What is Anant Chaturdashi? How to celebrate It?

Anant Chaturdashi is a day with twin significance.

Ganapati Visarjan : The 14th day of the bright half of Bhadrapad is the day of the immersion of Ganpati.  On this day, the festival of Ganpati comes to an end, the installed Murti’s of Lord Ganpati are taken to a lake, river or a sea in great processions to be immersed in the waters. Thus Lord Ganesha is departed, only to be welcomed the next year with equal excitement. ” Ganapati Bappa Morya, Phudchya Varshi Lavkaar Ya ! ”

Ananta Vrat : On this day people recite and listen to the stories and legends of God Vishnu who is Anant, the infinite and recite hymns from the Vedas.

But there is a second significance to the day, and that is what gives Anant Chaturdashi its name. On this day, which is the fourteenth day of the shukla paksha (the bright phase of the moon) in the Indian lunar month of Bhadrapada, people observe a vow in honor of Vishnu. The belief is that if one maintains this vow for 14 years, it will bring immense wealth and spiritual benefit.
Anant Chaturdashi  – The 14 year vrat in honor of Vishnu

The legend connected with the festival is didactic, rather than explanatory, in nature. One day, a Brahmin, Kaundinya, and his wife, Sushila, were on their way home. They stopped by a river because Kaundinya wanted to take a bath.

While he was away, Sushila observed some women praying. When she enquired, they told her that they were observing the Anant Vrata. They told her that if they tied a consecrated string around their wrists and maintained the vrata for 14 years, they would get great material wealth.

Sushila too started observing the Anant Vrata, and soon, she and Kaundinya became wealthy. When Kaundinya noticed the string, he asked Sushila about it. She told him the story. But wealth had made Kaundinya haughty, and dismissing it as mere superstition, he broke the string and threw it away.

From then on, Kaundinya and Sushila started losing their wealth, and soon had nothing. Kaundinya was penitent, and went in search of Anant to get his glory back. But nobody he asked on the way knew who or where Anant was.

In the end, a desperate Kaundinya prepared to commit suicide. At that moment, an old man approached and took Kaundinya to a cave. Once inside the dark cave, the old man turned into Vishnu, and told Kaundinya that he would regain his lost happiness and wealth if he observed the Anant Vrata for 14 years.

How to celebrate?

On Anant Chaturdashi, the image of a hooded cobra is fashioned out of darbha (grass), and is worshipped with flowers and incense as Anant, the divine snake on whom Lord Vishnu lies. Special dishes – Gharga and Anarse are made and  offered to the darbha snake. A string, coated with red kumkum, is placed before the idol or picture of Vishnu. Then, the consecrated string, called anant, is tied to the wrist. Men tie it on their right hands, and women, on their left.

The number 14 is considered sacred for this vow. On this fourteenth day of the moon, 14 floral decorations are made. Similarly, 14 artis and food items are offered to the deity. The vrata is observed for 14 years, and ends on the fifteenth Anant Chaturdashi day.

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