Chaturmaas: The 4 months of fasting, prayers and good Karma: Significance and importance
Chaturmass month begins on the 30th Jul and ends on the 24th November 2012. The”Deva Sayana Ekadasi”, begins in July, the Hindu Lunar month of Ashadh, all the way up to the “Uttana Ekadasi” in the month of Kartik in November.
The Lord Vishnu sleeps for the period of four months and awakens on Prabodini Ekadashi, Haribodhini, Devotthaani or Utthana Ekadashi in the month of Kartik (October-November). In these months, it said that one should refrain from performing any sacrificial pyres or Havan – Yajgna / Yagya and auspicious ceremonies because Lord Vishnu and all the demi-gods Devas are resting at this time. So they cannot be invited to partake in the celebrations. During this time, the Sun too changes its course and moves in the southern direction-Dakshinayanam. These four months of rest in the Hindu calendar are Shravan, Bhadrapad, Ashwin and Kartik.
Dev Shayani Ekadashi marks the beginning of Chaturmas/ Chaturmaas/ Chaturmasya / Chaturmasa. Chatur means 4 and Mas/ Maas/ Masya is known as months. There is a lot of significance of these 4 months.
The significance of Chaaturmaas:
The large number of festivals and vrats are to Invoke lord Vishnu, who is during this time believed to be in slumber from the day of the Dev Sayana Ekadasi. With the Lord asleep, the devotees turn to Lord Shiva for protection. That is why Shiva is worshipped during the month of Shravan.
The first big festival is Janmashtami, the day when Lord Krishna was born. He is also an avatar of Vishnu. The worship of Krishna is to invoke Lord Vishnu. The goddess Laxmi in various forms is also worshipped during Chaturmaas.
The 11 day Ganapati Utsav is also to propiate Parvati, who is the mother of Ganesha, The Ganesh Gauri puja and the Mahalaxmi puja are all part of the the rituals to invoke the Goddess of wealth and are observed during the Ganesha festival.
Finally there are the Devi Navarathras, the 9 day worship of the Goddess. Dussehra is considered to be the ultimate day when the barriers are crossed and Laxmi returns to her original place besides Lord Vishnu.
Ashadhi Ekadashi is an auspicious day of God Shri. Vitthal and is a festival of religious procession which is celebrated during the month of June-July.As per the Marathi calendar, it is Aashadh Shukla Paksha. People consider the two eleventh days, ‘Ekadashi’,of every month to be of special significance.And the eleventh day (bright) of Ashadh is known as the Maha (great) Ekadashi. Ekadashi is considered as the date (tithi) of Lord Vishnu,so, it is also referred to as Haridini (Hari’s, that is, Lord Vishnu’s day). In other religious festivals there are vows and resolutions but ekadashi need not be observed with a resolution (sankalpa) and ritual. It is the basic among all vowed religious observances and rituals.
Some Dos and Dont’s during the Chaaturmaas:
- As the Chaturmaas is about staying in one place, it is not advisable to travel too much or move place during this time. Do not change jobs and resign during this period.
- Marriages are not performed during Chaaturmaas, as the Lord is asleep and the Goddess of Wealth his consort is not with him during this time to give blessings.
- No big purchases are made during this period. Now gold is bought only during the Mahalaxmi Puja.
- One should try to indulge in good Karma as the Lord is not present to protect from calamities and difficulties.
- It is a good practice to visit temples and places of worship during this time.
What do you mean by Ekadashi- the 11th day from the Lunar New Moon
The proportion of Satva, Raja, Tama components in every organism varies according to time/season (samay/kal). On the 11th day of each Hindu lunar fortnights,the satva component is maximum in all living beings. So it benefits the most if spiritual practice is done on an ekadashi day.
This period coincides with the rainy season and is also known as Chaaturmas. Ashadhi Ekadashi is a fasting day and on this day people go walking in a huge processions from Alandi to Pandharpur,singing the Abhangas (devotional songs) of Vithoba,Saint Tukaram and Saint Dnyaneshwar.The ‘Dindi’(procession) starts from Alandi and ends on Guru Poornima day at Pandharpur.
Palkhi (palanquin), a unique feature of Maharashtrian culture, is a thousand-year-old tradition followed by the warkaris – people, who follow the wari (a holy ritual). The Palkhi starts in the month of Jyeshtha of the Hindu calendar. The palanquins contain the padukas and masks of the saints, Dnyaneshwar and Tukaram. The procession and the religious celebrations last for almost three weeks. Every year on the 11th day of the first half of the Hindu month of Ashadh, the Palkhi reaches Pandharpur.
The palkhi of Dnyaneshvar sets out from Alandi while that of Tukaram from Dehu, of Nivrittinath from Tryambakeshwar, and of Ekanath from Paithan. Nearly sixty palanquins from all over Maharashtra are taken to Pandharpur.
The “Vi” in Lord Vithoba’s name denotes knowledge and “Thoba” denotes shape.So, He is the idol of knowledge. Another interpretation is that the word “Vitthal” is said to be derived from the Marathi word “Vit”, meaning brick. “Ba” is used to denote “father” in Marathi.
Lord Vithoba is a form of Lord Vishnu, Lord Narayana or Lord Krishna. It is believed that Lord Krishna had incarnated at the end of Dwarpa Yuga on the eighth day of the dark fortnight in the holy month of Shravan (As per the Hindu calendar). Devotees lovingly address him as Mauli, Pandharinath, Pandurang,Vitthal etc.Lord Vishnu is the name for Vitthal in Kannada language(southern parts of India). The worship of Lord Pandurang is mainly derived from the Puranas.
Significance of the rituals
Health is given importance during the four months. Many people avoid garlic and onion as it can stimulate unnecessary excitements, cause indigestion and distract devotee from pujas and prayers. In some regions, people avoid green leafy vegetables in the Shravan month. Curd, or yoghurt, is avoided in Bhadrapad, milk is avoided in Ashwin month and pulses, the split variety, are avoided in Kartik month.
There are dietary restrictions during this period. the scientific as well as religious connotation to the Chaaturmaas being that it is the rainy season and digestion is sluggish and food becomes stale very fast. So the dos and donts about diet are to keep us healthy, and as a large number of festivals fall during this period, people too voluntarily give up meat and even onion and garlic. The large number of fasts is to ensure that people eat once a day to keep the digestive system healthy. Chaaturmas is also the period when we learn to respect the other living beings on earth/. Nag Panchami and Pola are the other festivals during this period and acknowledge that presence of animals who are equally important inhabitants of earth.