Hindu mythic folklore is rich and colourful, creating whole worlds in which the divine interacts with the human. This time of year is particularly full of this interplay, merging the two and creating an elevated sense of companionship and closeness with God.
In my part of Maharashtra, Marathwada, 3 days after Ganpati arrives, the Mahalaxmi goddesses, Jyestha and Kanishta, also come home with their families. The legend goes that they are making their annual visit to their maiden home, and are as eagerly awaited as the homecoming of one’s own daughter.
In an already happy and excited home, what with the benevolent presence of Ganpati, their arrival raises the level of joy to ever greater heights. More than Diwali, this is the time to be in a Maharashtrian home.
Though the goddesses and their families only stay for 3 days, the festivities in their honor know no bounds. From special festive snacks to the best saris and jewellery being worn, celebrations are everywhere. Folks return to their native homes to join the family in welcoming the goddesses. A special place is created for them to stay, with vibrant textiles mimicking walls, lush carpets strewn with fresh marigold flowers and bountiful grains like rice and wheat, and multi-coloured ice lights to create an abundant and prosperous atmosphere. When they arrive, trumpets and drums bellow out grandly.
The first day is their arrival. On the second day, a feast is held. On the third day, their day of departure, there is an evening of haldi-kumkum, where women visit each other to share gaiety and good cheer. Throughout all of this, families come together on a joint activity, the hustle and bustle permeated with laughter and closeness.
This festival is about the homecoming of daughters. In today’s world, it is bringing far-flung family members back home as well, reconnecting them with elderly parents, introducing multiple generations to each other and restoring a deeper sense of family. We feel a renewed sense of belonging, which no Whatsapp forwarded meme can ever recreate. I didn’t know about this festival for so long. Now that I do, I’m so grateful for it because it is reconnecting me to my larger family.