[Advaita-l] The observance of chaturmasa

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Wed Jun 30 20:17:10 CDT 2004

Chaturmasa means 4 months.  The chaturmasa vrata began due to the virtuous
Asura king Bali.  Through his observance of Dharma he usurped the position
of Indra and became ruler of all the worlds.  Vishnu Bhagavan took the
form of the Brahmana boy (or dwarf), Vamana, and begged king Bali for the
boon of three steps of land to establish a yajna.  The king laughingly
granted the wish thinking how much land could such a little person take
up.  But Bhagavan Vamana grew to immense size and in two strides had
covered the entire universe.  In order to keep his word the virtuous king
offered his own head as the third step.  Vamana Bhagavan took the third
step sending him straight to Hell.  But Bhagavan was pleased with king
Balis' devotion to Dharma and offered to grant a boon in return.  King
Bali asked that He join him in Hell for one third of the year and during
chaturmasa, Bhagavan fulfills His devotees request.

There are two forms of the chaturmasa vrata, for Sannyasis and Grhasthas.

Sannyasis start chaturmasa on Ashadha Purnima and continue until
Bhadrapada Purnima.  So they actually only observe it for 4 fortnights
or 2 months instead of 4 months.  During this time, Paramahansas who are
parivrajakas (wanderers) who shouldn't stay in one place for more than 3
days, stop travelling.  They often spend this time giving lectures to the
public on Vedanta.

Grhasthas start chaturmasa on Ashadha shukla 11 and continues for 4 months
until Kartika Shukla 11.  Actually this year there is an adhika masa (leap
month) of Shravana so chaturmasa is 5 months long.

The following shlokas from a 19th century work Shikshapatri by Swami
Sahajananda summarize how to practice chaturmasa vrata.

visheShaniyamo dhAryashchAturmAsye'khilairapi |
ekasmin shrAvaNe mAsi sa tvashaktaistu mAnavaiH || 76 ||

Additional duties should be taken up for the entire period of Chaturmasa.
Or only for the month of Shravana if a man is incapable.

viShNoH kathAyAH shravaNaM vAchanaM guNakIrtanam |
mahApUjA mantrajapaH stotrapaTHaH pradakshiNAH || 77 ||

sAShTA~NgapraNatishcheti niyamA uttamA matAH |
eteShvekatamo bhaktyA dhAraNIyo visheShataH || 78 ||

Listening to or reading the stories of Vishnu Bhagavan or singing His
praise, elaborate puja, repetition of mantras, recitation of
stotras, circumbulation...

...and prostration to His murti are known as the best additional duties.
One or more of them should be observed with faith [for chaturmasa.]

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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