The auspicious festival of Prathamashtami

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It is a popular ceremony held in Odisha for the prosperous life of the eldest child in the family and is widely observed throughout the state. This felicitous day is also called Saubhagini Ashtami, Kaal Bhairav Ashtami and Paap Nashini Ashtami. The seniormost child of the family is honoured on this occassion and is made to wear new clothes. The child is also feasted and blessed by parents and other elders present in the family.

The ritual involves Aarti of the eldest child by his/her mother and female relatives. The child is offered a lighted lamp commendation by females of the house followed by elaborate rituals involving mantra recitation. The maternal uncle of the juvenile arranges the necessary items required for performing the ritual. The puja is performed when the child sits on a wooden pedestral called Pidha. In front of the kid, an earthen pot full of water is placed on handfuls of paddy with a branch of mango leaves and a coconut placed above the pot.

This festival falls in the month of Margashirsha on the half eighth day of Ashtami, eight days after Karthik Purnima, according to Purnimanta calendar supervened in North India. The deities of Ganesh and Shashti Devi are worshipped on this day.

Elderly ladies in household offer prayers to Sathi Devi, the goddess known to protect children and ward off all evils from the child. Oblations are offered to Lord Ganesh for protection of the child against all hurdles in life. The festival is also trailed by ceremonies and recitations of the glory of Goddess Mahalakshmi. Also, the representative deity of Lingaraj in Lingaraj Temple in Bhubaneswar, is taken out on a palanquin and paved towards a tank, situated just behind the temple, called Papanasini.

The social significance of the festival magnifies the fact that the first-borns are brighter and ultimately they are the ones who are to take up the family’s burden on their shoulders after the death of their parents. Psychologists reveal that first-borns are mostly healthy, obedient and tradition-constrained. So, the family ethics are safe in their hands. The eldest child is honoured to occupy a respectable position in the family succeeding their parents.

The main delicacy of this day is Enduri Pitha, also called Haladi Patra Pitha as its set inside turmeric leaves and steam-baked. This recipe is merely delicious. The popular Indian dessert, Kheer, is also prepared on this day.

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