Ahoi Ashtami is a festival celebrated on the 8th day of Krishna Paksha of Kartik month. This festival is celebrated mostly in North India and falls approximately 4 days after Karwa Chauth and 8 days before Deepawali.
This festival is celebrated in the form of a fast kept by mothers for the well being of their children.
On the day of fasting, after taking morning bath women take a pledge, called Sankalp, to keep the fast for the well being of their children. It is also recited during Sankalp that the fasting would be without any food or the water and the fast would be broken after sighting the stars or the moon according to their family tradition.
Puja preparations are finished before sunset. Women either draw the image of Goddess Ahoi on the wall using geru or embroider it on a piece of cloth and hang it on a wall. Any image of Ahoi Mata used for the puja should have Ashtha Koshthak,
i.e. eight corners due to the festival being associated with Ashtami Tithi. The image includes along with Goddess Ahoi, the images of young children and a lion.
Then, the place of worship is sanctified with holy water and Alpana is drawn. After spreading wheat on the floor or on the wooden stool, one water-filled kalash (pot) is kept at the place of worship. The mouth of the Kalash is covered with an earthen lid.
A small earthen pot, preferably Karwa is kept on the top of the Kalash. Karwa is filled with the water and covered with its lid. The nozzle of the Karwa is blocked with the shoots of the grass. The commonly used shoot is known as Sarai Seenka which is a type of willow.
The seven shoots of the grass are also offered to Ahoi Mata and lion. The shoot of Sarai is sold during the festival especially in the small towns of India. If grass shoots are not available then cotton buds can be used.
The food items which are used in Puja include 8 Puri, 8 Pua and Halwa. These food items are given to a Brahmin along with some money.
This festival is also presumed to mark the beginning of Deepawali, the festival of lights. Mothers who are blessed with sons get up in the morning, like in Karwa Chauth Vrat, and put water in an earthen pot and worship Goddess Ahoi. Mothers don’t eat or drink anything the whole day and in the evening, they offer Puja and Bhog to Mother Ahoi (food comprising Poori, Halwa, Chana etc) and break the fast after seeing the stars.
The difference between the fast of Ahoi Ashtami and Karwa Chauth is that Karwa Chauth Vrat is ended after seeing the Moon whereas the Ahoi Ashtami Vrat is ended after seeing the Stars. Before the Bhog of Mother Ahoi, a story of a mother having 7 sons is also narrated.
Ahoi Ashtami Vrat Katha – Legend of a Mother and her Seven Sons
Once upon a time, there lived a kind and devoted woman in a village situated near to a dense forest. She had seven sons. One day in the month of Kartik, just few days before Diwali festivities, the woman decided to repair and decorate her house for Diwali celebrations. To renovate her house, she decided to go to the forest to fetch some soil. While digging the soil in the forest, she accidentally killed a lion cub with the spade with which she was digging the soil. She felt sad, guilty and responsible for what happened to the innocent cub.
Within a year of this incident, all the seven sons of the woman disappeared and they were considered dead by the villagers. The villagers assumed that her sons might have been killed by some wild animals of the forest. The woman was very depressed and correlated all the misfortune with the accidental death of the cub by her.
One day, she narrated her woes to one the old ladies of the village. She discussed the incident how she committed the sin of killing the cub mistakenly. The old lady advised the woman that as atonement for her sin, she should offer her prayers to the Goddess Ahoi Bhagawati, an incarnation of Goddess Parvati by sketching the face of the cub. She was suggested to observe fast and perform puja for the Goddess Ahoi as She believed to be the protector of offspring of all living beings.
The woman decided to worship Goddess Ahoi on Ashtami. When the day of Ashtami came, the woman drew the face of the cub and observed fast and performed Ahoi Mata Puja. She honestly repented for the sin which she had committed. The Goddess Ahoi was pleased with her devotion and honesty and appeared before her and gave her the boon of long lives of her sons. Soon all her seven sons returned home alive.
From that day onwards, it became a ritual to worship Goddess Ahoi Bhagawati every year on the day of Kartik Krishna Ashtami. The mothers pray and fast for the well being of their children on this day.
Dr Sindhu Prashanth