Sankashti Chaturthi (Hindi: संकष्टी चतुर्थी, Telugu: సంకటహర చతుర్థి, Tamil: சங்கடஹர சதுர்த்தி, Gujarati: સંકષ્ટી ચતુર્થી ) also called Sankatahara Chaturthi in south Indian states, is an auspicious festival for Hindus, celebrated in honour of Lord Ganesha.
Each lunar month in Hindu calendar has two Chaturthi Tithis. The one after Purnimasi or full moon during Krishna Paksha is known as Sankashti Chaturthi.
Sankata Hara Chaturthi, Sankashti Chaturthi is a very famous vrat observed by the Hindus. Every month, this vrat falls on the fourth day (Chaturthi) of the waning phase (Krishna Paksha) of the moon.
Sankashti Chaturthi is a highly popular vrat and it is believed to confer the ultimate benefits of all vrats
It is believed that it was on this day that Lord Shiva declared that Ganesh is the supreme god and the leader of his army.
Therefore Sankashti Chaturthi is dedicated to praising and worshipping Lord Ganesh.
The name of this vrat “Sankata Hara Chaturthi” means the Chaturti that can alleviate all the obstacles (Sankat means obstacles and Hara means the act of removal) .
The Sankashti Chaturthi falling on Tuesdays is also called as Angarika Sankashti Chaturthi (Angarak is the Sanskrit term denoting Mars – the Lord of Tuesday) which is the most auspicious of the Sankashti Chaturthis.
Sankashti Chaturthi vrat and puja are described in the Bavishyat Purana and Narasimha Purana. Lord Krishna narrated the efficacy of Sankashti Chaturthi to Yudhishtira.
The devotees observing Sankashti Chaturti vrat wake up early in the morning and take a holy bath. They make the determination to observe the vrat and fast for the whole day.
Based on the convenience of the person observing this fast, total fasting or partial fasting can be taken up.
The period of this fasting stretches from the time of sunrise in the morning on the dedicated day to the time of moonrise on the same evening.
In the morning of Sankashti Chaturthi, early rise is advised. The observer takes holy bath and performs prayer to Ganesh by chanting Slokas and Mantras of Ganesh.
People going ahead with their regular routine or official works can do so after that excepting the fasting aspect. If they remain home or take a day off, they can engage in scriptural study or listening to divine stories or chanting the names of Lord Ganesh throughout the day.
Sankashti Chaturthi puja is usually done in the evenings. The idol of Lord Ganesh is decorated and Durva grass and fresh flowers are offered. The Prasad made for the occasion include modak, Sundal and those items that are liked by Ganesh. The fast is concluded after the puja and seeing the moon. Offerings made include coconut, fruits, milk, payasam and flowers.
Vrata means “vow, resolve, devotion”, and refers to the practice of austerity, particularly in matters related to foods, habits and drinks by people in Hindu and Jaina culture, as part of a pious observance or prayers seeking health, wealth, fertility, long life or happiness.
Hence Vratam should not be misunderstood as just fasting on food, it is a process to purify the mind through prayer, worship, meditation etc.
Several Vedas and Upanishads mention that observing Vrat with sheer dedication holds highest relevance and reverence to offer pious devotion. Such a chaste vow holds the power of fulfilling every desire of the devotee.
The Vrat makes us to move near to the almoghty God. The devotees who observes a Vrat is called a Vrat-Dhari.
Broadly speaking, Vrat means a vow to accept some rules of restrictive discipline. In spiritual field, Vrat means to apply control over our sense organs, with a solemn vow to observe regulatory discipline.
This vow includes not only fasting, and also more importantly not involving in entertainments and sensual pleasures. Devotees should obtain from going for movie or watching television. Vrata should be observed by not getting angry, not hurting anyone, not gossiping, loving neighbours, animals, birds, and being compassionate, etc. ,
The name Sankashti Chaturthi means the day which dispels all the difficulties and hurdles. It is believed that the vrat observed on this day can remove the obstacles to progress and happiness. It can relieve men of all their sins and confer a place in the abode of Lord Ganesh called Svananda Loka.