Shraban, the fourth month of Bengali calendar and fifth month of Indian Sakabda calendar, is a very important month to the members of Hindu community both astrologically and spiritually. The name Shraban has been derived from the Sun's position in the Star Shrabana. It is called the month of Lord Shiv. Devotees observe a vow to Shiv every Monday of Shraban. Shiv is specially worshiped throughout this month but each Monday of the month of Shraban has a different significance.
In books like Shivapuran and Lingapuran et cetera, Shiv himself is worshipped as God. It is believed that during the month of Shraban both Shiv and Parvati come down to earth and bless their devotees. Devotees fast every Monday and believe that Lord Mahadev will help them get rid of all the problems in life and achieve happiness and prosperity. Apart from temples Shiv is worshipped at homes also. Chanting Har Har Mahadev devotees gather at Tarakeswar (Hoogly, West Bengal) and in different other places, pour Ganges water or milky water on Shiv's head. It is believed that invoking Mahadev with devotion in this month pleases him and Shiv fulfills his devotees’ desires.
According to scriptures, there are some rituals for worshipping Shiv. It is better to fast and worship Shiv on Mondays from dawn to dusk in Shraban. If fasting is not possible then vegetarian food is to be preferred. It is very auspicious to get up just two hours before sunrise, taking bath at dawn of every Monday and recite Shivstotra (hymn of Shiv). Shraban is the best time to hold rudraksha. Worship on every Monday in Shraban keeps away all evil forces. In Shraban women fast and pray for the well-being of their husbands and families. Not only married women, unmarried girls and many men also take vows in this month and worship Shiv with devotion. It is believed that those who perform this puja will maintain happiness and prosperity as well as their family life will be peaceful.
Shiv should be anointed by offering panchamrita (raw milk, yogart, ghee, honey, sugar) in this month. It will bring peace for mind and health. Fasting in Shraban is very auspicious. From medical point of view fasting is also beneficial to health. Reciting Vratkatha (rituals for removing vice and acquiring virtue) and holding rudraksha on Mondays is considered very holy and auspicious. It is auspicious to rub ashes on the idol of Shiv. Apply ash tip on your forehead.
According to scripture some works should not be done, even by mistake, in this month. Those who fast during Shraban should refrain from taking animal protein. It is better to avoid onions and garlic. If you are thinking of fasting every Monday in Shraban, fish, meat, tobacco and alcohol must be avoided. If financial crisis continues for a long time in family, anoint Shiv’s idol with bedana (pomegranate) juice on any Monday in Shraban. It will remove financial hardship.
It is customary to pour water on Shiva's head with milk, honey, ghee and Ganges water one by one at 4:00 a.m. There is no rule even to drink water during fasting. So, drink six to eight glasses of water after breaking the fast. It will keep the body healthy. According to the Vedas, flowers like aparajita (butterfly pea), dhutura, neelkantha chapa, akanda and kalke et cetera are favourites of Shiv but Mahadev becomes most pleased with belpata / bilwapatra (wood apple leaves). In the realm of flowers these flowers may not occupy any high rank but as Shiv always leads a simple life, wearing only a tiger skin, he remains satisfied with these ordinary flowers.
Wood apple leaves are considered very sacred in Hindu scriptures. This holy leaf is dedicated to the feet of Lord Shiv. The ritual of worshiping Lord Shiv with wood apple leaves is popular because this leaf resembles the trinayan (three eyes) of Lord Shiv.
It is believed that the smell of Chapa (champak, a flower with both white and golden colours) brings blessings and good luck. This sweet-scented flower is offered to Shiv which symbolises devotees surrendering their entire being at the feet of Shiv.
Akanda (sun-plant, in Sanskrit – arka ) is a folk plant. Its gum and leaves are poisonous. It is believed that the smell of Akanda flowers brings back lost memories As Shiv is the holder of poison the tradition of worshiping Shiv with Akanda flowers is also common.
Kalke/Karabi (oleander flower) is a very beautiful flower with normally yellow, also red (known as rakta-karabi, Rabindranath Tagore has written a beautiful symbolic drama named Raktakarabi) and white but the entire plan is poisonous for living beings. In the West Indies, it is known as lucky nut. Its bright yellow colour symbolises renunciation. Shiv himself is a symbol of sacrifice. For this reason this flower is used for worship of Shiv.
Dhutura (thorn-apple) is another poisonous plant. In many countries its cultivation is prohibited but it has some unique medicinal qualities. This flower is also favourite to Lord Shiv.
The writer is a former Commissioner of Taxes