Kumar Purnima is a unique, traditional cultural festival widely celebrated throughout Odisha. It is also called Kaumudi Puja and is an integral festival for young unwedded girls. In 2018, it falls on the eventful day of Sharad Purnima on 23 October, Tuesday.
It usually falls on the first full moon day in the month of Ashwin and is primarily celebrated by unmarried girls who long for a handsome husband in the near future. God Kartikeya, son of Goddess Parvati, was born on this day and is therefore referred as Kumar, meaning the sacred bachelor.
Spinsters wake up early before sunrise, quickly bathe and put up new costumes to perform the religious Janhi Puja, where they offer a palmful of khai along with striped gourd, cucumber, banana, coconut, betel nut, apple and guava, all of these together called Anjuli. These offerings are made to the sun god. Diyas and incense sticks are lightened while carrying out the puja for paying reverence to the Almighty. Belief reveals that god blesses unmarried girls to get a loving and caring partner for times to come.
Maidens celebrate this day in full swing. In the evening, a ritual is performed near the Tulsi plant installed in gardens and a delicacy is made out of khai, jaggery, grated coconut, banana, sugarcane, cucumber, ghee, honey, milk and soft cottage cheese in a half moon shape called Chanda Chakata as an offering to moon god. Girls raise the Chanda Chakata while praying. It is distributed among family members and neighbours after the puja. This sugar-coated delight is partaken in fistful of balls. Chudaghasa, a scented mixture of puffed rice and coconut is also offered as prasad to the worshipped deities.
Girls fast throughout the day and consume only fruits, coconut, curd and prasad. Full moon forms the centre of attraction of this commemoration. Old grandmothers in household unconceal the essence of seeing the fresh moon that has just come up on the horizon.
Puchi Khela is a conventional signature game played in the night time on the day of Kumar Purnima. One is to sit in a squatting position and rapidly shift one’s weight from one leg to another in a balanced position. Ancestors have said that whoever doen’t play the game of Puchi will be reborn as a frog in her consequent births. Girls rejoice this festival in extreme joyous spirit by singing folk songs, dancing and playing a wide variety of games in moonlight.
This day is also observed as Gajalaxmi Puja marking the birthday of Goddess Lakshmi, goddess of wealth and prosperity. People worship the goddess and keep themselves awake throughout the night by playing indoor games, considering the belief that those who are night-vigilant on this day will surely acquire immense wealth.