Vat Savitri Vrat, or Vat Savithri Poornima, is a fast observed by married Hindu women in North India for the wellbeing of their husbands and children. The fasting is based on the devotion and determination shown bySavitri to win back her husband Satyavan from the clutches of yama (god of death). The legend is mentioned in the Mahabharata. The prayer and pujas associated with Vat Savitri is observed at the community level or individually at home.
Vat Savitri Vrat Fasting is for three days and it begins on the trayodashi day and ends on Amavasi or Purnima. Some sections of Hindu society observe the vrat during Amavasi (new moon) and others during Purnima (full moon) in the Hindu month of Jyeshtha (June – July).
The fast is observed for three nights and is broken on the fourth day. The number of days the fast is observed depends on the person who is observing it. Nowadays, many women only observe the fasting on the important day of Purnima.
There are no rigid rules regarding any Hindu fast. Pregnant women, those women having any ailments or diseases and those who have just delivered a baby usually skip this fasting and they just concentrate on prayers. Working women also avoid the fasting.
On the Trayodashi day, after morning activities, women apply paste of amala (Indian gooseberry) and gingli (sesamum) and take bath.
After this women eat the roots of Vata Vriksha (Banyan Tree) and drink water. In fact, for three days many women only eat just this.
Women then worship the Banyan Tree (Vat Vriksha). After praying to the Banyan Tree, a red or yellow colored thread is tied around the tree. Then water, rice and flowers are offered as part of the puja. Women then go round the tree and chant prayers.
Vat Vraksha or Banyan tree symbolically represents the Trimurtis – Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. The root is Brahma, the stem is Vishnu and the upper portion is Shiva. The whole tree is also symbolically taken as Savitri.
At home, a painting of banyan tree is made on a plate or wood using sandalwood paste or turmeric. Pujas are done to the painting of banyan tree for three days. Special dishes are also prepared during the occasion.
The routine is followed on the Trayodashi, Chatrudashi and Amavasi or Purnima.
The fast is broken on the fourth day after offering water to moon and prayers to Savitri.
Apart from this all fasting women take the blessings of elders and other married women. Special dishes are prepared on the day and distributed among friends and relatives after the pujas.
Many people also distribute food, clothes and money to the poor during Vat Savitri.