Magha is one of the most sacred months because at the beginning of the month the sun sets on its northern path. Magha Purnima is the last and most important day of the month of Magh. It is regarded as an auspicious day to take holy bath.
Magha Purnima also marks the conclusion of the Magha month in North India. Therefore, the full moon day of this month is greatly revered by Hindu devotees especially the worshippers of Lord Vishnu.
Magha Mela which is an annual event is held at Prayag in Allahabad and millions of devotees including pilgrims, underprivileged, priests, ascetics and the common man take a holy bath on this day.
Magha Purnima: Significance
Magh Purnima is venerated as a ‘bathing festival’ across the country and a dip in the Ganga on this day holds high religious merit. Hindu devotees take a holy bath in the Ganga or Yamuna rivers every day of the month which begins from Paush Purnima and ends on Magha Purnima. Those who cannot make it to the sacred river can take a bath in any other stream, river, tank or pond which is regarded as holy and auspicious.
On this day, a number of bathing festivals are held on the banks of holy rivers like the Ganga, Jamuna, Kaveri, Krishna, Tapti, etc. People walk for miles and miles to be able to take a single holy dip in the river. A dip in the sea at Kanyakumari and Rameshwaram also has high religious value.
Similarly, a bath in the Pushkar Lake in Rajasthan is also regarded as equally auspicious. In Chennai at Kumbhakamaon, there are shrines of Nageshwara and Sarangpani near which there is a large tank in which devotees can take a dip on this holy day. It is believed that the water of the sacred Ganga flows into this tank on this auspicious day.
There is a special significance of this day in Buddhism as well. It is believed that Gautam Buddha announced his impending death on this day. There are religious ceremonies held at Viharas, prayers are dedicated to the Buddha. Religious flags are hoisted on all the monasteries at dawn and sacred verses are chanted from the Tripitaka.
On Magh Purnima, the ‘float’ festival is celebrated at Madurai in Tamil Nadu. On this day, the ornately decorated idols and images of Lord Sundeshwara and Meenakshi are mounted on the floats and are taken to Mariamman Teppakulam Sarovar which is a large sacred tank in Madurai. The procession is accompanied by music and chanting devotional songs.
Magh Purnima is the birthday of King Tirumala Nayak who constructed the Mariamman Teppakulam which is a few kilometres to the East of Madurai.
Magha Purnima: Rituals
On this day, the devotees observe a fast, pay respects to ancestors, offer dakshina (alms) to the under privileged, donate cow and perform Homa (Havan) at Prayag and ask forgiveness for any trespasses. Libations are also offered to forefathers after taking a dip in the holy waters. It is also regarded as one of the most auspicious days to offer alms to the poor and to the Brahmins. Every devotee gives according to his means and his capacity.
Lord Vishnu is worshiped on this day and just like all other purnima days, Satyanarayana Vratham is observed. Lord Vishnu is offered kumkum, til, fruits, supari, leaves of banana, pan and moli. Panchamrit is made out of ganga jal, honey, milk, tulsi and sweets. Prasad is prepared mixing wheat and sugar together and roasting them. There are religious sermons held to celebrate the occasion at auspicious places. Lord Shiva, Lord Brahma and Goddess Laxmi are also worshipped.
A bath on an auspicious day as a Purnima has high significance amongst believers since it is an act of purification. It is believed that bathing in the holy waters cleanses a person of all his sins and paves the way to salvation. Some also a bath on Magh Purnima helps to cure diseases and other ailments as well. ‘Om Namah Bhagvate Vasudevaya Namah’ is recited while taking a bath.
Magha Purnima: History and Legends
According to Brahmavaivartpurana, Lord Vishnu himself resides in the Ganga River during the month of Magh and therefore even a touch of this holy water can cure all sins and all diseases of a devotee.
Another legend states that Lord Vishnu resides in the Kshir Sagar during the Magh month and the Ganga River is a form of Kshir Sagar.
It is also believed that Vishwamitra also performed the holy bath in the Kumbh Mela in 2382 BCE on the day of Magh Purnima.
Even astrologically, Magh Purnima is regarded as auspicious because the Sun is in the Capricorn sign and the Moon in the Cancer Sign. Thus, taking the ritualistic bath can cure a person from all problems related to the Sun and the Moon.
According to the Matsya Purana, anyone who donates the Brahma-Vaivarta Purana on this day finds abode of Lord Brahma.