This ritualistic rite of Prathamastami is usually celebrated on the 8th day of the month of Margashirsha as per the Purnimata calendar in North India. And according to the Gregorian calendar, the festivities usually occur between the months of November and December. Prathamastami is one of the most popular festivals in eastern India and is observed throughout the state.
Celebration of Prathamastami
On the occasion of Prathamastami, the eldest child of the family is honoured and is called the ‘podhuan’. The maternal uncles of the child, known as the ‘astami bandhu’ gift the child with new clothes and other necessary items for the ritual. The child is made to sit on a wooden pedestal or ‘pidha’. An earthen pitcher filled with water called the ‘purna kumbha’ is placed on handfuls of paddy in front of the child. Above the pitcher, a branch of mango leaves and a coconut is placed.
The Prathamastami ritual involves the ‘aarti’ of the eldest child by the mother, who wishes the child a long life and good health by praying to Sathi Devi, the Goddess who protects children from all kinds of evils. Before the firstborns get honoured, the mother and all other elderly women of the family offer various prepared cuisine mainly consisting of Pitha and Khiri to Sathi Devi first. Then they light the lamp and perform ‘aarti’ before the Goddess. This is followed by the firstborns getting honoured.
The social significance of Prathamastami festival is that the firstborns are the bearer of responsibilities in the family after the death of the parents.
Science behind Prathamastami
According to psychologists, the firstborns are mostly healthy, obedient and tradition bound. Therefore, the family tradition is maintained through them. For such obvious reasons the eldest child is honoured to occupy the respectable place in the family and it is he who maintains the heredity.
Sweet Offering in Prathamastami
Prathamastami is incomplete without the Enduri pitha, which is a type of pitha made in the Odisha state. In some places it is also called as Haldi Patra Pitha. The basic ingredients used in Enduri pitha are mainly turmeric leaves, cottage cheese, jaggery and grated coconut stuffing.