Ahoi Ashtami is a festival that is celebrated more popularly in North India. It falls approximately 8 days before Diwali and 4 days after ‘Karwachauth’. This year, 2017, it falls on 12th October. The day is also known as ‘Ahoi Aathe’. It is called ‘Ahoi Ashtami’ since it is celebrated on ‘Ashtami Tithi’, which is the eighth day of the Lunar month.
In earlier times, on this day, mothers would keep a fast from dawn to dusk, for the well-being and long life of their sons. But today, thanks to the empowerment to women, mothers have started keeping the fast for the well-being of all children. The fast is similar to Karwachauth and women don’t eat or drink anything the whole day till the sighting of stars in the evening. Some break the fast at moonrise. (The sighting of the Moon on this day is normally very late in the night and so the fast is broken after sighting the stars.)
This year, according to the Panchang, the Ahoi Ashtami puja muhurat is for one hour 15 minutes, from 17.50 to 19.06 and sighting time for stars is 18.18. Moonrise will be at 23.53.
Rituals and Traditions
On this day, women wake up before sunrise, bathe and have some refreshments before visiting the temple to offer their prayers. They take a ‘sankalp’(Pledge) to keep the fast without drinking water or eating food for the well-being of their children. Then they start their fast till the stars are sighted in the evening (or the moon, for those keeping the fast till moon rise).
In the evening, before the sun sets, preparations for the ‘puja' are done. Traditionally, a drawing of Ahoi Ma or Ahoi Bhagwati is made on a clean wall. Alternatively, a poster of the Goddess is used.
A bowl (preferably earthen) of water is placed on the left side of this picture. Either a red thread or a thread dipped in vermilion is tied around the bowl (making sure it doesn't get twisted while tying) and its ends are dipped in turmeric. A plate with an offer of halwa, puri, channa, jowar and other food stuff, is placed before the picture; along with some coins.
Some women keep a traditional garland made of silver or gold coins, belonging to generations of that family, in front of the deity, while performing the puja. Whenever a new member is added to the family, a coin is added to the garland. This same garland is used every year for the Ahoi Ashtami puja.
An elderly lady of the family reads out the ‘Katha’(Legendary story) of Ahoi Mata, while the other women listen. After the ‘katha’ finishes, the food and coins placed before the deity is distributed to the children in the house.
Legendary Story of Ahoi Ashtami
Once there lived a woman in a village who had seven sons.One day, in the month of Kartik, she was digging some soil in a nearby forest, when her axe accidentally slipped from her hand and fell into a den, killing a sleeping lion cub there. Soon, her seven sons started dying one by one and by the year-end she lost all of them. Deeply saddened, when she recounted her tale of accidentally killing the lion cub in the forest, she was advised by them to pray to Ahoy Ashtami Bhagwati by drawing the face of a lion cub and offering prayers to it. She did this continuously for seven years and by the grace of the Goddess, her seven sons came back to life.