Shravana - festivals

elmec elmec at GIASBG01.VSNL.NET.IN
Tue Aug 1 13:46:26 CDT 2000

Hari Om,

To add to Sri Jaladhar's message of Shraavana, here is some more info.
regarding the festivals of Shraavana month.

Just a day before the Shraavana starts, it is amaavaasya and is a
festival called
" jyothi BhiimEshwara Vrata " or " Bhiimana amaavaasya " or " Pati
sanjiivinii vrata ".
( Ashaada krishna amaavaasya )
A story behind this is : Once a brahmin who was hard pressed for money
married his daughter off to a prince who had just then died. After the
ceremony all the relatives leave the dead body and the unfortunate girl
on the bank of a river and go away. In that amaavasya darkness coupled
with storming rain, the gile makes a Ishwara Linga out of the sand and
does pooja to it with all her devotion. Lord Shiva and Parvati appear
before the girl and grants her the boon of life for her husband. Thus
the girl becomes a sumangali and the prince gets back his kingdom too.
Hence all married woman and unmarried girls perform pooja to lord
Ishwara and godess parvati who are invoked in a pair of lamps which are
kept over a pile of grain, the lamps lighted and the jyothi is
worshipped. After the pooja, the boys in the family are made to break
open a sweet similar to " Kadabu " kept on the threshold of the pooja
room inside which is kept some money for them. This is to mark the
regaining of the kingdom by the dead prince who got back life by his
devoted wife, the ritual called by the name " breaking of Bhandaara ( or
the treasury ) ".

Naaga Panchami - Shraavana shukla panchami .
This is a day of worshipping the Snake-God called Naagaraaja or the
cobra, the king of snakes. Since it is rainy season and in ancient days
there was the menace of snake bites during this season, people must have
started worshipping the snake god inorder to propitiate him and avoid
snake bites. The story behind this festival is that once a sister
requests her brother to get her some kedigE flowers ( an yellow coloured
scented flower whose petals are palm leaves, said to be a favorite of
snake god ) to worship the diety. The brother who goes inside a forest
to fetch the flower is bitten by a snake and dies. The sister offers
prayer to the snake god and gets her brother back to life. Hence on this
day the brothers visit their married sisters , accept the sweets
prepared by them and the sisters apply milk and ghee to the back and the
navel ( signifying the umbilical cord which the siblings share while in
mother's womb) and pray god for a long life to their brothers. Little
girls and their brothers together worship the snake god at home and
apply milk and ghee to each other.

Siriyaala shashti - shraavana shukla shashti : This is a lesser known
festival as only those families where there is a tradition of
celebrating this festival observe this. All do not. Here the ladies who
have male issues invite a lady who also has male issue and offer her a
variety of rice preparations like lemon-rice, ghee-rice, curd-rice,
plain-rice etc along with paayasam (sweet porridge) and taamboola with
( coconut, beetel leaves and money ) and take the lady's blessings for
the prosperity of male issues. ( the prosperity of female issues is in
no way neglected or thought unimportant ). I have only mentioned the
traditional aspect of this festival.

Mangala Gowri vratam - on all tuesdays of shraavana month. This vratam
is celebrated by married women in the first five years of their
marriage. The women pray for their husbands' prosperity and longevity of
life. Copra (dried coconut), blocks of jaggery, blouse peices folded in
a triangular shape, bangles are all offered to godess gowri and women
sing a special mangala gowri song and as they sing, they hold a squarish
ladle ( used to turn sides of a dosa or chapati ) to the lighted sixteen
lamps of ghee and collect its soot which they later apply to their eyes
as 'kaajal', one more symbol of sumangali. Special sweet prepared by
wheat flour or sooji with ghee and jaggery are offered to all the ladies
invited that evening along with the traditional beetel leaf, coconut,
plantains and coins of money. At the end of five years' worshipping, the
woman invites her mother for the pooja and lunch and  gives a gift to
her mother on successful completion of the vrata and takes her

Upaakarma : This is observed on different days by the followers of the
three vedaas. The yajurvEdis observe it on Sraavana pUrnima day and
RigvEdis observe it in Shraavana maasa when the shravana nakshatra is
sighted. Saamavedis observe this one month later, under the nakshatra
(asterism) Hastaa in the month of Bhaadrapada. It usually occurs a day
before or after or on the Ganesha chaturti day. The word Upaakarma
itself is derived from the word upakramana which means to start
something. In the olden days in Gurukulaas the academic year was divided
into two terms. The first term was for about five months and the second
was for about seven months. The first term was called upaakarma and the
second utsarjana. The first term upaakarma refers to the starting of
basic vedic lessons of Samhitaas, Brahmanaas, aranyakaas and upanishads.
These lessons continued till the beginning of the pushya maasa. On the
full moon day of pushya month or on the day of the asterism of Rohini
the study of vedaas was concluded with the ceremony of utsarjana. The
word utsarjana and visarjana mean the same thing - discontinuing or
discharging something. On this day the adhyayana and adhyaapana (
learning and teaching ) of vedaas are concluded and the study of six
vEdAngAs are started - shiksha, vyaakarana, chandas, nirukta, jyotisha
and kalpa. Other subjects are also taught during this period. This will
again conclude on the upaakarma day and vedaadhyayana begins. Since
Saamavedis have their upakarma in Bhadrapada month, they have the
utsarjana on the full moon day of maagha.
Though the name upakarma refers to the first term of the year in a
gurukula, it is also observed by the grihastas as they also have a duty
to teach what they have learnt and they should also revise whatever they
have learnt.
On this day men worship the great Sages and offer tila tarpana to them
to fulfill the R^ina or the debt towards these Rishis who have given us
the legacy of vedas and upanishads. Men also change the sacred thread
and wear a new one accompanied by the appropriate rituals.
Gayathri pratipat - Sraavana krishna paadya : There is no connection
between the upakarma and Gayathri pratipat. Since it falls on the next
day of the yajurvedi upakarma people connect the two. According to the
shaastraas, the person must perform yajna offering 1000 samits to the
fire god or do the japa of Gayathri mantra 1000 times. It is this mantra
which when chanted with earnestness and devotion will bestow upon the
person high level of grahana and dhaarana shakti. Grahana shakti is the
ability to grasp what is taught and dhaarana shakti is the capacity to
retain in memory what is learnt.

Varamahaalakshmi vrata - the Friday before the purnima of Shraavana
month :  Married woman whose husbands are alive perform this pooja at
home. They arrange a kalasha ( a silver pot smeared with chunnam,
arisina and kumkum, with mango leaves and a coconut perched on top ) and
invoke godess Lakshmi who is the bestower of wealth and prosperity. A
'doora' or a special thread is tied to the pot while worshipping the
Godess and later on the worshipper ties that thread on her right wrist
as a protective band. Sumangali ladies are invited and offered gifts and
their blessings taken.

Gokulaashtami - Shraavana krishna ashtami : This is the birthday
celebrations of Lord Sri Krishna who incarnated in the dwaapara yuga as
a son to Devaki and Vasudeva. Since Krishna was born at midnight the
festival is celebrated on the day when ashtami or the Rohini star is
there after moonrise. People fast during the day, prepare number of
eatables considered as favorite of Lord Krishna, offer it to the Lord
and then distribute them as Prasaadam to all the devotees and specially
to children. They keep vigil the whole night doing bhajans and listening
to Bhaagavata story or other stories depicting the greatness of Lord
Srikrishna as a child. In Maharashtra people hang pots of milk and
butter at great heights and young boys play underneath them and compete
with each other to break the pots and drink the milk , like how Krishna
used to do with his friends at Gokul. Young children are dressed up like
little Krishna and visit the houses in the neighbourhood. Grand scale
celebrations take place at Krishna temples, specially at Vrindavan,
Dwaraka and Mathura. People decorate cradles and keep the image of child
Krishna in it and sacraments like jataka karma and naming ceremony are
all done on that night.


I wish all the List members a very happy festival season and may Lord
bless us all with he Light of Jnaana.

Latha Vidyaranya

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