The Sharad Purnima also called as Kojagari Purnima or Kumar Purnima is a harvest festival celebrated on the full moon day of the Hindu lunar month of Ashvin (September-October). This festival marks the end of monsoon.
This festival is also called the 'Kaumudi celebration', Kaumudi meaning moonlight. On this day Lord Krishna use to dance with his Gopi's.
On the same day, in the night goddess Lakshmi is worshiped and night vigil is observed. In another side, according to a folk-tale, once a king fell was in great financial straits. Seeing this his queen observed this fast and night vigil, and worshiped the goddess of wealth, Laxmi. Consequently, they were blessed by the goddess and they regained their prosperity. At night worship offered to Goddess lakshmi as well as Lord Indra.
It is also believed that on this day as moon and the earth are very close to each other. The moon rays have certain healing properties of nourishing the body and the soul.
Some people believe that on this particular night, Laxmi goes around visiting people, and shows her pleasure on those she finds awake. Hence, the night is spent in festivity and various games of amusement are performed in honour of the goddess.
People sit in the moonlight singing songs, or keep themselves entertained in some other way. They fast from solid food and take only fluids like coconut water or milk. Milk is boiled until it thickens, and milk masala (called kheer, a readymade combination of dry fruits) is added to it and drunk. There is also a tradition to have cool milk and rice flakes on this night.
The harvest festival is celebrated throughout the country, particularly by Maharashtrians.It is also similarly celebrated by other Marathi's (People with Marathi mother tongue) in India and abroad. The eldest child of the family is also honored on this day. In the western state of Gujarat, the night is known as Sharad Poonam. In Gujarat people celebrate it by doing Garba and Dandiya Raas. Bengalis people call this festival as Lokkhi Pujo and arrange several bhog and upachar for mother goddess Lakshmi.
How to Perform Sharad Purnima
All the household gods are cleaned and put out in the courtyard. Then the courtyard is cleaned and decorated with rice flour paste called as Aripan or Alpana. The idols are used for worship and an offering of paan, makhan, batasha and kheer/payas is made. They are kept out there overnight so that they are bathed in the pious "Sharad Purnima" moonlight also known as "Amrit Barkha" (rain of nectar).
It is an important celebration for the newly wed couple too. The new bride decorates the house with the rice paste. The bride, groom and the brothers-in-law play games the whole night. Paan, Makhaan and Sweets are distributed. A big basket containing rice, doob grass, makhan, paan, coconut, banana, whole nuts, yagyopavit/janeu threads, cloves, cardamom, silver pennies or fishes or turtles made up of silver, yogurt, sweets and Mithila Paintings arrives from the brides home. New clothes are also sent to the in-laws.
In some regions of the Mithila area, Goddess Kali is also worshipped. The Kali puja begins on this day and continues for a fortnight and ends on the night of Diwali with Nisha Puja.
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BY M.DIVYA SRI