After Karwa Chauth, Vat Purnima is one of the other popular religious day observed by married women. Vat Purnima is celebrated with much fanfare in Maharashtra, Gujarat and some parts of South India. Vat Purnima falls 15 days prior in the northern parts of the country like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab and Haryana. On this day, married women observe fast for their husbands' long and happy life.
As per the Hindu calendar, Vat Purnima falls on Jyeshtha Purnima. The significance of Vat Purnima has been glorified in scriptures like Bhavishyothra Purana, Skanda Purana, and the most popular epic, Mahabharat.
Vat Purnima foretells the legendary story of Savitri, who underwent fasting and strict vigil in a bid to bring her deceased husband, Satyavan, back to life. When Lord Yama, the lord of death, came to take Savitri’s husband, Savitri pleaded and praised Yamraj. Savitri compelled Lord Yama to return Satyavan’s life and placed his body under the Vat (Banyan) tree.
Savitri’s devotion and love for her husband pleased Lord Yama and he restored Satyavan’s life and blessed both the husband and wife with a long and happy married life. This day honours the dedication of Savitri who saved her husband from the clutches of Yamaraj.
The tree symbolises the holy trinity: Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. And since the banyan tree holds a divine significance in all the scriptures and stories related to Vat Purnima, women who observe the Vat Purnima fast worship the tree. On Vat Purnima, women wake up before sunrise and take bath with sesame and gooseberry added in water.
Women dress up to the nines and worship the banyan tree. They also place idols of Satyavan and Savitri, offer vermilion (sindoor) while performing the puja. Women do parikrama around the banyan tree, chanting and winding yellow and red thread around it.
Vat Purnima Vrat Katha, the legend of Savitri and Satyavan is read along with other married women. And after performing aarti, prasad is distributed.