Kojagara Puja - Bengal LakshmiLakshmi
Lakshmi is a Hindu goddess who is regarded as the ultimate deity of wealth... Puja
Kojagara Puja is dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi and is observed on a full moon day in the month of Ashwin (September-October), according to the Hindu calendar. The day is also known as Bengal Lakshmi Puja. People believe that on this day, Lakshmi attends the homes of her devotees. She comes and asks ‘Ko Jagarti” meaning who is awake and blesses them with all kind of comforts who stay awake the whole night. The term ‘Kojagara’ literally means the night of the awakening, not only physically but also spiritually. The festival is most commonly celebrated by the people of West Bengal, Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand and Assam.
According to a legend, there was a king in Bengal who was very just and generous. He promised all the craftsmen in his kingdom that he will buy anything and everything that they make if it goes unsold. A craftsman made an idol of Alakshmi, who is the Goddess of poverty and no one bought the idol for the obvious reasons. The king was true to his words and thus bought the idol and placed it in his temple. Lakshmi and Alakshmi cannot coexist and thus Lakshmi left the kingdom, leaving poverty and misfortune behind.
The king was very upset and asked a sage to help and the sage informed him that if his wife will stay vigil at night and perform the fast for Lakshmi and Kojagara puja then they will be blessed with wealth again. The wife did as she was told and offered prayers to the Goddess. Soon the idol of Alakshmi melted and Lakshmi returned to bless the king and his kingdom.
According to another legend, there was a poor man named Valit. Though he was 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 Hinduism he had no alms. He was tired of his wife’s sarcastic comments regarding his poverty and thus one night he started wandering. He came across three daughters of serpent and saw them worshipping Lakshmi. According to the rituals, they all had to stay awake for the complete night and thus they asked Valit for his help. They all started playing game of dice. When Lakshmi saw the dedication of the poor man, she was impressed. Unknowingly, he had stayed up all night and as he was poor, he had not eaten anything for the whole day. Thus he had completed the rituals of the day by mistake. When he returned back home, he had tons of gold with him and now he was a rich man.
Women perform various rituals for the day like making beautiful white patterns on the floors at home with the use of rice paste, and it is known as alpana patterns. Mostly patterns similar looking to Lakshmi’s feet are drawn which are presented as if the Goddess is moving inside the house and not outside. Homes and temples are decorated and illuminated with lights and earthen lamps to welcome her. Offerings like fruits, rice, grains, clothes and gold are made to her. Some of the devotees also offer fish to her as they considered the fish to be the fruit of the river.
Her worshipping arena should be well decorated and well lit. The idol should be dressed in clean clothes and adorned with jewelry. Items like a basket overflowing with grains and a lotus should also be placed next to her. Only conch shells are blown for her by the women of the house.
A special puja dedicated to Lakshmi takes place in the evening at homes. Women also observe a fast for the whole day and stay vigil at night, praying to the Goddess. They complete their fast by eating flattened rice which are first offered to the Goddess and then consumed as prasadam. Coconut water can also be offered and consumed.
Lakshmi is the Goddess of wealth and prosperity and thus worshipping her results in abundance of both. She keeps away poverty from the homes and blesses her devotees with a comfortable and luxurious life.