Varalakshmi Vratham is a Pooja mainly observed by married women in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka and Tamilnadu regions in India in the holy month of “Sravanam” as per Hindu Calendar. Goddess Varalakshmi, who is the wife of Lord Sri Vishnu is considered as the Goddess of wealth and prosperity. In 2018, Varalakshmi Vratham is being celebrated on August 24th, 2018. This festival is majorly celebrated in South India.
This festival is similar to Karva Chauth observed by married women in North India in some aspects. ‘Vara’ in Sanskrit means granting boons. So, married women worship Goddess Maha Lakshmi for their husband’s well-being and wealth.
The story behind the festival:
There is a legend that Lord Shiva has mentioned this pooja to Goddess Parvathi which can be done by married women for the prosperity of the whole family. A devotee “Charumathi” has first performed this pooja when she dreamt of the Goddess Mahalakshmi instructing her to perform the pooja. Charumathi and her friends performed the Vratham with devotion and were granted with all their wishes and wealth. From then, this vratham has become a custom.
How it is celebrated:
In Andhra region, married women get up early, take hair wash, wear new clothes, clean their houses and set up “kalasham” for pooja – a pot filled with water and a coconut covered with red blouse piece wrapped around it, decorated with mango leaves around. They start the pooja by praying to the Kalasham as the Trinity, wearing a thoram (a bracelet made with thread and 9 different flowers/ leaves) and forming a small Ganesha with turmeric paste on betel nut leaf. Then, they pray to Goddess Mahalakshmi by offering new clothes, gold, and several traditional dishes. After Pooja, they give “thambulam” (2 betel leaves with a fruit, turmeric, kumkum powder with betel nuts and flowers) to other married women and eat the “prasadam” (food offered to Goddess) together.
Women also fast on that day and eat light food in the evening.
It was a great experience watching these traditions from childhood in our family. We used to help our mom in decorating the Goddess or preparing thorams (the bracelets made with flowers and leaves). Like all other festivals, my mom used to prepare traditional dishes to offer Goddess –
“Pulihora” (Lemon / Tamarind flavored rice)
“Boorelu” (Rice flour stuffed with jaggery mixed dal paste),
“Garelu“(Donut shaped fritters deep fried in oil made with urad dal/ chana dal),
“Ksheerannam” (A milk sweet made with rice, jaggery, and dry fruits)
and “Chakkara Pongal” (Sweet made with yellow dal, rice, and sugar/ jaggery).
Even though it is very difficult for me to cook all these dishes, I try to some extent and improve every year. Usually, we cook an odd number of dishes – 5 or 7 or 9 dishes to offer Goddess. I buy a small gold coin(1 gm or more) every year with Goddess Mahalakshmi’s image on it and place it in pooja and wear it after the pooja.
Being in a foreign country, we are not able to celebrate the festival as we do in India as all things might not be available for pooja here. Getting a Gold coin with Mahalakshmi’s image has been difficult here. Getting fresh betel nut leaves and different flowers/ leaves for ‘thoram’ is also not possible always. But, I like the positive spirit and enthusiasm in Indians when they try to celebrate festivals in foreign countries. Somehow, we try to create the festival atmosphere by downloading Pooja procedures online, getting the ingredients and pooja essentials well ahead, planning get-togethers, wearing traditional dresses, celebrating together with other families, cooking traditional dishes and sharing with friends. Sometimes, being away from mother country makes us celebrate our festivals with more dedication as we know what we miss here.
Do you celebrate festivals like these and follow traditions even while staying in foreign countries? How do you make it up when you miss being in the home country? Do let me know in comments.