Vat Savitri vrat is a matter of faith. It is an emulative ritual as women in India believe that Savitri, a princess, could avoid her husband’s death by holding a dialogue with Yam, as she sat under a vat or banyan tree. The symbolism is not lost on the devout. Bargad or vat tree is known for its age. But more than the tree it is the Moon that governs who celebrates when.
In North India, the festival or the Vat vrat is observed on the amavasya or New Moon day though all other rituals and the manner of observing the fast remain the same. This practice became popular as Nirnay Sagar, a much followed scripture in the north, prescribes observing of vat savitri vrat on Vaishakh amavasya.
On this day, the Sun and the Moon are together. Amavasya occurs when the Moon is closer to Sun. At this time Vrishabh rashi is in an exalted position and thus this date is governed by pitra. Women who worship on this day are actually worshipping the pitra to avoid a pitra like dasha in their lifetime. Taking charge of their destinies, they offer prayers via Yamraaj and ask him to ensure long lives of their husband.
But as one moves to the western and southern states like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, Vat Savitri is observed 15 days after it is celebrated in the North. This date is the Jyeshtha poornima. On this day, Sun and Moon are in opposite direction and Moon is in a debilitated site. Moon also represents women. As poornima is a day of Narayan, women donning the role of followers ask the lord for saubhagya or the well being of their spouse, family and home.
The entire fortnight from amavasya to poornima involves worshipping of different trees at a gap of five days, like kanner, amla, culminating with banyan. The tenth day of the fortnight is the day of Ganga when all plants should be watered.
Describing vat poornima as the more logical day for worship, Prabhod Vekhande, the head of the department of computer science at a city engineering institute, who also teaches astrology, says, “In the north due to extensive foreign invasions and domination of rahu, death of the spouse was a common occurrence. Thus that became a primary concern and so women worshipped on amavasya. Fasting on amavasya is done by the wife.”
“Actually, only if the spouse is suffering from a long illness should a woman fast on this day. But on poornima every woman, whether married, unmarried or single, can worship for the well being of the entire family. This is very relevant and enhances the status of womanhood,” he says.
“There are many rituals involved. We keep a branch of a banyan tree in the puja and tie a red thread to it. A banyan leaf is also tied on the hair with the thread. Whatever be the reasons behind all this, fasting and observing these rituals give an inner satisfaction and a feeling of well-being,”
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