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Over the moon: A night to pray, celebrate love

Over the moon: A night to pray, celebrate love

Author: Bella Jaisinghani
Publication: The Times of India
Date: October 4, 2009
URL: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/news/city/mumbai/Over-the-moon-A-night-to-pray-celebrate-love/articleshow/5085148.cms

This weekend, insomniacs and party animals may find company as hundreds of people stay awake all night to celebrate Kojagiri Purnima over Saturday and Sunday. As the monsoon clouds recede and the moon shines brightest this day of the year, the festival holds a rare charm for spiritually inclined people as well as those who are romantic at heart.

Maharashtra and Gujarat celebrated Kojagiri Purnima on Saturday but some regions of North India, including Varanasi, would observe the parallel Sharad Purnima on Sunday night, thanks to a division of dates. On Ashwin Purnima, the moon is closest to the earth and radiates a rare luminescence aptly described as 'Amrit Varsha' or shower of nectar.

In the run-up to Diwali which is dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi, this is another important festival where devotees fast and strive to please the goddess of wealth. 'Kojagiri' literally means 'Who is awake?'. It is believed that Goddess Lakshmi does a round of the Earth after midnight and blesses people who maintain wakeful vigil by granting them wealth and prosperity,'' says Gajanan Modak, chief priest of the Siddhivinayak temple. "Several families do not sleep all night. Around midnight, they offer milk to the moon and prepare 'kheer' for the festivities.''

Sweetened milk mixed with flattened rice or 'poha' is another popular sweetmeat. In fact, the colour white pervades the festival given its intrinsic connection with the moon and its quiet, soothing charm.

In Varanasi, the women priests of the Panini Kanya Mahavidyalaya will celebrate the festival on Sunday. "According to the almanac, Saturday was the day of fasting while Sharad Purnima falls on Sunday,'' says Acharya Medhadevi, head of the institute that inducts women priests into the Hindu fold.

Being the brightest moonlit night of the year, Kojagiri naturally holds appeal for lovers and literatteurs. The legendary 'Raasleela' where Lord Krishna multiplied his form and danced with several gopis all at once, making each of them believe that the real Krishna was with her, was performed this night. Even the erotic Marathi bhavgeet 'Tarun aahe ratra ajuni' that gave the jitters to singer Asha Bhosle, especially since her brother Hridaynath was leading her through the composition, draws its imagery from Kojagiri Purnima.

While Gujarati women manage to stay awake by playing raas garba, Maharashtrian women engage themselves with fugdi.

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