This is a Maharshtrian festival that is not known much outside of Maharashtra. It is actually 16 days festival which ends on the full moon day in the month of October or November. ( month of Ashwin in Indian calendar) You can say it is similar to navratra in Gujarat or West Bengal. I am not totally sure about this festival, how it is performed but all I know is in Nagpur we used to see idols of shiv-parvati aka bhooloji and bhoolabai. I remember when I was staying in apartment complex in Nagpur, I had lot of friends of my age group. We used to play from evening till night in the small area in front of our apartment. During this festival all aunts and mom would go down their memory lane ( just like I am in right now) and enjoy their childhood games. They even tried to reach us their games which they specifically used to play in this festival. Let me see how much I remember.
It was girls festival/married women festival. All the newly wedded women would be at their parents house from Raakhi festival till Diwali festival. This bhoolabai festival would be an opportunity to meet all the friends and relatives in the evening everyday and have some fun. It would start with pooja of elephant on the first day and the pooja( offering ) of bhooloji -bhoolabai . Then games would start. At that time , they did not have any special mind games or race or competition. ( this is my interpretation) So it was kind of folk dance and it would have games of langdi( different methods of hopping on one foot), fugdi ( I can not explain it) , then playing with sticks( like navratri) and with supli .( Again I can not explain how to play with supli and what it is.) The ladies used to sing songs which would mostly say how good are my parents as compared to in laws . They are funny songs. I still remember few lines of the songs that were taught by my mom and her friends. Few that I remember are akkan mati, karlyacha vel, yadavraya rani rusun baisali kaisi, zippra kutra soda ga bai, etc. Listening to these songs still bring smile to my face. I still remember my fight with my friend Snehal over how to end the song Yaadavraya. The basic song is that everyone in the in laws come and asks the newly wed to come back to home. They offer different things but the newly wed does not want to go from her parents place. Finally her husband comes and asks her to come to “her home” and she agrees. That was the time me and Snehal would fight. She would say, if the girl is not listening, then husband is going to beat her to come home and she goes because of fear of getting beaten and my point was that husband is very nice and he says you are love of my life and as a token I am offering you mangalsutra made of pure gold. Newly wed is thrilled with her husband’s gesture and goes happily. And our fights would start. That was fun!
After playing for sometime , then it would be time for snacks. Somebody would make small snack and would keep in a box and then everybody had to guess which snack it would be . On the last day i.e. Full moon day, there would be masala doodh/ coffee with some snacks. And everybody would be staying late looking at the sky. Have you ever looked at moon on this full moon day? It looks amazingly beautiful. If you get a chance look at the sky. This year it is on 27th October. The masala doodh( spiced milk) is cooked in open space with all of the family sitting around and chatting. ( whole family not just girls/ women). It is said that those who are awake on the night of this full moon day are blessed with health and wealth by shiv-parvati. According to folk story they go around and bless those who are awake. That’s why it is called Kojagiri( who is awake). I don’t believe in it but I like the whole atmosphere created around this time of the year. It is little cold outside, there is a pot of boiling milk in the open area and all family members and chatting and singing songs. No loud music or songs. Artist in everyone would come out and there is love and laughter around . It is magic ! Special campfire I would say! And I love it till now.
Even after going to Mumbai for post graduation , we resident doctors posted in one hospital had celebrated Kojagiri at night. That is another sweet memory pearl in my memory pearl collection.
So what does it has to do with the health , you might ask. These festivals were startegically placed to enjoy and meet family members and friends. These create special bond and helps reducing stress. The folk dance also creates sense of unity and also helps in burning calories together so that one can enjoy nuts and seeds and special foods at night.
I know, I have a dream. My kids when they will go to school( yet to be conceived, even though) , I am going to invite all of their friends and their parents for Kojagiri sleepover party. I am going to teach them about these games that tests strength and flexibility and also they will know how to be together . They will know about folk dance. And I know one day my kids would say -” those were wonderful games that my mom taught me. There were fun, laughter and love all around . I love those festivals”.