Ahoi Ashtami, an Introduction
Ahoi Ashtami is a sacred occasion, when women observe austerities like fasting for the welfare of their children. The word Ahoi stands for Goddess Ahoi Bhagavathi, who is an aspect of Parvathi, the universal divine mother and the supreme feminine power. Ashtami is the eighth day. Ahoi Ashtami, thus, represents the eighth day of Krishna Paksha, the waning phase of the Moon in the month of Karthik, which corresponds to October–November. Ahoi Ashtami is thus the day dedicated to the worship of the mother Goddess for the welfare of children. Also known as Krishnashtami, this is celebrated essentially in the northern parts of the country.
Legends Associated with AhoiAshtami
There are a few mythological stories which highlight the importance of Ahoi Ashtami and the Vrat observed on that day.
Once, there lived a king by the name Chandrabhan. He was a good king and his wife was a virtuous woman, but still the children born to them were dying young. Not knowing what to do to stop the tragedy, the royal couple went to the forest, stayed near a pond in the Badhrika Ashram and stopped taking food, with the intention of giving up their lives. However, they had a prophecy after seven days, which told them that they were suffering only due to the sins of their past lives and advised them to observe the Ahoi Ashtami Vrat, so that their children can have long lives. The king and his queen observed the Ahoi Ashtami fast, accordingly, with faith and this pleased the Goddess Ahoi who bestowed her blessings on them. Soon, they were blessed with children, who started living healthy and long lives.
As per another account, there lived a kind-hearted woman in a village with her seven sons. A few days before Diwali, she wanted to decorate her house and hence went to the nearby forest to fetch some soil. While digging the earth, her axe accidentally fell on a sleeping lion cub and killed it. She felt extremely guilty and sad for what happened to the baby cub. Within a year of this unfortunate happening, all her seven sons disappeared and were given up for dead. Taking this as a divine punishment, the distraught lady sought the guidance of an old woman of the village, who counseled her to pray to Devi Ahoi Bhagavati by drawing the face of the lion cub and observe a fast. She did likewise with sincerity and faith, did the prayers and kept the Ahoi Ashtami Vrat. A miracle happened by the grace of the Goddess and soon all her sons returned safely to her.
Since then, mothers started observing these austerities praying for the well-being of their children.
Observance of Ahoi Ashtami Vrat
Ahoi Ashtami marks the beginning of the Diwali celebrations.
Women wake up early in the morning, take bath, wear fresh clothes, offer prayers and begin the day-long fast. They also paint the pictures of Ahoi Mata and also the lion cub on the wall, keep a bowl of water in front, tie a red thread around the bowl and also place a plate of grains there. They also make offerings like Halwa, Puri, Singhara, Chana, Sorghum, sugarcane, some money and other items. They read and recite the stories of Ahoi Mata and then distribute the offerings and cash among children. They then prostrate before the elders in the family and touch their feet. After observing the fast throughout the day, they make offerings of fruits and sweets to Devi Ahoi, worship her in the evening and also when the stars become visible, offer water to the stars, and then consume the water offered by her child and end the fast.
Benefits of Ahoi Ashtami Observance
While Ahoi Ashtami puja and austerities will ensure the welfare of the children, women having problems in conceiving and those suffering miscarriage can get the blessing for healthy progeny. Childless couples can also observe Ahoi Ashtami fasts for getting good children. Such couples also take a dip in Radha Kund in the sacred town of Mathura on that day, observe fast and seek divine blessings.