Wednesday, February 19, 2020

The Month of Shraavana is Here

Kannada Article by: Vidwan Narasimha Bhat
English Rendering by: M R Bhashyam
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The summer is ending. Water is scarce. Farmers look towards the heavens with an expectant gaze. The Chaataka Birds stare at the skies without an eyelid bat. Swans sway with an attractive gait. The nature is drawing its curtains to wade into the next phase. This is the end of parching summer heat. Neither there is sweat nor are there the scorching rays of the direct Sun.  He is changing his course and moving from north to south, the Dakshinaayana. Smiles begin to appear on the face of farmers. The Chaataka birds are joyous. Peacocks dance in anticipation. Dark clouds appear.  There is the roll of thunder and flashes of lightning.  Rain as droplets first and then in sheets is quenching the thirst. The Swans are flying to the placid waters of lake Manasa Sarovara. Paramahamsa saints open the petals of their heart's lotuses to dwell deep into the silence of their mental pools.   Sanyasins, the ascetics who have taken vow, begin their four-month long penance, the chaaturmaasya. The first lunar month of the rainy season, Shraavana, draws one and all from the humdrum of the outer life towards the serenity of the inner self. Shraavana is also the month which laces a garland of festivals from individual beads. The arrival of the month heralds the arrival of festivals, not one but many and more.

The wife has finished her vow-vrataa of Bhimana-Amaavaasya, dedicated to the worship of lord Shiva and Paarvati, on the new moon day and has arrived from the warm lap of her mother's house to her husband's home. Now is the time for both of them to fulfill many a joint vow.

The month is called Shraavana because in this month the star Shraavana concatenates with moon on the full-moon day.  The star's deity is Lord Vishnu and hence this month is most suited for the worship of Lord Vishnu. On the third day of the month, the people in Gujarat and elsewhere celebrate the festival of "Madhusrava - the Oozing nectar" which signifies the reunion of Paarvathi with lord Shiva.   The fifth day of the month is dedicated to the worship of serpents, Naagara-Panchami. The Naaga represents Kundalini – the power coiled like a serpent resident at the base of everyone's spine, the moolaadhaara. People who are in the know say that this is the most favorable and auspicious time for awakening this great inner energy.  Symbolically, idols of serpents, and sometimes real ones too, are formally worshipped by offering milk, curds, darbha grass, sandal-wood scent and flowers.  It is believed that people who worship the serpents thus, overcome the inner and outer fear of snakes.

The Friday prior to the full-moon day is dedicated to the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi.  Lakshmi, the cohort of Lord Vishnu, is worshipped to attain the eightfold internal and external riches. The twelfth day of the waning moon is dedicated to the worship of creation by planting the Darbha grass, "Pavitra-Aaraadhana". It symbolizes the injection of the seed of evolution into the nature's womb.

The full-moon day of this month, and the day on which the Shravana star occurs are reserved for Upaakarma, the auspicious day to initiate one to schooling in Vedas or to resume after a break. This day is also celebrated as "Rakshaa Bandhan – Bond of Protection" in many parts of India.  On this day, women tie a golden colored bracelet bundled with rice colored with turmeric and consecrated by hymns – Akshata, to the wrist of the king for his well- being and the state's safety. Sisters also tie an amulet to their brothers for their protection. The day after the Upaakarma is reserved for chanting Gayatri Mantra to atone for the sin of mis-study, false study or non- study of the Vedas.

The most sacred festival of this month is on the eighth day of the waxing moon in the star Rohini, the day of incarnation of lord Vishnu as Krishna, at midnight. Is there a better time for the lord to choose other than when the world is engulfed in darkness and is at its darkest hour? This is another point in the cycle of life, identified by our sages to help us cross the ocean of time and to discover light.

To summarize, in the words of Shri SriRanga Mahaguru, festivals are boons granted by the Lord in Time and discovered by our sages to propel us   through the pleasures of our senses towards the joy of our inner souls, and the month of Shraavana has many of them.

Note: The Kannada version of this article can be viewed at  AYVM blogs