Fasting is an integral part of our Indian culture and ethos and it is considered auspicious to keep a fast on Full Moon Day, New Moon Day and other such occasions.Some people fast on different days of the week to propitiate the god whose influence is considered dominant on that particular day. Besides, women keep fast on Karvachauth for the well being of their husbands and observe fast on Bash Dua for the prosperity and long life of their sons .In other words, keeping fast is an important aspect of Hindu religion. Besides having religious significance, fasting once a week is also considered for health. Among various fasts observed by the Hindu women fast observed on the eve of Sankat Chauth of Magh (Bhugga Vrat) is one of the most important fasts that Dogra women observe for the well being and longevity of their children and keeping away the evil impact of stars.It is also known by other names such as Ganesh Chaturthi, Tilkut Chauth etc.This fast is observed on the fourth day of waning moon in the month of Magh to please and obtain the blessings of Lord Ganesha who is considered as remover of various obstacles in our way.This year it falls on the 13th January on Monday, alongwith the festival of bonfire, Lohri.There are many legends associated with this fast.According to one legend, there were two male siblings.As they grew up, they married and chose their destiny.The elder of them became rich and the other poor. Both the Jethani and the Devrani observed fast on Sankat Chauth.But the Jethani (the wife of the elder one) did not treat her beautiful devrani well and used to give her left over food even when the latter did most of the household work.One day, the elder sister in law deliberately delayed serving the dinner at night to her Devrani and her children with the result that all of them slept on an empty stomach. However, the Devrani prepared a tilkuta,performed prayers , took a glass of water before going to bed.At midnight Lord Ganesha visited her in the guise of a Brahmin and asked for food. But the lady told the God that there was nothing in the home.However, there was a tilkuta which he can take.The Brahmin took the tilkuta and asked her what he could wipe his mouth with.The woman was irritated and said “Wipe it with my head”. But when she woke up in the morning,to her surprise she saw that her house was full of food and her head decorated with jewels and pearls.When the Jethani came to know about this, she too tried to please God but instead of food, jewels and pearls, her house was filled with foul smell.She felt repentent for her behaviour and prayed to God to pardon her.The God forgave her and both the families lived happily for a long time.
According to another story, there lived a Brahmin couple in the regime of Raja Harish Chandera.The woman used to keep a fast and they were blessed with a son. But it so happened that after some days, the Brahmin died but the woman kept on observing this fast and looking after the child as usual.Time passed by and one day the child was kidnapped by a potter who was told that if he sacrificed a child, his pots would bake properly. He threw the child into the hot kiln but next morning the child was found playing gleefully and the pots were not baked as the kiln was full of water.The potter confessed his crime and the child was restored to the wailing mother. Yet, according to another tale, there once lived a money lender and his wife.They had no child.There lived a Brahmin couple in the neighbourhood.One day the wife of the money lender went to her neighbour’s house, The Brahmin’s wife had kept a fast of Sankat Chauth on that day.She told the Sahukarni (money lender’s wife) that if the latter kept a fast with devotion on the said day,she may be blessed with a child.The Sahukarni started keeping the fast and promised that she would offer til ladoos to Lord Ganesha if she was blessed with a child.In due course of time, she was blessed with a child and she kept on observing this fast throughout her life and her son prospered well in life.Some people also believe that it was Yudhistera who first kept this fast and since then women have been keeping this fast.This fast is also observed to mark the change in weather.It is that the intensity of the biting cold of winter starts decreasing after this day.
Whatever be the legend behind this fast, it is a fact that this is an important festival of Dogras and this fast is kept by the women for the well being of their children.Farmers offer Ladoos of til and jaggery as a token of gratitude to Lord Ganesha for bumper harvest of sesame and jaggery.On this day, women begin their day by taking bath early in the morning and clean the house properly.They keep the fast for the whole day without taking water and food.
They worship Lord Ganesha by bathing Lord Ganesha’s idol with panchamrit containing milk, curd, water, ghee and honey. After it, things such as fruits, red coloured flowers are offered to Lord Ganesha. During the day, people prepare ‘Bhugga’ by grinding and mixing til, alsi, seul, gur etc.In the evening, women eagerly wait for the moon to rise to break their fast by taking water, Bhugga, fruit, sugarcane etc but in no case the food is taken..As the moon rises at night, fasting women offer ‘argh’ to the Moon God and reserve some Bhugga in the name of their children.Radish and sugarcane are also offered at the time of Puja. Some of the Bhugga is distributed to the relatives, friends, neighbours, girls and purohits.After this the fasting women open their fast On this day, it is advisable to chant ‘Om Shri Ganeshaya Namaha’ 108 times to obtain the blessings of the Lord.This fast is very tough to keep and requires a lot of resilience and patience.Fasting women remain without water and food throughout the day.During the day, however they are so busy in their household work and preparing Bhugga by roasting and grinding til, alsi, jaggery etc that the day passes as usual.These days Bhugga is also available at sweet shops where halwais make Bhugga from white coloured sesame seeds mixed with Khoya. But making Bhugga at home is considered auspicious. This fast is believed to have great religious significance.It brings the fasting woman and her family all sorts of happiness and prosperity. Our younger generation is losing charm for our culture and traditional festivals.So it is advisable that parents should tell their children stories and legends behind important festivals and fasts to keep them aware of our rich culture.
(The writer is serving as Lecturer in English, Govt.HSS, Thial (Udhampur)