Dhanur-maas is also known by other names such as Shoonya-maas, Chapa-maas, Kharmas , Malmas ,Karmuka-maas and Kodand-maas. During this period of one month, the Sun is in Dhanu (Sagittarius) constellation. It transits into Dhanur Rashi until it enters the Makar Rashi (Capricon) during the end of this month on the Makar Sankranti day.
The Lord is bathed in warm scented water, dressed in warm clothes and then venerated accompanied with Goddess Lakshmi. The Pujari should place an open stove (heater) to stave off the cold. The Lord should then be offered a Rotlo (thicker Rotli) of millet, butter, yoghurt, Ghee, rice and cooked aubergines as Naivedhya (Food offering).
Lord Shree Krushna underlines its special nature in Bhagavad Gita that among months He is Maghshirsha. All over India pre-dawn worship is a common occasion during this month. Since this month is set apart for devotional practices, marriages and other such functions are not performed.
As per the Agni Puran by Ved Vyaas, the merits of worship performed pre-dawn in Dhanurmaas are outlined as follows:
मुख्यारुणोदये पूजा मध्यमा लुप्ततारका | अधमा सूर्यसहिता मध्याह्ने निष्फला भवेत् ॥
Mukhyāruṇodaye pūjā madhyamā luptatārakā | adhamā sūryasahitā madhyāhne niṣphalā bhavet ||
Worship before Sunrise (Pre-dwan) is best (whilst stars are twinkling), after starts have vanished but before sunrise is medium, completed after Sunrise is inferior and completed in the afternoon is infructuous i.e. not fruitful.
The greatness of this month is further detailed within the Narad Pancharatra in four chapters, as the conversation between Hans Avatar (The Swan Incarnation of Supreme Lord) and four-faced Brahma. The dialogue between the two personalities is narrated by Sage Suta in response to a query by Sage Shaunaka.
1. First Chapter – Sage Suta hails the greatness of Dhanurmaas and explains the merits that one would be blessed with upon following the prescribed austerities in this holy month.
2. Second Chapter – The conversation between Hans Avatar and Bhrama – Bhrama inquires about the greatness of Dhanurmaas, which is brought out by narrating the story of a King Satyasandh.
3. Third Chapter – The greatness of donation of alms during this auspicious period is hailed. Devotees are instructed to perform pious deeds as per their capacity and also warned of dire consequences if not performed.
4. Fourth Chapter – Various different ways of feeding Brahmins are discussed. An arrangement of meals for Bhramins who cook for themselves is lauded as the best way which is brought out by a small anecdote of the Pandavs within the Mahabharat.