The Purnima after Navratri is called as Sharad Purnima or Kojagiri Purnima. This autumn full moon night is of great significance to the spiritual seeker as the moon is said to have several healing properties and nourishes our body and mind. It is also about celebration, devotion, wellness and art.
Every ‘Purnima or Pournami – The Full Moon’ time is regarded as sacred in the Indian tradition. It is considered that nature herself opens a doorway to experience the subtle, giving individuals an opportunity to find greater possibilities within themselves . Various rituals and festivities were designed around this context. Sharad Purnima marks the beginning of autumn harvest festivals in many parts of India, celebrating the end of monsoon and sowing the seeds of new life.
'A moon so bright
That shines upon
Drink the soma rasa*
Sing Her* verses
Dance your way
Drunk on the divine
Thread the needle
Make some savouries*
For it is that full moon
When the light heals you
The Goddess sees you
For it is that full moon
The Shakti rises in you.
Of the several stories that surrounds this Purnima, prominent among them is that of Goddess Lakshmi and Her earthly visit. It goes on to say that Goddess Lakshmi comes to the earth on this full moon night. She goes all around asking, “Kojaga, Kojaga (marathi) .. ko jagorti or ke jaage re (bengali)” literally meaning “Who is awake” and visits the home of those people who stay awake. Hence, people celebrate this night by invoking the Goddesses’ presence who would then shower blessings upon her devotees for their prosperity and good health.
This Purnima is not about rituals alone, doing some form of artwork or craft is woven along with the rituals thus giving an individual a space to express themselves. According to tradition, women( especially in Bengal) of the household would clean and decorate their home entrances and shrines (place of Ghata Sthapana for Lakshmi puja ) with álpana’ – traditional Bengali rangoli. Foot prints of Lakshmi are also drawn all along as a symbol to invite the Goddess into their homes. Men would also lend a hand in procuring and arranging certain things needed to carry out the Pujo/Pooja (the ritual). This way these rituals were designed as an activity for the couple/family to participate, come together and bond through the divine essence.
Many households also started worshipping the Goddess through ‘Shora’ art (painting the form of the goddess on a red clay plate) which was popularised by ‘Kumbhakars’ (Potters). However today this art form is dying as it has been replaced by idols made of synthetic materials. In Maharashtra, families get together in the open, to prepare offerings together and sing/dance all through the night.
One of the key importance of Sharad/Kojagiri Purnima is consuming of the prasad (offering). Rice Kheer (pudding) or flavoured milk along with various condiments is prepared for this full moon night and offered to the Goddess. This offering is covered with a sieve and placed directly under the moon all through the night. When the offering comes into contact with the moon beams, it acquires medicinal and healing properties if one is to consume it.
As per Ayurveda- Rutucharya (suggested seasonal routines) this practice is observed to reduce the Pitta (heat) in one’s body and prevent ourselves from many seasonal illnesses. Dr. Amrita Hamine mentions that “Usually in India, in the rainy season we eat more of food with extra ginger, garlic, oil and chillies (heating properties). All these things increase Pitta* in the body and subsequently one suffers from pitta imbalance. To reduce pitta, sweet ,bitter, cooling, and easily digestible food like ghee, sweet milk, sugar, amla powder ,coconut and chandan is consumed. Likewise, on the auspicious day of Sharad Purnima a ritual of consuming milk/kheer was designed in such a way that people of the household would observe ‘Vrata’ or fast throughout the day (avoiding dinner too) and then consume the kheer or milk left under the moonlight the next morning for the optimum benefit of this preparation. Today this ritual has lost its significance, instead the night is celebrated with an elaborate buffet of dishes.
For a spiritual seeker, this full moon also plays an important role. As per Vasishta Samhita (traditional text ascribed to sage Saptarishi(Sage) Vasishta) the moon has all the 16 kalas (phases) and is the best time to harness the healing light of the full moon.
However on this Sharad/Kojagiri Purnima the moon shines in all its 16 kalas (phases) and it is believed to shower nectar (Amrit) on this day which has immense curative power of healing and health giving. It is said that on this night, if we meditate on the moon, it would bring nourishment and well being.
Called as the Kumara, Navanna or Kaumudi Purnima in other regions of India and the Aries moon in the west, there is a lot to discover about this full moon time. After all nature is giving an opportunity to get aligned with the cosmos without much effort. Let us soak ourselves in this moonlight!
Do share with us your insights and traditions associated with this Fullmoon night in the comments below or write to firstname.lastname@example.org
Embrace the full moon!
- Soma Rasa – In this context, nectar or elixir of the moon
- Alpana or alpona (Bengali) – It refers to colourful motifs, sacred art or painting done with hands using a paint made of a paste of rice flour and other natural ingredients.
- Ghata Sthapana – Ghata means “pot or vessel” and sthapana means ‘to establish’. Combining these two words, it literally means, ‘to establish a pot’ which is often used to worship the divine.
- Pitta – Pitta is one of the three doshas, or the three fundamental energies that form the constitution of a human being as per Ayurveda. Pitta controls the metabolic system, temperature, heat and transformations of the body and mind.
Image credits : Pujo pictures by Dahlia Chakraborty
Shora art image and reference research by Nisar Hossain