Holy Month of Shravana The Spiritual Importance of Shravna
The Spiritual Importance of the Holy Month of Shravana
The month of Shravana is the fifth month of the Hindu calendar, and is one of the holiest months of the Hindu calendar. The month is called Shravana because the full moon in this month falls in the Shravana nakshatra. This holy month is dedicated to Lord Shiva and contains many religious festivals and ceremonies (see below) making this and extremely auspicious month. Many hindus fast for the entire month living on fruit, nuts and milk during day and breaking the fast with a vegetarian meal after sunset. Those unable to fast during this month usually abstain from meat, eggs, tea, coffee and alcohol during this month.
All days of Shravana month are considered Auspicious, But, Mondays or Somvars of Shravana month are especially observed with austerity and women generally fast on this day. All Mondays are devoted to the worship of Shiva as this day is sacred to Lord Shiva. No other Mondays of other months are so greatly honoured. Tuesdays are devoted to the worship of Gauri and Fridays are for Lakshmi. Saturn is worshipped on all Shravana Saturdays, with the objective of obtaining wealth and these Saturdays are known as Sampat Sanivara (wealth Saturdays). Wednesdays (Mercury or Buddh) and Thursdays (Jupiter or Guruvara) are also days for worshipping Buddh and Guru. Saturn's Fast also begins in the month of Shravana annually.
Sun was worshiped on a daily basis in the Vedic period and continues to be now. During Shravana, every Sunday it is essential to worship the Sun. The 'Chudi' Puja is also performed by married women on Fridays and Sundays through worshiping the Tulsi plant (Holy Basil) by offering the 'chudis' or tiny bouquets of flowers, vermillion and other puja items. The 'chudis' are then offered to elderly married women and their blessings are sought. Women in India take this Holy month of Shravana very seriously and observe it as strictly as their situations allow.
Some of the days of particular significance are outlined below:
Saturn Fast: Begins on the first Saturday of the Shukla paksha of Shravana month. This year- Shravana begins on a Saturday 25 July 2009. Remember to begin your fast this day. Click here for more on Saturn Fast.
Nag-Panchami: Naga-Panchami falls on the fifth day of Shravana and is held in honour of Nagas or snakes. Hindus worship snakes and regard them with the same veneration given to other deities. The King of serpents Vasuki adorns the neck of Lord Shiva forming a crest over the Lord. This day is dedicated to snakes and they are worshipped with milk and fruits. Click here for more on Nag Pancami.
Kalkyavatara: The Kalki Avatara falls on Shravan sukla (the light half) sixth. This anticipatory incarnation is also known as Nishkalankavatara (Stainless) and is yet to occur and the month and the day is already foretold. In the Vana Parva of the Mahabharata, the coming Kalki has been hailed as when unrighteousness will leave and righteousness will be established. This day, though not celebrated, is noted for the future emancipation of mankind.
Rishi Panchami: is celebrated on the Shravan full moon and Shulka Panchami tithi of the month of Bhadrapada, one day after Ganesha Chathurti. Rishi panchami is the day of atonement. Stars or nakshatras ( not the the planets are worshipped). In Vedic times it was believed that the spirits of certain departed great sages of the earth were believed to inhabit important stars, the most famous being the constellation Ursa Major i.e. the seven brightest stars of the north (The Great Bear). Later, the seers became identified with the stars they inhabited. The seven great sages worshipped on both the Shravana purnima and the Bhadrapada Panchami are - Kashyapa, Atri, Bharadvaja, Visvamitra, Gautama, Jamadagni and Vashishta.
Putra-Ekadashi: falls on Shravana shukla Ekadashi ( 11th lunar day of the waxing moon). King Mahijit was sonless due to which all were distressed. The King consulted a learned sage who told him that in his previous birth the King was a merchant and had committed a sin. The sage advised the King to observe a fast on Shravana shukla Ekadashi day by which the sin would be cancelled. The King obeyed the sage and completed the fast and was son blessed with a son. This is an important day to fast if you want progeny.
Hindola: Shukla eleventh to fifteenth in North India. A swing is made and is decorated with flowers. Every night idols of Lord Krishna and Radha are placed on the swing and swung by devotes with dancing and singing of the 'hindola'. This festival is believed to please Lord Krishna and gain his blessings.
Vara Lakshmi Vrata: This is a Vrata which implies the worship of Goddess of Wealth. The Vrata is observed on the Friday immediately preceding the full moon day of the month of Shravan In 2008, it is on Friday 15 August. Maha Lakshmi is the embodiment of prosperity and auspiciousness. It seems the glory of this Vrata is eulogized in the Skanda Purana by Lord Shiva Himself. The worship of Maha Lakshmi is performed by married ladies to obtain good progeny, and for the long life of the husband. Since Mahalakshmi as Vidya Lakshmi bestows divine wisdom also, great prophets have worshipped her for success in their spiritual work.
Govatsa and Bahula: Fall on Shravan Krishna (dark) fourth day when cows and their calves are worshipped. Mainly women offer food to the cows and smear their foreheads with vermillion. Cow's footprints are drawn and worshipped by women.
Janmashtami: This is the birthday of Lord Krishna and falls on the eight day of Shravana Krishna (Waning eighth tithi). The day is celebrated in honour of Lord Krishna, the eighth Divine incarnation of Vishnu. A twenty-four hour fast is observed on this day which is broken only at midnight because Lord Krishna was born at midnight. This is one of the greatest of all Hindu festivals. (See Janmashtami article for more on this story)
Pithori: is a propitiatory festival observed on the Shravana new moon i.e. Amavasya or the last day of Shravana. The seven chief goddesses and the sixty-four yoginis or divine attendants on Goddess Durga are worshipped by married women for gaining progeny and happiness. The name is derived from Pitha (flour), from which the images of the goddess are made and worship. Bhavishottar Purana, Goddess Parvati (the wife of Lord Shiva) advised Devi Saci/Indrani (the wife of Lord Indra) to observe this fast in order to be blessed with sons and good fortune.
Pola: On Shravana new moon (amavasya) day the bullocks are worshipped and given rest. The day of this custom vary from district to district. It is chiefly a farmers' festival, held after harvesting of the staple grain of the region, which explains the variation in the date of the festival. The custom consists of bathing the field animals (usually bulls) and anointing them, painting their horns, garlanding them, decorating them and worshiping them by smearing them with vermillion.
The following four festivals all fall on the Full Moon in Shravana Nakshatra
Narali Purnima: On full Moon day of Shravan is celebrated by worshipping the ocean with mantras and offerings of coconuts. The name Narali comes from 'naral' which mean coconut, so Narali Purnima mean the full moon on the coconut day. From this day the south-west monsoon is supposed to abate, and fisher-folks resume their trade. According to some throwing of coconuts into the sea is an offering to the “Food-giving goddess of the water” whereas others say the offering is made to Varuna the Vedic God of Ocean.
Shravani Purnima: On this day all Brahmins renew their sacred thread which they wear. It is also called Rig-Yaju Shravani as it appears only students of Vedas would renew the cord. But, actually all Brahmins who have been initiated and wear the thread renew it. There is an elaborate ceremony where the family priest begins the function by worshipping Lord Ganesha and lights a sacrificial fire reciting mantras and prayers. Eight supari betelnuts or eight Darbha (sacrificial grass) rings are placed on a tray representing the seven Rishis and Arundhati which are worshipped with flowers etc. Tarpan or libations of water in the name of the departed spirits are offered. Then the old thread is cast off in the sacrificial fire and a new thread with a three-fold twist is worn after reciting the Gayatri Mantra. Lastly follows the worship of Brahma by an offering of rice and flowers in the fire and distributing of gifts to Priests and Brahmins.
Pavitraropana: Almost similar to the above, the same day Pavtiras or Ponvates where rings, wristlets or necklets are made from strands of cotton threads of varying lengths, number of twists and knots. These strands or Ponvates are then washed, consecrated with mantras and offered to different Gods like Shiva, Vishnu, the Sun and also the family priest. The best Ponvate is made of nine-strands with one hundred and eight twists and twenty-four knots! Some change their sacred threads or offer the Ponvates on Purnima or on the previous day according to the position of the moon at the constellation in Shravana.
Raksha Bandhan or Rakhi Purnima: Is a sentimental of festivals which also falls on Purnima day. A Rakhi or amulet is usually made of silk thread and is tied round the wrist of brothers by their sisters to protect brothers from harm and in return seeking protection from brothers when the sister is in trouble. The Rakhi name derives from the word 'raksha' which means to protect. It symbolizes the abiding and chaste bond of love between the brothers and sisters. Sitala Saptami: Sitala devi (the cool one) is the goddess who is associated with disease particularly smallpox and there are many temples and shrines in her honour. One of the days she is specially worshipped is on Shravana Krishna (Waning seventh tithi), in Gujarat. Sitala devi worship ensures that she accepts the prayers and offerings of widows and of mothers on behalf of their children. During the day of Sitala worship one is supposed to abstain from all hot, or cooked, food and drink. The reason may be to avoid hot thing and is more likely to be the longing for cold water on the part of smallpox patients.
— Nimsha Khatri