Kojagari Lakshmi Puja of Bengal Date 2016
Saturday 15 October 2016
Among their dear goddesses, Maa Lakshmi is one of the most revered deity for Bengalis. Lakshmi Puja in Bengal is celebrated with much fervour and gaiety.
Goddess Lakshmi is one of the primary deities of Hindus. She bestows the worshippers and devotees with abundance of wealth and prosperity in life.
In few cultures and religious groups, some festivals gain immense importance and become an important ritual. Lakshmi Puja is observed and celebrated in numerous ways in different parts of India.
In some places, Lakshmi Puja is performed as an offering to the Goddess of wealth, whereas in few other places, it is a lavish celebration as is evident from the celebration of Diwali all over India. One of the eminent and grandeur celebrations of Lakshmi Puja is also observed in West Bengal. Yes, in West Bengal and some adjoining areas, Maa Lakshmi is worshipped days ahead of Diwali when all the other Indian states worship this goddess of wealth and prosperity. In fact, on the day of Diwali, Bengalis celebrate Kali Puja.
When is Lakshmi Puja Celebrated in Bengal?
Lakshmi Puja in Bengal and also in Orissa and Assam is celebrated on the full moon day in the lunar month of Ashwin. This day is called Kojagari Purnima ( কোজাগরী पूर्णिमा) popular by the name of Sharad Purnima (शरद् पूर्णिमा) in the rest of India. This is exactly five days after Dussehra or Vijaya Dashami, the day which marks the end of Durga Puja celebration in Bengal.
Generally, the full moon day aka Poornima falls in-between mid of October to first week of November.
Also termed as Kojagari Lakshmi Puja ( কোজাগরী লক্কী পুজো), this is a very special festival, rather a special religious ritual of the Bengalis. In West Bengal and a few parts of Assam and Orissa, Lakshmi Puja is observed elaborately with a lots of rituals and colorful celebrations.
Significance of this Day of Bengal Lakshmi Puja
This is the special full moon day for Bengalis. Generally, women observe fast all the day and offer special dishes made with utmost care and purity to the goddess Lakshmi in the evening according to the ‘muhurt’ (मुहुर्त) or the auspicious time to worship the Goddess.
This day is more special because Kojagari Lakshmi puja is considered a night to eliminate poverty and welcome the wealth and prosperity forever. Kojagari literally means awakening the night. The darkness of the night is wrapped by brimming lights and colorful decors.
It is believed that goddess Lakshmi visits every house and ask ‘Ko Jagarti!’ It means, she is asking for the one who is awake in their home. She blesses the one who stays awake at the night, with fortune. So, people, especially women of all ages do not sleep and welcome the goddess. To honor her visit, temples, streets, and homes are decorated with colorful lights.
A meticulous fasting and puja brings all blessings from Goddess Lakshmi on the day of Kojagari Lakshmi Puja.
Interesting Legend about Kojagari Lakshmi Puja in West Bengal
There is a reason behind why Lakshmi Puja is lavishly celebrated in West Bengal.
Many centuries ago, Bengal was ruled by a noble kind hearted king. People lived happily in his reign with no worries. His reign was bestowed with all wealth and prosperity. He promised every artisan in Bengal that if any of their artwork remains unsold, he would buy them and assured them that none would suffer due to poverty.
A statue was left unsold by an artisan and it was a statue of Alakshmi – the elder sister of Lakshmi, who symbolizes poverty and bad luck.
The artisan visited the King and informed about the unsold statue. Without hesitation, the king purchased the statue of Alakshmi. Very soon, the king’s lucky charm left him as he brought the goddess of poverty and poor luck with him.
Gradually, the king started to lose his glory and wealth. He faced a lot of troubles and even his fellow men struggled to survive. Some of the precious jewelry, artifacts and expensive gemstones were stolen.
One night, the king heard a woman crying in a feeble voice. He thought it was a dream. However, he heard the voice every night and investigated about it.
Finally, he discovered that it was none other than the Goddess Lakshmi who cried all the night. He enquired why the goddess was crying.
The Goddess told him that she and Alakshmi cannot stay together and asked the king to throw away or give back the statue of Alakshmi. However, king refused to the goddess that it would insult the artisan. Since the king continued to place the statue of Alakshmi, goddess Lakshmi went away. The kingdom lost all its prosperity.
Due to heavy storm and rain, the crops cultivated were flooded away. Cattles died of strange diseases. Even the king and queen fell ill.
One day, the king found that Lord Dharma is about to leave the kingdom. Unable to tolerate the struggle, the king and queen pleaded to Lord Dharma. He said to the lord that he bought the statue of Alakshmi since he promised the artisans to buy the unsold artworks. Lord Dharma was quite pleased. King pleaded him to find a way to get back the lost glory of the kingdom. Lord Dharma told the queen to pray and offer puja to the goddess of wealth to regain the prosperity in the country.
The queen who was ill, managed to perform the Puja. Since Goddess Lakshmi visits every house in the evenings, she started the puja in the evening.
(And this is reason that all homes lit diyas in the evening during the sunset.)
Since the queen was extremely worried about their kingdom, she ate nothing and it obviously turned into fasting for the goddess. She offered a lot of offerings to the goddess.
The queen offered colorful clothes, flowers, grains, fruits and sweets to the goddess. Rice was the staple grain (and even now) and she made a rich dessert with rice and milk and offered as prasad to the Goddess.
She just sat before the statue of the Lakshmi and chanted the mantras the whole night. Her piousness and devotion to the goddess pleased the goddess. As she was doing puja all the night, her devotion melted the statue of Alakshmi, which removed the poverty from their kingdom. The king regained all his lost treasures and wealth and remained prosperous forever.
The day she observed the fast and did puja was the full moon day on the 7th lunar month. The story of king reached the people all over the country and gradually it developed into a religious festival, specially an important festival of Bengalis.
Goddess Lakshmi visit her devotees on this auspicious day to bless everyone with all the wealth, health and good charms.
This story is told and heard on this auspicious day.
Kojagari Lakshmi Puja and Sharad Purnima
The Lakshmi puja in west Bengal is associated with Sharad Purnima, which is nothing but harvest festival celebrated at various places. Sharad Purnima falls on the same full moon day of the seventh lunar month of a year.
Sharad Purnima is celebrated to acknowledge the end of monsoon season. Generally, after the end of monsoon, people don’t involve in agriculture. The major part of crops are cultivated and harvested during monsoon. Only a few agriculturalists go for the second cultivation, that starts around the mid of November. Since there is no harvest at least for a couple of months, people prayed to God to help them during no-harvest season. Dhanya Lakshmi (one of eight variations of goddess Lakshmi, who depicts the fertile and abundant grains, no scarcity for food) is worshipped on this day.
The major offering made on Sharad Purnima is Flat rice and Cold milk or Milk kheer made with flat rice. The milk dessert is kept open under the moon light all the night and people drink it in the next morning. It is believed that the milk that is exposed to moon light gain healing properties and is good for health.
This ritual is linked with Kojagari Lakshmi Puja also. Gradually these two auspicious prayers were merged at some places.
Scientifically, on this specific full moon day, earth comes very close to the moon in the orbit and it provides some nourishment to the body and mind.
The Rituals of Kojakari Lakshmi Puja
This is a festival of women! The puja is performed generally in the evening and sometimes at night when the full moon brims beautifully on the sky. The time of Puja is decided on the basis of ‘Nakshatra’ movements.
A full day fasting
Women keep fast on the whole day and do Lakshmi puja in the evening. They don’t eat anything solid or drink anything other than coconut water and milk.
108 oil lamps aka diyas are lighted before Lakshmi puja begins. The statue or photo of goddess Lakshmi is decorated with flower garlands and flowers.
Feet of the goddess Lakshmi is drawn beautifully with powdered rice paste at the entrance of every house. The feet symbolize that the goddess Lakshmi enters the house and stay with them forever. Besides, the entrance of every house adores beautiful rangoli. This is known as ‘Alpona’. Alpona is quite similar to rangoli but it is only made with white paste obtained from soaked rice and water. Rangoli, on the other hand, is made with various colours.
Women generally wear new saris on this auspicious day to perform the Puja. Males and kids in the house also wear new clothes.
Besides flowers, fruits, new clothes, rice, other grains and gold are offered to the goddess during the puja. There is no restriction on offerings to the goddess. Narkol Nadu, the ball shaped sweet made with coconut and jaggery, is offered to the Goddess without fail. In some homes, rice kheer is also offered and then distributed as Prasad of Lakshmi puja. It is a simple payas. Some families use flat rice and cook with milk. Some families use raw rice and add rice to the milk. The milk is boiled until it turns thick. Rich delicacies like nuts, saffron and aromatic cardamom are added to enhance the flavor of the kheer or ‘Payesh’ as Bengalis call this delicacy.
Lakshmi puja is completed after performing arti to the goddess. Whole family comes together to listen to the Kojagari Lakshmi Puja Katha (story) and to do the Aarti.
They believe, perform Lakshmi Puja with family brings the blessings of the Goddess Laksmi on this auspicious day of Kojagari Lakshmi Puja in Bengal.
The festival concludes with ‘visarjan’ (immersion of the idol in water). The idol of Goddess Lakshmi worshipped by communities at Pandals is immersed in rivers or other water bodies. Bengali households worship the idol or picture of Lakshmi in their homes and perform a symbolic ‘visarjan’ (immersion) a day after Lakshmi Puja. This symbolic visarjan is done by seeing the reflection of the face of the goddess, either in water or in mirror.
And with this the wait begins! Bengalis wait for their favorite Durga Puja and Lakshmi Puja to be held next year with loud chants of ‘Aasche bocchor abar hobe’ (it will again happen next year!) during the visarjan processions!