Look up tonight and if you are in the Northern hemisphere under clear skies you will find an unusually bright golden full moon looking down at you. It is after all Sharad Purnima, the divine full moon night. The night of the autumnal Harvest Moon in the Hindu lunar calendar.
Sharad Purnima or Kojagiri Purnima is celebrated across India, a tradition that goes back to ancient times. It marks the change of seasons and is basically a harvest festival. A time to wish for plenty and pray to Laxmi the Goddess of Wealth for abundance.
Hence the custom of observing a vigil through the night in the worship of the Goddess. In Sanskrit, `Ko jaagarti’ means, ‘ who is awake? It is believed that on this night, Goddess Lakshmi moves around asking `Ko jaagarti’. She looks for people who are awake and blesses them wealth and prosperity.
Hindus fast on this day avoiding solid foods and break the fast at midnight with milk.The practice of drinking cold milk during this fast has its roots in Ayurveda. Sharad ritu ( autumn) brings in very hot days and cool nights. During such weather, ‘pitta’ or acidity becomes predominant in our body. Consumption of milk & rice flakes is a good remedy for ‘pitta’.
It is also believed on this night due to the closeness of the moon to the earth the moon beams hold special healing powers. Hence the milk is kept in the moonlight before being consumed.
Another popular legend speaks of Krishna inviting the gopis, milkmaids of Vrindavan to the play the Maha Raas with him on the full moon night of Ashwin.
Drawn by the mesmerising sound of Krishna’s flute the gopis left their homes in the middle of the night to join him in the woods. So intense was their love for him that they paid no heed to social taboos at the time. Krishna was in turn so moved by their love for him that he assumed as many form as there were gopis and danced the dance of love with them. This occasion is celebrated with great joy in the temples of Vrindavan.
In Bengal this festival is called Lokkhi Puja, and offering are made to Goddess Laxmi. In Orissa, it is celebrated as Kumar Purnima in honour of Kumar the handsome son of Shiva, who was born on this day. In Maharashtra it is known as Kojagiri Purnima and family and friends gather around under the open skies and enjoy the moonlight.
Even without the religious significance this is a very special festival. A full moon night celebrated for it’s own sake. A night to savour the changing of seasons.
Happy Kojagiri !!!