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Celebrating the joy of being a mother - Fast for Ahoi Ashtami

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Ahoi Ashtami Legend:
The popular legend associated with this day goes like-Once upon a time; there lived a woman in a village. She had seven sons. One day she went to the forest to bring soil for the renovation and painting of her home (this was in the month of kartik just before the Hindu festival Deepawali). She started digging soil with axe nearby a den. While digging the soil, the axe accidentally falls and hurts a cub in a nearby den. Subsequently, the cub dies and the woman feels sorry and responsible for what happened to the cub. However, she takes the soil from the forest and returns home. 

Over the next year, her seven sons die and she feels it is fallout of what happened with the cub in the forest. One day she narrated her woes to old ladies in her village. They told her by confessing her sin she has almost negated the effect of the sin.  As atonement for her sin, they also suggest that she offer prayers to the goddess Ashtami Bhagawati by sketching the face of the cub. The woman kept fast on the Kartik Krishna Ashtami and then onwards she started praying and keeping fast regularly. By the power of her prayer the God's grace showered and she could get back her all seven son. Since then, it became a ritual to worship the goddess Ahoi Ashtami Bhagwati religiously every year.

The procedure of Ahoi Ashtami
People from different parts of India celebrate the fast with a few variations. But broadly the following method is followed to observe the fast and prayer.
Mothers wake up before sunrise, to have some refreshments and proceed to the temple to offer prayers for their children. The fast ends in the evening when the moon appears. Some families also break their fast once they see the stars in the sky.

A painting of Ahoi Mata is prepared on the wall of the house with red colour. These days due to lack of time, a picture or idol is placed in the Puja room of the house. Name of all the male members of the family are written along with symbols of Sun, Moon, plant of Holy Basil and other auspicious items in the frame of painting.
A small pitcher with water is placed on the left of the picture of Ahoi Mata. An untwisted red colored thread is wrapped around it. Some chest nuts (singhadha) are also placed in the Puja. A small garland made with silver beads is also placed before the deity. This garland is considered very auspicious for the family.

The other essentials required for the prayer include grains, food offerings such as puris, halwa, boiled channa and jowar, etc.

In the evening ladies in the family read/listen to Ahoi Vrat Katha. Once the reading of the story is done, the sweets and money are distributed among children and elders of the family.
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