Friday, September 7, 2012

How is Haritalika puja done

Haritalika puja (also referred to as Hartalika puja) is one of the important pujas performed by married women to ask for God's blessings for a happy married life. Today unmarried women too perform this puja to get blessings for a good husband. Specifically, the puja is done of Goddess Parvati. The reason for this lies in the origins of a Hindu mythological legend. In this blog post you will know how the story of hartalika and how to do a simple haritalika puja at home.

Legend of Haritalika Puja
A young woman named Parvati was enamoured by Lord Shiva and was eager to marry him. However, Lord Shiva did not show any interest in her as He lived the life of an ascetic in the Himalayas. Parvati then did a very strict penance and fasted, eating nothing & not even drinking  water. Lord Shiva eventually was moved by her faith & ardent worship & finally did take her as his wife, who thus became Goddess Parvati. 
Lord Shankara with Goddess Parvati and Lord Ganesha
Haritalika Puja Meaning
  • The name Hari (हरि) refers to Lord Krishna, but in this case the name Har (हर) refers to Lord Shankara (another name for Lord Shiva). 
  • The word Harita (हरिता) or Aranya (अरण्य) means wood & refers to the environment (nature) in general. In this sense, Goddess Parvati can be considered to be the 'Green Goddess' as she had retreated to the woods to do her penance.
  • The word aalika (आलिका) means girl friend - Parvati has taken along her friend into the woods during her penance & fasting.
  • The name Talika (तालिका) is given to a girl and means bird. When a baby is named talika, it is believed that she will be one who will achieve her dreams (similar to Goddess Parvati who achieved her dream of getting Lord Shankara's love).
Haritalika Puja Rituals
On the day of this puja, the women performing the puja maintain a fast (naturally, women with medical problems are advised not to maintain such a fast). The fast is known as nirjala vrat (vrat meaning fast and nirjala meaning without water), so not even water is taken on this day. 

Coconuts are bought and haldi (turmeric powder) and kumkum (vermillion powder) is applied to them. Some women even paint the coconuts in red and green natural colours. A round circular chalk mark is made around each coconut's surface (to symbolise a sacred thread) and a the married woman ties a thread to her mangalsutra. These coconuts are kept in front of the idols of Goddess Parvati. Generally, coconuts placed in front of an idol are then broken and the coconut flesh inside is used in food. However, the coconuts offered to the idol on the day of the Haritalika puja are not used but must be given to visiting relatives and friends in the evening after the Haritalika Aarti is done. 

During the puja to Goddess Parvati, various fruits are offered along with milk. The puja area is decorated with lots of green leaves and a Shivlingam made from clay is placed near the idol. Since Goddess Parvati had gone to the woods with her friend, a clay idol of a lady is also put next to her own clay idol.

The women dress in green clothes (generally a new garment) and wear green bangles too. This is not just for luck as is believed, but also to emphasize the "green" aspect of the puja [refer to meaning of haritalika above]. 

While some women break the fast after the evening aarti, others do not eat or drink water till next day. The food that is eaten after the fast is broken generally consists of a traditional delicacy made from rice, coconut & jaggery. This delicacy is known as patoli (पातोली), which is a steamed dish with the ingredients mixed and place in the folds of a banana plantain leaf, the leaves then being steamed either in a traditional idli-making vessel called pedavaan (पेडावान) or simply placed on a dish over a large vessel of boiling water and covered.

Hartalika Puja Preparations
The puja area is set up with vertical plantain leaves, with the strong stalks acting as the poles. Strings of flowers can also be used to decorate the puja area.

What is generally required for the puja: haldi-kumkum, coconuts, incense sticks, kapur, diyas with oil and cotton wicks, 12 betel leaves, 10 suparis, a little jaggery, 5 almonds, a bunch of bananas and other seasonal fruits, money in the form of coins, durva and tulsi leaves, green glass bangles, panchamrut (milk, curds, ghee, honey and sugar), akshata (rice grains). (There are a whole lot of other things which are possibly used, but this is the general info. I have got.)

Flowers for the puja: It is believed that red and yellow flowers are the favourites of Goddess Parvati and hence preference is given to these colours. One must ensure that the flowers being offered are not having torn petals or petals with holes in them. Commonly offered flowers are: chafa (चाफ), kevda (केवडा), bakul (बकुल), lotus (कमळ), shevanti (शेवंती), jaswand (जास्वंद), mogra (मोगरा), ashok (अशोक), etc.

The types of Patri (पत्री) which are offered are: ashok, aavli, kanher, kadamb, brahmi, dhotra, aghadi bel, etc.

Before starting the Haritalika Puja
The lady (or ladies) performing the Hartalika puja must first offer the vida (विडा) to the family deity, pray to the God and then take the blessings of the elders in the house by touching their feet. Then only she should be seated to perform the Haritalika puja. It is believed that one should not get up during the puja and hence all requirements should be kept ready beforehand.

During the Puja
One must not fling water or flowers at the idols. Instead, using a light hand, gently throw flowers towards the idol's feet and water should be aimed gently too by dipping dhruva in the pot of water kept for this purpose. When offering a coconut, it must be ensured that the extension (शेंडी) should face the idol. The idol's face should be facing the east or the west.

After the aarti, the story of Goddess Parvati is related.

After the puja, all the flowers, leaves, etc are immersed in a water body along with the idol of Haritalika.

हरितालिकेची आरती