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Importance of Rishi Panchami :
As per the Hindu Lunar Calendar, the fifth day of the Shukla Paksha of the month of Bhadrapada is popularly celebrated as Rishi Panchami. It falls after the day of Ganesh Chaturthi. On the occasion of Rishi Panchami, people indulge in the traditional worship of the Sapta Rishis who are Kashyapa, Atri, Bharadhvaja, Vishvamitra, Gautam, Jamadagni and Vashishta. Interestingly, this day is celebrated as Vishwakarma Puja in Kerala. The festival of Rishi Panchami came into existence due to effortless pious efforts of the Sapta Rishi to make the human lives better. Rishi means Sage, and Panchami denotes the fifth day.
Hence, the festival of Rishi Panchami signifies the commemoration of the seven great sages on the fifth day of Shukla Paksha in the month of Bhadrapada. Sapta Rishi is actually a combination of seven leaned sages who devoted their entire lives for the betterment of human beings. They spent their whole lives teaching people the basic principle of goodness. It is believed that they imparted their wisdom to the common people so that people get to follow the path of wisdom and become enlightened.
The Reason Why People Fast on Rishi Panchami:
As per the ages-old Hindu tradition, it is a common practice for women who goes through their menstruation period (a regular discharge of blood and mucosal tissue from the inner lining of the uterus through the vagina) to be forbidden from taking part in religious activities, or get themselves involved in domestic works (including kitchen work) till they remain in that state. They are further prohibited to touch things which are connected to religion. If any women breach this code of conduct by any means, it leads them to Rajaswala Dosha. Women observe fasting on the occasion of Rishi Panchami to get rid of this dosha.
Rishi Panchami is also known as Bhai Panchami and women tie rakhis to their brothers on this auspicious day, especially in the Maheshwari community. Sisters usually fast on this day and pray for their brother’s long life. They consume food only after performing all the rituals of Rishi Panchami with sheer devotion and dedication.
The Great Legends of Rishi Panchami:
Rishi Panchami is considered to be an auspicious day an individual observes fasting and performs all the rituals of the festival religiously, he/she gets relieved from all the sins of his/her present or past life. It was none other than Lord Brahma who narrated the story of Rishi Panchami. According to Him, long long ago there lived a brahmin named Uttank who was living happily with his wife, Sushila. They had a daughter and son and were living a peaceful life.
Uttank got his beautiful daughter married to a cultured brahmin but as bad luck would have it, the girl’s husband died an untimely and pre-matured death which eventually made the girl a widow and she had to shift to her parent's place post her husband’s demise.
One night, several ants covered the entire body of the daughter and the parents were naturally shocked when they saw their daughter being covered with ants all around. They were immensely worried and decided to call upon a sage or Rishi so that the learned sage could mend the situation.
The enlightened Rishi peeped into the past life of the Brahmin’s daughter and informed the parents that their daughter had breached a religious ritual in her past life. She had touched some kitchen utensils while being on her menstruation period. Hence, she is being punished for the sin that she had committed in her previous birth. It has been mentioned in the holy scriptures that women who are on their menstruation period should not touch religious things and kitchenware. The learned Rishis also informed the Brahmin couple that their daughter had not observed the Rishi Panchami vrat and that is the reason why she had to confront these consequences.
The Rishi also informed Uttank that if the girl observes the Rishi Panchami fast with utter devotion and conviction and prays for forgiveness for her sins in her previous birth, she will be able to do away with the past actions(karma) and become free of the ants on her body. The girl did exactly what she was suggested to and became free of the worms.
Another Legend on Rishi Panchami:
As per Hinduism, there are strict disciplinary rules that women need to abide by during the menstruation period. It is believed that Lord Indra shared one-fourth of the sins of His Brahma Hatya to the ladies and therefore they face the menstrual cycle. It is a common practice that during this period, women must not be contacted or even touched. And, they should not enter the puja room or kitchen and should not cook food or serve food to others during this period.
Long time ago there lived a couple named Sumitra and Jayashri. Sumitra was a great scholar. Jayashri, without having any idea about the sheer consequences, kept on neglecting and violating the disciplinary actions prescribed during the menstrual cycle and engaged in normal activities like any other day all her life. Though her husband was a scholar, he never advised or corrected her and never made her realize of the consequences. As a result of this sin committed by the couple, the husband and the wife were born as an ox and a prostitute in their next births.
The couple had a son and a daughter-in-law named Sumati and Chandrawali. The ox and the prostitute were staying at the backyard of their son’s house. Due to the several merits, they must have earned during their lives, both the ox and the prostitute were very much aware of their past birth and used to discuss their fate and the sin they committed. Both of them were lamenting on the sorrowful fate they had to face due to the fact that they neglected the menstrual period disciplines. Once their daughter-in-law, Chandrawali overheard their conversation and she was shocked to know all that had happened.
Chandrawali informed the matter to her husband and he felt bad about the miserable fate suffered by his parents and he was ready to go to any extent to save his parents from the grave sin they accumulated. He contacted a learned Rishi and as advised by the enlightened Rishi, performed the Rishi Panchami vrat with his wife and earned great merits out of the vrat. He decided to pass on the merits of the vrat to the benefit of his parents. Due to this act on the part of their son and daughter-in-law, Sumitra and Jayashri were relieved from their sins in the next birth.
Rituals of Rishi Panchami:
It is a traditional faith among devotees that before the Rishi Panchami vrat, the devotee performing the vrat should symbolically wash his/her hands and mouth 108 times to atone for all the sins committed knowingly or unknowingly. They must fast throughout the day listen to stories based on Lord Ganesha, Navagraha, and the Saptarishis. They are allowed to eat fruits during the whole day but only once. In the evening, the fast is concluded and puja is performed.
The rituals and customs dedicated to the festival of Rishi Panchami must be performed with a pure heart and good intentions. It is believed that an individual’s intentions play a crucial part in the purification of his/her soul. On the occasion of Rishi Panchami, devotees must wake up early in the morning a take bath. The only purpose of the festival of Rishi Panchami is to purify an individual completely. Hence, people do several things like cleaning their teeth with Upmarga(herb) and bathing with Datwan herb. These herbs are proven to be very pure and believed to leave the body extremely clean. Herbs are used for outer purification whereas a mixture of curd, milk, basil, butter is drunk to purify the soul. Worshipping the Sapta Rishis or the seven great sages forms the concluding part of the rituals performed. People offer prayers to invoke the presence of the seven sages with a variety of offerings like food and flowers among many others.
Festivals like Rishi Panchami makes us realize the importance of the religious practices that we all must abide by and during the upcoming Rishi Panchami, we should make the best use of the occasion and attempt to purify ourselves.
Festivals play a significant role in our day to day lives. We worship different Gods and accordingly there are different festivals that we celebrate to mark the occasion. Festivals provide us with an opportunity to spend quality time with our family, friends and relatives. There are so many rituals attached to the festivals and this makes the entire concept of celebration of festivals even more colorful & exciting.
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