Even though curtains have come down on Durga Puja celebrations, the festivities will continue till Diwali. Dusherra, in fact, is soon followed by Lakshmi Puja and Kali Puja. MCL takes a close look at the rituals that are celebrated during this longest festive season across the state.
GAJA LAKSHMI PUJA
Lakshmi or Mahalakshmi is considered as the Goddess of fortune, wealth and prosperity. She is usually worshipped in eight different forms. In each form, she bestows one form of wealth to her devotees. The eight names of goddess Lakshmi are Aadi Lakshmi, Dhaanya Lakshmi, Dhairya Lakshmi, Gaja Lakshmi, Santaana Lakshmi, Vijaya Lakshmi, Vidya Lakshmi and Dhana/Aiswarya Lakshmi.
The Gaja Lakshmi avatar of Maa Lakshmi is generally worshipped during Gaja Lakshmi Puja which falls few days after Dusherra. ‘Gaja’ means ‘elephant’; so Gaja Laksmi is associated with white elephants instead of owl.
Gaja Lakshmi Puja is celebrated on Sharad Purnima, the full-moon day in the month of Aswina (September- October). This autumn festival is one of the most popular and important festivals of the state. In some places, it is celebrated for several days, particularly by the business community. Beautifully made images of Goddess Gaja Lakshmi are installed and the festival instills a spirit of holiness and sanctity into the whole community.
Dhenkanal, in particular, is well known for its Lakshmi Puja, the celebrations taking place for 11 days starting from the day of Kumar Purnima. Besides Dhenkanal, Gaja Lakshmi Puja is also celebrated with great fervor and gaiety in the twin cities of Cuttack and Bhubaneswar, Angul, Kendrapara, Chowdwar, Khurda, Jatni, Talcher and many other districts and towns of Odisha.
Coinciding with the Gaja Lakshmi Puja, Kumar Purnima also falls on the full moon day. During the Samudra Manthan, Goddess Lakshmi emerged from the ocean on the night of Kumar Purnima. That’s why she is worshipped on this day.
This festival is celebrated by unmarried girls and for a reason. Kumar Purnima is also the birthday of Lord Shiva’s son ‘Katikeya’, who is considered to be the most handsome among the Gods. Therefore, this day was named after him. Girls pray to the sun and moon gods on this day to fulfill their wish of getting a handsome, good and ideal husband like ‘Kartikeya.’
Girls take bath before sunrise, get dressed up in new clothes and make food offerings to the Sun and pray for a smooth marital life. There are several rituals associated with this dawn puja, which differ from place to place. However, mostly the girls follow the custom of ‘anjuli’ wherein they offer seven different types of things along with ‘khai’ or ‘liya’ to the sun. They fast for the entire day and in the evening when the moon rises, girls pray him by offering prasad. This prasad is also called as ‘chanda’ as it is given to the moon. After the puja is done, the girl has to go to an isolated part of the house where no one can see her and then eat the prasad two and a half times before throwing the remaining part.
This festival draws similarity to the North Indian festival of ‘Karva Chauth’, which falls just four to five days after Kumar Purnima, on the fourth day of the month of Kartika. The only difference is that unmarried girls celebrate Kumar Purnima to get handsome husbands while married women pray for the safety and longevity of their husbands during ‘Karva Chauth.’
Kumar Purnima is a festival of rejoicing for girls and so in many parts of the state, girls love to sing and dance to enjoy the true spirit of the festival. In fact, there is a very popular theme song for the day, Kuaanra Punei Jahna Go Phula Baula Beni. A traditional game called ‘puchi’ is also a significant part of Kumar Purnima festivities though this ritual is gradually fading away into oblivion.
Yet another important ritual on this day, particularly for people in south Odisha including Ganjam and Berhampur, is the playing of ‘teen patti’. From oldies to youngsters, everyone plays with money on this day and Berhampur literally turns into a Gambler’s Paradise on ‘Kumar Purnima.’
The history behind this popular tradition is the belief that indulging in such acts would bring in wealth and prosperity. Some people even believe that on this night Goddess Lakshmi moves about from one place to another asking, “Who is awake?” and showers her pleasure on those she finds awake. Hence, the night is spent in festivity and various games of amusement are played, in honour of the Goddess. A similar ritual is followed by North Indians during Diwali. They too gamble on Diwali to get the blessings of Goddess Parvati.
Maa Kali is the fearful and ferocious Goddess who was born from Maa Durga’s forehead as Kal Bhoi Nashini to save heaven and earth from the growing cruelty of the demons. Along with Dakini and Jogini, her two escorts, she set on her way to end the war and kill the devils.
As the legend goes, in the battle, Kali was so much involved in the killing spree that she got carried away and began destroying everything in sight. To stop her, Lord Shiva threw himself under her feet. Shocked at this sight, Kali stuck out her tongue in astonishment, and put an end to her homicidal rampage. Hence the common image of Kali shows her standing with one foot on Shiva’s chest, with her enormous tongue stuck out.
Performed on the night of Kartik Amavasya, Kali Puja is an intense invocation to the fearsome goddess and often coincides with Diwali. It is done to eliminate the ego and all negative tendencies that hinder spiritual progress and material prosperity. The main purpose of the puja is to seek the help of the goddess in destroying evil – both in the outside world and within us and also seek protection against drought and war and for general happiness, health, wealth, and peace.
Kali Puja, also known as Shyama Kali Puja is celebrated with great pomp and show all over Odisha, especially in Bhadrak. Bhubaneswar and Cuttack also observe Kali Puja with quite a few pandals set up across both the cities.
Prasanna Kumar Pati, head priest of Satya Kali Mandir at Satyanagar, Bhubaneswar tells MCL, “Kali Puja, this year has fallen one day before Diwali. As it is a tantrik puja, it is performed during midnight. The specialty of this temple is that we celebrate Kali Puja for 10 days and 10 incarnations of Durga are worshipped on each day, the first one being Kali. The other nine incarnations are Tara, Shodashi, Bhubaneswari, Bhairavi, Chhina Masta, Dhumabati, Bagalamukhi, Matangi and Kamala. No other Shakti Pitha celebrates the puja for so long.”