Chaturmasa or Four Month period commencing from Ashadha Shukla Ekadasi known as Devashayani Ekadasi (when God sleeps) till Kartika Shukla Ekadasi called Deva Prabodhini Ekadasi(when God is awake) is observed by persons of all ‘Varnas’with piety, Indriya Nigraha or Self control of Organs and Rituals. (Chaturmasa commences from Ashadha Purnima or Guru Purnima till Kartika Purnima for Sanyasins). Bhagavan Vishnu is stated to rest on ‘Ksheera Sagar’ (Ocean of Milk) during the Chaturmasya (Four Month) period and hence all Oceans, Rivers, Ponds and Water Bodies acquire divinity. Bathing in these Places is thus a significant exercise as Bhagavan Narayana spreads out Himself in water and destroys sins of those who bathe especially in the holy rivers like Pushkar, Prayag, Narmada, Bhaskara Kshetra, Prachi Saraswati, Samudra Sangam, Godavari, or Ganga. For example, bathing in Narmada even for three days with great piety and concentration results in demolition of sins; Godavari baths for a fortnight of early mornings secure devastation of old and current account failings in life and pave the way to Vishnudham. ‘Snaans’with tila and Amla mix or Tulasi or Bilva leaves placed on head and reciting Vishnu namaas on the lips and in mind during as many days as possible during the Chaturmasya would yield instant results by providing physical fresshness, mental contentment and purity of thought and action. According to Scriptures, Snaan is the first step of physical clealiness and ‘Anthassuddhi’ (internal purity), before taking up any task to invoke the Almighty. During the four-month period of Sacrifice and Sanctity, ‘Tarpanas’ to Devas, Rishis and Pitras after the holy baths are natural duties, followed by ‘Anushthaana’, Agni havans, Veda Paatha, Satsang, Bhakti, and charities especially of Anna daanas. The Chaturmasya is the period for abstinence, ‘Ishta Vasthu Parithyaga’ or leaving out material dear to oneself and strict following up of daily ‘niyamas’ and continuous recital of Bhagavan’s glories by way of hymns, Japas, Mantras and Bhakti Songs.
Satkarmah Satkathachaiva Satseva Darshanam sathaam,
Vishnu Pujarathidaaney Chaaturmasya sudurlabha
(Superior Tasks, Quality Stories in Praise of Vishnu, Pure hearted Service to Noble Persons, Darshanam or Viewing of Saints, Bhagavan Vishnu’s devotion and sincere interest in charities are all stated to yield excellent results during the Chaaturmasya Period).Some of the items of daily utility are avoided during the Holy Period such as eating/drinking in metal plates and vessels; eating in leaves of Vata tree; consumption of hot and sour food, Chillies, pulses like urad and Chana; wearing silks and dark clothes; avoid flowers, beds, and Kesar; shun indulgence of lying, carrying tales, rude conversation and ‘Para ninda’or criticising others; observe silence or limited conversation, truthfulness, piety, mercifulness, nonviolence, patience and equanimity.It is said that there are eight ways of observing the Chaturmasa Vrath as follows:
Vishno Kathaya Shravanam Vachanam Guna Kirtanam/
Maha Puja Mantra Japah Stotra paatha Pradakshina/
Saashtaanga Pranatischeti niyama uttama mataah/
Eteshvekatamo bhaktaaya dhaaraniiyo Viseshatah/
(To listen the Stories of Vishnu Bhagavan or recite them or sing hymns in His Praise, to perform Maha Puja to His Murthi, to chant His Mantras or ‘Naamas’as in ‘Vishnu Sahasranamaa’ or Stotras, to do Pradakshina to His Murthi and bow to Him with veneration are the aptest duties to be executed with dedication).
Bhagavan Narayana is in Yoga nidra during the Chaturmasa period as He lies on water that is omnipresent; water is the root of ‘Anna (food) and the entireUniverse is sustained by food which causes ‘Tripti’ (contentment). Thus ‘Anna Brahma’ is the origin of Paramatma or the Supreme Energy. When a devotee appeals to that Great Force, the invocation or Avahana instantly responds to a true and hearty dedication with the recital of the Sixteen Stanza ‘Maha Purusha Suktam’of Yajurveda stating:
Om Sahasra Seersha Purushah Sahasraakshassahasra paath/
Sa Bhumim Viswato Vrutwa Athathishtha Dassangulam/
In response to the Avahana one visions the appearance of Vishnu as:
Jyotissantham Sarva Lokantharastham, Omkaarakhyam Yogi Hriddhyana gamyam,
Sangam Shaktim Sayudham Bhaktasevyam,
With the Second ‘Rucha’ (Stanza) stating:
Purusha Evedagum Sarvam, Yadbhutam yaccha bhavyam/
Utaamrutatva syeshanah, yadanney naa thirohati/
Kalpadrumuley Manivedimadhye, Simhaasanam Swarnamayam Su Ratnam/
VichitraVastraavruthamachyutaPrabha, Grihana Lakshmidharanisamanvita!
Navarathnakhachitahea Simhaasanam Samarpayami.
EtavanasyaMahimaAtojyayagumschaPuurushah, Paadosya Viswabhuutaatripaadasyaamrutamdivi/
SriKrishna Sarva Devaanamadhikassarva Kaamadah,
Mayaniveditamthubhyam Samgraahana Supaadyakam Paadyam Samarpayami;
Gangajalam Samaaneetham Suvarna Kalase Sthitham,
Arghyam Grihaana Bhagavan Kaala RupaNamostuthey;
Tasmadviraadajayatha Virajo Adhi Puurushah /
Sajaatho Athyarichyatha Paschadbhumi matho purah/
Namo Janaardanaaya Devaaya Samstha Jagadaatmaney,
Nirmala Jnaana Rupaya dattamaachaneeyakam;
Mukhe Achamaneeyam Samarpayami.
Yatpurushena havisha Devaa Yagnamathanvatha,
Vasantho Asya see dajyam Greeshma Idhma ssaradhhavihi/
Madhyajya Dadhi Samyuktam Swarna Patrey Prathishthitam, Madhuparkam Grihaanathvam LakshmikanthaNamesthuthey;
Devaayadyagnam tanvaanaaAbhadhna purusham Pasum.
Panchamrita Snaanam Samarpayami [Cow milk, Curd, ghee, honey, coconut water]
Tam Yagnam barhishi prokshan Purusham jaathamagrathaha,
Thena Devaa Ajayantha Saadhya Rishayascha ye/
Swarnaanchalam Swarnavichitra Sobhitham,
Kauseya Yugmam Parikalpitham maya,
Daamodara Praavaranam grahana,
Maayaabala pravritha Divya rupa;
Vastra Yugmam Samarpayami.
Thasmadyajnath Sarvahuthah, Sambhrutam Prushadaajam,
Pasuugum stagumschakreyVayavyan, Aranyan Graamaashaye/
Suvarnathanthuudbhava Yagna Sutram,
Grihaana tadvakritha mutthareeyam,
Swakarma sutram dharathey namosthu.
Thasmat yajnath sarva huthah rucha ssaamaani jajnirey,
Chhandagumsi jajnirey thasmat dajaayatha/
Kasthurika kardama chandanaani,
Kashmira Samyojitha Gandha Saraih/
Vilepanam Sweekuru Deva Deva!
Sri Devi Vakshoja vilopanaamkam;
Thasmaadaswa Ajaayantha, Ekechobhayadathah/
Gaavo ha jajnire tasmaatjaatha Ajaavah/
Chaamantika vakula champaka Paatalaabja Punnaga Jaaji karaveera rasaala Pushpaih,
Bilva Pravaala Tulasi dhala mallikaabhih twaam Pujayaami Jagadeeswara Vasu Deva!
Brahmanosya mukhamaaseeth Baahuu Raajanyah Krithah,
Vuuru thadasya Yadvasyaih Padbhaagum Suudro Ajaayatha/
Vanaspathudbhavair Divyair naanaa gandhaissu samyuthah,
Aaghreyassrava Devaanaam Dhuupoyam Prathi gruhyataam.
Chandramamanaso Jaataah, Chakshoh Suryo Ajaayatha,
SaajyamTrivartiSamyuktam Vahnina Yojitham Priyam,
Grihaana Mangalam Deepam Thrailokya Thimiraapahaaram,
Bhaktya Deepam Prayacchaami Devaaya Paramaatmaney,
Thraahi maam Narakaadghorat Divya Jyothir namosthuthey;
Naivedyam /Anna daanam:
Nabhyaa Aaseedantariksham, Seershno dyaouh Samavarthatha,
Padbhyam Bhumirdisah Srotraat Tatha Lokaagum Akalpayan/
Naivedyam is performed by sprinkling water on the Anna Prasada and recites the Mantra:
Om Bhurbhuvassuvah, Tat Savithur Varenyam, Bhargo Devasya Dheemahih, Dhiyo yonah Prachodayaat.
Thereafter recite ‘Satyamtharthena Parishinchaami’ if the Naivedya is during the day; in the night, recite the Mantra: Ruthamthwa Sathyena Parishinchaami; then round up the Material for Naivedya with water and recite Amritamasthu and leave water in a Plate and again recite: ‘Amritopastharamamasi’ and show the Prasad to Deva reciting Om Praanaya Swaha, Om Apaanaaya Swaha, Om Udaanaaya Swaaha, Om Samaanaaya Swaha, and after Naivedya one must address Deva saying Madhyey Madhyey Paaneeyam Samarpayaami, Hasthou Prakshaalayami, Paadou Prakshaalayami, Suddhaachamaneeyam Samarpayami. After Naivedyam, the devotee performs the Thirteenth Service by way of
Punarachamana; the corresponding Rucha states:
Vedaahametham Purusham Mahaantham,
Sarvaani Ruupaani Vichitya Dheerah,
Naamaani Krutwabhivadan yadaasthey/
The fourteenth Service is executed by Sashtanga Namaskar and the Rucha of Purusha Suktam states:
Thamevam Vidvanamritha Iha Bhavati,
Naanyah Pandhaa Ayanaaya Vidyathey.
The fifteenth Service is by way of Parikrama (Circumambulation) as the corresponding Rucha is:
Yagnena Yagna mayajamtha Devaah,
Thani Dharmani Prathamaanyaasan,the ha naakam Mahimaanah Sachamthey yathra Puurvey Saadhyaah Santhi Devaah.
Finally the Sixteenth Service is Self realisation that is to identify the self with Bhagavan Vishnu Himself! The relevant Stanza of Purusha Suktam states:
Vedahametham Purusham Mahaantam Aditya Varnam Tamasah Parasthat,
Thamevam Vidwanamritha Iha Bhavati, Naanyah Panthah Vidyatheyanaaya
(I know Purusha or Bhagavan who is Mahantham or Supreme; who is resplendent like Sun and is very far off from darkness. Whoever could realise Him attains Salvation in this world itself; there is no other way indeed.)