Vat Purnima is celebrated on a full moon day, that is Purnima. This year, it falls on June 16 and is a major festival in Maharashtra and Gujarat and some regions of Western India.
Married woman consider it as one of the most important festival amongst Hindus where they fast for their husband's long life and well-being.
Legend has it that King Ashwapati was childless for a very long time and he dedicatedly worshipped Goddess Savitri asking for a child to be born to him. Pleased with his prayers, the goddess blessed him with a girl child. Ashwapati named his daughter Savitri.
Savitri, who was born out of devotion and asceticism, carried the simplicity and divinity throughout her childhood and grew up to become a beautiful young woman. When the time came for her to get married, instead of considering the many royal proposals tha were sent her way, Savitri decided to set out and find a suitable match for herself.
Soon Savitri came across a forest dweller, Satyavan who was living in exile. Savitri found out that he was the son of a blind king Dyumatsena who had lost his kingdom. When Ashwapati learnt of his only daughter’s choice of soulmate, he disapproved of it. But Savitri had made up her mind and was adamant on marrying him.
On prodding further, Ashwapati found out that Satyavan had a very short life span and would die within months of his marriage. But Savitri had made up her mind and eventually the two got married.
On the day Satyavan was destined to die, Savitri accompanied him to the woods and waited patiently for Yamraj to arrive. As the hour of death for Satyavan neared, Yamraj descended to take him. Savitri begged and pleaded him to not take his life. Yamraj refused her wish but moved by her prayers, Yamraj offered her three wishes.
Savitri tyhen made her three wishes. First, she asked for the sight of his father-in-law. Next, she asked for his usurped kingdom, wealth and prosperity to be given back to him. Finally, for the third wish, she asked to become the mother of Satyavan’s children. Happily, Yamraj granted her the three wishes and proceeded to take Satyavan to heavens.
But Savitri stopped him and reminded of the third wish he’d granted her. Being a loyal and devoted wife, she could bear the children of only Satyavan. Bound by this boon, Yamraj had to give back Satyavan his life.
Thus out of sheer devotion and intelligence, Savitri brought back her husband from the dead.
Celebrating Vat Purnima
On this day, wives pray for the long life of their husbands and their well-being and prosperity. The married women tie sacred threads around the trunk of the banyan tree which is known as Vat in Hindi, hence the name of the festival. In some regions this ritual is also known as Peepal Puja.
Married women observe fast on this day and dress up elegantly adorning heavy sarees and traditional jewellery. Usually they observe fast until the next morning and break their fast by offering food to Brahmins. Listening to the story of sati Savitri is synonymous with this day.
Performing the Puja
For the puja thali one must have 5 fruits with mango being a compulsion, soaked chana, puris made of gudd (jiggery), nak, akshat (rice), chandan (sandalwood), dhoop, agarbatti stick, sindoor, a fan made up of bamboo, lots of flowers and a kalash, naagin idol, Savitri and Satyavan idols all made up of clay. You will also need metres of preferably red thread and a red cloth.
The women carry the puja thali to the vat ped and apply kumkum, akshat and chandan to the vat. They then offer flowers and then tie colourful thread around its trunk and start taking three rounds around the tree. As they take the rounds, they offer fruits and water to it.
After this they pray to the tree to bless them with long and happy marital life and then sit in groups to listen to the katha of Savitri as narrated by the priest.
The festival of Vat Purnima celebrates the loyalty and dedication of Savitri and those observing fast on this day pray to attain qualities of simplicity and veracity in life.
Here are some style picks for you for the veneration of Vat Purnima.