Ahoi Ashtami is the festival of Vrat observed by mothers for the welfare and long life of their children. It falls on the Krishna Paksha Ashtami of Karthika month as per Purnimantha Calendar. This festival occurs four days after Karva Chauth and eight days prior to Deepavali.
Ahoi Ashtami occurs on Sunday, 5th November 2023. The exact duration of the Ashtami Tithi has to be ascertained from the respective regional calendar. The day is also observed as Radha Kund Snan day at Mathura. The festival is mostly observed in North India.
On Ahoi Ashtami day, women observe fasting from dawn to dusk. They break their fast only after sighting stars at twilight. In some places, the devotees wait till they sight moon. The festival is also called as Ahoi Aathe.
There are a few legends pertaining to this Vrat. Two of them is narrated here.
Lioness and her cubs
Once, there were a couple of father and mother having seven children. The mother went to forest to bring some clay for the household use.
When she was digging the mud, she accidentally had killed the cubs of an animal. It is believed that the animal was the Lioness.
The Lioness had cursed the mother that she would lose her children. Soon, the seven kids of the couple had expired.
The couple were forlorn and went on pilgrimage seeking forgiveness from the God for having committed the crime of lynching the cubs.
Sri Ahoi Mata was moved by their plight and told them to observe the Vrat on the Krishna Paksha Ashtami of Karthika month.
They had observed the Vrat and soon were blessed with a child.
Once, there was a money lender with seven sons and a daughter. The sons were married. Once day, all the daughters in law and the daughter went to the forest to fetch clay for household use.
When the daughter was digging the mud, she accidentally lynched a cub of a porcupine. The mother porcupine immediately rushed there but still could not save the cub.
The porcupine then cursed the daughter that she would have no children. The last sister-in-law came in support and defended the daughter.
The porcupine then cursed the daughter-in-law that she would have no children. True to the curse, the children of the last daughter-in-law had expired.
She was forlorn with the curse and kept crying. An elderly woman had suggested that she do service to the cow which was the friend of the porcupine. So, the cursed woman started cleaning the dwelling place of the cow and looked after the cow very well.
The cow was very pleased with the services of the woman and asked her as to her requirements. She told the cow her predicament. The cow then took the woman to the porcupine.
At that time, the porcupine was suffering with itching which was caused by the lice. The woman immediately removed the lice from the skin of the porcupine.
The porcupine was pleased with her service and offered her boon. The woman told the porcupine the history of curse. The porcupine felt sorry for her. As it was pleased with the services of the woman towards her friend cow and her, it had decided to revoke the curse.
The porcupine blessed that the women would have children. Afterwards, the women begot children.
The mothers wake up before sun-rise. After bath, they visit the nearby temples to offer prayers. The Puja place at their homes is cleaned and decked up with Rangoli and flowers. Lamps and incense sticks are lit.
The picture of Sri Ahoi Ma or Sri Ahoi Bhagavathi and Her seven children are drawn in the Puja place. The picture also contains depiction of lion cubs, porcupine, fruits etc., The prayers in praise of Sri Ahoi Ma are sung and recited. Special Puja is done to the Deity.
Earthen pot is filled up with water and two silver coins are put in it. The pot is kept at Puja place. Sri Ahoi Maa is worshipped with roli, rice and milk-soaked rice. Another utensil filled with water is also kept. The sacred symbol sathiya is drawn on the utensil.
Food (flour pudding), sweets and grains are offered as Neivedyam. Radish and sugar cane are also offered as Neivedyam. At times, even cash is offered. The women devotees observe complete fasting for the whole day till they sight the stars in the sky.
On sighting the stars, arghya puja is offered to the moon and stars before breaking the fast. The women give the water-soaked silver coins to the mothers-in-law and seek their blessings.
They break their fasting by partaking of prasadam which was offered as Neivedyam. They listen to the story of Sri Ahoi Maa by having seven grains of wheat in their hands.
The water kept in the earthen pots is used on Deepavali to bathe the children. It is believed that the holy water shall give protection to the children.
As the day also happens to be the Krishna Paksha Ashtami, the day is also observed as Sri Eshwar Ashtami. Bhagwan Shiv is worshipped with prayers.