In India, all Gods and Goddesses are worshiped daily in temples and homes. But certain days in the Hindu lunar calendar have been designated to worship specific Gods and Goddesses. Ganesh Chaturthi, Navratri, Durga Pooja, Kojagari Purnima, Lakshmi Pooja, Kali Pooja, Vasanta Panchami, Shiv Chaturdashi are some such tithis or lunar days. Religious practices and beliefs for the same occasion, however, differ from state to state.
The full moon day of autumn is known by different names in different parts of India. In West Bengal, it is known as Kojagari Purnima, in Bihar and Jharkhand it is called Poonam, and in Orissa it is known as Kumar Purnima.
In Orissa, unmarried girls observe a fast throughout the day and stay awake the whole night who wish for a good husband,. When the moon is in mid-sky, it is worshiped and kheer is offered to it. At the centre of a plate, an eight petalled lotus is drawn with the help of sandalwood paste. A small lamp is placed at the centre and the Goddess of wealth, Lakshmi, is invoked with devotion. Then, Lord Shiva is worshipped followed by a prayer to Lord Kartikeya. Kartikeya or 'Kumar' was the handsome son of Lord Shiva and he is specially worshipped by unmarried girls who wish for a handsome husband.
In West Bengal, Goddess Lakshmi and Kuber are worshipped. Devotees observe a fast and read the 'Lakshmi panchali' amidst family members. 'Payesh', a delicacy prepared by mixing rice, cow's milk, and gurh, is offered as bhog.
According to sociologists, the worship of the Goddess of wealth marks the harvesting festival, as the paddy of 'Aasu Dhaanya' variety is harvested at this time of the year. The indispensable article of offering in this Lakshmi Pooja is thus a bunch of paddy stalk. In the evening, 108 lamps lit with ghee made from cows milk are placed at different spots in the house and garden. On the next day, Brahmins are called home and they are offered food and some money which is given to them in the form of Dakshinaa.
Women, both married and unmarried, eagerly wait for this auspicious day, to ensure happiness and material welfare.
With Ganesha's Grace
Dr. Surendra Kapoor