Bhadrapada Shukla Panchami is known as Rishi Panchami and usually observed two days after Hartalika Teej and one day after Ganesh Chaturthi. Currently Rishi Panchami day falls in August or September on English calendar. Rishi Panchami is observed on the fifth day after the new moon in the Bhadrapada month (August – September).
Rishi Panchami is not a festival but a fasting day observed by women to pay obeisance to the Sapta Rishis which means seven sages and to get purified from Rajaswala Dosha.
India is the land of Rishis and Munis. The country is so profoundly influenced by the enlightening knowledge of the Rishis and their teachings that even today people follow their precepts and succeed in leading a life of piety, virtue and righteousness and finally attain emancipation as well. There have been so many Rishis who have spent their entire lives in the service and welfare of humanity. We adore and worship those Rishis. Of those Rishis, Vasishtha, Vishwamitra, Jamdagni, Bharadwaj, Atri, Gautam and Kashyap are represented by the constellation of Ursa Major, the Great Bear, so that they are forever imprinted in our memory.
Rishis are also called ‘Mantradrashta’. Rishis do not consider themselves to be doers. They observe the world in a detached manner, remaining established in the state of a dispassionate witness. Similarly, they espouse the esoteric meaning and impact of the mantras in a completely detached manner. As such, Rishis are known to be ‘Mantradrashta’.
On the occasion of Rishi Panchami, such Mantradrashta Rishis are worshipped. Women in particular observe a fast on this day. There is no distinction between men and women in the eyes of the Rishis. Everything to them is but the manifestation of their own infinite Self. This festival is meant for all those who are ignorant of their own Self. With a heart full of gratitude we salute and pay obeisance to the Rishis who have endeavoured to remove the ignorance due to which jiva gets entangled in cycles of birth and death, going through various species and suffering extensively in the process. However, the real worship of the Rishis and Munis lies in complying with their commandments. And their expectation is: ‘Worship God by being god.’ Rishis are established in the state of being an eternal witness and are seers with no attachments at all. They are not distracted in the least from this state by the vagaries of pleasure or pain, loss or gain, respect or disrespect or even auspicious and inauspicious events of the world. To establish oneself in that state of an eternal witness through unrelenting practice is, in essence, their true worship. They have toiled hard to free the world from attachments. They have introduced specific ceremonies, social customs, festivals and traditions so that we may see life as it is and realize the Supreme Self, setting aside the obstructions of our age old notions. As a mark of our gratitude, we should revere the Rishis in order to absolve ourselves from the debt owed to them.
This is a day of ‘Vrata’ i.e. a fast. The tradition of observing this Vrata, is to express respect, gratitude and remembrance of the great deeds of those ancient Rishis. This fast is to be observed by women. It is beleived that any ill deeds which the women might have committed and the mistakes done, can be pardoned by doing this Vrata.
Hinduism gives highest priority to purity and there are strict guidelines to maintain purity of the body and the soul. In Hinduism women are believed to be contaminated during their menstrual cycle. During menstrual cycle women are not allowed to enter in the kitchen for cooking, to participate in any religious activities and to touch any family members. Avoiding these guidelines creates Rajaswala Dosha. Rishi Panchami fasting is advised to get rid of Rajaswala Dosha.
Menstruation Taboos in Hinduism
In Hinduism there are strict rules related to purity, and menstruating women usually avoid worship, holy places and scriptures, cooking, and contact with members of their family. The taboo is explained in the Bhagavata Purana, which described menstruation as a part of Indra’s sin of killing a brahmana. Indra negotiated a quarter of the sin in exchange for a blessing.
Legend of Rishi Panchami
A certain king Sitasale asked Brahma to tell him the fast, which is of utmost bliss and bestows quick result. Brahma replied that Rishi Pane mi fast was the one such by virtue of which all sins are washed away. He narrated the story of a virtuous Brahmin Utank of Vidharba region. His wife was a devoted wife Shushila. They had two children, a son and daughter. The daughter was married to a young capable boy, but unfortunately became a widow soon. The parents made a cottage on the bank of Ganges and lived there with their widow daughter. One day while asleep the ants covered the body of the daughter. The parents were perplexed. The Brahmin through meditation found out that in previous birth, she had entered the kitchen on the day of menstruation. The routine is-that on the first day of menstruation, the woman is Candalini (demon), on second day Brahmdhatini (wizard), on third day a washer woman, and on fourth day after bath, she becomes purified. Women undertaking Rishi Pane mi fast do not suffer from attack of worms’ and in all future births remain happy. Shwetambar cult,end their Parjushan Maha Parva on this day and the others following Digambar cult, start their Maha Parva from rishi panchamithis day.
‘Hrishabhadeva’ was the first and the most sacred Teerthankar as per the Jains,who is also known as Aadinath. ‘Rishi Panchami’ day is observed in the name of Aadinath. The Hindus and the Jains have the same feeling and motive behind observing this Vrat of Rishi Panchami.
Importance and Rituals of Rishi Panchami Vrata
Rishi Panchami is observed by married and unmarried women to pay respect to ancient sages (Rishis). This vrat (fast) is carried out those who believe that they must rid themselves of the burden associated with offenses committed since their last their menstrual period. Women also believe they won’t suffer from worms and will be happy in future lives due to this fast. On this day the women worship sapta rishis (seven sages) called Gautam, Atri, Bharadwaj, Kashyap, Vishwamitra, Janadagni and Vashishtha.
The fast is observed strictly on this day, and many only eat fruit or root vegetables and avoid all grains. Women in India bathe in holy rivers with cow dung and clean their teeth with Aghada herbal sticks. The full moon and stars are worshiped on this day because it is believed that the spirits of the departed sages inhabit the Ursa Major constellation (The Great Bear).
Rishi Panchami vrat tends to be observed by stricter devotees and is a fast that is less known among contemporary Hindus. Many women don’t take the menstruation taboos seriously today and this may also explain why this fast is becoming less popular with time.