"No women shall touch any persons, clothes or utensils for three days during her menstrual cycle. On the forth day she may do so after having a purifying bath" Shikshapatri shlok 174. The above Shikshapatri shlok is applicable to all ladies of our religion. If the above is not observed it is classed as a great sin. During these three days women are forbidden to touch even other ladies who too are on their rajaswala (menstrual cycle). The reason for observing the three days of not touching goes back to the time of Indra Dev who after killing a Brahmin distributed the sin between 4 elements - one of them being Women. Should a lady mistakenly touch anyone, that person should immediately have a bath to purify themselves. Any sin/mistake which results from not following the Rajaswala Dharma can be erased by observing the 'Rushi Panchmi' vratt. Rushi Panchami Vratt came about as a result of a lady who did not follow her rajaswala dharma. In her house when her husband, relatives and family members were present she sat aside from everyone and everything. When her family was away in the field she would enter the house and touch things freely. She would eat whatever she wanted and move things around and touch clothes kitchen utensils etc.
When it was time for her family to return home in the evening she went and sat afar again, as if she were still observing her rajaswala dharma.
As a result of her sins when she died her next birth was that of a female dog and her husband was born as a bull. Through no fault of his own, the husband had to suffer for the sin committed by his wife. Fate took its course and they were both born into their original home. The couple's son, who now lived in the house, threw left over food for the dog to eat daily and the bull was attached to a plough and made to work on the field all day.
On the date of Bhadarvo sud pancham the bull was in the field and it was the time when the crops were beginning to grow. To stop the bull eating the crops, the son tied some material around the bull's mouth. This way the bull was made to work with the cloth tied around his mouth the whole day in the burning heat. Coming home in the evening the son forgot to remove the material and just threw some grass for the bull to eat while he went inside for his own supper. The bull, after ploughing the field from sunrise to sunset was hungry and thirsty. He stood by the grass looking at it longingly but how could he eat? His mouth was still tied up.
The son came outside into the front garden and fell asleep on the bed after eating.
On that same day, whilst the son had been on the field his wife had gone to fetch some water after making some milk porridge. A snake had appeared in the house and put its fangs in the porridge making it poisonous. The dog saw all this and realised that the porridge would now be poisoned. If the son, his wife and children ate this then they would surely die.
When the wife returned, the dog put her mouth into the porridge on purpose to save the family as it meant the porridge would now have to be thrown away. Seeing this the wife became angry - she picked up a baton used to wash clothes and started beating the dog. She beat her so hard that the dog's back legs broke, her spine was smashed and her face covered in blood. Wailing in pain she managed to scramble outside where she collapsed near the gate.
At midnight the bull looked at the dog and started crying. He cried "as a result of your sins I too am suffering. Think about what's happening to us. The whole day I have been ploughing the fields putting all my strength into the work and look at me now. I have food in front of myself and yet I cannot eat! This offence which I am being tortured for is not mine but yours! As you didn't follow your rajaswala dharma I too am having to suffer."
The dog looked at the bull and said "What can I do? I too am in anguish. To save our family from the poisoned porridge I put my mouth in it. The beating I got was such that my legs are broken, my spine is broken in several places and I cannot even stand up without excruciating agony."
The son, who had been asleep in the front garden awoke when hearing this conversation between the dog and the bull. He was astonished. Who was this talking at this time of night? Looking around him he found that it was the bull and the dog. Listening carefully, he realised that these were his very own mother and father. Look at their state now! He decided to help release them from the torment of his mother's sins and went in search for someone who could show him the way.
Roaming the forests, months passed. Finally he found a rushi (sage) and told him the story of his mother and fathers fate. Hearing this the rushi said,
"When Bhadarva Sud Pancham comes, that day you will have to do upvas (fast). Tell your wife to do it too. The next morning give some alms to the mandir and to Bhramins. Doing this vratt, your mother and father will achieve 'uddhar' (release from the sin)."
From that day forth, Bhadarva Sud Pancham has been known as Rushi Panchmi.
On this day ladies should observe the vratt. If some sin is committed unknowingly during the rajaswala then it is erased by this vratt.