Kojagiri Purnima, Sharad Poonam

It is the harvest festival celebrated by the hindus on the full moon day of the hindu month of Ashwin (September-October) ie the season called "Sharad".It is said that on this day,the moon is close to the earth and showers the curative properties on the earth.It is also believed that on this night the Moon,showers the cool nectar of peace along with the eternal nourishing power,which makes the mind peaceful and reduces the effect of 'pitta',in the body.

In 'Shrimad Bhagwat' in the 10th episode,Maharishi Ved Vyasji has described the night of 'Sharad poornima' as the night of the 'Raas Utsav' of the incarnation of Lord Krishna on the earth.Lord Krishna showered 'Bhakti Ras' on the earth.thousands of fortunate Gopis enthrilled themselves by enjoying the bhakti ras in the accompaniment of the Yogehwar Lord Krishna.Hence,the Sharad Poornima night is also celebrated as the night of romance and couples come out at night to face the moon and express their love.

By this time the is over and the the full moon brings special enthusiasm and positive results. This is a traditional celebration of the moon, called as celebration.On this day at night time, the Goddess Laxmi is worshiped and night vigil is observed.According to a legend,a king was in crisis and was in great financial problems.Later, his queen worshiped the goddess of wealth, Lashmi by observing the Sharad Poonam fast and night vigil. Soon, they were blessed by the Goddess Lakshmi and the king recovered his financial loses and regained the prosperity.

It is also believed that on this poonam night Goddess Lashmi visits various places asking, "Who is awake?" (Ko-jagarti) and shows her pleasure on those who are awake.So the people spent the night in festivity,games and entertainment programmes,in honour of the Goddess Lakshmi.As per the tradition,on this day Poha (puffed rice ) made of rice along with Kheer (a sweet dish made of milk and rice) is prepared and left in the moonlight(between 9pm and 12am) and then consumed.

The gold ornaments are put in the vessel,to cook this kheer.Coconut water and specially made milk items like Masala Milk which includes dry fruits are distributed.Resins should not be added to any of the milk preparations,though cashew nuts and charoli can be added.The food offerings,thus prepared should be taken after the satsang and performing pooja.The puffed rice,the milk,the sugar and also the moonlight are all white in colour,hence this occassion is also called "Dhawal Utsav"(dhawal means white).

There is also a tradition to have cold milk and rice flakes,cause during Sharad season, the days are warm and nights start to become cooler,hence the pitta in the body increases.By consuming rice flakes with cold milk during night time reduces the 'pitta' in body.Sharad Poornima is celebrated throughout India, particularly by Maharashtrians.It is also celebrated with full enthusiasm, in Mathura, Braj, Vrindavan and Nathdwara.The eldest child of the family is honored on this day.

Celebrations

Sharad Poonam in Gujarat
It is celebrated in the western state of Gujarat,in the night by performing Garba and Raas dance .

Kumar Pournima or Lakshmi Puja in Orissa
This autumn festival is very popular festival since Lord Shiva was born on this day.As the young girls have a desire for a nice husband,they propitiate Kumar who was the most handsome among the Gods.On this day the sun and the moon are worshiped instead of God. He also became the 'God of war'. On this day,early in the morning the girls take bath and wear new garments and make food-offerings to the sun.

They fast on the day and on the moon rise, they again make food offerings of a special variety and take it after the rituals are over.This festival is specially for the girls,who sing and dance in traditional ways till late night.Various games are played mainly the game called "Puchi".

This day is also observed as the birthday of Goddess Lakshmi,the Goddess of wealth.Goddess Laxmi is worshiped by devotees in different places,in beutifully decorated pandals, throughout the state of Orissa,especially in Kendrapara and Dhenkanal.Many people worship the Goddess at their homes and keep themselves awake by playing indoor games.It those who wish to acquire wealth should observe night vigil.

Legend

As per the Sanatkumar Samhita, a poor but learned and virtuous Brahmin named Valit lived in Magadhdesh- Bengal.His wife always used to quarrel and oppose him in every issue due to poverty.On the day of his father's 'Shraddh' - the day of paying homage to the soul,in frustration,she threw the 'pind' - ball of rice - in a sewage pit,instead of the sacred Ganges water.

Valit was very much upset with this and he left home in search for the wealth. In the forest,he came across the 'Naagkanyas'(girls of snake species) - from the ancestry of Kaliya Naag. These Naagkanyas had performed the 'Kojaagari Vrat' by staying awake on the Poonam night.They then sat gambling with Valit,when Valit lost everything.

At that moment, Lord Vishnu with his consort Lakshmi, were passing by the forests. Since Valit had incidentally observed the 'Kojagari Vrat', Goddess Lakshmi blessed him with handsome looks like 'Kamdeva'- the God of love.The Naagkanyas got attracted to him and got married to Valit.They gifted him their riches. Then Valit returned home with the riches,and his wife gave him a warm welcome.After this episode,the Samhita announced that those who remain awake on this Poonam night will be blessed with wealth and girls will get handsome husbands.

Significance

The spiritual meaning of 'Jaagrati' (awake) is to remain vigilant.In Vachanamrut Gadhada,Bhagwan Swaminarayan says that the vigilance in one's heart is the gateway to the abode of the mighty God.People should avoid filthy thoughts and desires from entering their hearts.One should remain consistant in devotion to the God at any stage of life.

In this manner, they should remain vigilant at the gateway to God.Therefore, every moment in our lives requires vigilance and this in itself becomes a subtle form of 'Penance' . Those who performed severe penanaces without vigilance, succumbed to Maya.

Sage Vishwamitra performed penances for 60,000 years, but lost 'Jaagruti' - vigilance - due to Menka. Similarly, lack of vigilance disturbed many sages like Saubhari rishi,Parashar, Ekalshrungi etc.