The Month of festivals sravan is the most auspicious month of the Chaturmas. It is called Sravan because the star Sravana rules the sky on or close to the Full Moon Day. This month has a number of festivals associated with it. The fifth day of Shravan month is Nag Panchami. From this day to the Full Moon, Jhulan Yatra is held in North India. At night, idols of Radha and Lord Krishna are placed in a swing decorated with flowers and the swing is moved accompanied by songs mainly in Hindola Raga.
Putrada Ekadasi falls in the bright or Sukla Paksha. The Full Moon during this month is also called Narali Purnima and is very important, especially for those living by the coast and depending on the sea’s bounty. The ocean is worshipped with the offerings of coconuts, so it is called ‘Narali’ Purnima. The very sentimental festival of Rakhshabandan is also celebrated on this day.
Among the festivals in Shravan Month, Varalakshmi Vrata is considered very auspicious and significant by married women for their well-being. This festival is celebrated on the last Friday of the bright fortnight (Sukla Paksha) and is devoted to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and the consort of Lord Vishnu. It is believed that Varalakshmi worship is like worshipping all the eight aspects of goddess Lakshmi: Adi, Dhana, Dhanya, Gaja, Santana, Dhairya, Vijaya and Vidya.
The story behind observing this festival is linked to a devotee called ‘Charumathi’ who lived in ‘Vidarbha’. Goddess Lakshmi came to her in a dream and advised her how to carry out the puja and receive boons. Preparations begin on Thursday to invite the Goddess to home. Rangoli is drawn outside the front door and front step using rice paste and edged with red ochre (kaavi). Inside the house, a place facing east is chosen and rangoli is drawn on the floor. A wooden ‘pelham’ is decorated with rangoli and placed on the rangoli floor.
A big plate is taken and a banana leaf is placed on top. A cup of raw rice is spread in the centre of the leaf on which the kalasam or auspicious vessel is placed. The vessel may be made of copper, brass or silver, as per the tradition of the house. The kalasam is decorated with sandal paste and kumkum on all four sides. There may be a variation in placing the kalasam on betel leaves instead of a banana leaf.
The next step is to fill the kalasam. This varies from family to family. Some fill it with rice, a few grains of dal, turmeric, kumkum, tiny black bangles, black beads, a lemon, a coin, and betel leaves. Others fill it with water infused with cardamom, nutmeg and camphor. Devotees use water fill the kalasam usually on the morning of Friday. On top of the kalasam, a bunch of five mango leaves are placed with the stalks outside as in a flower vase. A coconut is put on the kalasam.
This is important as it should be stable while carrying goddess Lakshmi Devi the next day. The coconut is smeared with turmeric paste and placed in the kalasam with the tuft upwards.
On Thursday the face of the goddess Lakshmi will be made ready with grand dress and ornaments along with head dress called ‘jada.’ Nowadays, all items related to the puja are available in the market. These are kept ready for the use on the morning of Friday.
In the morning, after a bath and wearing fresh clothes, a fresh rangoli is drawn outside the house. Things were kept ready during the previous day, the face of the goddess is placed on the coconut. Some devotees prefer to draw the image of goddess Lakshmi using kumkum-turmeric on the coconut and tied securely.
The tuft is covered with a blouse piece folded like a cone. The kalasam symbolically represents Goddess Mahalakshmi. The idol is decorated with royal dress and jewellery. Panju-tiri maalai (cotton wick garland) is considered very auspicious. Rangoli and decoration on the peetam will be done.
The decorated kalasam is placed on the peetam and is ready for puja. Sacred yellow threads (saradu or thorakam) are kept ready at the base of the kalasam. A small handful of rice stained with turmeric called ‘akshatalu’ also needs to be prepared.
In addition to the above, one needs lamps, a tumbler or a cup containing water and a spoon, a bell, ‘tamboolam,’ fruits, lotus flowers, milk and ‘naivedyam’ items. Usually cooked rice with a little tur dal, ghee, payasam and other prasadams are offered as ‘mahanaivedyam.’
Puja is begun after making a small cone shape signifying Lord Ganesha and the following sloka is recited.
Suklambaradharam vishnum sasivarnam caturbhujam |
Prasannavadanam dhyaayet sarvavighnopashaantaye ||
Next flowers are offered to the ‘kalasa’ reciting :
Lakshmim ksirasamudra raajatanayaam sriramgadhaamesvareem
daasibhutasamastadevavanitaam lokaikadipankuram |
tvaam trailokyakutumbineem sarasijaam vande mukundapriyaam ||
This can be followed by reciting Lakshmi Ashtotaram or other famous Lakshmi slokas and stotras. After ‘doopam’, ‘deeparadhana’ and ‘naivedyam’, ‘mangala harati’ is done finally by mixing turmeric and kumkum in water. ‘Thoram’ or ‘nombu saradu’ (sacred yellow thread) is tied on the right wrist.
In the evening, women are invited to visit the goddess Lakshmi and are given ‘tamboolam.’ Glass bangles, a blouse piece and some of the prepared items like sundal are also given. If you don’t have neighbours or friends to call, you can always go to the nearest temple and give women who come for worship.
The kalasha will removed only the next day after ‘punah puja’ is completed. After offering flowers, milk and ‘akshatalu’ to the Goddess, the direction of the face will gently be moved towards the north. At night, the face along with the kalasam is placed in rice. Next day, it will be put in a safe place till the next year.
If water is used in the kalasam, the remaining water will be poured to a tulasi plant or other plants. If rice is used inside the kalasam, it is mixed with the rice using regularly in the household. The offered coconut during the worship will be used for making sweets. There are no hard and fast rules regarding ‘Varalakshmi Vratam’. It is only devotion that counts.
Om Mahaadevyai cha vidmahe
Vishnu Pathnyai cha dheemahi
thanno Lakshmi prachodayaat ||
Let us meditate on the greatness and glory of Goddess Lakshmi, the consort of Lord Vishnu! May Goddess Lakshmi grant Her devotees health, wealth and eternal bliss!