When is Mahalakshmi or Varalakshmi Vrata Observed?
According to the lunar calendar of North India, the Mahalakshmi Vrata fast is observed for 16 days in a row between Bhadrapad Shukla Ashtami and Ashwin Krishna Ashtami, i.e., commencing on the 8th day of the bright fortnight of the month of Bhadra and ending on the 8th day of the dark fortnight of the following month Ashwin, which corresponds to September - October of the international calendar. The fast is more popular in Uttar Pradesh Bihar, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh than other states of India.
Mahalakshmi Vrata in Hindu Mythology
In Bhavishya Purana, one of the 18 major Puranas or ancient Hindu scriptures, there is a legend that explains the significance of Mahalakshmi Vrata. As the legend goes, when Yudhishtira, the eldest of the Pandava princes, enquires Lord Krishna about a ritual fast that can get back the wealth that they lost in his gambles with the Kauravas, Krishna recommends Mahalakshmi Vrata or Puja, which can replenish the worshipper with health, wealth, prosperity, family and kingdom through the divine grace of the Lakshmi.
How to Observe the Ritual of Mahalakshmi Vrata
At the dawn of this holy day, women take a ritual bath and pray to Surya, the Sun God. They sprinkle sacred water using purified grass blades or ‘durva’ on their body and tie sixteen knotted strings on their left wrist. A pot or ‘kalasha,’ is filled with water, decorated with betel or mango leaves, and a coconut is placed on top of it. It is further adorned with a red cotton cloth or ‘shalu’ and a red thread is tied around it. A Swastika symbol and four lines, representing the four Vedas are drawn on it with vermillion or ‘sindoor / kumkum’. Also called the Purna Kumbh, this represents the supreme deity, and is worshipped as the Goddess Mahalakshmi. Holy lamps are lit, incense sticks are burned and Lakshmi mantras are chanted during the ‘puja’ or ritual worship.
How is it Different from Varalakshmi Vrata?
The Varalakshmi Vrata is a fast observed by married Hindu women on the Friday that precedes the full moon day of the month of Shravan (August-September). The Skanda Purana this particular worship of Goddess Lakshmi as a means to seek her blessings for a good progeny and long life of the husband.