Different communities in India celebrate Lakshmi Puja on different dates or tithis. The Bengali puja for the Goddess of Prosperity is called Kojagari because it comes on Kojagari purnima (full moon).
The myth behind Kojagari Lakshmi Puja
There is an interesting story behind it. Once upon a time, there reigned a righteous king in Bengal. He promised his artisans that he would buy any object made by them if it remained unsold. It so happened that one artisan made an idol of Alakshmi or the Goddess of Poverty, and it remained unsold for obvious reasons.
But the King, true to his word bought the idol and installed it in his temple. As Lakshmi and Alakshmi cannot reside together, prosperity left the kingdom.
The desperate king appealed to Lord Dharma for help. He suggested that the queen does the Kojagari Lakshmi vrat (fast) on the full moon night in the month of Ashwin. The queen kept this fast and did the Lakshmi Puja as per the rituals. As a result, the statue of Alakshmi melted away and the Goddess of Prosperity reigned supreme in the kingdom.
When is it held?
Kojagari Lakshmi Puja must take place on Kojagari purnima that comes in the month of Ashwin. It is the first full moon after the conclusion of Durga Puja.
The speciality of Kojagari Lakshmi Puja
Apart from keeping the fast or vrat, there are some interesting rituals associated with this Lakshmi Puja.
First and foremost, it always happens at night. This because the story goes that the queen who started this puja had stayed awake all night to please Goddess Lakshmi.
Alpana (or rangoli) is a part of all Bengali pujas. However, in Lakshmi Puja it assumes special significance. A paste of powdered rice is used to draw Goddess Lakshmi's feet. These pairs of feet are always shown coming into the house and never leaving it. The symbolism of this alpana is that Goddess Lakshmi or in other words, prosperity must never leave the house.
The offerings that are given to Goddess Lakshmi are varied. Apart from the whole fruits, rice, grains, gold and clothes that are usually offered to gods, some families also offer fish to Goddess Lakshmi. The Bengalis believe that fish is the fruit of the river and therefore it is sacred.
Some families have a tradition of offering Hilsa fish to the goddess while others offer different kinds of fish like rohu, koi, tangra, etc.
Fruits and flowers used for the puja (aditimitra.wordpress.com)
Lakshmi Puja is an integral part of Indian culture and takes place in many forms. This particular form, held on Kojagari purnima is supposed to banish poverty and usher in prosperity.
A version of this article first appeared in www.boldsky.com
Lead image: yogacity.nl