The Anantha Chaturdashi vrata is observed all over India. It is celebrated on Bhadrapada Chaturdashi. This day is also significant because of Ganesha Visarjana. Lord Vishnu appeared on this day as Padmanabha lying on the couch of Anantha Sesha.
Anantha vrata is observed with the intention of fulfillment of any desires or to regain lost properties. That is why it is also called as Kaamya Vrata.
On the day of festival Vishnu with Yamuna and Anantha Sheha are worshipped. Anantha means the infinite and endless.
Anantha means the one who is all pervasive, who is eternal, who is beyond all boundaries and for whom there is no limit either by space, time or location.
He is the one who has infinite number of forms and he dwells in the entire Universe. He is invincible and his glory is infinite.
He is also the one who bestows infinite happiness and prosperity to his devotees.
Anantha Padmanabha puja makes devotees free from all their sorrows.
Throughout India, Anantha Chaturdashi vrata is observed with utmost devotion. In South India, Anantha Vratha is observed in a festive atmosphere. Anantha Vratha is observed for 14 consecutive years for prosperity of the family.
Legends of Ananta Padmanabha Vrata:
The legends of this vrata are mentioned in several Puranas, specially in Bhavishyottara Purana.
Lord Krishna suggested King Yudhishtira to observe Anant Vrata for 14 continuous years to get rid of his sorrows and to bring back his wealth and kingdom that he lost in gamble with Kauravas. King Yudhishtira through his Vanavasa and Agyathavasa period observed this Vrata.
When asked by Yudhishtira, who had performed this vrata in previous yuga, Krishna narrated the story of Sushila and Kaundinya. The sacred thread tied after the pooja also had great significance.
Ananta Daaram – Sacred thread of Anant Vrata:
The important ritual of Anant Vrata is tying the Sacred Thread, Anant Daara, to hand. The performers of Anant Vrata place the Anant Daaram along with the idol of Anant Padmanabha which is made of 14 strands which indicate the 14 years of the observance of Anantha Vratha. In some places people prepare it with 14 knots.
After performing Ananta Vratham, women tie Anantha Daaram on their left hand men on to their right hand.
In some regions, devotees prepare an idol of Lord Anantha Padmanabha swami with Durva (garike) grass blades and worship the Lord with placing it in a bamboo basket.
Story related to Anantha Chaturdashi:
There once lived a brahmin called Sumanta born in Vasishtha Gotra and had married Brighu maharshi’s daughter Dheeksha. They had a daughter called Susheela.
When Susheela was a young girl, she lost her mother. Sumantha married Karkashe who was hard hearted and made the life of Susheela miserable.
In spite of these difficulties, Susheela grew up to be a fine lady. Just when Sumanta was worried over her marriage, there came to his house looking for a bride, a rishi called Kaundinya.
Sumanta married Sushila to Kaundinya. As a marriage gift, he could only give a little of wheat flour to his daughter.
Kaundinya accompanied by his wife Susheela, reached the bank of a river during their travel. That day being Bhadrapada shukla Chaturdashi were worshiping Ananta Padmanabha.
Susheela approached these ladies and asks them for details of the vrata. They said the vrata is called Anantha vrata and the fruits of observing this vrata are infinite.
Susheela showed interest in performing the vrata. With faith and devotion, Susheela performed the puja with those gathered there, distributed half of the wheat flour to brahmanas as daana, and wore the red thread and with the thoughts of Ananta Padmanabha accompanied her husband to his ashram.
The power of Anantha vrata was such that Kaundinya’s ashram had acquired wealth. Both him and Susheela had acquired an aura of brilliance.
But their fate took a bad turn. One day Kaundinya forcibly removed the thread and throws it in the fire. Susheela picks up the half burnt thread and immerses it in milk. Soon all his wealth was lost, his relatives deserted him, his cattles died and he now knew that this was on account of his ego which had taken over his bhakthi.
Kaundinya then leaves his house in search of Anantha Padmanabha. Like a demented person he enters the jungle. After some days of roaming he falls down.
Lord Vishnu in compassion came near him and revived him. Kaundinya understanding the presence of Vishnu praises the Lord in many stotras. Lord blessed him with all happiness and prosperity.
Temples of Lord Anantha Padmanabha:
There are number of temples especially in South India dedicated to Sri Anantha Padmanabha.
Most famous among them is the temple at Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala.
There is also an ancient temple dedicated to Lord Sri Anantha Padmanabha at Sri Kshethra Kudupu near Mangalore. It is said that this temple is in existence since Krita Yuga. Aslesha Bali pooja performed at this temple for Naga dosha.
There is also another very ancient temple dedicated to Lord Anantha at Ananthagiri about 75 km from Hyderabad city. Here the Lord is said to have manifested as a Salagrama Shila who appears in Trimurthi Swaroopa of Anantha, Narasimha and Srinivasa. It is said that Sage Markandeya had performed penance at this place.
The three Ranganatha kshetras at Sri Rangam (Trichy), Srirangapatna (near Mysore) and Shivana Samudra (about 100 km from Bangalore near Mandya on the way to Mysore) all the three on the banks of sacred river Kaveri also have temples of Lord Maha Vishnu in reclining form resting on Anantha as Anantha Shayana.
These miraculous temples and the pooja which Krishna himself explained to Yudhishtira are means of experiencing the energy of Vishnu which resonates in his thousand names and in entire universe.
Dr Sindhu Prashanth