Anand Hudli anandhudli at HOTMAIL.COM
Tue Jul 7 13:05:49 CDT 1998

 The Chaaturmaasya vrata as it is understood now has its origins in
 the Puranas. But this Puranic observance is itself based on Vedic
 sacrifices,  also called the ChaaturmAsya, beginning with the
 Vaishvadeva. The person who performs these sacrifices, the yajamAna
 as he is called, has to follow certain strict rules such as
 brahmacharya, sleeping on the ground, etc.

 As one can easily guess, these Vedic sacrifices are not open to
 everyone. But the Puranic version of the ChaaturmAsya is open to
 one and all; anyone may observe it if he/she has the mental and
 physical strength to do so. Basically, this vrata or observance
 is aimed at controlling (not suppressing) indulgence in the senses,
 especially the tongue and the genitals. It is said that controlling
 these two is equivalent to controlling all the senses. The tongue is
 controlled by regulating the food intake by fasting, moderation in
 eating, etc. The sex organ is controlled by practising brahmacharya
 or abstince from sex or at the very least, by restricting sex to
 that between married couples for the sake of having children.

 During each month of the four-month-long vrata, there are some
 dietary restrictions. Leafy vegetables, stems, etc. are not to be
 consumed in the first month. This is called Shaaka vrata. The next
 month, curds (Yogurt) and its products are to be given up. This is
 called the dadhi vrata. In the third month, milk and food stuffs
 derived from milk are not to be consumed. This is called the
 kShiira vrata. During the last month, certain kinds of beans are
 not to be consumed. This is called dvidala vrata. Needless to say,
 all kinds of meat, including eggs, fish, and chicken, must be
 avoided. Consumption of alcoholic beverages is completely out of

 The vrata requires the follower to be engaged in spiritual
 pursuits, such as study of the scriptures, worship & service to God,
 generosity, avoiding discusssion on materialistic topics, etc.

 This four-month period is also the one when sannyAsins stay at
 one place. Otherwise, they are required to travel. The learned
 sannyAsins are engaged in teaching  and offering discourses for the
 benefit of their disciples and people in general. (The chAturmAsya
 for the sannyAsins begins from the AshADha pUrNimA or Guru pUrNimA
 and not the preceding dvAdashI).


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