The day of fasting, prayers for long life and a wish to have same life partner for the next seven lives marked the festival of Vata Pournima or Vada Poonav in Goa as women across the state prayed for the long life of their husbands. The festival is celebrated in the lunar month of Jyestha by married women in commemoration of a similar wish by the mythical princess Savitri for her husband Satyavan. It was a day of fasting by women for marital bliss, and a colourful sight in villages and towns as women wound white thread around the sacred Banyan tree that is known to live a long life. This celebration is a steadfast resolve of Savitri to serve her husband despite knowing well that he will live a very short life after marriage.
At Char Manos Badem, Salvador do Mundo, after the customary pooja at home, women gathered from early morning at the little shrine dedicated to Shri Balika Banai located next to the famous four sluice gates. They offered prayers at the shrine under the shade of small Banyan tree. Woman broke their fast in the evening by consuming jackfruit, mango, pineapple, guava, kanna, jamla, and seasonal other fruits. “Before going to any village temple, we seek the blessings from deities at home and offer Naivedhya prasad to god,” said Neelam Asgaonkar from Vasco da Gama, a real estate professional.
The Banyan tree (Vad) has a great significance in the Hindu pantheon as it is considered as the abode of Lords Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. It is believed that Devi Savitri invoked the God of Death, Lord Yama to bring back to life her husband Satyavan while resting under the Banyan tree. And, in remembrance of this mythological story, women pay their obeisance by performing the pooja by tying a thread by circumambulating seven times around the tree to invoke blessings.
This festival is mostly celebrated during the early days of monsoon, but due to changing weather it is like any other summer day celebration, acknowledges Nandita Accawade, a homemaker from Porvorim. She adds, “In Goa, it is mostly celebrated at home by worshiping a twig of Banyan tree, but now many women perform the pooja at a village Banyan tree mostly near a temple. In the past, the number of women performing pooja was limited. Now, they are conscious about following the cultural tradition without harming nature by plucking leaves and branches. It is basically nature worship as the Banyan tree also gives us large amount of oxygen.”
In some temples, Pujari performs the pooja whereas at Badem, it is all women who perform all the rituals. At Mahadeo temple in Porvorim, where they have installed an anthill for Vandevta, women offered deity a Vhuti consisting of two coconuts, fruits, Sindhur, Kajal, comb, Vastra (ceremonial cloth) and raw legumes and cereals, explained environment conscious Nandita, and said, “I don’t offer Dhono out of leaves of Banyan plant, but instead offer full fruits to at least five other women.”
But many other women after performing pooja of the Vad, they applied vermillion on the forehead of other women, exchanged pleasantries and offered Dhono filled with varieties of fruit and raw ingredients. At Badem, women also offered prayers at a nearby roadside site where once stood a Casuarina tree seeking blessing of Shri Balika Banai, a legendary village girl, who was believed to have been sacrificed for the stability of bunds and Shri Sakhalyo shrine (Rakhandar). Invoking Protector is a must during important religious ceremonies for the villagers.
While the true essence of the festival of Vata Pournima is a celebration of woman’s whole hearted dedication and love year after year for joyous family life, and she in turn deserve unflinching affection and faith from her husband.