autumn on the Ashtami day, the Ahoi festival or Ahoi Ashtami is a fast
observed by mothers for the well-being of their sons. The Ahoi Ashtami is usually celebrated in the months of October-November or the Karthik month (specifically the 8th day after full moon) in the Hindu calendar. Very similar to Karwa Chauth, although not as popular, the Ahoi Ashtami is performed mostly by people living in the North of India.
The story behind Ahoi Ashtami
The story of Ahoi Ashtami relates to a woman who lived in a village with her seven sons. During the process of renovating and painting her house, she went to the forest to bring soil. This was during the month of Karthik just before the Diwali festival. While digging the soil, the axe accidentally falls and hurts a cub in a
nearby den. Subsequently, the cub dies and the woman feels sorry and
responsible for what happened to the cub. However, she takes the soil
from the forest and returns home.
Over the next year, her seven sons die and she feels it is a fallout of what happened with the cub in the forest.
Unable to bear her guilt, she confesses her sin to some of her
neighbors in the village.
The neighbors tell her that by confessing her sin she has almost
negated the effect of her sin. As atonement for her sin, they also
suggest that she offer prayers to the goddess Ashtami Bhagawati by
sketching the face of the cub.
So, the woman fasts on the Karthik Krishna
Ashtami by praying and observing a fast regularly. She eventually gets
back all her seven sons
by the power of her prayer and ever since it becomes a ritual to
worship the goddess Ahoi Ashtami Bhagawati every year. This story
became popular and even today mothers fast and pray to Ahoi Mata for
the well-being and bright future of their sons.
The Ahoi Ashtami fast and prayer are almost similar to that of Karwa
Chauth. People from different parts of North India celebrate the fast
with a few variations. But broadly the following method is followed to
observe the fast and prayer.
Mothers fast all day and offer prayers to Ahoi Mata. They wake
up before sunrise, have some refreshments and proceed to the temple to
offer prayers for their children. The fast ends in the evening when the
moon appears. Some families also break their fast once they see the
stars in the sky.
The picture of Ahoi Mata is painted on a wall and a bowl of
water is placed on it. Printed calendars, posters and pictures of Ahoi
Mata are now available and can be used in place of the wall painting.
An untwisted red colored thread is wrapped around the bowl of water and
the edges are smeared with turmeric powder and placed on the left of
the picture. Then the story of Ahoi Mata is read out by an elderly lady
in the household. All the other women sit down to listen to the story.
The other essentials required for the prayer include
grains that are placed in a plate and positioned in the center of the
picture. The food offerings include puris, halwa, boiled channa and
jowar, etc. Of late, people have been offering sweets that their
children like to eat. Money offerings are also placed before the Mata's
picture. Once the reading of the story is done, the sweets and money
are distributed among children and elders of the family. Some families
also have the tradition of making a garland with silver coins or
keepsakes. They keep adding to this garland when a child is born in the family or a son gets married. Every year the Ahoi Mata picture is adorned with this garland and this tradition is passed on to future generations.