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Vat Purnima

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Vat Purnima

Tying threads around a banyan tree (wata).

Vat Purnima or Wat Purnima (वट पूर्णिमा vaṭapūrṇimā "Banyan tree full moon") is a celebration observed in the Western Indian states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Karnataka, India. Purnima means "full moon" and is celebrated on the full moon day (the 15th) of the month of Jyeshtha on the Hindu calendar, which falls in June on the Gregorian calendar. Women pray for the prosperity and longevity of their husbands by tying threads around a banyan tree or waṭ, which is called "pipal puja", on this day. It honours Savitri, the legendary wife who rescued her husband's soul from the ruler of the departed, Yama.

The Festival

The festival of Vat Purnima (or Vad Savitri) is celebrated in the month of Jesht (May–June). Women observe a fast and tie threads around a banyan tree and pray for the well being of their husband.

Fast

On this occasion of Vad Savitri, women keep a fast for their husbands. They wear ornate bridal type dresses and jewellery. Their fast is observed the whole night till the next morning. After ending their fast, fruits, clothes and such other articles are given in charity in a bamboo basket to the saints. Women worship a banyan (vat) tree, and listen to the story of Savitri in groups. After this, women can offer prayer and worship. During this puja, women pray for good health of their husbands. Women give water to the tree, holy sprinkle red powder (kumkum) on it, and wrap cotton threads around tree's trunks. Then they go seven times around the tree (called the pratikrama).

The Legend

The celebration derived from the story of Savitri and Satyavan. It had been foretold that Satyavan would not live for long. One day, while resting on the lap of Savitri, Satyavan suddenly died. The messenger of Yama, the God of death came to take Satyavan. But Savitri refused to give her beloved husband. Messenger after messenger tried to take Satyavan away, but in vain. Finally, Yama himself appeared in front of Savitri and insisted to give her husband.

Since, she was still adamant, he offered her a boon. She asked for the well being of her in-laws. He granted it to her. She then followed him as he took Satyavan's body away. He offered her another boon. She now asked for the well being of her parents. This boon, too, was granted. But she was relentless, and continued to follow him. As they approached Yama's abode, he offered her a final boon. She asked for a son. He granted it. But there was a conflict with this boon. She asked him how it would be possible for her to beget sons without her husband. Yama was stumped and realized the great devotion Savitri had for her husband. Lord Yama was impressed with her determination, and had to return the soul of her husband to his body. Henceforth, the world recognized her as the great "Sati Savitri". On the day of Vat Savitri, women hold a fast and pray for their husband's safety in the same way Savitri did.

References

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