Rishi Panchami is a festival that is celebrated in the month of August immediately after Teez Puja. Hindu women attach undue importance to this festival of Rishi Panchmi because they believe that by observing Rishi
Panchmi fast and by paying homage to Rishies on this day of the festival, they will be blessed and forgiven for all their sins that they are bound to commit during their menstrual cycle by not following the strictures laid down for them by their religion
On this auspicious day, the devotees use 108 pieces of upmarga, a kind of medicinal plant, to brush their teeth after relieving their bowels early in the morning. They use upmarga because it is very beneficial which in sanskrit means destroyer of diseases. After cleaning their teeth they apply clean soil all over their body before they take bath. After bath they consume a drop or two of Panchagabya, a kind of potion prepared by mixing milk, curd, butter, excreta of cow, kush and dubo kept in a copper container, panchagabya is considered very sacred by the Hindus and they believe that the potion thus prepared cures tuberculosis and skin diseases which are infections. All the ingredients used in preparing panchagabya are in proportion.
Now after having purified both the body and the mind the devotee offers prayer to diyo, kalash and Lord Ganesh and either through sixteen or five mediums offer their heartfelt prayers to rishis like Kashyap, Arti, Bhardhog, Biswamitra, Gautam, Jamdagni Basista etc and finally end their fast by properly feeding and generously donating the brahmin that conducts the day’s puja .
The story associated with this customary fast of Rishi Panchami is quite interesting.
Once, a woman called Jayshree neglected all norms and barriers to be observed during menstrual cycle and did everything that were forbidden for a woman during the period. She ate all that were supposed to be avoided and touched everyone and walked even in restricted areas of the house. Thereby she committed a great sin, the effect of which, not only fell upon her but also upon her husband. As a consequence, they were reborn as a bitch and an ox in the house of their son Sumati after their death.
One day Sumati was performing Shrada. He had cooked khir to offer to his dead parents. A snaked crowled in and poisoned the khir without being seen by anyone except the bitch. The bitch, who in actual was the mother of Sumati in her previous life, thought that if she lapped the khir than nobody would eat it and the poisonous food would be avoided. The son who knew nothing about the intention of the bitch took it otherwise and gave her a good thrashing. At night the bitch narrated the sad story of the day to her husband who also lamented about his poor feeding on that day and opined the uselessness of their son’s Shrada of that day. The wise son, however, knew about the grudge of the two animals and later on fed them properly.
Next day was the day of Rishi Panchami. Both of them visited the ashram of rishis and begged them to explain the reason of their rebirth as animals. The rishis told them that due to their sins they have been born as animals. They suggested them to observe Rishi Panchami List in order to be liberated from their pitiable life of animals
The Hindu women believe that the fast of Rishi Panchami not only ensures their fedility towards their husbands but also showers blessings upon themselves and upon their family members. They believe that every member of their family would be granted long life,
enough courage and wisdom because the fast not only purifies the women folk but all the members of her family from their sins, which otherwise would have adverse effect on all members of their family if their sins are not cleaned through Rishi Panchami Fast. In short, Rishi Panchami Fast is a festival for repentance and deleverance from the sins women commit during their menstrual period.