Every month has a full moon. Rare ones have two. Four days after every full moon I do the same thing: vrat & abhishekam.
Vrat means fast – Not the “speedy” kind of fast, the abstaining from food kind. On the fourth day after Purnima (the full moon) a fast is held all day, as one’s circumstances allow. Sometimes I’ll fudge things a little, depending on what I have planned, and will have fluids like juice or something. Otherwise the vrat is meant to last the duration of the day – until the moon is first sighted that evening. Then puja (church for Hindus, technically a ritual) is performed and the fast is broken with dinner.
For me, that evening’s puja usually involves abhishekam or snan for the mahamurti in my home mandir. Abhishekam and snan are virtually the same thing, but for me they hold slightly different implications. In my brain, abhishekam is deeper and prolonged and more complex. It happens regularly but doesn’t happen as often. In my understanding, abhishekam translates as “ritual bathing,” including the panchamrit (“five nectars”) and snan feels more like a simple “bath” and while it also happens regularly, it happens more frequently as a part of puja and is generally simpler.
For the biggest chunk of four weeks’ time, every morning and evening when I’m at home in my temple room doing puja I can feel a sort of “building” or compilation. There feels like an increased energy every additional time I’m before the mandir and the murti. (A similar phenomenon occurs during other sadhanas like japa. That’s for another post.) Then the full moon arrives (purnima, remember?) and it feels like a crescendo of sorts. For the three days immediately following purnima, pujas are still held as well as regular sadhanas, but the “vibe” of those three days is noticeably… softer. Then comes Sankashti.
The fourth day after every full moon/purnima is called Ganesha Sankashti Chaturthi. A simple internet search on those words will inform you plenty. You can get some information here or there. Everyone can benefit from fasting on the fourth day after a full moon. Depending on the source you’re maybe reading, the benefits might vary some. At any rate, those benefits are likely to be something anyone’d enjoy.
Depending on which day Sankashti Chaturthi falls on, it might have more or less significance. I understand it to be particularly auspicious for this day to land on a Tuesday. During the current four-week period, Sankashti happens to land on Easter Sunday.
I’m obviously not Christian. And I have particular feelings about the “theft” that was involved, historically speaking, in the “Christian” holiday of Easter. However, within the context of Easter/Ostara, I find additional value to this Sankashti. Christian or not, Ostara/Easter is about renewal (not the same as rebirth, which is as much a curse as a blessing). The middle of last week brought the Hindu holiday of Holi which has parallel meanings. We’ve survived the darkest time of the year. Daylight each day is visibly growing and we can feel our own energies growing with it. All of that, added to the energetic context mentioned earlier about the monthly cycle experienced in the daily pujas conducted, and this Sakashti is loaded with goodness.
Whether you see tomorrow as a celebration of your guru’s victory over the death-tool that is the cross, or if you decorate eggs and worship fertility as found in rabbits, or if you’re a devotee of Ganapati wrapping up another four week cycle … in fact whether you’re all or none of these …enjoy the day for what it means to you, allow yourself to do some cleansing – of your home or your soul – and set yourself up to look forward to the next immediate cycle in your life.