Mithila region this is a major occasion and is known by the name Kojagraha. On this day houses are cleaned and rangolis known as Alpana s are done. The Lakshmi idol is offered makhan or butter, paan or betel leaves, batasha or a kind of sweet and kheer or payesh which is a sweet prepared with milk and rice. These offerings are kept out in the open under the moonlight as it is believed that Sharad Purnima moonlight will rain Amrit Barkha or rain of nectar. The newlywed couple also has an important role to play in the Kojagari Lakshmi Puja or Sharad Purnima. The bride on this day does all the puja arrangements. A basket full of silver pennies, cloves, paan, coconut, banana, ice, doob grass, makhan, whole nuts, yagyopavit/janeu threads, yogurt, sweets and Mithila Paintings come from the house of the new bride on this day to the in-laws house. According to a Mythili legend, there were two sisters, Lakshmi and Alakshmi. Lakshmi loved all sweet things and Alakshmi all spicy things. Thus on this day all spicy foods cooked are kept out of the house so that Alakshmi can eat them and go away from there, thereby taking her bad luck along with her. Sweet things are prepared and kept inside so that Lakshmi comes in the house.
- o In Odisha, this day is known as Kumar Purnima or Lakshmi Puja. It is believed that Kumar Kartikeya, the handsome son of Goddess Durga started a war on the demon Tarakasur on this day. There is no ritual for praying for a handsome husband like Kartikeya, instead sun and moon are worshipped. Girls wear new clothes and worship the sun in the morning and also make offerings. After a whole day fasting special offerings are made to the moon in the evening and had after the worship is over. They play games such as puchi khela. A delicacy called the ‘Chanda chakata’ is made. This is made of numerous ingredients such as – ‘khaee’, jaggery, banana, sugarcane, talasajja, cucumber, coconut, ginger,honey, milk and ghee. This is laid out on a kulo or a winnowing fan in the shape of a half moon. Lord Jagannath and Lord Krishna too are worshipped.
The Gajalakshmi Puja on the Kojagari Lakshmi Puja or Sharad Purnima
It is believed that this auspicious day is also the birthday of Goddess Lakshmi. Thus the goddess along with white elephants or Gaja is worshipped. Thus lot of people while worshipping her keep awake the whole night by playing pasha or a game of dice.Goddess Lakshmi observes her devotees’ dedication as to who all are awake at night. That is why Owl, which stays awake at night is worshipped as the Goddess’s mascot.
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