Anant Chaturdashi puja falls on the 14th day of Bhadrapad shukla paksha (first fortnight) of the Hindu calender year.
Anant Chaturdashi has two main significances. The first is that it is the day of the immersion of Ganapati (also called Ganapati Visarjan).
Thus Lord Ganesha is given farewell, only to be welcomed the next year with equal excitement.
The second significance is that this puja is basically that of Shri Vishnu or Shri Krishna Puja. On this day people recite and listen to the stories and legends of God Vishnu who is Anant, the infinite and recite hymns from the Vedas. This is sometimes also called Ananta Vrat. It is an expanded form of the Satyanarayana Puja.
This pooja consists of Yamuna (river) puja, shesha (cobra) Puja and Anant Puja. The water kalash (pot) is assumed to be yamuna, cobra made of grass is Shesha and Anant consists of 14 knotted threads.
For the puja 14 items are of relevance – 14 flowers, 14 fresh and dry fruits separately, 14 leaves of various trees. Even the food prepared and offered to God as prasad consists of 14 vegetables. Legend has it that this puja was mentioned about by Lord Shri Krishna to Pandavas after their defeat by Kauravas. It further tells about a sage Koundinya who went everywhere in search of Shri Anant. He had to undergo much agony and came across mysterious events before Shri Anant gave him Darshan. By performing this puja, it is believed that a person is relieved of all sins committed during his lifetime.
In 2010, Anantha Chaturdashi falls on Wednesday the 22nd of September. Here is the Ananta puja vidhi in Sanskrit,
ANANTA CHATURDASHI VRATA - STORY
When Pandava kings were banished for 12 years from their kingdom, and were in the jungle, Lord Krishna visits them. Yudhishtira, the eldest among them asks Lord Krishna an easy way out of all their difficulties. Lord Krishna says 'yes there is a great vrata which destroys all your sins, removes all your difficulties, promotes your material prosperity and will give you eventually moksha(liberation). The vrata is called Ananata Padmanabha vrata. This vrita needs to be done a day prior to pournami(bhadrapada shukla chaturdashi) of the month of bhadrapada. In respect of protecting devotees this vrata is reputed to be the foremost.
Dharmaraj(Yudhishtira) wants to know now who this Ananta represents; whether he is Aadishesha or takshaka, or Brahma. Lord Krishna replies that Ananta is none other than He Himself; ananta is the endless time. you can call him Hari, Vishnu, Krishna, shiva, Surya, Adishesha or Brahma. Having resided in the hearts of all creatures, and assuming different avataar for protecting the good and punishing the wicked, I am that parmeshwar Himself. In me reside all the 14 lokas, 14 indras, 12 adityas, 11 rudras, 8 vasus, 7 rishis,the earth and the sky, rivers and mountains. Saying thus the Lord displays his vishwarupa to Dharmaraja.
Overwhelmed at seing the Lord's vishwaswaroopa, dharmaraja wants to know more details of the vrata; how to perform the vrata, what benefits one gets and who all have done this vrata earlier. The Lord now pleased narrates him the story of this vrata which took place in Tretayuga.
Anant chaturdashi katha:-
There was a brahmin called Sumanta born in vasishta gotra and who had married Brigu's daughter Dheeksha. They had a charming daughter called Susheela. When Susheela was a young girl, she lost her mother. Her father married a woman called karkashe who was a hard hearted, quarrelsome, termagant. She made the life of Suheela miserable. In spite of these difficulties at home, Susheela grew to be a fine lady ready to be married. When Sumanta was worried over her marriage, there came to his house looking for a bride, a rishi called Kaundinya. Sumanta gives his daughter to Kaundiya rishi in marriage. With his wife being uncooperative, he could give to his son in law as a marriage gift a little of fried wheat flour.
Kaundinya accompanied by his wife Susheela travels and by afternoon reaches the bank of a river. That day being Bhadrapada shukla chaturdashi many brahmins and their wives who were wearing red dress, were worshipping Ananta Padmanabha. Curious Susheela approaches these ladies and asks them for details of the vrata. They say that the vrata is called Ananata vrata and the fruits are infinite(ananta); when Sushila showed interest to do the vrata, they tell Susheela the details as follows :-
The vrata is to be performed on Bhadrapada shukla chaturdashi. Having taken bath and wearing a clean dress, decorate the altar with devotion. Keep akalasha on the south of the altar in which you invite the Lord. Keep 7 darbhas tied to each other to represent ananta. Keep a red thread with 14 knots on the altar. Worship lord with 14 variety of flowers and 14 variety of leaves. The prasad for this vrata is Atiras. Make 28 of them and serve them to brahmanas. Those attendning should be given food and respect. Do this vrata for 14 years each year replacing the thread that was worn in the earlier year. 15th year do the udyapana(conclusion with donation of gifts to brahmanas).
Having listened to the narration with attention, faith and devotion, Susheela performed the puja with those gathered there, distributed half of the fried wheat flour to brahmanas, wore the red thread and with the thoughts of Ananta Padmanabha accompnied her husband to his ashram. Because of the power of anantavrata, Kaundinya's ashram acquired beauty and wealth. All his relatives were eagerly waiting to do the Anantavrata. Susheela had acquired an aura of brilliance.
One day Kundinya sees the red thread on Susheela's hand and asks for an explanation; In spite of her telling him the truth, in a fit of anger and jealousy, Kaundinya forcibly removes the thread and throws in the fire. Sushila picks up the half burnt thread and immerses it in milk. His behaviour proved very dear to Kaundinya; pretty soon all his wealth was lost; his relatives desert him; his cattle died and he now knows that this was on account of his rudeness to Ananta Padmanabha swami in the form of red thread.
Kaundinya leaves his house in search of Anantha padmanabha. Like ademented person enters the jungle and asks a mango tree full of mangoes, have you seen Ananta Padmanabha swami ? He goes further and asks a cow along with its calf the same question. A little further he meets a bullock to who he poses this question. His travel brings him near two lakes which were overflowing to whom he puts the same question. The next in line were a donkey and an elephant who could not answer his question. By now he was tired and heartbroken. He falls down there. Lord in His infinite compassion comes there in the form an old brahman, revives him and takes him to a palace where he shows him his four armed form along with Mahalakshmi. Kaundinya praises the Lord in many stotras. The Lord please gives him three boons viz., Removal of poverty, ability to follow dharma, mukti saubhagya.
Now Kaundinya asks the Lord about the strange sights he saw on the way to Him. The Lord explains. The man who was full of knowledge but did not teach his disciples and was useless became the mango tree. Although wealthy one who never ate himsef and did not give to others as became this cow. The king who gave non productive lands as gifts is born now as a bullock. The two lakes which overflow are dharma and adharma. One who neglected his ancestors' dharma has become an elephant. The donkey reperesents the person who condemned others and lived through unrighteous methods. Do this vrat for 14 years and I shall grant you a permanent place in the heavens.
Kaundinya returned home and did the puja with shraddha and bhakti. He lived a life of wealth and happiness. In the bygone days, sages like Agastya, kings like Janaka, Sagara, Dilipa, Harischandra have done this vrat. You to do this vrat and all your troubles will be over. Listening to this the exiled king Dharmaraja also performed this vriat. One who hears this story or narrates it will be rid of all woes and difficulties and will acquire all kinds of wealth.