This festival is also known as Jyothirbheemeshwara Vrata and Pathi Sanjeevini Vratha and it is mentioned in Skaanda Purana (Skanda Purana, one of the major eighteen Puranas, a Hindu religious text, is the largest Purana and is devoted mainly to the life and deed of Kartikeya (also called Skanda or Muruga), a son of Shiva and Parvati). The festival falls in the Hindu month of Ashada, July – August in the Gregorian calendar and celebrated in Karnataka. This year (2016) it is on 2nd Aug.
The festival is all about women praying to Lord Shiva and his consort Parvathi for the well being of their husbands and brothers, generally all the male members of the family.
On this day, decorate the shrine with Rangoli and place a pedestal on which rice is spread. On the rice place two lamps with ghee / clarified butter. The lamps represent Lord Shiva and Parvathi. In between the lamps keep an idol of Ganapathi or Shiva / Ishwara or Mangala Gowri.
Tie a turmeric root to the right lamp. Smear turmeric paste to hasi dhara / thread and tie 9 knots and one flower. Prepare similar threads for every girl / woman who performs the pooja and keep it on the right side of the lamps on a betel leaf. Keep 9 betel leaves, 9 betel nuts along with coconut and fruits as offering.
Light the lamps before commencement of the pooja. The lamps and idol are worshipped with 9 string Gejjevastra / cotton strings, Ganda / Sandal Paste, leaves and flowers. Offer Bandara / stuffed steamed cakes, Kuchchida Kadabu, Coconut and Banana to god. Perform an aarathi and pray the lord for prosperity and good health.
The thread is tied on the right wrist of the girls and women by other women or the priest. Married women perform this vrata for nine years after marriage and in the ninth year a pair of lamps is given away to her brother or a Brahmin.
On this day there is a ritual with brothers known as “Bhandara Hodiyuvudhu / Breaking of stuffed steamed cakes”. For preparing the Bandara, mix wheat / rice flour with water to make a dough and roll out 2″ diameter round circles. Keep some soaked gram inside it along with some coins and close with another rolled dough and seal. Mold two spades using the dough. Steam them for 5 mts. This is usually not eaten.
Let the brothers sit on a mane / flat wooden slab inside the hochilu / bottom doorsill, apply tilak / vermilion mark on their foreheads and perform an aarathi.
Keep Bandara on either side of the hochilu / bottom doorsill on betel leaves, betel nut, coins. Apply turmeric powder and kumkum / vermilion powder to hochilu. The brothers are made to stand one at a time with legs on either side of the hochilu and he has to break the Bandara with his elbows and as he bends to break them the sisters should bang the brother’s back with their elbows. This is lot of fun with laughter and guffaws. The bandara is stuffed with soaked Bengal gram or with coins.
Legend associated with this festival –
The King and Queen of Saurashtra had a son who died a premature death. The King and Queen were sad, as they had dreamed of getting their son married in a grand manner. The King decides to get his son married even though he was dead and announced that a large amount of gold and cash would be given to the guardians of the girl. A poor Brahmin comes forward to marry his daughter to the corpse. The wedding is performed immediately. The day was Amavasya / no moon day dark and cloudy. As the celebration comes to an end, the corpse is taken to the banks of river Bhageerathi to perform the last rites. As the people were preparing the pyre, thunder and lightening strikes along with heavy rains. The people panicked and ran back to their homes leaving the corpse and the sobbing innocent girl next to the corpse.
The girl remembered that it was the day of Jyothirbheemeshwari vrata, which her mother made her perform without fail every year. She took bath in the river and molded two lamps and rolled out fiber of a plant to form the wick for the lamps. She poured water into the lamps and also remembered bandara and instead of the wheat / rice steamed cakes, she made mud balls representing bandara.
Lord Shiva and Parvathi were watching all her activities and were extremely pleased with her devotion and blessed her with all their energy. The girl lighted the lamps with water and performed the pooja using wild flowers and leaves. As she finished her pooja Lord Shiva and Parvathi appeared before her. Lord Shiva broke the mud balls / bandara and asked her to ask for a boon. She requested them to bring her husband back to life, which was granted. The people next day were happy and surprised to see the prince alive and they took the two back in a procession and they lived happily ever after.
Conclusion regarding the vrata and the legend is “wherever there is devotion there is god”.