The story behind the Anantha Chathurdasi festival
The meaning of the word Anantha is explained above. Chathurdasi means the fourteenth day. In Hindu calendar there will be two chathurdasis in a month. One is in the Sukla Paksha (waning phase - in the bright moon half of the month) and the other is in the Krishna paksha (on the waxing period of the moon). The vratha is performed on the Chathurdasi day of the Bhadrapada month. It is on the 10th or 11th day from the Ganesha Chathurthi day. This vow is performed to regain the lost prosperity. The persons take the vow are supposed to do the vrath for fourteen years. That is every year on the Anantha Chathurdasi day for 14 years continuously.
Anantha Vratha Procedure
It is a story of Brahmin by name Samantha. He had a wife Deeksha and a daughter Sushila. Samantha's wife Deeksha died when daughter Sushila was young and Samantha married another lady by name Karkash. Karkash was very cruel to her step daughter, Sushila and was constantly harassing Sushila. After some time Sushila was married to one Kaundinya. Sushila and Kaundinya left her parents to live elsewhere to escape the harassment. On their way Kaundinya went for a bath and Sushila came in contact with a group of ladies. They were performing some worship. On her inquiry the ladies informed her that they were worshiping Lord Anantha. They further informed her that the worship is a vow (vratha). Some special food items 'Gharga' (a fried item made out of flour) and anarase, another special food are prepared. Half of his food items are given to Brahmins. The person doing the Vratha should complete the ablations, take bath and wear clean good cloths. Arrange the place to keep the idol of worship with Rangoli. Keep a wooden plank/mane and on top of this keep a Mandapa. The idols of Lord Vishnu and Seshanag on the grains of rice and Khusha (darbhe) grass. If idols are not available make a symbol of hooded snake (representing Seshanag - Anantha) made of Dharbe hullu (khusa - sacred grass used in all the poojas of the Hindus). A silk sting with 14 knots smeared fully with turmeric (haldi) paste to make it yellow is kept before the idols. The string is representing the Ananthanag (Seshanag) to protect the person and the 14 knots symbolise the 14 Lokas. Then this symbol of the snake is worshiped in the usual way with lighted oil lamp, flowers with smell, incense sticks, eatable offerings which is later distributed as prasada etc. After the poojas the string is tied around the wrist of the person taking the vow. Ladies will tie the string on to the left wrist and men on the right wrist. This procedure is believed to give prosperity and happiness. The worship ends with the chanting of the Anantha Chathurdasi Slokas: "Anant Sarv Naganamdhipa Sarvkamada Sada Bhuyat Prasannomain Bhakatanabhayam-Karah". On this day the observer is not to take salt or items with salt.
Legend about Anantha Vratha
There is a legend about the observation connected with the Pandavas. The Pandavas lost everything in the dice game with Kauravas and had live in exile for 12 years and further spent one more year undetected by anybody. When they went to forest to start the exile life, Sri Krishna came to visit them in the forest. Yudhistir the eldest of the Pandavas who are cousins to Sri Krishna asked Sri Krishna what is to be done to get rid of the bad patch of time. In reply Sir Krishna suggested to them to observe the Anantha Chathurdasi vow and he narrated a story in support of this advice. The story is given below.
Contempt against the Vow
After listening to the explanation and the procedures of the Vratha from the ladies, Sushila decided to take the vow. From that time Kaundinya and Sushila started prospering and became rich. After some time Kaundinya saw the silk string on his wife's wrist and asked her as to what it is and she explained about the vow and said that it is on account of the vow they prospered. Kaundinya felt that he is working and earning and why the credit of the prosperity should go to the string. He argued with his wife that it is on account of his work they are rich not because of the string. In the heat of the argument, he removed the string and put it in fire. After the throwing the tread in the fire, things started changing for them. They started having misfortunes and lost their earnings and were in a pitiable condition. Kaundinya then felt that it is is on account of his impudence to the 'Anantha' that they are suffering. He started to undergo rigorous penance to appease the god.
Repentance and Penance of Kaundinya
Kaundinya informed of his determination to do rigorous penance to appease the god in the forest and went to the forest with that purpose. In the forest he had some strange experiences. He saw a mangoes tree with full of fruits which cannot be eaten by anybody and the tree was infested with worms. Further ahead he saw a cow and a calf, thereafter saw a bull in the mist of plenty of grass without eating, and still further on he saw two lakes joined together and water mixing with each other, then a donkey and farther on an elephant. As he came near to each of these strange spots, he asked each as to whether they saw Lard Anantha and each of them said that they did not see. He was in great despair and decided to end his life by hanging. He put the noose around his neck and was about to jump to death, when an old man came and removed the rope from Kaundinya's neck and took him to a cave. Inside the cave there was a throne and the old man was going towards the throne. Then suddenly the old man disappeared and Kaundinya could see Lord Vishnu in place of the old man. Immediately he realised that the savoir was none other than the Lord who in fact is the 'Anantha". Kaundinya confessed about his sin of removing the string and putting it fire. The lord assured him that if he takes the "Anantha' vow of 14 years all his sins will be removed and he will have all round prosperity in wealth and family. Then the lord explained to Kaundinya about the incidents of the Mangoe tree, cow etc. The lord said that the Mangoe tree was a Brahmin in previous birth but did not share his knowledge. The cow was the earth which in the beginning had eaten all the seeds sawn without returning anything; the bull was the religion and was on the green grass; the two lakes were two sisters who loved each other but they looked after each other only; the donkey was cruelty and anger; and finally the elephant was Kaundinya's pride. Kaundinya understood that all these of what he saw in the forest was the various aspects of him and became cleansed.
From that time onwards the purpose and effect of the 'Anantha' Vratha (vow) was being known to others and the vratha spread all around. It is believed that if the Chathurdasi day it also happens to be Poornima day it is a great auspicious occasion and will bring redoubled prosperity all around.
Relation of Anantha Chathurdasi and Ganesha
This is the last day of the Ganesha Chathurthi festival all over the country. It will fall on the 10th or the 11th day after the Ganesha Chathurthi and this is the last day to immerse the Ganesha idols kept for pooja to be immersed in sea, river, lakes, tanks etc. It is a symbol of seeing off Ganesha for this year and anticipating his visit next year. Apart from this visarjan of Ganesha idols, whether there is any other connection between the Vinayaka Chathurthi and Anantha Chathurdasi is not known.