SHIV, SHRAVAN AND SPIRITUALITY
(KNOW ALL ABOUT SHRAVAN MAAS)
Shravana Maas is a month in the Hindu calendar. It is the fifth month of the solar year and the first of the Chaturmaas (the Four Holy Months). These four months of Chaturmas are allocated traditionally for devotion, penance and meditation.
(NOTE: This year, Shravana Maas starts on 10th July and continues till 7th August in North India; while in South India and Maharashtra, Shravana Maas starts on 24th July and continues till 21st August)
Q: What is the astrological significance of Shravana Maas?
A: Shravana month takes its name from the Shravan Nakshatra (Alpha Aquileia constellation also known as the Eagle Star). ‘Shravana’ in Sanskrit means ‘hearing’. This is the month when one should speak less and hear more; the concentration should be on being a focused listener. Listening is also associated with gaining knowledge. Shravana Nakshatra is also called the ‘Learning Star’. No wonder Shravana Maas starts a day after Guru Purnima! As per Vedic astrology, persons born in Shravana nakshatra gain name and fame in the world.
The cluster of three stars of the Shravana Nakshatra represent the three steps taken by Vamana Avtara to conquer the three worlds, in the process humbling the ahamkara (ego) of the great king Bali.
Shravana month starts when Sun moves to the Leo sign. An important and interesting thing to note is that all the four parts of Shravana nakshatra fall in the sign of Makara (Capricorn) which is ruled by Saturn; while its lord is the Moon.
Q: Why is Lord Shiv worshipped in Shravana Maas?
A: Shravana Maas is associated with the monsoon season — with water; water is associated with the Moon; Moon is associated with the Mann (Mind) and ALL of these are associated with Lord Shiv — the AdiYogi who taught to control the Mind. Mythologically too, the Samudra Manthan (Churning of Nectar) took place in the month of Shravana. Rishi Markandeya, too, is believed to have perfected the Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra addressed to Lord Shiv during the month of Shravana.
Q: Why is Rudrabhishek so important in the month of Shravana?
A: It is believed that the Samudra Manthan (Churning of Nectar) took place in the month of Shravana. In the course of churning the Kshirasāgara (the ocean of milk) for Amrita (Nectar), fourteen divine gifts emerged. These included Lakshmi (the Goddess of Wealth), Kaustabha gem, Parijaat (a Divine ever-flowering tree), Kamadhenu (the Wish fulfilling Divine Cow), Kalpavriksha(Wish fulfilling Tree), Airavata (Indra’s Elephant), Shankha (Vishnu’s Conch), etc. The fourteenth gift was Halahal — poison. While the first 13 gifts were divided between the Asuras and the Devtas, no one was ready to take the Halahal. Shiva chose to consume the poison. The Halahal was held in His throat. This caused a burning sensation. Hence all the Devtas started offering Ganga water to Shiv to soothe the fiery impact of the poison. This continued as a symbolic tradition in the form of pouring water or milk on the Shivling. This is also known as Jal Abhishek or Rudrabhishek.
Q: Why is the Shravana Maas considered so auspicious?
A: As already stated above, Shravana month marks the beginning of the auspicious period of Chaturmaas. In fact, each day of Shravana Maas is very significant. Many festivals and important days such as Shravana Somvar Vrats, Mangala Gauri Vrat, Vara Lakshmi Vrat, Shravana Putrada Ekadashi, Gayatri Jayanti, Hariyali Teej, Shravani Poornima, Narali Poornima, Raksha Bandhan, Onam, Naga Panchami, Janamashtami, etc. make this month of Shravana so very auspicious. All the Tuesdays of this month are called Mangala Gauri Vrats — the married ladies fast and pray for the long life of their husbands while the unmarried ones pray to be blessed by a good and worthy husband.
Q: Why do Kaavadis carry Ganga water in the month of Shravana?
A: A special sect of Shiv devotees known as Kaanvadias undertake a sort of a pilgrimage known as Kanvad Yatra — carrying the holy Ganga water in urns or large pots from the river Ganga to the nearby Shiv Temples. Thousands of saffron-clad Kaanvadias carry water from the Ganga in Haridwar, Gangotri or Gaumukh, the glacier from where the Ganga originates and other holy places, like Sultanganj in Bihar, and carry it to their hometowns, where they perform abhishek (pouring of water) of the Shivalings at the local Shiva temples, as a symbol of gratitude and devotion. It is believed that this tradition originated in the Treta Yuga (the Silver Age of the Hindu Mythology) when Lord Rama varied the holy water of river Ganga in a Kaanvad (urn) to offer it to Lord Shiva at Baba Baidyanath dham which today is in Deoghar district of Jharkhand.
Q: Why are there two different dates marking the beginning of Shravana in India?
A: Indian calendar consists of two fortnights — from Poornima (Full Moon) to Amavasya (New Moon) and back. Now the North Indians follow the Purnimant Calendar; that is their month begins with Poornima or the Full Moon as their calendar always begins with the Shukla Paksha. On the other hand, people in Maharashtra and South India follow the Amavasyant calendar. Their month begins from Amavasya or the New Moon since their calendar begins with Krishna Paksha. Hence there is a difference of a fortnight between the dates of beginning of the Shravana Month in North and South of India.
Q: Which articles can be used for performing Abhishek of Lord Shiv or Rudrabhishek?
A: Any of the following 11 items can be used to perform the ritual of Abhishekof Lord Shiv or Rudrabhishek: milk, curd, ghee, honey, sugar/jaggery, Bael leaves/grass, coconut water, Barley water or Ganga Jal.