Maha Laxmi(Ghagari phunkane) -A Unique ritual of Kokanastha Brahmin
Madhuri Bapat, Thatcher, AZ.
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This is another unique ritual besides Bodan, for Kokanastha women. This is also disappearing very fast in modern age. After girls are married, for five years they are supposed to worship goddess ‘Maha Laxmi’ on eighth day ‘Durga Ashtami’ in ‘Navaratri’. This ritual suppose to increase woman’s husband’s life. This is performed usually in temple or community place. Occasionally it is performed at somebody’s house. At noon they worship ‘Maha Laxmi’. Pooja material includes haladi-kumkum, flowers, leaves of flowering plants, ‘Soubhagya laynie’ (bangles, mangalsutra, earrings, etc) made up of wheat flour. They sing Durga Aarti and eat Prasad consists of Puran Poli. Women typically wear nine yard silk sari. Only married women take part in the ceremony.

In the evening, a mask (Mukhwata) of ‘Maha Laxmi’ is made out of (Ukad) cooked rice flour. The Mask is then decorated with brand new sari and jewelry. Women worship that mask, sing Aarti and eat ‘Prasad’.

Blowing air in the earthen pot (Ghagar Phunkane) while standing, dancing in front of ‘Maha Laxmi’ is considered part of worshiping. Some women do that all night and go in trance. Resonating sound of blowing air in earthen pots makes whole atmosphere mysterious and sometimes scary for children. Smoke of burning ‘Uda’ makes the atmosphere even more enchanting. Many believe that the goddess appears in their form. People with problems ask them questions to get solutions. Their answer is considered as answer from Goddess. With their forehead covered with red kumkum and adrenaline going high in their bodies, those women truly look like full of some kind of super power.

As night progresses, one notices the mask getting wrinkles and getting older. (obviously due to the fact that ukad gets dry)In early morning, women take bath and worship goddess and let mask flow (Visarjan) in river water. Women going in trance seems difficult to contemplate. In old days, women had no careers other than house hold chores. So this provided outlet to show off their abilities. It seemed suspicious especially as soon as a woman became widow how she lost her ability to go into state of trance. Since dancing in front of goddess was privilege of Sawashna or married woman.

All in all, this ritual provided women something to do. And perhaps gave them peace of mind and may be to some a way to reach that supreme being, just like any other ritual would have.

Again my question is if it is exclusively ‘Kokanastha‘ ritual, how come Puran Poli (which is typical Deyshastha dish)is main dish for the food.

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