Ahoi Ashtami, also known as Ahoi Aathe, is celebrated on the eighth day of dark fortnight in the month of Kartik, (October-November), according to the Hindu calendar. It is a cherished festival among the women of Northern India who observe a fast from dawn to dusk in order to gain a healthy, long and prosperous life for their sons. The fast is observed without even consuming water and it is broken after one is able to see stars. Some women opt for a different and more difficult version of the fast, according to which the fast is completed only after seeing the moon. The moon appears very late in the night on Ahoi Ashtami.
According to a legend, there was a woman who had seven sons. She once went to a forest to collect mud to remake her house. She was using an axe to scratch down the walls of a den so that she could collect soil. While she was doing so, her axe fell on a cub who was sleeping inside the den. She was filled with sorrow but could not do anything about the unfortunate incidence. Thus she decided to pick the soil and return back home. But then within a year, all her sons died, one after another. She couldn’t handle the pain and told about her miseries to the old women of the village. They were happy that she had confessed her sins and she had already gain some repentance by accepting her mistakes but in order to gain her sons back, she would have to perform the fast of Ahoi Ashtami. She did what she told to and with full dedication, she observed the fast. With the blessings of Ahoi, her sons were brought back to life.
According to the second legend, there was a potter family. The younger son of the house, asked her wife to bring some clay so that they could make earthen lamps for Diwali. Soon after she started digging, her spade fell on seven baby foxes. Their mother came out of her home and cursed her that her whole family will die just like her own whole family ended. The woman asked for forgiveness and she was ready to do anything. The fox agreed to uplift the curse but only in exchange of seven of hers new born sons. The lady agreed and went home. In seven years, she had seven children and each one of them was given to the fox as promised. Once a sage came to their house and understood the reason of the unhappiness of the younger daughter-in-law. He then suggested her to observe the fast of Ahoi Ashtami. The lady observed the fast with full devotion and continued to do so for few years. Ahoi was impressed with her dedication and decided to pay a visit to the fox. She requested the fox to return all the children of the
lady as she had already suffered enough. Fox agreed and returned the children back to the mother. The lady was filled with happiness and thanked the Goddess. She also asked her to bless her children and protect them from all the problems of the world. Since then the fast has been observed by all the mothers for achieving similar kind of blessing for their own children from the Goddess.
Women wake up early in the morning, take a bath and then a pledge to stay without food and water throughout the day for the welfare of their children. The ritual is also called as Sankalp (pledge). They also promise to end the fast only during twilight and according to the family traditions.
They worship Goddess Ahoi on the day as she is the one who bestows good fortune and long life on children. A painting of her, using red or wheatish color, is made on the wall of the house. The names of male family members is written on the painting and symbols of moon, sun, holy basil etc., are also make on the same. Nowadays, people prefer buying a painting or an idol. In some paintings, one can see figures of cubs or foxes, in order to authenticate the legends mentioned above.
An earthen pot or pitcher or bowl, filled with water is placed on the left side of the Goddess, after sanctifying the worshipping arena with holy water. A red thread is tied on the pot. Turmeric and vermillion is applied on the thread. Ahoi is offered garland of flowers, incense sticks, fruits and worshipped throughout the day. Some prefer placing a garland made of silver beads very auspicious and they offer it to the Goddess. A special puja is performed for the goddess and few coins or money is placed in front of her, which can be later distributed among the children of the house.
In many houses, the pot is kept only on a wooden floor on which wheat has been spread. The nozzle of the pot is also covered with shoots of the grass. Various food items are prepared for the festival and one of the most common dish is Kheer. It is a sweet pudding made up of rice, broken wheat, milk and sugar. It is often flavored with dry fruits and cardamom Food is served to people in the house, after it has been offered to the Goddess. A Brahmin The conventional Hindu caste system divided society into four sects and Brahmin was known as the learned class who gained the knowledge of sacred texts written on Hinduismcan also be invited for the event and can be given money and clothes, along with food.
People gather in a common house and perform puja. One of the elderly ladies narrate the above mentioned legend to explain the significance of the fast. Women visit temples dedicated to Ahoi.
In the evening when stars appear in the sky, one can break the fast by worshipping the Goddess again and then drinking water from the hands of one’s children after offering water from the pot to the stars. Women touch the feet of the elders and take their blessings.
Women observing the fast should avoid getting angry or irritated on this day. They should not allow bad thoughts enter their mind and they should perform any bad deed. Do not harm or hurt anyone.
As mentioned, the fast is observed for the longevity of the children but this fast can also be observed by married women who are either unable to conceive or go through miscarriages.