After the celebrations and festivities of Durga pujo are over Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped. Lakshmi Pujo is celebrated in different parts of India on different days. Var Lakhsmi Pujo is celebrated in the southern parts of India in the month of July / August on the Friday before the day of full moon or the second Friday in the month. Whilst in the Northern parts of India Lakshmi Pujo is celebrated on the day of Diwali which coincides with new moon. The northern parts of India follow Vikram Sambhat (Vikrami calendar, a widely followed Hindu calendar). It is a luni – solar calendar with the new year starting in Mid - October (month of Kartik) on the day of New moon. However, in Bengal along with the states of Orissa, Maharashtra & Assam Goddess Lakhsmi is worshipped on Kojagori Purnima night, i.e. the full moon night in the month of October (Month of Aswin in Bengali calendar). The word Kojagori stands for “who is awake” (Ke jege acho in Bengali).
Legend foretells two common folklores from where it is believed Kojagori Lakshmi Pujo started. According to the first folklore it appears that Valit, a misfortune but a religious and pious Brahmin from Magadha left home one full moon night tired of his wife Mahachandi’s errant for being poor and lack of wealth and prosperity. Valit while wandering in the woods confronted 3 Nagkanyas or daughters of a serpent worshipping Goddess Lakshmi by performing a Vrath or fast to seek blessings of Lakshmi and offered Valit to play a game of dice with them in order to keep awake. Goddess Lakshmi, who was on vigil, observed Valit closely and was impressed with his honestly and religious gestures and blessed him with wealth and fortune by helping him win the game. Valit returned home with tons of gold. Hence it is believed that performing fast on this auspicious night is beneficial for gaining wealth and prosperity and fortune blessed and offered by Goddess Lakshmi in return, and therefore women play game of dice till wee hours in the night to keep awake.
The second folklore narrates the story of a king in Bengal who bought an unsold idol of Goddess Alakshmi (God of poverty) from his craftsmen in order to help them earn their livelihood. He put this idol in his temple next to the idol of Goddess Lakhsmi. As Lakshmi & Alskhsmi cannot coexist Goddess Lakhsmi silently left and misfortune prevailed in the kingdom driving away wealth and prosperity. The hapless king prayed to Dharma for help who advised that his wife perform a Vrath or fast and worship Goddess MahaLakshmi on Kojagori Purnima to ward off Alakshmi. Wide awake till wee hours of the night playing dice, the king’s wife performed the fast and worshipped, offered prayers. Impressed by her gesture & devotion, MahaLakshmi blessed the kingdom with wealth. It seems that the idol of Alakshmi melted away thus reinstating prosperity and wealth in the kingdom.
Hence every household and temple in Bengal especially performs this pujo with much fanfare. Most community pujo organizers worship Goddess Lakshmi on Kojagori Purnima night to seeks blessings and prosperity for the entire year and coming year as well. Houses and pandals are brightly lit and alpana (i.e. a paste of powder rice) is painted with designs and motifs or imprints of Goddess Lakshmi’s footsteps and her accessories as well are painted, a few items like her basket overflowing with grains, a lotus, her jewellery and other items. In several households, where idols are not available, residents worship a ‘’Pat ‘’ an earthen mould where images of Lakshmi are painted. Lakshmi is accompanied by her companion, the white owl, which is also considered auspicious.