India is a land of festivals and celebration. The celebrations started with Ganesh Chaturthi in the month of September and will continue untill the end of the year. September was just a glimpse of the long festival season of India. October is a month when the celebration reaches a crescendo with festivals like Navratri, Durga Puja and Dussehra. One of the festivals celebrated during the sharad ritu or early autumn season is Kojagiri Purnima.
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Celebrated on the full moon night, Kojagiri Purnima, which is also known as Sharad Purnima and Kumar Purnima, is a harvest festival. It is said that Kojagiri Purnima is the day when the moon is seen with all the sixteen kalas, which are the different phases of the moon. It is also called Kojagiri Lakshmi Purnima as the day is dedicated to goddess Lakshmi. Kojagiri Purnima also marks the end of the monsoon season. It is celebrated on the full moon day in the Hindu month of Ashwin. This year Kojagiri Purnima falls on October 15. The Purnima tithi will start on October 15 at 1:25 pm and will end on October 16 at 9:53 am. The moon is expected to rise at 5:31 pm on Sharad Purnima day.
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Why is Kojagiri Purnima celebrated in India?
According to a legend, goddess Lakshmi pays a visit to homes and showers blessing on those she finds awake. The word Kojagiri means who is awake. There is another popular story behind observing night vigil. The story goes like this- once a king was in a great financial crisis. The queen, to help her husband, observed fast, worshipped goddess Lakshmi and stayed awake the whole night. As a result, goddess Lakshmi blessed them and they prospered again.
It is also known as the Kaumudi celebration (kaumudi means moonlight) and it celebrates the divine Ras Leela of Krishna with gopis. According to another popular legend, the divine ras leela was performed by Krishna along with his consort Radha and the gopis of Vrindavan on Sharad purnima. It sis said that the gopis were woken up by the sweet music from Krishnas flute. They sneaked out of their homes and came to the forest where they danced with Krishna on the night of Sharad Purnima. Krishna replicated himself to dance with each one of them. On this night Krishna showered bhakti raas on Radha and the gopis. The day is also celebrated by lovers. Couples express their love for each other on this night of full moon.
How is Kojagiri Purnima celebrated in India?
Kojagiri Purnima is one of the most important festivals in the country. It is celebrated with fervor across Orissa, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and many regions of eastern India. The festival is of great significance in Vrindavan, Braj, Nathdwara and Mathura. Kojagiri Purnima is observed by worshipping goddess Lakshmi, the moon god Indra. People usually stay awake at night to celebrate the festival and special pujas are offered to goddess Lakshmi. It is believed that the moon is close to earth on this day. Many sages believe that the moonlight on this night have healing power and is beneficial for mind and soul. As the rays of the moon are said to have curative properties, people come out of their house at night to soak in the moonlight. In many regions, sweets like kheer are prepared on this day and are left under the rays of the moon. These sweets are consumed and distributed later as Prasad. In some regions, people do not see the moon directly on this night. A vessel is filled with boiling milk and the reflection of the moon in that vessel is seen. This is also the day to begin the Purnimasi fasting for the year. This fasting is observed by newly-wed women.
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Kojagiri Purnima is called Kojagaraha in the Mithila region, which includes the Maithili speaking parts of North Bihar. People clean the courtyard and decorate it by drawing elaborate Alpana or Aripan using rice flour paste. Household gods are place in the courtyard and worshipped. Kheer, fox nut and betel leaves are offered to the gods. The kheer, which is a sweet dished made of rice and milk, is left in the courtyard to be bathed in the rays of moon on the auspicious Sharad Purnima. The moonlight on this day is also called as Amrit Barkha (nectar rain) here. It is an important festival for the newly-weds. The house is decorated by the new bride. The newly-wed couple spend the entire night playing games with other family members. The new brides family sends new cloths for the couple and the in-laws along with a big basket filled with items like silver pennies or tortoise or fishes, cardamom, threads, sweets and Mithila paintings.
Another ritual is followed in the Mithila region. People keep spicy food out-of the doors along with a small amount of sweet dish. A larger serving of sweet dish is kept inside the house. This practice is based on the belief that the Alachchmi brings bad luck and she likes spicy food, where as her twin sister, Lachchmi brings good luck and likes sweet dishes. So the people keep spicy food outside for Alachchmi to have her fill and go away without entering the house. Small portion of sweet dish is kept outside the house to invite Lachchmi to invite her in for a larger serving and stay inside. Goddess Kali is also worshipped in some parts of the Mithila region. Kali puja starts on Sharad Purnima and ends with Nisha puja on Diwali.
In Maharashtra, the familys eldest child is honoured on the day of Kojagiri Purnima. In West Bengal, this day is called Lokkhi Pujo. Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped and several dishes are prepared to offer the goddess. In Gujarat, it is called Sharad Poonam and people celebrate it by performing dandiya and garba dance. In the eastern state of Odisha, this day is celebrated as Kumar Purnima or Lakshmi Puja. It is one of the most important festivals of the state and is dedicated to Kumar or Kartikeya, the son of Shiva. According to legends, this was the day when Kartikeya started a battle against a demon called Tarakasur. Although the day is dedicated to Kartikeya or Kumar, there are no specific puja or rituals for the Him. People worship moon and sun and enjoy their time with their family.
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What are the rituals followed on Kujagiri Purnima?
The celebration begins early morning. Girls wear new cloths and offer food to the sun. Fasting is observed for the entire day and it is called Kojagara vrat. Only liquids like milk and coconut water is consumed throughout the day. In the evening, sweet dish called kheer is prepared and offered to Goddess Lakshmi. People worship goddess Lakshmi along with god Indra on this day. Some people light 108 lamps for the puja. Traditionally, cool milk and rice flakes are consumed on this night. To please goddess Lakshmi the following mantra is chanted during the puja:
Nishithe varada Lakshmih ko jagartiti bhashini
Jagati bhramate taysyam lokcheshtavalokini
Tasme vitam prayachachami yo jagarti mahitle
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