This year, on the 28th of October 2023, it is the day of Lakshmi Pujo for Bengalis in and from India. Lakshmi is the Goddess of wealth, fortune and prosperity. This worship or pujo is mostly home based, but is performed in few temples as well.
In India, the festivities begin around the month of August and continue till the ushering in of the New Year.
In Bengal, the biggest festival is the Durga Pujo, which is a five day festival and happens somewhere in the months of September and October, every year. Durga Pujo is a community festival and like all community festivals it encourages families to come and interact with each other at the festival grounds.
Immediately, after a few days of the Durga Pujo, on the auspicious শরদ পূর্ণিমা (full moon), কোজাগরী (Kojagori) Lakshmi pujo is performed, every year, in several Bengali homes and in temples. Goddess Lakshmi is the daughter of Ma Durga and the sister of সরস্বতী (Saraswati), the Goddess of knowledge and learning. And Sharad Purnima signifies the commencement of the Sharad ঋতু (season) or winter season. Kojagori means ‘one who is awake’. It is popularly believed that on this day, Goddess Lakshmi visits households at night and blesses those who are found awake.
As a norm, relatives and close friends are invited to the pujo, which is actually held at night. The house is decorated with flowers and alpana (creative colourful designs) are painted on the floors with rice flour paste. The feet of Goddess Lakshmi are also painted, inviting her to step into the home. The designs are most intricate near the deity.
The pujo is conducted to welcome Goddess Lakshmi. Apart from the required prayer customs, Lakshmi pujo is performed with flowers, sandal paste, incense sticks, Ganges water, fruits and bengali sweets. The most popular sweet offered to the Goddess is নাড়ু, a round sweet, prepared from ground coconut and jaggery. The pujo and the special prayers are mostly offered by the eldest married lady of the house. While the preparations take the whole day, the pujo takes about an hour to complete. Those who partake in the pujo ardently seek blessings for wealth and prosperity from Goddess Lakshmi.
Needless to mention that the high point of the evening follows the completion of the rituals. It’s time to enjoy the fruits, sweets and the home cooked vegetarian dinner. The dinner has the hall mark of the pujo, that is খিচুড়ি in ghee (dish made of rice, lentils mixed with special butter), লাবড়া (dish with different vegetables and special seasoning) and টমেটো চাটনি (sweet liquid sauce made of tomato). Accompanied with music and আড্ডা (gossip sessions).
Since these gatherings mainly have the near and dear ones present, time passes fast and the pujo প্রসাদ (sacred food) and the dinner taste delicious.
Festivals are always nostalgic for those who are away from the near and dear ones. But as the saying goes, वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम् (the world is one family)!