Purnima which falls in the Shukla Paksha of Ashwin month is known as Sharad Purnima. It is also known by the name of Raas Purnima in Brijbhoomi (Mathura and Vrindavan in Uttar Pradesh). According to mythology, Lord Krishna along with the Gopi's performed a dance of divine love or Maha-Raas on Sharad Purnima.
As per Vedic Astrology, Sharad Purnima is the only day in the whole year when the Moon is full of its 16 virtues and the rays coming out from the moon are considered equivalent to Amrita (elixir). Hindu devotees worship Mata Lakshmi and Moon God on Sharad Purnima. They prepare sweetened rice pudding (Milk & Rice mix Kheer) and keep it in the moonlight; on the night of Ashwin Purnima. It is believed that the rays of the moon on Sharad Purnima has special qualities of healing.
Sharad Purnima Fast & Puja Rituals: Worshiping Mata Laxmi along with Moon is considered auspicious on this day. Devotees observe a fast from morning to evening on Sharad Purnima. On this auspicious evening, special worship rituals are performed in India. They are:
• On this day, devotees wake up in the Brahma Muhurta and take a bath in a holy river, lake, or pond. However, if bathing in the river is not possible then devotees can sprinkle some Ganga water on themselves.
• With a pure heart, take a vow to observe fast on this day.
• Before worshiping Goddess Lakshmi, offer Ganga Jal or water of any holy river to Her image or idol and then place it on a red cloth.
• Adorn Goddess Lakshmi with beautiful clothes and jewellery.
• Offer lotus flowers, white flowers, lamp (Diya), sweets, and fruits to the deity.
• Chant mantra and prayers to praise the Goddess as well as recite the Katha (story) during the puja.
• During the evening hours, when the moon is located in the middle of the sky, worship Lord Chandra with white flowers, Diya and offer special Kheer prepared with cow's ghee, rice, milk, sugar, and dry fruits as naivedya.
• Offer prayers and aarti to Moon God to complete the puja and to receive His divine blessings.
• Keep Kheer Vessel (preferably silver vessel) in the moonlight at night then next morning distribute it as Prasada to all members of the family.
Significance of Sharad Poornima: Although every Purnima holds great significance, Sharad Purnima is considered the most special of all.
• On this day, Moon comes very close to the Earth with it all its virtues and bestows to all devotees with its divine rays.
• It is believed that couples, who are not yet blessed with progeny or facing troubles related to childbirth, must observe the fast to attain desired results.
• And unmarried girls fasting on this day get blessed with a suitable husband.
• As per Vedic Astrology, moonlight falling on this day increases spiritual and physical strength which is essential for living a happy and disease-free life.
• As per the teachings of sacred books likes Brahma Purana, and Skanda Purana, on this divine night of Sharad Purnima, Goddess Lakshmi descends on Earth. Therefore, devotees worship Goddess Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth to receive Her blessings.
Legends Behind Sharad Purnima: The full moon day in the Hindu month of Ashwin celebrated as Sharad Purnima is also known as Kojagiri Purnima, and Kumar Purnima. The stories from Hindu sacred book describe that Kojagiri Purnima is the day when the moon is seen with all the sixteen Kalas, which are the different phases of the moon. This auspicious festival is also called Kojagiri Lakshmi Purnima as the day is dedicated to the goddess Lakshmi.
There are many legends and mythological stories that explain the fruitful reason behind celebrating this full Moon night. According to a legend, there was King called Dhananjay who used to live in a country called Magadha. Due to lack of rain and various diseases, his country suffered a huge financial crisis. As per the suggestion of his chief priest, the queen and the king observed fast on Sharad Purnima and worshipped goddess Lakshmi as well as Moon God while staying awake the whole night. As a result, Moon God blessed their country with His divine rays for a disease-free life, and goddess Lakshmi blessed them for a prosperous life. Since that day people started observing fast on a day to worship God Moon and Goddess Lakshmi.
According to another popular legend, on this night of Sharad Purnima Lord Krishna performed the divine raasleela along with his consort Radha and the Gopi’s of Vrindavan. It is a popular story of Brijboomi that the Gopi’s used to wake up by the magical music of Krishna’s flute. They sneaked out of their homes to the nearby forest to dance with Krishna on the night of Sharad Purnima. The merciful Lord Krishna replicated himself to dance with each one of the Gopi’s. It is also believed that the devotional dance (Bhakti Raas) of Lord Krishna with Radha and Gopi’s of Vrindavan stretched the night to the extent of one divine night of Brahma Lok which is equivalent to thousands of human years. Thus, to remember His divinity, devotees of Lord Krishna celebrates the whole night of Sharada Purnima with their spouse and dear ones.
Summary: Sharad Purnima is an auspicious day that begins on the full moon day of the Hindu month Ashwin. Day of Sharad Purnima signifies the end of monsoon season, and India being an agricultural nation celebrates this day as one of its harvest festivals. As per mythological teachings, Hindu devotees observe fast on this day and worship Goddess Lakshmi and Moon God to receive their blessings.
Different regions of India celebrate this holy festival with different names such as Sharad Purnima, Kojagiri Purnima, Kumar Purnima, Navanna Purnima, or Kaumudi Purnima, etc. Worshiping Lord Moon with a special rice Kheer and keeping it under moonlight has been a traditional practice on Sharad Purnima. It is believed that the rays of the moon work as nectar on this night and are beneficial for all living beings to increase their strength and stamina.