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Santoshi Mata is considered a manifestation of Durga. She is regarded as the Goddess of joy and satisfaction. Believed to be the daughter of Lord Ganesha, she is a kind-hearted form of Goddess Durga, who is pure and gentle. She is worshipped in many parts of the country and also abroad.
The word ‘Santosh’ means happiness, and Santoshi is the ‘one, who brings in satisfaction and spreads happiness around’. Santhoshi Mata is regarded as a lovely and loveable divinity, who is extremely sympathetic to the requirements of her devotees. This Goddess is generally depicted as sitting on a lotus in full bloom, while there are many more lotuses around that are filled with milk. While the milk filled lotuses denote her purity, the Goddess herself indicates the existence of virtue and fulfillment in this world that is increasingly becoming rude and selfish. She is also seen with four hands, holding a trident, sword and a bowl of sugar in three of her hands and offering protection through the Abhaya mudra, held in her principal right hand. It is also believed that the weapons she holds are meant only for the evil forces and that her upper hands themselves along with the weapons are not actually visible for her loving devotees.
There are mythological stories which hold Santoshi Mata as the daughter of Lord Ganesha. There are also accounts which associate her with Raksha Bandhan, the festival that highlights the bonding between brothers and sisters. Once Goddess Manasa, regarded as Ganesha’s sister celebrated Raksha Bandhan with him. The Lord’s sons, then asked him to get a sister for them too, as they also wanted to celebrate the festival likewise. Ganesha was initially reluctant, but was persuaded by his consorts and sage Narada, and he created a beautiful little girl through his divine will, with the help of three light flames that emanated from his three wives, Devi Buddhi, Riddhi and Siddhi. While everyone was happy at the new arrival, Narada declared that this daughter of Ganesha, conceived by his mind, will bring joy and fulfill aspirations of the people, and hence will be known as Santoshi Mata, the divine mother who will be a personification of satisfaction.
Santoshi Mata is worshipped with devotion by people from all parts of the country. Women worship the Goddess with added fervor, while many of them observe Vrat too. Called the Santoshi Maa Vrat, women observe this ritual in her honour for 16 consecutive Fridays.
Women get up early on the Vrat days, take head bath, setup a picture of Santoshi Mata at the appointed place, decorate it with flowers, install a kalash in front and make offerings like Channa with jaggery, raw sugar, banana etc. They then recite slokas and sing songs in praise of the deity, and perform arti. The observers of the Vrat also do fasting for the whole day and take food only once, at dinner time. Sour and bitter items are strictly avoided, as these may hamper the pleasant feeling on the auspicious day. A married woman and a Brahmin are also provided meals, and milk, sugar, turmeric, kumkum and roasted grams are gifted to married women during the occasion. It is believed that the observance of this Vrat non-stop for 16 Fridays, will please the Goddess and that she will absorb all their difficulties and sorrows, fulfill their honest desires and bless them with wealth, peace and joy. These worships will also clear the negative feelings of the devotees and fill them with virtues like love and compassion. Devotees also organize a concluding ceremony called Udyapan, when the Goddess is worshipped and eight boys are served feasts.
There are famous temples dedicated to Santoshi Mata all over the country, which people visit in large numbers and offer worship. Temples at Harinagar in Delhi, Lall Sagar in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, Chakradharpur in Jharkand and Jai Nagar in Trichy are well known among them.