There are numerous Vraths (religious observations in Hindus) and Fasting sessions undertaken by married women of India. Of these, the Karva Chauth is obviously the most famous. But this Vrath is followed more in the northern regions and districts. In the southern part of India, women follow a different set of pious observations and fasts. This article is basically about some vraths and fasts of women in the five southern states of India viz. Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and Andhra Pradesh.
Before we go into detail about these vraths and fasts here are some common facts:
- During these fasts, women give up at least one meal a day
- Sometimes they take only water throughout
- Few eat fruits and milk while avoiding food altogether. The vegan concept was not popular in ancient India. But cows were milked only after calves had their fill. So milk was a prominent nutritional ingredient during these fasts.
- Non-vegetarian is given up altogether while fasting
- Married women take up these Vraths for the welfare and longevity of their husband’s life and wellbeing of the family.
- Rishi Panjami
Rishi Panjami Vrath is characterized by severe austerities. Women above 50 yrs, especially the ones who have crossed menopause, take up this vrath. The auspicious date for this pious observation is fixed on the fifth day of Ganesh Chathurthi. On this day puja of Sapta Rishis – Kashyapa, Bharatvaja, Atri, Vishwavamitra, Gauthama, Jamadgni and Vashista is performed. This vrath and ensuing fast is observed by women to express respect and gratitude to the highly revered Rishis of ancient times.
Ganesha is prayed first, next Navagraha are revered, followed by Saptrasrishis and Arundathi, the chaste wife of Vasishta. The Women later offer prasadam to Gods and wash their husband’s feet. The ladies undertaking this vrath should follow all the rules laid down rigidly in ancient scriptures.
- Antharandu Noyampu
It is a penance and fasting undertaken by women from Kerala to please the Chakkulathukavue Goddess in Kerala.
- Karadiya noombu
This ritual is performed when the Tamil month of Masi (Feb-March) ends and Panguni (March-April) begins. This ritual has its origins in the story of how Sati Savithri reclaimed her husband from the clutches of Yama, the God of Death.
Women make two varieties of adais –one variety made of rice, pulses, jaggery and cardamom and another made of rice, chillies, and pulses and offer to goddess Parvathi. The special muhurat is determined by the Hindu almanac and it may occur at any time during the day or night. Women partake meals once in the morning and eat only adai or fruits at night.
- Varalakshmi noombu
Varalakshmi noombu is observed to please the Goddess Varalakshmi. Vara means boons and Vara Lakshmi means the granter of Boons. Lakshmi is the wife of Lord Vishnu who grants wealth and prosperity to all women doing this pooja.
This vrath falls on the second Friday before the full moon day of Sravana, somewhere between the English months of July and August. It is performed by married aka Sumangalis of Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Telangana
A face made of silver with an image of the Goddess mother is attached to a Kalash (a pot filled with rice and an inverted coconut on top). Special offerings of food, flowers and fruits are made to this image. A sacred thread is kept in puja and later adorned by all fasting ladies on their wrists. This is a bond of protection. This pooja is performed irrespective of caste, creed.
- Karthika Somawaram
Married women from the states of Andhra and Karnataka perform Karthika Somawaram vrath. This vrath is taken up to obtain the blessings of Lord Shiva.
Women wake up early morning, perform Shiva puja and meditate on the lord before the sun rises. Bilva leaves are the preferred items for puja. Later the person who performs the puja takes the blessing of an elderly couple allegorizing them the first couple Lord Shiva and Parvathi. Food is taken only after moonrise.
- Mangala Gowri Vrata
Newly married brides for the well being of their husbands perform this vrath. The puja is conducted on all Tuesdays of the of Shravan month of Hindu calendar and continues for a period of 5 years after marriage.
An idol of the Goddess is made using turmeric and it is adorned with clothes and jewelry. Puja and Prasad are offered to this Idol. The story of the Goddess Gowri is recited and at the same time a ghee filled spoon is held over a naked fire. The spoon of ghee turns ash black by the time the story recitation is over. This holy ash is applied on forehead and eyes as protection against evil. In the evening a minimum of 5 sumangali ladies are given a hamper filled with auspicious items like turmeric, rice, lentils, jaggery, sprouted grams, and bangles.
Names of other popular vraths and fasts include Garuda Panchami, Naga Chaturthi, Haritalika Vratham, Thiruvadi Pooram, Swarna Gowri, and Kedara Gowri.