Holy Month of Shrawan: Significance, Practices and Rituals

The auspicious month of Shrawan (Sanskrit: श्रावण), also known as Shravana Maas, is the fourth (or fifth) and the holiest month in the Indian Lunar Calendar which corresponds with the month of July-August each year. The month symbolizes greenery and productivity, blessings and welfare, health and happiness in the life of the worshippers.

The month of Shrawan is devoted to Lord Shiva. It is believed that on the occasion of Purnima or full moon night of this month, the Shrawan Nakshatra or the ruling star of Lord Vishnu shines the brightest among all other stars and unleashes an aura of positivity and glory. The month of Shravana traces its name from the very same nakshatra.

The Shrawan Maas is associated with many auspicious festivals, celebrations, and events among the Hindus. Priests advise conducting important religious ceremonies this month because almost all the days in this month are very favorable for ‘Shubh Arambh’ or a prosperous start. The month is dedicated to worshipping Shiva, the Lord Supreme, who showers blessings on his devotees. Devotees offer Patram-pushpam (leaf and flowers), and Falam-toyam (fruit and water) to Shivlingas in this holy month. Very often, devotees observe fast for the whole month of Shravana to seek blessings and love from Shiva. It is said that chanting the ‘Maha-Mrutyunjaya Mantra’ and the Shiva Moola Mantra – ‘Om Namah Shivaya’ during the holy month pleases Lord Shiva.

Shrawan falls during the period of Chaturmas, i.e., the four auspicious months of Shravan, Bhadrapada, Ashwin, and Kartik, which corresponds with the month of July to October in the Georgian calendar. Chaturmas begins with Devshayani Ekadashi, which comes just after the famous Jagannath Rathyatra. It is said that Lord Vishnu goes to sleep on this day and wakes up after four months on Prabodhini Ekadashi.

Shrawan events and dates 2023

◙ Shrawan Begins – Tuesday, 04 July 2023
◙ First Shrawan Somvar – Monday, 10 July 2023
◙ Second Shrawan Somvar – Monday, 17 July 2023
◙ Third Shrawan Somvar – Monday, 24 July 2023
◙ Fourth Shrawan Somvar- Monday, 31 July 2023
◙ Fifth Shrawan Somvar – Monday, 07 August 2023
◙ Sixth Shrawan Somvar – Monday, 14 August 2023
◙ Seventh Shrawan Somvar – Monday, 21 August 2023
◙ Eighth Shrawan Somvar- Monday, 28 August 2023
◙ Shrawan Ends – Tuesday, 31 August 2023

Practices and Rituals during Shrawan

Though the entire month of Shrawan is of paramount importance for the Hindus, each Monday or ‘Shrawan ka Sombar’ is deemed as the most pious one when it comes to observing fasts and following religious rituals. Mythology attaches much importance to the Somvar Vrat as it is observed for appeasing the Lord and fulfillment of desires. It is believed that the ‘Somvar Vrat’ ensures happy marital life. Moreover, unmarried women observe fast to seek husband of their choice as Mata Parvati underwent penance to please Lord Shiva.

Besides religious significance, science has proven that observing fast once a week during monsoon helps in detoxifying the body. Moreover, the monsoon season is the breeding ground of several micro-organisms which are harmful to the normal functioning of the body. Fasting helps to bring the right balance to both mind and body. ‘Somvar Vrat’ not only serves as the means to cleanse the body but also ensures purity of soul.

There is no fixed procedure as such to be followed for observing the fast. But few rules such as complete abstinence from non-veg, and food containing onions and garlic are followed. Some devotees refrain from the consumption of grain and milk, whereas some abstain from salt in their diet and eat once in the day. Many devotees abstain from consuming food and water completely, while some avoid only food completely but drink little quantities of water. Planning of meals is very necessary prior few days of fasting, as ample strength is required for maintaining the fast. The Hindu tradition suggests Shrawan as a month for following a ‘Satvic’ lifestyle, a lifestyle of simplicity devoted to the Vedas.

Puja rituals of ‘Somvar Vrat’ include worshipping of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, followed by the fast. The Shiv Panchahakshra Mantra is read out among the devotees and the recitation of Solah Somvar Vrath, meaning 16 fasting Mondays is conducted which is of extreme importance. Sawan Somvar Vrat Katha is also sung which is dedicated to the Moon-God, or Chandra Devta. Milk, Ganga water, and baelva leaves are put at the foot of the Shivlingas for seeking blessings from the deities. Devotees also take part in the Kanwar Yatra to express gratitude to the Lord.

Kanwar Yatra

Every year, from the first day in the month of Shravana, millions of pilgrims across the Northern and parts of Eastern India journey mostly on foot or on trucks to pour the water of the holy Ganges over the Shivlingas. This auspicious pilgrimage is referred to as the Kanwar Yatra and the devoted pilgrims are known as kanwariyas. Before the commencement of this pious journey, the holy water of the Ganges is collected from holy places from which it flows like Haridwar, Gangotri, Rishikesh, Gaumukh, Kashi, etc., and is then carried off to the nearest temples of the Kanwar Yatra.

Some of the most important pilgrimages of the Kanwar Yatra include the Tarakeswar Temple of West Bengal, Viswanath Temple at Kashi, Augharnath Temple at Meerut, Baidyanath Temple of Deogarh etc. Pilgrims carry small pots of water, attached to a beautifully decorated bamboo pole, referred to as Kanwars on their shoulders.

There are four different types of Kanwars-Baithi, Dak, Khadi, Jhoola, each bound by a definite set of rules. During the holy procession of Kanwar Yatra, several slogans are raised, invoking Lord Shiva and calling him ‘Bhole baba’ or the simple-minded one. The kanwariyas keep a fast or vrat while carrying the pot of water to the Lord. They undergo complete abstinence of food, water, and salt.

In Jharkhand, devotees collect water from the Ganges at Sutanganjto and journey towards the 100km route to the Shivlinga at Baidyanath Dham in Deogarh. This route is the same one that Lord Ram had walked on foot. In West Bengal, devotees journey for more than 100km on foot, clad in saffron with gamcha(traditional towel) on their forehead, carrying pots of water for showering at the Shivlinga on Tarakeswar Temple. Legends such as the Samudra Manthan is attached to the event of Kanwar Yatra which makes it one of the most important pilgrimages of the Hindus.

Legend associated with the Shravana Maas

The legend of the Shravana Maas dates to the episode of Samudra Manthan, mentioned in the Puranas. Devas and Danavas took part in a tug of war to churn the Divine nectar of immortality or Amrit from the Cosmic Ocean or Kshirasagara.

Lord Vishnu desired to help the Devas or the Gods, as the Amrit in the hands of the Danavas would only mean destruction to the cosmos. He took the divine avatar of a tortoise or Kurmu to provide help to the Devas. The arduous process laid involvement of the Mandara Parvat as the churning tool and Vasuki, Lord Shiva’s snake. However, after much toiling and exasperation, the first component arose from the sea-bed. But it was not the Amrit, rather it was a lethal poison, Halahala. No sooner the poison was exposed, it started destroying the living beings of the Earth and spreading throughout the Universe. The Devas and Danavas seek help from Lord Shiva as he was the only one to destroy the lethal poison and consume it. Lord Shiva drank the whole pot of poison and arrested it in his neck. His neck colour turned blue, because of the toxic nature of the poison, and hence he is also known as Neelkantha, or the blue-necked one.

Another version of the legend suggests that Devi Parvati was worried about the welfare of her husband as his neck showed signs of burning due to the toxicity. She held his neck to stop the flow of Halahala. Also, the Devas offered the holy water from the Ganges, milk, butter, etc. for Shiva to regain his health.

Lord Shiva did not seek for the Amrit, rather he engulfed the life-destroying ‘Halahala’ for saving the cosmos. It is his self-sacrificing nature and paramount compassion that the devotees’ worship and show their devotion in the month of Savana, dedicated to the supreme God.

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