Kojagari Puja: A day to honour Goddess Lakshmi
Lakshmi Puja on Purnima Tithi in month of Ashwin is known as Kojagara Puja and more commonly known as Bengal Lakshmi Puja. Kojagara Puja Purnima is more famously known as Sharad Purnima in most parts of India. This year Kojagari Lakshmi Puja will be celebrated on 30 October. The Purnima Tithi begins at 5.45 pm on 30 October and ends at 8.18 pm on 31 October.
Kojagari Lakshmi Puja is one of the most significant festivals celebrated in the eastern part of India, across West Bengal, Assam, and Orissa.
On the day of Sharad Purnima, devotees worship Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Shiva, with unmarried girls observing a fast in various parts of the country to please Lord Vishnu and get a suitable groom.
It is believed that on the day of Kojagari Lakshmi Puja, Goddess Lakshmi takes around on the Earth's orbit and relieves her devotees from their woes. Those who remain to awaken on the night of Sharad Purnima are blessed with health and wealth.
Like Dussehra, Sharad Purnima or Full-moon festival is observed in different ways, in different parts of India. It falls on the fifth day following Dussehra. Goddess Lakshmi presides over the festivity in some parts of the country, while Lord Krishna is worshipped in some other parts. Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth and prosperity, and Krishna symbolizes eternal love. According to their traditional culture and beliefs, the regional communities of India celebrate Sharad Purnima in different ways, unique to their identity.
In India, the state of Odisha or Orissa celebrates Sharad Purnima in two different ways. Some communities worship the Sun and the Moon on this occasion, while Goddess Lakshmi is worshiped on this pious day in some other communities. In Odisha, Sharad Purnima is also known as Kumar Purnima in honor of Kartikeya, the God of war in the Hindu mythology of India. Kartikeya, son of Lord Shiva, is the handsomest god who is worshipped by young girls in hope of getting handsome husbands.
After a holy bath in the morning, the girls cook several various food items to offer to the Sun God and adorn their necks with fresh garlands during worship. They keep fasting for the day. They break the day-long fast once the worship of the moon in the evening is over. They sing, dance and play a special game, Puchi, to rejoice in the festivity. The people of Odisha also observe Sharad Purnima as the birthday of Lakshmi. They play dice and some other indoor games to keep awake the whole night.
In north India, Sharad Purnima is popularly known as Raas Purnima. In the Hindu Mythology, there is a story of Raas Purnima from the life of Lord Krishna. According to the story, it is believed that during his human incarnation on earth, Lord Krishna used to play raas (a traditional folk dance) with Gopis, his female admirers in Vrindavan. It was the night of Sharad Purnima when he played maha raas with his beloved Radha and Gopis on the bank of Yamuna River. In different parts of north India, young boys and girls enact Raas Leela on the festive evening.
According to Hinduism, it’s believed that Lord Krishna began his Raas Leela with Radha and the gopis on the night of Sharad Purnima. There are many other legends related to this day as well.
According to a legend, once a king fell in bad days, and was in great financial difficulties, but his queen observed this eve and that evening, and worshiped the goddess of wealth, Laxmi. Therefore, they were blessed by the goddess and regained their prosperity. In the cult of the night he offered the goddess lakshmi as well as Lord Indra.
It is also believed that on that day, as the moon and the earth are very close to each other, the lunar rays have certain healing properties to nourish the body and the soul.
Some people believe that tonight, Laxmi will visit people and show her pleasure among those she finds awake. Therefore, the night is devoted to the festival and several fun games, in honor of the goddess. So people are sit in the moonlight by singing songs, or remain amused in another way. They rapidly pull solid food and consume only liquids such as coconut water or milk. The milk is boiled until thickened, and the milk masala (called kheer, a combination of ready-to-use dry fruits) is added and drunk. There is also a tradition of having fresh milk and rice flakes tonight.