MANTRA ON NET : Festivals Of The Month: Chaturmaas

CHaturmaas: The Four Holy Months

With the advent of July, the atmosphere is heavy with moisture. This is a time of waiting. Waiting for the downpour of cool rain. Waiting for the carpet of summer flowers on wet forest flood. Waiting for the sounds of thunder and the flash of lighting Waiting for the distant clouds on the silver-lined horizon overcome the sky with expectancy.

In this noisy season of storms, Vishnu, the god who protects and preserves the universe, lies down to rest and sleep after having made the earth a green vision with plenty of food grains, fruits and vegetables.

The 11th day of the bright half of Ashadh is known as Shayani Ekadashi. It is the beginning of Chaturmaas, the four auspicious monsoon months which are full of festivals and celebrations. At the end of this festive period comes Prabodhini Ekadashi, a sacred day on which Vishnu awakens again to take control of the cycle of the universe.

India, where a large number of rivers and lakes depend on rainfall, is a country which worships the concept of water falling from the heavens. Rain is variously called neha, vrishti or varsha. The dark clouds are considered manifestations of Krishna and rain is his mercy flowing from the heavens. No wonder then that the monsoon is the holiest season in the Hindu calendar.

Much of India’s folk, as well as classical dance, music and literature, are replete with descriptions of rain, which is an omen of prosperity, love and romance.

An ancient sculture of Lord Vishnu sleeping on the colied cosmic serpent Ananta. Having provided the earth with good harvests and life-giving water in the monsoon months, Lord Vishnu then rests from Shayani Ekadashi to Prabodhini Ekadashi

Monsoon lore in Indian legends and mythology is abundant, rich and picturesque. In miniature paintings and the ornamental poetry of Jayadeva, lovers meet under the cover of deep clouds on dark and rainy nights to keep trysts to make love. The thunder makes peacocks, parrots and the other birds dance while rain makes rivers swollen and full of dancing cascades. The fields, glistening in the rare sunlight, sport numerous shades of green and with their heavy heads of grain, are harbingers of plenty.

Thunder on the distant horizon brings India’s landscape to vibrant life with the first showery spells. The monsoon dance of peacocks is a magnificient sight.

In these four months, from Ashadh to Kartik, almost every day is a cause for celebration and every night is a time to feast. In between these festive occasions however, there are fasts, disciplined days of homage to the almighty, times reserved for family and children, and various other facets of life. Many Indians remain vegetarian during this time and the fabulous variety of foods and sweets for breaking fasts, turn these months into a veritable moveable feast.

Each day is reserved for one deity or another. Temples are decorated with flowers and fragrances fill the air. Deities are bathed in sandal water or anointed with saffron paste and dressed in gorgeous robes of silk and gold.

Every temple brings out its treasure of jewellery to decorate he deity for worship and celebration. Temple bells ring out. the sound of shehnais and drum beats reverberate in the air. Nadaswarams play lilting music to call devotees for worship and prayer. Cattle are decorated. Animals and birds are fed with berries, sugercane, nuts & fruits.

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