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Rajasthani women celebrate festival of Ahoi Ashtami to begin fortnight long Diwali festvities
In rural and tribal Rajasthan, as well as in many towns, the festival of Ahoi Ashtami observed on October 31 with devotion and fervour. In the wee hours, mothers start the day with a mandana wall painting to welcome and worship the presiding deity Ahoi Mata. After, taking bath, prayers and pooja is performed before six in the morning.

On this day, mothers hold a fast from dawn to dusk for the well-being of their children and especially sons. However, the gender bias is slowly disappearing and blessings of Ahoi Mata are sought for the health, welfare and progress of all children. The fast is broken during twilight after sighting stars in the sky.

The festival of Ahoi Ashtami fasting day falls eight days before Diwali Puja and four days after Karwa Chauth. Not only in Rajasthan, the festival is also popular in many states in North India. The festival is marked as a strict fasting day and mothers abstain even from drinking water throughout the day.

Though, the calander culture has caught up, in Rajasthan, mandana paintings are prepared by smearing the outer house wall with cow dung mixed with local clay from the local pond and red ochre. A paste of lime or chalk powder is used for making the motifs suitable for the festival using a brush made out of a stick from the branch of a local tree.

The main motifs used for the mandana on this day are the female figure with crown as the deity, sun, star, moon, buntings, swastika, Shri symbol, spinning wheel, cow and calf, urn, lamp, children, peacock, flower and local flora and fauna as line drawings.

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