Sanjhi Festival begins in Braj

Sanjhi in Braj is a religious, folk and cultural festival, all at the same time.

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Vrindavan, 2020-09-02 (VT): Ashwin Krishna Paksh (dark fortnight of the Hindu month of Ashwin) is observed as Pitr Paksh in India. It is a sombre time, when people carry out religious activities for the well-being, satisfaction and ultimate liberation of the ancestors. It is considered a potent time for sadhana as well.  

However, Braj-Vrindavan being a perpetual utsav, even this solemn occasion is turned into a festival– Sanjhi Mahotsav/Sanjhi Manorath - here.  Perhaps, Brajwasis have their own unique way of placating the ancestors and seeking their blessings with art, songs, dance and food!

Sanjhi in Braj is a religious, folk and cultural festival, all at the same time. For the fifteen days of Pitr Paksh beautiful designs are made in temples and homes using flowers, colours, cowries, cow dung and other material. From flowers and animals to Krishna Lilas and folk tales, everything is depicted in these intricate works of art.

Mostly the festival begins with offering flower sanjhis to the deities in temples. Later many different kinds of patterns are made. One of the most astounding kinds of sanjhi is the ‘jal sanjhi’ that is made on the top and bottom surface of water. Coloured powder is sprinkled on a fine mulmul/cotton cloth and tapped slowly with fingers such that it neatly sieves through the design embossed on the fabric.

Sanjhi is derived from the word saanjh or sandhya, meaning evening. It is said that when Krishna returned after grazing the cows (gocharan) in Godhuli bela (evening), Radha and Her sakhis used to welcome Him with splendid flower designs made all along the path.  Sajhis are worshipped as Shri Radha Herself.

Every evening, for fifteen days, a mystical atmosphere is created in the devalayas of Braj, with grand aartis, bhog and raag seva. Beyond the art, one can find Sanjhi in the songs and literature of Braj. Veritable saints have depicted the art and the festival copiously in their pad-padavalis that are sung during samaj gayan in temples at dusk.

राधा प्यारी कह्यो सखिन सों सांझी धरोरी माई।
बिटियां बहुत अहीरन की मिल गई जहां फूलन अथांई॥१॥

यह बात जानी मनमोहन कह्यो सबन समुझाय।
भैया बछरा देखे रहियो मैया छाक धराय॥२॥

असें कहि चले श्यामसुंदरवर पोहोंचे जहां सब आई।
सखी रूप व्हे मिलें लाडिले फूल लिये हरखाई॥३॥

करसों कर राधा संग शोभित सांझी चीती जाय।
खटरस के व्यंजन अरपे तब  मन अभिलाख पुजाय॥४॥

कीरति रानी लेत बलैया विधिसों विनय सुनाय।
सूरदास अविचल यह जोरी सुख निरखत अघाय॥५॥

In rural Braj, Sanjhi is celebrated as a folk festival, particularly by young, unmarried girls who wait excitedly for it throughout the year. They worship Sanjhi as Ma Gauri/Parvati for the 15 days of Pitr Paksh while observing a Manorath (vow) to obtain a good/desired husband and a happy married life. Everyday new designs are made and offered aarti and delicious bhog. On the last (fifteenth) day, i.e. Amavasya (no moon), a bigger version of Sanjhi called the Kot is made and grandly worshipped before immersing it in the Yamuna. Song and dance accompany the celebration.

जाग माई, जाग माई, खोल किवार। मैं आई तेरे पूजन द्वार।।

पूजि-पुजंतर बेटी, का फल माँगे? भैया-भतीजे संपति होई।

भैया चाहिएँ नौ-दस-बीस। भतीजे चाहिएँ पूरे बत्तीस।।

Many social and religious organisations and housing societies also organise Sanjhi melas (fairs) and competitions during this period 

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