Chaturmasa



What is Chaturmasa?
The chaturmasya like Ekadashi & Krishnashtami (Jayanthi) vratas is a compulsory vrata. The period of 4 months from Ashada Shukla Ekadashi (Ekadashi during the bright half of Ashada-shayanaikadashi) to Karthika shukla Dwadashi (dwadashi during the bright half of Kartika-Utthana-Prabodha Dwadashi) is known as Chathurmasa. During this period, Mahavishnu remains in yogic sleep (yoganidra). During this ChaturmAsya period, it is the duty of sanyasis to remain in one place. The fact that masa (month) also means paksha fortnight (mAso vai paxaH - Shruthi) has been taken into consideration & due course of time, it has become the tradition in all Madhwa muttas for the sanyasis to observe the vrata for only 4 pakshas (i.e 2 months).
Who should/can do chaturmasa?
The chaturmasya like Ekadashi & Krishnashtami (Jayanthi) vratas is a compulsory vrata for ALL people.
Skanda purana says Chathumasya vrata is compulsory for all.
============================================== nityaM kAryaM cha sarveShAM etadvratachatuShTayaM |
nArIbhiShcha narairvApi cha chathurAshramavartibhiH ||
brAhmaNaH xatriyo vaishyaH sthriyaH shUdro vratI tathA |
gR^ihI vanasthaH kuTicho bahUdaH paramahaMsakaH ||
narakAnna nivartaMte tyaktvA vratachatuShTayaM ||

This vrata is compulsory for all men & women belonging to all the four ashramas - brahmachari, gruhasta, vanaprastha & sanyasashrama, for people belonging to all varnas - brahmana, kshatriya, vaishya & shudra & all types of Sanyasis like kuteechaka , bahooda & paramahamsa - each & every person has to observe this vrata. Those who do not observe this vrata can never escape hell.
During these 4 months period, it is the prime duty of all - not only sanyasis but people of all ashramas, people of all the varnas & both men & women to give up the following:
Shastras proclaim that the non observances of this chathurmAsya spells great ruins for man. AdityapurANaM says Non observance of chathurmasa vrata leads to great sin:

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avratena nayedyastu chAturmAsyamanuttamaM|
sa pApi narakaM yAti yAvadAbhUtasaMplavaM ||
One who does not observe the chathurmAsya vrata is considered a great sinner & he will have to suffer in hell till thetime of otal dissolution (pralayakala).

(SkandapuraNe)
chAturmAsye avratI yastu tasya puNyaM nirarthakaM |
sarvatIrthAni dAnAni puNyAnyAyata nAni cha ||
avratena gataM yeShAM chaturmAsyaM sadA nR^iNAM |
dharmasteShAM vR^ithA sadbhistatvaj~naiH parikIrtitaH ||
saMprApya mAnuShaM janma chAthurmAsyaparA~NbhukhaH |
tasya pApashatAnyAyurdehasthAni na saMshayaH ||

ChathurmAsya is a compulsory duty: The person who does not observe chathurmAsya vrata stands to lose the merit that accrues while visiting sacred rivers, the merit of giving dhaana & the merit of visiting holy places. Thus he stands to lose the merit of all good acts. All sins reside in the body of the person who does not observe the Chathurmasya vrata when one is blesed with the human life. This is certain.

Which Bhagavat roopas are to be meditated on during the chaturmasa?
The presiding forms of the Lord for Chathurmaasya: VarahapuraNa says The presiding forms of Lord for Chathurmasya:

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shrIdharascha hR^ishikeshaH padmanAbhastR^itIyakaH |
dAmodaraH kArtikasya chAthumasye tu devatAH ||

Sridhara, Hrishikesha, Padmanabha, Damodhara are the presiding forms of the Lord for the four months respectively.
There are special mantras to be recited at the start & at the completion of these vratas. These have to be recited without fail at the appropriate time.

What are the benefits of observing Chaturmasa?
During this period, those who wish, may give up consuming ghee, salt, betal leaves & several other such items. This bestows special merit. The chathurmAsya vrata is very essential for getting rid of several diseases & for enjoying robust health. There is no evidence to say that the observance of this vrata leads to ill health; it is only a wrong notion. All the shastras proclaim that this vrata which curtails giving up eating tasty dishes as a form of worship to the Lord is the royal road to acquiring right knowledge & earning the four purushArthas in life. varaha purAnaM says about the greatness of ChathurmAsa:

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asti priyatamaH kAlashchAturmAsyAbhido mama |
snAnaM vrataM japo homastatrAnaMtaguNaM smR^itaM ||
maseShvanyeShu yatkiMchith kriyate mama toShaNaM |
tasmAtkoTiguNaM puNyaM mAghe makarage ravau ||
tato.api koTiguNitaM vaiShAkhe mAsi labhyate |
tato.apyanaMtaguNitaM chAturmAsye na saMshayaH ||

The period of ChathurmAsya is very dear to Sri Hari. Acts like snana, japa, homa done during this period give immeasurable merit. The merit that accrues to acts done during the month of Magha when the sun is in Makara rasi is a million times more than the merit that comes to acts done during other times; more than this is the merit that accrues to acts done during the month of Vaishaka. But the merit that accrues to acts done during chathurmasa period is infinitely more than all those; let there be no doubt regarding this.
Varaha purana further says about ChathurmAsa & its speciality:

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AshADe dashamiM suklAmArabhya syAttu kArtikI |
paurNamAsI tAvadidaM chAturmAsyavratAdikaM ||
AdyaH syAt.h shrAvaNo mAso nabhasyo.atha dvitIyakaH |
tR^itIyachchAshvino mAsashchaturthaH kArtikaH smR^itaH ||
chAturmAsye.atha puNyasya vR^iddhiH syA~ncha dine dine |
na kArtikasamAvR^iddiH puNyasyoktA manIShibhiH ||

The time between Ashada shukla dasami & Karthika shukla purnima is the chathurmasa period. The four months are Shravana, Bhadrapada, Ashvija, Kartika. The greatness of chathurmaasa increases day by day. There is no other month as holy as the month of Karthika.
Skanda purana further says:
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idaM vrataM mahApuNyaM sarvapApaharaM shubhaM |
sarvAparAdhashamanaM sarvopadravanAshanaM ||
sarvairavashyaM kartavyaM chaturAshramavAsibhiH ||

This vrata bestows great merit; it destroys all sin; it is auspicious; it is capable of wiping out all our offences; it is capable of removing all our ills. This vrata has to be observed by people belonging to all four ashramas.

When should Chaturmasa be observed?
The time prescribe for observing ChAthurmAsya: (Skanda puraNa)

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AShADhasya site pakShe ekAdasyAM samArabhet.h |
kArtikasya site pakShe paurNamAsyAM samApayet.h ||
upavAsasvarUpANi vratAnyanyAni saMti vai |
tAni sarvANi vipreMdra prabodhinyAM samApayet.h ||
dvAdashyAM kArayetteShAM homaM brAhmaNapUjanaM
itarANi cha sarvANi paurNamAsyAM samApayet.h

The ChathurmAsya vrata should be undertaken from Ashada shukla ekadashi. It should be completed on Karthika shukla poornima. Only vratas entailing fasts should be completed on Uttana Dwadashi; the corresponding homas & brahmana pujas for these should be completed on this day only; other vratas should be completed on Karthika shuka poornima.

How to begin ChathurmAsya vrata?
(Skanda puraNa)
paMchagavyaM prAshayitvAshuddhiM kR^itvA tanordR^iDhaM |
pUjayitvA yathAnyAyaM devadevaM janArdanaM ||
vratAnAM vaxyamANAnAM saMkalpaM vidhiva~ncharet.h |
naimittikAnAM kAmyAnAM nityAnAM cha tathaiva cha ||

On Ashada Shukla Dasami (after finishing the morning bath & deva puja) one has to partake panchagavya & purify the body. After this, he has to make the sankalpa for the vratas that he is doign to observe.
prathame mAsiM kartavyaM nityaM shAkavrataM shubhaM |
dvitIye mAse kartavyaM dadhivratamanuttamaM ||
payovratAM tR^itiye tu chathurthe tu nishAmaya |
dvidalaM bahubIjaM cha varjayechChuddhimichChatA ||
nityAnyetAni vipremMdra ! vratAnyAhurmanIshhiNaH ||

In the first month Shaka vrat; in the second month Dhadhi vrata; in the third month Ksheera vrata; & in the fourth month Dwitala & bahubeeja vrata. These four vrata are compulsory.

The meaning of Shaka & other vratas
: ============================
During the month of Sravana shaka (shaka vrata); during the month of Bhadrapada curds (During the dadhi vrata buttermilk is allowed though it is made from curds) & all preparations made from curds (dhadhi vrata); during the month of Ashvija milk & all dishes prepared using milk (Ksheera vrata) & during the month of kArthika, Dwidala (dicotyledons) & Bahubeeja (many seeded) have to be given up.

Tapas & Dhaana are special duties during Chathurmasya: (Skanda puraNa)
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parvakAle Shu sarveShu dAnaM deyaM tapaH sadA |
chAturmAsye visheSheNa datanaMtaM prajAyate ||

Tapas & dhana are important duties during any vrata; more so during the chAthurmAsya period & merit of such tapas & dhana becomes unlimited. Giving up desired things is highly meritorious:
(Skanda puraNa)

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iShTavastuprado viShNurlokashcheShTaruchiH sadA |
tasmAt.h sarvaprayatrena chAturmAsye tyajejcha tat.h ||
Lord Vishnu is the giver of all desired things; & people always desire getting the good things of life. So, during the chathurmaasya period, one should necessarily give up pleasant things. It means that by the Lord's grace, we will be blessed with even more of the good things of life & our life will be pleasant & auspicious.

ChathurmAsya vrata Sankalpa Mantras:
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supte tvayi jagannAtha jagatsuptaM bhavedidaM |
vibuddhe cha vibuddhyeta prasanno me bhavAchyuta ||
chaturo vArShikAnmAsAn.h deva deva jagatpate |
nirvighnaM siddhimAyAtu prasAdAttava keshava ||
gR^ihIte.asmin.h vrate deva paMchatvaM yadi me bhavet.h |
tadA bhavet.h susaMpUrNaM prasAdAtte janArdana ||
Shaka vrata Sankalpa (Ashada Shukla dwadashi)

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shAkavratAM mayA deva gR^ihItaM puratastava |
nirvighnaM siddhimAyAtu prasAdAtte ramApate ||

Shaka Vrata Samarpane Mantra:
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upAyanamidaM deva vratasaMpUrtihetave |
shAkaM tu dvijavaryAya sahiraNyaM dadAmyahaM ||

Daddhi Vrata Sankalpa (Shravana sukla Dwadashi)
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dadhi bhAdrapate mAsi varjayiShye sadA hare|
imaM kariShye niyamaM nirvighnaM kuru keshava ||
Ksheera Vrata Sankalpa (Bhadrapada shukla dwadashi)

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xIravratamidaM deva gR^ihItaM puratastava |
nirvighnaM siddhimAyAtu prasAdAtte ramApate ||

Dwidala vrata Sankalpa (Ashvija shukla dwadashi)
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kArthike dvidalaM dhAnyaM varjayiShye sadA hare |
imaM kariShye niyamaM nirvighnaM kuru keshava ||

ChathurmAsa vrata samarpana mantra:
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idaM vrataM mayA deva kR^itaM prItyai tava prabho |
nyUnaM saMpUrNatAM yAtu tvatprasAdAjjanArdana ||