With the completion of the Niladri Bije ritual, the twelve-day-long annual sojourn of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra came to an end on Saturday.
Sharad Purnima 2018: Sharad Purnima is celebrated on the full moon day of Ashwin. It is believed that the Goddess of Wealth Lakshmi moves around the night sky in search of the people who are awake and celebrating this tithi with full fervour. She bestows wealth and prosperity to them. So, to remain awake, people sit in the moonlight singing songs and dancing. The moon is believed to shower elixir of life on earth through its beams as it is closest to earth on this day and its rays have healing powers. They are beneficial for mind and soul too.
Sharad Purnima is celebrated throughout India. It marks the end of monsoon and beginning of winter season. This Purnima comes in Sharad Ritu that is mainly the harvesting time of the year. This day is very significant to farmers as it comes with a promise of good harvest and blessings of the lord to get what they want. However, there is also a religious significance. A belief says that Goddess Lakshmi was born on this day. It is said that on this day one who worships Goddess Lakshmi and observes fast is blessed by the deity.
On Sharad Purnima, the moon is seen with all sixteen kalas which are its different phases. In Hinduism, each of the kala denotes a specific human quality. Krishna was the only god who was born with all these 16 kalas. It is also believed that this was the night when lord Krishna used to play the ‘Maha-Raas’ with his true devotees, the gopis of Vrindavan. In Orissa, this festival is known as Kumari Purnima because the handsome son of lord Shiva ‘Kartikeya’ was born on this day. So, unmarried girls in Orissa and West Bengal worship Sun God and Moon God on this day to get a handsome husband like Kartikeya. They get up early in the morning, take a bath and offer food to Sun God. After observing fast for the whole day, they make offerings to the Moon God when it come out in the sky. After that they consume food. During the day they sing songs and dance.
Besides Odisha, the festival is celebrated with fervour across many regions in Eastern India, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Gujarat. It is of great importance in Vrindavan, Braj Bhoomi, Nathdwara and Mathura also. Special religious programmes are held in the temples and devotees swarm the temples in large numbers.
A fast from solid food is observed and only fluids like fruit juices, coconut water and milk is consumed the whole day. During fasting, the practice of drinking cold milk has its origin in science too. As the days become hotter and nights colder during this Sharad Ritu, acidity becomes predominant in our body. Consumption of cold milk is a good remedy to cure this problem. Upon completion of fast, one must first take a mixture of cold milk and rice flakes.
In some places, it is forbidden to see the moon directly. There it is seen as a reflection on a vessel containing hot boiling milk. In many regions, milk dessert ‘kheer’ is prepared and kept in moonlight throughout the night so that it soaks the rays of moon. The next morning it is distributed as Prasad. This day is also considered pious to begin Purnamasi fasting by newly- wed women.