The Hindu festival of Narali Purnima or the Coconut festival is celebrated with great fervor and in a jubilant manner by the fishermen and the fishing community in Maharashtra on the full moon day of Shravan. ‘Shravan’ is one out of the four most auspicious months in the Hindu calendar. Thus, a full moon day or the Purnima in this month is regarded as even more sacred.

Narali Purnima is celebrated by Hindus in Daman and Diu on the west coast of India and in the coastal region of Maharashtra like Thane, Ratnagiri, Konkan, etc.

The word ‘Naral’ means coconut and coconut is offered to the sea on the full moon day, hence the name Narali Purnima. Other names for the festival include Shravani Purnima, Raksha Bandhan and Rakhi Purnima.

It marks the end of the monsoon season in Maharashtra. It falls on the full moon day of the Hindu calendar month of Shravan. During this festival, people offer coconuts to the sea. The festival marks the beginning of the fishing and the water-trade amongst the fisher folk. Thus, the fishermen offer prayers and worship the sea-God, Varuna, for a smooth journey out in the waters. Dancing and singing are an integral part of this festival. The traditional food includes sweet coconut rice which is savored with curry.

The reason for the celebration of the festival is very specific to the fisher folk. The period before the full moon day or the Purnima of Shravan is regarded as the mating season for the fish. Thus during this period, the fishermen withhold their fishing activity so as not to disrupt the process of reproduction by killing the fish.

Thus, during this period no fishing takes place and no fish is consumed by the people in the community. This abstinence from eating fish comes to an end on the day of the Narali Purnima when a coconut is thrown into the sea at high tide of the day. The reason for this is during high tide, the sea is in heavy motion and very intense. This, the offering of the coconut is a gesture to calm its fury.

They also perform the traditional dance, popularly called the koli dance. The dance movements and actions revolve around showings the waves, the casing of nets, the breakers moving from one cliff to the other thus depicting their daily life in a creative way.

After this celebration, they throw the coconut far into the sea. They worship the Sea god Varuna asking the God for its protection and blessings for a prosperous fishing season ahead. The sea is holy to the fisher men as it is a means for their survival. They also offer pooja to the boats. Little oil lamps are lit up and set afloat amidst the waves and carried in the boats.Pieces of Coconut and coconut water are distributed as ‘prasad’ to the members of the community.

The Versova Koliwada in Mumbai has its own unique style of celebrating the festival. The kolis come together for a traditional procession in the evening at around 5 or 6 pm. The traditionally dressed men and women carry coconuts with them to be offered to the sea. They also offer a Golden colored coconut or Sonyacha Naaral to the sea.

Narali Purnima is one of the most important festivals for the Koli community and it is celebrated with a lot of joy and happiness. It is social as well as an occupational festival and has been celebrated since time immemorial amongst the fisher folk in the country. Though there may be regional variations in the celebrations, the significance, sentiment and the rituals are by and large the same.