As the monsoon sets in with its first shower, we see nature changing its backdrop and we can look forward to a pleasant time of the year. Our surroundings turn verdant, lush and fertile. It is during this time that the holy month of Shrawana enlightens us with its spirituality and holiness.
The fifth month of Hindu calendar, is famously known for different vratas and pujas. Many blogs and articles focus on what to eat, drink or do in this month. However, lets understand why we do all these things in this month only and why this month has such an important place in our devotional calendar.
With the change in weather, and unavailability of beneficial food options, our ancestors set out some spiritual rules for these times. As the then era stipulated a spiritual and religious lifestyle, the dietary habits became a part of religion. Gradually, the way of living changed and these rituals became a significant part of religion. The period comprises four months which is called Chaturmaas, of which Shrawan is at the start of this period. However, with the changing lifestyles, this period was limited to Shrawan. As a result, Shrawan is considered as the most significant time of the year and Hindus dedicate themselves to Vratas, fasts and Pujas.
Another reason for Shrawana to be observed as the holy month is that all the spiritual festivals occur in this month. The spiritual festivals Shrawani Somwar, Mangala Gauri, Guru Purnima, etc. all happen to fall in this month. In spiritual terms, the universe, the air, the atmosphere, everything is known as Shiva Tattva. Shiva is the ultimate consciousness. There is no one, who can step out of Shiva. Our ancestors have signified this concept as Lord Shiva who symbolises the unfathomable divine universe. As the atmosphere changes, the Shiva Tattva is activated that adds to the spiritual awakening of every existing being. In order to communicate this message to the masses, our ancestors translated it in spiritual terms which is why this month is dedicated to Lord Shiva and carries utmost importance.
The month of Shrawana is important in association with mythological stories as well. The most important story in Hindu mythology is Samudra Manthan which had taken place during this month. To describe the event in short, a dispute between the gods and demons for immortality caused the churning of the ocean which then led to the retrieval of fourteen gems from the ocean. Thirteen of them were equally distributed amongst the gods and demons, but, the fourteenth one was poisonous fluid called, Halahal. The poison was very fatal and it could lead to an apocalypse. Lord Shiva drank the poison and held it in his throat; which attributed to Lord Shiva’s throat turning blue. To reduce the impact of this poison, every god and demon offered the holy water of Ganges to him. In memory of this event, all the devotees also offer the water of Ganges to Lord Shiva.
Fasts and Rituals:
Of all the days, the Mondays of Shrawana are considered the most important ones. The Shivmuth Puja is said to aid a better married life and is to be done for five consecutive years after marriage. There are particular grains and pulses that need to be consumed during this month. Likewise, every Monday has a specific grain associated with it which is called as Shivmuth Puja. On the first Monday, a fistful of rice is offered as an abhishek (grain by grain falls on to the Shivling) in the morning and an equal amount is to be consumed by the devotee for the whole day. On the second Monday, sesame is consumed; on the third, green gram or moong is consumed; and on the last Monday Jawas or flax seeds are consumed.
All these pulses and grains have an effective benefit on the human body during the times of monsoons, and therefore this vrata has been designed accordingly.
Another vrata is the Shrawani Somwar wherein people fast for getting a good life partner and for a good married life. As Shrawan is dedicated to Lord Shiva, who is solely committed to his only wife Sati for eternity (Read our Adishakti article for this), our ancestors have symbolised all the fasts and rituals in Shrawana to bringing peace and tranquility in married life. There are many stories associated with this vrata that explain the procedure of the Vrata. A day long puja is to be done, and all rice, lentil, sesame or such food grains and pulses are to be consumed in this Vrata.
Likewise, there are many vratas in this auspicious month, however the Shivamuth Vrata and Shrawani Somwar Vrata are followed significantly.
Delving into the rituals associated with Shrawan, can be an interesting subject. The more we delve, do we will realise that all these rituals are in fact, for our health benefits. So, even though it may sound little cliched, following Shrawana and the associated rituals will make us strong and contented in the spiritual sense.