For nearly a month now, Chaitali Khanderkar, 22, ensures she starts her day early on Thursdays.
It is the day she likes to prepare her own fast food before leaving for work. Considered to be the most auspicious month in the Hindu calendar, Marghashirsha is known for the ‘four Thursday fasts’ that many women in India, particularly in Maharashtra, observe for prosperity.
“During this month, we pray to Vaibhav Lakshmi on Thursdays. She is prayed for prosperity and joy. A fast is observed throughout the day and food is taken only once in the night after praying,” said Khanderkar, a SoBo resident.
Vaibhav Laksmi, or the Mahalakshmi puja as some people call it, is an elaborate prayer done on Thursdays with Vaibhav Lakshmi being placed on a kalash – an earthen pot. The kalash is placed over rice with water filled in it. Five different types of leaves are placed on the mouth of the earthen pot before a coconut with the face of Vaibhav Lakshmi is prayed. After the last Thursday fast is over, the leaves are put in the different corners of the house to ward off evil and bring prosperity.
According to a story read and distributed as a book, Lakshmi granted wealth and prosperity to a poor woman in her new birth after she fasted on Thursdays during this month. In her next birth, the woman was born as a princess. However, the riches made her forget about the fast. When Mahalakshmi came to remind her, she spoke arrogantly. All the wealth of the princess was taken away from her. She was granted the wealth again when her daughter made her realise her mistake and she started praying to Mahalakshmi once more.
“On the last Thursday, women also apply haldi-kumkum (turmeric-vermillion powder) to each other. They are invited to each other’s houses for this. We first pray at the Kalash and then get down to this activity before the Naivadya (dinner with a sweet item) is served,” said Dr Prabhi Moghe, a 42-year-old resident of Borivili. Like it has been for the past 12 years, this time too Moghe will be going to four houses in her society to apply haldi-kumkum on December 26. Haldi-kumkum and a book on the story of Vaibhav Lakshmi is given to many women who are invited to have dinner.
While Lakshmi is prayed, the month is also associated with Lord Krishna. It is said that while giving the Geeta discourse to Arjuna during the epic war Mahabharata, Krishna stated that among all the months, he is Margashirsha or Dhanur Maasa or Margazhi, as is known down south of India. The time period of Margashirhsa month varies from north to south. For the people in north of India, it was over by December 16.
“For us, the month starts on December 16 and ends on January 14. During this month, a lot of Bhajans are organised,” said R Subramaniam, trustee of the South Indian Bhajan Samaj at Matunga. The month is also known for the various days it is marked with. Days like the Aarudra Dasrshan – the cosmic dance of Shiva, Dattatreya Jayanti, Hanuman Jayanti, Vaikuntha Sankranti and Tamil Pongal are among the important days that mark this month.