Chaturmas Niyams 2020
Chaturmaas is the period four months for penance, austerities, fasting, bathing in holy rivers and religious observances for all. Devotees resolve to observe some form of vow, be it of silence or abstaining from a favourite food item, or having only a single meal in a day.
The Varsha ritu / monsoon, Sharad ritu /autumn and Hemant ritu/winter fall in the period of Dakshinayan . In these three seasons the days of Holy festivals are relatively more, especially in the monsoons.
Due to the rains, the incidence of diseases is high, hence more attention needs to be paid to health. The Holy festivals result in occasional fasts and consumption of sattvik food, in addition to a restriction to a certain extent on outside food. According to Spirituality, lesser availability of sunlight in the rainy season increases the strength of negative energies, thereby increasing the Tamas component. This increase in Tamas component is harmful for us and hence, to counter that, we need to increase our Sattva component. Celebrating festivals helps in increasing the Sattva component. Also, the period of Dakshinayan is otherwise unfavourable from sattvikta point of view. Hence, in the name of Holy festivals we in fact get an opportunity of increasing sattvikta.
‘Chaturmas’ is the period of four months from Ashadh Shukl Ekadashi to Kartik Shukl Ekadashi or Ashadh Poornima to Kartik Poornima.
1. Time and Deities-
One year of man is equivalent to one day and night of the Deities. ‘As one travels from one dimension to another, the scale of measurement of time changes’. This has been proven by the experience of astronauts who have returned from the Moon.
Dakshinayan is the night and Uttarayan is the day of Deities. On the occasion of Kark Sankranti, Uttarayan is completed and Dakshinayan, that is the night of Deities begins. Kark Sankrant falls in the month of Ashadh. Hence, Ashadh Shukla Ekadashi is called Shayani Ekadashi because it is believed that on this day the ‘Deities go to sleep’. On Kartik Shukla Ekadashi the Deities wake up from their sleep. Hence, it is referred to as Prabodhini / Devotthani Ekadashi. Actually since Dakshinayan consists of six months, the nights of the Deities too should last for six months.
‘While the work of ‘Nav-shrushti-nirmiti’ (Creation of new world) of Deity Brahma is going on, the Sustainer, Shri Vishnu is inactive; hence the four months of Chaturmas are referred to as the Vishnu shayan. It is said that at that time Shri Vishnu sleeps in the Kshirsagar. Vishnu shayan is celebrated on Ashadh Shukla Ekadashi while Vishnu prabodhotsav is celebrated after Kartik Shukla Ekadashi, that is on the Dwadashi.
2. Importance of Chaturmas
During this period of sleep of the Deities, demons become active and begin harassing humans. The scriptures say that, ‘to protect oneself from these demons each one should undertake some vrat – A quote says –
वार्षिकांश्चतुरो मासान् वाहयेत् केनचिन्नरः ।
व्रतेन न चेदाप्नोति किल्मिषं वत्सरोद्भवम् ।।
Meaning : Every year during chaturmas, we should undertake some vrat otherwise we will incur the sin of samvatsarodbhav .
3. Special characteristics of Chaturmas
A. Because of the rainy season during this period, the appearance of earth is different.
B. Travelling is difficult because of the peak rainy season. Hence, the custom of undertaking Chaturmas vrat while stationed in one place became prevalent.
C. During this period, our mental state also undergoes a change. Various systems in the body, such as the digestive system, operate in a different manner. With due consideration to this fact, it has been advised that food such as tubers, brinjals, tamarind etc. be forbidden during this period.
D. The characteristic of the Chaturmas, is performing acts which are conducive for Spirituality and avoiding those which are harmful to life.
E. The month of Shravan included in the Chaturmas is of special significance. In the dark fortnight, in the month of Bhadrapad , Mahalay shraddha / Rituals to appease departed ancestors’ subtle bodies is performed.
F. During Chaturmas, that is, the months of Shravan, Bhadrapad, Ashwin and Kartik, a greater proportion of the Tama-predominant Yama frequencies reach the earth. To be able to bear the effect of these, it is essential to increase the Sattva component in ourselves. Since festivals and vrat help increase the Sattva component, they are celebrated in larger numbers during the Chaturmasya period.
4. Vrat undertaken in Chaturmas –
Average people undertake vrat during Chaturmas. One should follow some rule when taking a meal from the various patterns of meals, such as parna-bhojan / eating on a leaf, ek-bhojan / eating only one meal, ayachit /eating only what is provided, ekavadhi /eating only one helping of food or a mixed meal /eating food served once, after mixing it etc.
Several women undertake the vrat known as ‘dharne-parne’ in the Chaturmas.. In this, one should eat and fast on alternate days for four consecutive months. Many women sustain themselves on one or two types of food grains during the Chaturmas. Many subsist on only one meal during the day. Various patterns of conduct during Chaturmas are seen depending on the region.
Reading of various scriptures like Shrimad Bhagwat Gita , Shrimad Bhagwatam , Shri Vishnu Sahastranaam is highly recommended.
5. Acts prohibited during Chaturmas
1. In the Chaturmas one is forbidden from consuming lime prepared from animal ash, water from a leather vessel, lime, the citron fruit, food not offered to God as oblation through fire (vaishvadev) and food not offered to Shri Vishnu, lentils, meat, white beans, beans, kidney beans, pickles, brinjals, watermelons, multi-seeded or seedless fruits, radish, ash gourd, berries, gooseberries, tamarind, onion and garlic.
2. Sleeping on a bed.
3. Intercourse with a woman, in the period excluding the sixteen nights after the first menses following marriage.
4. Eating food cooked by others.
5. Getting married or other related tasks.
6. Ascetics are forbidden from shaving in Chaturmas. It has been recommended by Dharmasindhu and other scriptures, that they should stay in one place during these four months and if that is not possible, at least for two months.
It is advised that during Chaturmas, havishyanna (food fit to be offered through fire) be consumed. Rice, lentils, barley, sesame seeds, grams, wheat, sea salt, cow’s milk, curd, ghee, jackfruit, mango, coconut, banana etc. are the food items that are havishyanna.