In the Hindu tradition, among married couple, men are obliged to do several 'nithya-karmas' (or daily rituals) such as performing sandyavandhanam and residential pujas (such as panchayathana puja) and reciting rudram, purusha suktam, Gita etc. These include prayers for welfare and self purification. There are 'naimithika karmas' (or occasional or contingent duties) such as tharpanams, seemantham etc, with specific purposes including warding off evils and seeking the divine grace and blessings of elders. Then, there are pujas to be performed on special days, e.g., for for Ganesh, Saraswathi etc. Men take the lead in performing the naimithika karmas and most pujas and do it for the benefit of the entire family – ‘सहकुटुम्बानाम’. However, there are some vrathams, or, nonbus, such as Varalakshmi Vratham, which are performed by women. One such important vratham is Karadaiyan Vratham or Nonbu, when women fast and pray that they and their husbands live long together.
This vratham is also called Savitri and Kamakshi vratham, based on two legends. Firstly, it is believed to be day when Savitri won her husband Satyavan's life from Yama. A scholarly princess, she married an equally great Satyavan, despite knowing that he would live for only one year. However, before the appointed day, she performed 'Triraatra' penance, fasting for three days and nights. Through her penance and brilliance, she persuaded Yama – referred to as Dharmaraja by men when doing sandhyavandanam! - not to take away the life of Satyavan, but, instead let them continue to lead a life of dharma together. These incidents took place in the last hours of the Tamil month of Maasi and beginning of Panguni. Secondly, it is believed to be the marriage day of Goddess Kamakshi. Parvati, as the story goes, playfully closed the eyes of Lord Siva, thereby engulfing the whole world in darkness. To make amends, she made a mud lingam on the bank of river Kampaa in Kancheepuram and performed a puja and, on its successful completion, married Ekambareswarar. The Tamil name - காரடையான் நோம்பு - is derived from the special dish made that day, Kara adai, with which the fast is broken. It is made with karamani (or cowpeas) and can be sweet or salted.
In its more elaborate form, the vratham is observed by doing a full fledged, shodasa upachara puja to Kamakshi. The sankalpam for the puja states the purpose as: '..மம தீர்க்க சௌமாங்கல்ய அவாப்த்யர்தம், மம பர்த்துச்ச்ச அன்யோன்ய ப்ரீதி புரச்சரம் அவியோகார்த்தம்.... '. In its shorter, and more common, form, women perform a simpler puja. On a small plantain leaf, the usual puja items, such as betal leaves and fruits are placed and most importantly, the மஞ்சள் சரடு, or, sacred yellow thread, along with the Kara Adai, with unsalted butter on top. After performing a neiveithyam by sprinkling water on the puja articles, women wear the holy thread around their neck. Then they usually say: "உருகாத வெண்ணையும் ஓரடையும் வைத்தேன்; ஒருக்காலும், நானும் என் கணவரும் பிரியாதிருக்க வேணும்" and, break the fast by eating the Kara Adai.
Incidentally, Maasi and Panguni months have several important religious functions, many associated with Siva. First, there is Mahasivarathri. Then, on the day when the star is Makam, there are special pujas in Siva temples. Once in twelve years, Mahamaham occurs – on that day, the holy waters from all sacred rivers are believed to flow into the Mahamaham tank in Kumbakonam. Millions take bath in it and then pray at the nearby Siva temple. Kumba melas also take place during this month once in twelve years in major river centres, such as Haridwar, Nasik, Triveni Sangam (Allahabad), etc. In Panguni month, Uthiram star falls on a full moon day: it is celebrated as a major festival in all Siva temples, Vishnu temples like Ranganathar temple and Murugan temples. In certain years, Rama Navami puja comes in this month. For the religious minded, it can be a busy two months, with Karadai vratham bang between the two months of Maasi and Panguni!
ஏகம்பரநாத தயிதே காஞ்சிபுர நிவசிநீ ஸ்ரீ காமாக்ஷை நமஹ!