People of eastern Indian states of West Bengal, Assam and Orissa worship Goddess Laksmi on Kojagori Purnima night — the full moon night in the month of Ashwin of Bengali calendar, just four days after Vijaya Dashami or Dusshera — the last day of the Durga puja in the month of October.
Kojagori Purnima also known as Sharad Poornima. It is basically a harvest festival that marks the end of the monsoon season and the onset of the winter season. Worshiping the Moon on this day is called the Kaumudi celebration. According to mythological stories, Kojagiri Purnima is a combination of 16 kalas — 1. Amrita 2. Maanda 3. Pusha 4. Pushti 5. Tushti 6. Rati 7. Dhriti 8. Shashani 9. Chandrika 10. Kaanti 11. Jyotsna 12. Shree 13. Priti 14. Angada 15. Poorna 16. Poornamrita.
It is believed that Goddess Lakshmi, who is the goddess of wealth, and prosperity, visits every household on this full moon night and blesses them with sheer promise of wealth, fortune and good luck. It is also a common belief that in order to guide goddess Lakshmi to the households, residents lit up deep, earthen lamps on the terraces or balconies especially to show the path inside the house.
According to legends, once a king was in need of money and was facing financial problems. His wife observed fast and worshiped Goddess Lakshmi. In return, the goddess blessed the couple and they soon regained their lost prosperity and happiness.
It’s customary at our house to perform Lakshmi puja every Thursday and also on Kojagori purnima. After several years, all of us are at home on this day. It was nice that we all together performed the puja at our house. Babai drew alpana with rice powder paste, while I made all other arrangements and performed the puja. Jaya cooked the bhog.
Alpana refers to colorful motifs, sacred art or painting done on a horizontal surface on auspicious occasions in Bengal like Puja, wedding or community events. The art typically has some religious significance. This type of art is found on the Indian subcontinent. This practice of Alpana is believed to be coming down since the era of Indus valley civilisation; similar motifs are seen in pots and vases of Harappa and Mohenjodaro.
The word Alpana is derived from the Sanskrit alimpana, which means ‘to plaster’ or ‘to coat with’. Traditionally in Bengal, alpana is strictly white since the liquid paste used is rice powder mixed in water. It is drawn using the right finger of the right hand and only a specific set of motifs are drawn. There is no restriction on size, shape or measurement. The artist can display his/her creativity in drawing alpana with various combinations of motifs with varying shapes, sizes and placements.
Different items are offered to the goddess like fruits, grains, rice, naivedya prepared from milk products sweetmeats made from coconut and other stuffs. Lamps are lit to ward off evil spirits and devotional songs are sung in praise of Goddess Lakshmi.
After the puja is over, we ate prasad — offerings given to the Goddess. I was reminiscing our earlier days. This puja used to be a grand affair at our house with lots of friends coming to our house to celebrate this puja and eat prasad at our house. Jaya & my mother used to prepare prasad and bhog for everyone.
After puja at our house, we went to Maitraee Club, North Office Para, Doranda for Lakshmi Puja at our club. We had prasad there too. It was a nice evening — feeling blessed.