Bengali’s are said to celebrate 13 festivals in 12 months. And with time and globalization, it has definitely increased and included a variety of Festivals irrespective of culture and religion. However, there are still some age-old customs, rituals, and occasions which are celebrated by Bengalis, mostly in rural areas, which may be weaning to some extent among the present generation. Neel Puja or Neel Sasthi is one such festival.
We all are aware of Shiva Ratri being celebrated in our country for seeking good husband like Lord Shiva or married women seeks blessings for welfare, health, and prosperity of their husband through Shiva Ratri Puja. Neel puja is similar as it is also dedicated to Lord Shiva.
Another name of Lord Shiva is Neel Kantha, from there the name of Neel Sasthi is believed to be derived. This puja also celebrates the marriage of Lord Shiva and Devi Parvati. However, Neel puja is done to seek blessings for the child or children of the house along with the husband too and the occasion is known as Neel Sasthi to many households of Bengal. Maa Sasthi or Goddess Sasthi is believed to be the protector of children and through this puja, she is also remembered. The deity of Maa Sasthi is made out of smashed wet rice grains.
Neel Sasthi generally takes place on the last day of the Month of Chaitra, before the new Bengali year starts. On this day women having children keeps a fast. At evening time, after taking bath and wearing clean clothes, mostly in Bengali iconic white saree with red bordered Saree, goes to the nearby Shiva Temple for the Puja. Lord Shiva is offered milk, and Bay leaves and 5 different fruits and flowers such as Dhatura, Akanda, and Ketaki. Sometimes other items such as Siddhi, White thread, oil, ghee, honey, etc . are also offered to the Lord. Diya and incense sticks are lit and aarti is done. After the puja, the women break the fast with the Prasad and at night have fruits or light non-riced vegetarian food.