Outside Lord Shiva’s temple, under the shades of a Banyan tree, were a few women, decked up in beautiful red sarees, dazzling jewellery and puja thalis in their hands. Some settled around and started sprinkling red powder (kumkum) on the trunks of the tree, lit a diya, offered flowers, rice and water to it. Then they tied one side of a cotton thread on the trunk and started circling around the tree with the thread. Once they were done circling the tree seven times, they tied the loose end of the thread to the tree, joined their hands and paid their homage. Far across the road, little Tanya was sitting on a bench with her granny, watching this bizarre vista. Her curiosity couldn’t resist the question popping in her head and she finally asked her granny, “What are those aunties doing dadi?” A wide smile spread across the face of granny and she said, “It’s Vat Purnima beta, so all these aunties are praying”. But the puzzled look on Tanya’s face was soon understood by her and off she went, “Let me tell you a story”.
“Once upon a time, there was a princess named Savitri, who married to a prince named Satyavan. It was predicted that Satyavan would not live for long. One day while he was resting on Savitri’s lap under a Banyan tree, he passed away. Men from Yamlok came to take Satyavan’s soul along with them, but Savitri refused to part with her husband. After countless efforts from different messengers of yamas, which all failed, Yamaraj himself came down to take the soul of Satyavan. However, adamant Savitri refused to give in. In lieu, Yamaraj gave her a boon, for which she requested for her in-laws wellbeing which was instantly granted. Savitri still followed Yamaraj when he was taking her husband’s soul. So he gave her another boon, for which she requested for her parents’ wellbeing which was also granted. Adamant Savitri however didn’t stop and continued to follow till they approached the gates of Yamlok. The great Yamaraj stopped her and gave her another boon, for which she asked for a son. And it was granted as well. It was then that Savitri reasoned with Yamaraj that how she could have a son without her husband. Puzzled and impressed, Yamaraj had to return Satyavan’s soul to Savitri. It is from that day onwards that she is regarded as Sati Savitri. Today is that day. Like Savitri brought her husband back, these all aunties are praying for the wellbeing and long life of their husbands”
Tanya’s curiosity was put to rest with this legendary tale that we all are familiar with. Banyan Tree in Hinduism is a symbolic depiction of Brahma, Vishnu & Shiva; the root being Brahma, Stem being Vishnu and Upper portion being Shiva. The entire tree is depicted as a symbol of Savitri. It is believed that offering prayers to Banyan (Vat) tree on Purnima of Jyestha month of Hindu calendar brings prosperity and long life for husband and family. Also the fact that Banyan tree has a long life adds great significance to this.
Let’s look at the other angle. During one of his orations, a famous astrology teacher and the HOD of computer science at an engineering college, Mr. Prabhod Vekhede described Vat Purnima celebration to be more logical. Accordingly to him, because of the foreign invasions and dominance of planet rahu, the death toll of spouses had gone up in North India. As a result, women started worshipping & fasting for their husband’s wellbeing on Amavasya day. It gradually percolated in the other parts of the nation. 15 days after the north observes this celebration, the southern parts of India, which include Maharashtra and Gujarat celebrates Vat Purnima. Women observe fast on this day which goes on till next day morning. Another important aspect to be considered is that women being the centre of the Hindu families, following such rituals by them keeps the family bonded.
No matter what logic is applied, Vat Purnima is and will remain a matter of faith for all Hindu women in India.
Click here to know Why and How Vat Savitri Purnima is Celebrated?