Hindus and Jains celebrate Lord Vishnu and show their devotion with the Anant Chaturdashi festival.

There are five prime Hindu deities that have influenced Hindu culture a great deal. These include: Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Durga and Ganesha. Ganesha is probably the most popular Hindu deity and is the one that most people in the rest of the world use to symbolize Hinduism. This zoomorphic deity with an elephant’s trunk, a human potbelly and big ears is the Lord of Success and the destroyer of evil. He is celebrated in a ten day festival, whose penultimate celebration is the Anant Chaturdashi. In Sanskrit, Anant means eternal while Chaturdashi refers to 14th. As such, this festival falls on the 14th day of the Bhadrapada month of the Hindu calendar.

The festival is a celebration of the god Vishnu and a display of devotion of worship to him as the head of the Hindu trinity.

What does the festival celebration involve?

The Anant Chaturdashi involves praying and seeking the favor of Lord Vishnu by worshipping an image or idol of him reclining on the serpent Sheshnaga (a mythical creature). There are important items that are required when worshipping Lord Vishnu. These are: flowers, oil lamps, incense sticks, a paste of sandalwood, vermillion and turmeric. Once these items have been availed, the worshippers can then offer milk, fruits and sweets to the eternal Lord Vishnu.

A thread colored with turmeric and kumkum, knotted in 14 different places and considered sacred by Hindus/Jains is worn on the right and left wrists of men and women respectively. It is a visible sign of the vow that is being made on this day, and the following words are chanted by the worshippers while wearing this thread known as Anant Sutra:

“Ananta Sansar Maha Samudre Magnan Samabhyuddhar Vasudeva
Ananta Rupey Viniyojitatmamahya Ananta Rupey Namoh Namastute.”

The women of the family fast on this auspicious day while the men make a vow. This vow is to be kept for 14 years, in the hope of gaining wealth, protection and knowledge from Vishnu. Some men also make this vow so as to regain lost wealth. Worshippers and devotees of the festival wake up at dawn, take a bath and engage in the puja after which they can partake of the milk and fruits. The only caveat is that they have to avoid taking salt during this period.

The mythology behind the Anant Chaturdashi

Sushila was the daughter of Sumant and Diksha. Her father was a Brahmin. When her mother Diksha passed on, Sumant took another wife, Karkash. Karkash was harsh to Sushila, such that when she got married to Kaundinya, they opted to escape the poor treatment and attitude of Karkash. It was while they were traveling to lands unknown that Sushila met a group of women by the river worshipping Ananta. When she learned of their 14 year vow, Sushila decided to make the vow as well. She wore the Ananta Sutra on her left wrist.

Over the years, they became very wealthy, until the day that Kaundinya noticed the Ananta Sutra on her hand and asked about it. He got very upset and claimed that their good fortune was as a result of his hard work and not because of any deity. He tore the string from Sushila’s hand. The two were subsequently impoverished, upon which Kaundinya realized his mistake and set out to find Ananta and repent. He eventually succeeded in his quest and swore his vow in front of Vishnu himself and committed to making the vow for 14 consecutive Anant Chaturdashis. This gave rise to the belief and the festival. 

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