Sharad Purnima, also known as Kojaagari Purnima, is celebrated on a full moon day of the Hindu lunar month of Ashwin. It is also known as Kaumudi (moonlight) celebration, as it is believed that on this day, the Moon through its beams showers amrit or elixir of life on earth. The brightness of the full moon brings special joy, especially after monsoon.
The 'Sharad' in Sharad Purnima signifies the 'Sharad ritu' (season) of the year. Basically a harvest festival, it also has religious significance. It is believed that whoever worships Goddess Lakshmi on this night and observes a fast is blessed even if Lakshmi Yoga does not exist in his/her horoscope.
Another belief is that Goddess Lakshmi was born on Sharad Purnima. Anyone observing this fast avoids solid foods. Upon completion of the fast, he/she must first taste a mixture of cold milk and rice flakes.
The practice of drinking cold milk during this fast has its origins in science. Sharad ritu 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'.
In Gujarat, the festival is known as Sharad Poonam. After Durga puja, this is another important festival celebrated in almost every house in West Bengal. In Orissa, it is celebrated as Kumar Purnima. Kumar or Kartikeya, the handsome son of Shiva, was born on this day.
Unmarried girls who wish for a handsome husband worship Kumar, who was the most handsome of the gods. No particular god is worshipped on this day. It's actually the Sun and Moon that are worshipped.
On Sharad Purnima, girls wake up early, take a bath, wear new garments and offer food to the Sun God. They observe fast throughout the day and in the evening, when the moon rises, they again make special offerings, this time to the moon. They consume this offered food after the rituals are over. For girls, it is a festival to rejoice, dance and sing special songs.
Hindus believe that Lord Krishna began his Raas Leela with Radha and the gopis on the night of Sharad Purnima. The day brings together two major aspects in the lives of farmers - prosperity promised by good harvests, and spiritual blessings from a divine power which oversees all human achievement and endeavor.
The Sharad Purnima or Kojaagari Purnima is a harvest festival celebrated on the full moon day of the Hindu lunar month of Ashvin (September-October). The rainy season is over and the brightness of the full moon brings special joy. This is a traditional celebration of the moon and is also called the Kaumudi celebration, Kaumudi meaning moonlight.
At night, goddess Laxmi is worshiped and night vigil is observed. According to a folk-tale, once a king fell on evil days, and was in great financial straits, but then his queen observed this fast and night vigil, and worshiped the goddess of wealth, Laxmi. Consequently, they were blessed by the goddess and they regained their prosperity.
Some people believe that on this night Laxmi goes around from place to place asking, "Who is awake?" ("Kojagarti?") and shows her pleasure on those she finds awake. Hence, the night is spent in festivity and various games of amusement, in honour of the goddess. So people sit in the moonlight singing songs, or keep themselves entertained in some other way. They fast from solid food and take only fluids like coconut water or milk. Milk is boiled until it thickens, and milk masala (called kheer, a readymade combination of dry fruits) is added to it and drunk. There is also a tradition to have cool milk and rice flakes on this night. It is a harvest festival and is celebrated throughout the country, particularly by Maharashtrians i.e. by people residing in Maharashtra, India. The eldest child of the family is also honored on this day.
In the western state of Gujarat, the night is known as Sharad Poonam. In Gujarat people celebrate it by doing Garba and Raas.
Currently, this full moon comes during Sharad ritu (season) of the year and hence it is called Sharad Pornima or Sharad Poonam. (Purnima or Poonam = full moon).
There is an Ayurvedic reason behind consuming rice flakes with cool milk on this night. Sharad ritu (season) consists of two months of overlapping seasons when the summer is about to end and the winter slowly starts. During Sharad the days are warm and nights start to become cooler. This is perfect season for Pitta prakop when pitta vitiates along with other two doshas. Consuming rice flakes with milk during night time is good remedy to pacify pitta.
Time For The Festivity Sharad Purnima is known as Kumar Purnima or Laxmi Puja in Orissa,an eastern state of India. Kumar Purnima is the full-moon day in the month of September- October. This autumn festival is one of the most popular and important festivals of Orissa. 'Kumar' or 'Kartikeya', the handsome son of Shiva was born on this day. He also became the 'God of war'. As young girls always wish for a handsome husband, they propitiate Kumar who was most handsome among the Gods. But, peculiarly enough there is no ritual for the God, instead the sun and the moon are worshiped.
In the early morning the girls after their purificatory bath wear new garments and make food-offerings to the sun. They observe fasting for the day. In the evening when the moon rises they again make food offerings of a special variety and take it after the rituals are over. It is a festival of rejoicing for the girls. All of them sing and dance. The songs are of special nature. They also play a kind of game known as Puchi. They also indulge in other varieties of country-games.
The Gajalaxmi Puja
This day is also observed as the birthday of Laxmi, the Goddess of wealth. Therefore, many people worship the Goddess at their homes and keep themselves awake by playing Pasha (Chess) especially in Brahmapur of Ganjam, and other indoor games. Significantly it suggests that those who wish to acquire wealth should always be vigilant at night. It is for this reason the owl, a bird that sleeps in the day and comes out only at night.Goddess Laxmi is worshiped by devotees in different pendals in and across the state of Orissa, especially in Kendrapara & Dhenkanal. The pendals are decorated with beautiful decoratives.