“Manabasa Gurubar” is a sacred and time-honored festival celebrated in the North Coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh as “Margashira Lakshmi Puja” and in the state of Odisha. While its procedures may resemble those of “Varlakshmi Pooja” and “Deepavali Lakshmi Pooja,” the observance and underlying story set it apart. This puja takes place on every Thursday of the month, featuring various offerings like Manda Pitha, Khiri, Kakara, Chitau, among others, which are prepared and shared with neighbors. On this day, all Odia women gather to read the revered Lakshmi Puran.
The festival revolves around the worship of Goddess Maa Lakshmi on Thursdays within the month of Margasira, also known as Magusura Masa. Devotees rise early in the morning to cleanse their homes, firmly believing that Goddess Lakshmi will only grace a clean and tidy abode. Doorways and thresholds are adorned with either cow dung paste or red soil, while the house itself is embellished with the intricate and artistic Odia Alpana, known as “Chita.” A bamboo cane pot, historically used for measuring paddy (referred to as Mana), is filled to the brim with freshly harvested paddy and adorned with beautiful drawings to welcome the Goddess. This artwork, known as ‘Jhoti’ in Odiya and ‘alpana’ in Hindi, often features ‘Laxmi-Paada,’ the footprint of Goddess Laxmi, lotus flowers, her favorite blooms, and other symbolic figures. In Western Odisha, it is referred to as ‘Margasira Gurubar’ or more explicitly, ‘Magsir Gurbar’ or ‘magusura gurubara.’
Women observe a sacred vrath on this day known as “Margashira Lakshmi Vara Vratham,” also referred to as “MANABASA GURUBAR VRATA.” In Odisha, it is believed that Goddess Laxmi, the deity of wealth and prosperity, visits the homes of those who call upon her with sincere devotion during the month of Margasira.
- Cleanse the floor and embellish it with jhoti/chitta, a rice paste painting.
- On a low table (khatuli pedi), arrange white, newly harvested paddy grains.
- Fill a measuring pot called mana (made of bamboo) with these grains and place it on the low table.
- Wash three betel nuts in turmeric water and position them on the mana dhana.
- Decorate the area with vegetables, flowers, and colorful fabric.
- Invoke Mahalakshmi with lamps and incense, and offer three meals during the puja.
While conducting the puja, devotees read the Mahalakshmi Purana written by the ancient poet Balaram Das, along with the Laksmi Puran.
This sacred puja is observed on all Thursdays of the Margasira Month.
The legend of “Manabasa Gurubar” draws its roots from the ancient scripture “Lakshmi Puran.” In ancient times, untouchables were forbidden from praying, worshiping, or participating in rituals. However, a courageous woman named Sriya, from the untouchable caste, defied societal norms and dared to pray and worship, earning the support and blessings of Goddess Lakshmi.
The true essence of the story unfolds when Lakshmi separates herself from Lord Jagannath at the request of his brother, Balabhadra. This separation occurs because Lakshmi, through her actions, ends discrimination on Earth by encouraging even untouchables to conduct rituals and worship. As Lakshmi departs from Jagannath’s abode, both Jagannath and Balram endure immense suffering, even to the point of starvation.
The curse of Lakshmi has a profound impact on the two brothers, who endure twelve years of hardship. They soon recognize the significance of Lakshmi and yearn to bring her back to their home. Lakshmi consents to return to Jagannath’s abode under one condition: there must be no discrimination based on caste and creed on Earth. This unique story emphasizes the equality before the divine and highlights the progressive stance of the gods from ancient times.
In the end, it is revealed through Narad that Jagannath orchestrated these events to end casteism and discrimination on Earth, underlining the social message and the strength of true spirituality. This narrative not only draws attention to casteism but also serves as an inspiration for women’s empowerment, reinforcing the idea that, in the eyes of the divine, everyone is equal.