Celebrating the Might of Shiva
After the severe scorching of summer solstice, the people start yearning for the month of Shravan (as referred in Sanskrit) or simply Sawan. One can just sense the petrichor for a while only by enunciating the word Sawan, thus the pinnacle of its vivacity could be easily imagined. As per Hindu mythology it is believed that the first rain after summer is showered with the commencement of this very month. Being the fifth month of Hindu calendar, Sawan is one of the most divine and festive months of India where the nature is at the zenith of its beauty. The clouds cover the sky, the weather gets comfortable due to the cool breeze and the fields fill with green grass and beautiful flowers. Nature seems to remove its tan caused by broiling summers and regains its substantive beauty in this month.
The entire nation sees this month of Sawan very auspicious and every single day of this month is considered to be pious. The deity of this occasion is Lord Shiva. The legend behind this is when the Samudra Manthan (Churning of ocean) was taking place between Devtas and Daityas; a number of things were released from the Ocean of Milk. In the month of Sawan a lethal poison named Halahala was also released along with thirteen other different types of rubies. In many versions of stories it is said, that it was released from the mouth of the king Serpent during the exercise done by Devtas and Daityas. The poison was so powerful that everyone was terrified including Devtas also, that Halahala could destroy all of Almighty’s creation, such was its potency. And when no cure to this was found over the days, all of them approached Lord Shiva for a solution. Lord Shiva with a lean smile drank the poison to save the entire universe. His wife, Goddess Parvati, was terrified by this and ran towards him and grabbed his throat in course to prevent Lord Shiva from swallowing the poison because of which his throat turned blue. Hence the name Neelkantha (meaning blue throat) is attributed to Shiva. To reduce the strong effect of poison, Lord Shiva wore the crescent moon on his head. All the Gods, thereafter offered Gangajal (water of Holy River Ganga) to Lord Shiva to lessen the effect of poison.
Across the country, the temples of Lord Shiva see massive crowds especially on the day of Sawan Somvaar that is every Monday of this month. The deity of Lord Shiva in the form of Shivlinga is worshipped and presented with all things, which Shiva is fond of. All which includes Milk, Jal, Dahi, Bilvapatra, Baelphal, Dhatura (a poisonous fruit of a vesper tine flowering plant), Sami Leaves, Sesame seeds, Flowers of Madaar (a plant with tube shaped white flowers), Bhang (cannabis), Bhasm, Chandan, Akshat and Bhog made of Milk Products. For Shiva it is believed that feminine things like Haldi, Kumkum or any Red flower shall not be offered to him. To offer Jal to Shivlinga daily in the month of Sawan is very auspicious.
At the cities where twelve Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva are situated, incredible atmosphere can be seen. The Aghoris dancing on the beat of Damru, people enchanting “Shiv! Shiv! Shiv! Shiv!” many of them hopping after consuming the Prasad of Bhang, all of which is implausible and scenarios like these can be seen only in India. These twelve Jyotirlingasare:
- Kedarnath, Uttarakhand
- Baidyanath, Deoghar, Jharkhand
- Kashi Vishwanath, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
- Mahakaleshwar, Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh
- Omkareshwar, Madhya Pradesh
- Somnath, Saurashtra, Gujarat
- Nageshwar, Dwarka, Gujarat
- Bhimashankar, Maharashtra
- Triambakeshwar, near Nashik, Maharashtra
- Grishaneshwar, Maharashtra
- Malika Arjun Swamy, Srisailam, Andhra Pradesh
- Rameshwaram, Tamil Nadu
These places see most of the devotees in the month of Sawan, as it is very propitious. At these places the Kaanvad carrying is also seen. Jal from some holy water body is taken into two earthen pots, tied on the Kaanvad (the bamboo log) with the help of Chinka (specially designed rope), thereafter Kaanvadiyas (name given to devotees who carry Kaanvad) perform pooja of Kaanvads and then carry them on their shoulders and march towards the respective Temple bare feet. Throughout their way to temple, they chant the name of Bum Bhole Bum in different ways and offer the water to the Shivlingas
Like in India, Nepal also celebrates the holy month of Sawan. It is the fourth month according to the Nepali Hindu calendar. It holds a great significance to Hindu women as they fast on the first day and on every Monday of this month to worship Lord Shiva. One can see the crowd flocking to the Pashupatinath Temple (considered to be one of the holiest temples of Lord Shiva located in Kathmandu) lighting butter lamps and incense in the name of Lord Shiva.
When talking about Sawan how can we forget the very well known Sawan Somvaar Vrat. All Mondays that fall in this month are considered highly auspicious for fasting and are known to be as Sawan Somvaar Vrats. Holy fast is observed by many devotees but for unmarried girls to seek a happy and prosperous marital life, this Vrat is considered of great importance in Hindu Mythology. Many devotees observe sixteen Mondays or Solah Somvaar Vrat fasting from first Monday of Sawan month. All Tuesdays of this month are dedicated to Goddess Parvati. Tuesday’s fasting during Sawan month is known as Mangal Gauri Vrat. The female devotees wear red attire with green bangles; apply mehandi on their hands, which is considered to be auspicious during this period. In fact green is considered as Shubh Rang of this month. Ladies also gift green bangles or Sari to each other wishing happiness to each other.
The month of Sawan brings the festivity and glory along with it. Some of the other important festivals observed in this month are Naag Panchami, Kalky-avatara, Hindola or Swinging, Putradaikadashi, Shravani Poornima, Narali Poornima, Pavitraropana, Vara Lakshmi Vrat and Hariyali Amavasya. It is also believed that other Gods also enjoy Hindola or Swings in this month. At the temples of Lord Krishna, the incarnations of Krishna are made seated in Hindolas along with Radha Rani.
The month of Sawan is considered as the most beautiful month in terms of weather. Rainy season starts in the month of Sawan and it seems like the whole universe is worshiping Lord Shiva by pouring water on him in the form of rain. The whole world feels relieved in the month of Sawan with the cool breezes and rains, after the hot season of summers. It seems like all the birds and insects come out to greet Lord Shiva. Every year, the pleasant weather and divinity come along in the month of Sawan. And lastly the revels of this month celebrated by entire Nation cannot be engrossed in just a few pages… it is much immense than anyone of us could think of. So let us just welcome with more enthusiasm… SAWAN!!
The writer is passionate about indian customs and a self-confessed travel lover.
(Published in The Lucknow Observer, Volume 3 Issue 4,July 2016)