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 endeavour.
Happy Sharad Purnima and may Lord Ganesha bless us all.
With Ganesha's Grace Jyothisha Ratna R Sakuntala