Shravan: The Holy Month of Ritual and Festivity
Shravan, the most auspicious month of the Chaturmas, is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva is considered as “the Destroyer” or “the Transformer” among the Hindu Trinity of the primary aspects of the divine. It is the fifth month in a traditional Hindu lunar calendar. As per Vedic Almanac, the star Shravan rules the sky during this period and hence is also called Shrawan mas. Almost all the days of this month are propitious, filled with numerous rituals and festivals to seek blessings from Lord Shiva.
Significance of Shiva Puja in Shravan Month:
According to the legend, Samudra Manthan (the churning of oceans) took place in the month of Shravan. During the samundra manthan, fourteen different types of rubies came out and the thirteen of these were distributed among the demons, except Halahal (poison). Lord Shiva came to rescue, drank the Halahal and stored it in his throat. The throat turned blue due to effect of poison and hence the name Neelkantha (meaning blue throat) is attributed to Lord Shiva. In order to reduce the strong effect of poison, Lord Shiva wore the crescent moon on his head. All the Gods thereafter started offering the Ganges water to Lord Shiva to make lessen the effect of poison.
Since then, Shiva devotees offer the Ganges water in Shravan with a belief of earning lot of punya. Things devotees can perform during Shravan are:
- Wearing Rudraksh
- Reciting Shiv Chalisa and Aarti
- Maha Mrityunjaya Jap
- Fasting on Mondays
During 2013, Shravan month spans from 16th July to 16th August.
The first day of the month Shravan observes the festival of Shravan Sankranti. It is a merry making exercise after the busy period of paddy plantation. Family invites their married daughters and sisters and celebrates together by feasting on a variety of festival food.
In the evening, people celebrate “Luto Phalne” ceremony by burning wood and a plant called tite pati and throwing them away shouting “take away scabies” (Luto Laija) to ward off the disease of scabies and the itching it causes.
Each Monday of Shravan, known as Shravani Sombar, is observed with austerity and is devoted to worship Lord Shiva. Devotees pile the linga high with Bel leaves, and flowers, chant the Shiva mantra and fast till sunset. Sixteen Mondays or Solah Somwar fasting also begins from the first Sombar of Shravan month.
Both men and women observe fast to please Lord Shiva. The married women take fasting to attain prosperity and a long, peaceful family life and unmarried women to attain eternal blessing from Lord Shiva for good life partner.
After bath and other purification rituals, the fast begins at sunrise on Monday. Lord Shiva is prayed to by chanting “Om Namah Shivaya” and offering Bilva leaves, white flowers, water, honey and milk. The devotees visit Pashupatinath temple and other Shiva temples in the morning and the evening and also read Shiva Purana in the day. After praying to Lord Shiva, the fast is broken in the evening.
It is believed that those who observe Sombar fasting will have their desires fulfilled and will be blessed with wisdom.
The Mondays in the month are on July 29, August 5, August 12 and August 19.
Shravan Somvar fast also has a scientific reason as monsoon is at its peak and there is less sunlight, it makes digestive system weak. So fasting at least once in a week helps to maintain good health.
Shravan Month Celebration with Mehendi and Green Bangles:
With the arrival of Shravan, green is ruling not only the nature but also the wrists of Nepalese Hindu women. Both the married and unmarried women opt to load their hands with red, green and yellow bangles and decorate their palms with beautiful designs of Mehendi/henna tattoos. The married women wear green bangles and beautify their palms with mehendi for the prosperity and welfare of the family while unmarried girls put it as a prayer for their happiness and a life as colorful and deep as the Mehendi itself.