Vat Savitri is a religious and devotional undertaking by Hindu women all over the country. It is a festival where married women observe a fast and pray for the safety and prosperity of their husbands. Additionally, they wish to have the same husband in all their seven births. ‘Vat’ implies a Banyan Tree and ‘Savitri’ is symbolic of a Devi from Hindu mythology. Hence, Vat Savitri Purnima essentially translates to women worshipping the sacred Banyan tree on a full moon day. It falls in the Hindu month of Jyestha (June). It is known as Karadaiyan Nonbu in the South and Peepal Pujan in Nepal. In 2016, this occasion will be celebrated on the 4th of June in the North and 19th of June in the South.
As every Hindu custom is deep rooted in Hindu mythology; there is a fascinating tale behind Vat Purnima as well. As mentioned in the Mahabharata, there was once a prosperous king Ashwapati who had all the luxury and power in the world; the only thing missing was a child. He was told that only Devi Savitri could help him. Therefore, after 18 years of trying, he was blessed with a girl whom he named Savitri. She grew up to be a beautiful maiden and finally found a suitable man who went by the name of Satyavan.
But there’s a twist in the story; he only had a one year left to live. In spite of knowing this, she married him. Days went by when finally there were only three days left. One day, Savitri followed her husband to the forest where Satyavan was chopping the Banyan tree. Suddenly he fainted and fell to the ground.
And when time came, Yama came to Earth to take Satyavan away. But being a devoted wife, Savitri did not let go till the very end. She unflaggingly kept persuading for her husband’s life. Seeing her dedication he asked her for a gift instead of her husband’s life. First, she asked for the welfare of her in-law’s kingdom. After this was granted she was still relentless; then she asked for a son to her father. Yama asked her for a last boon after which he would take Satyavan away. She asked for children from her husband; to which Yama said yes. While the Lord of Death prepared to take her husband’s body; she asked him, how would she conceive without her husband. Impressed with her dedication to save her husband’s life, Yama finally agreed to let Satyavan live. She then circled around the Banyan tree where Satyavan suddenly came to life.
Hence, people offer reverence to the ‘Vat’ and do the puja in remembrance of this event.
• Married women adorn themselves in new clothes and jewellery
• They observe a fast the entire day (the number of days of fasting depends on the women observing the fast)
• The next day, the fast is broken and food is also donated
• They offered reverence to the Banyan tree as they pour water and add vermilion on its trunk. This is followed by tying a sacred thread around the tree as they circle around it 7 times. (to many, the Banyan tree is symbolic of the holy trinity)
• After the puja commences, women exchange ‘Vaan’ (five fruits on a banyan leaf) between themselves.
However, in a culture where there are countless fasts and rituals undertaken by women for the welfare of their husband; it’s quite surprising, that there is no such festival wherein the husbands do the same!