The month December-January derives its name from the star Mrigasirsha occurring on or immediately after the month’s Pournami (Purnima - full moon). It is also known as Dhanur masa since during this month the sun transits through Dhanur rasi (Sagittarius).Vedas and agamas say mornings in this month are ideal for worship of the Lord. Krishna underlines its special nature by saying in Bhagavad Gita that among months he is Mrigasirsha.In temples all over India during this month there is special pre-dawn worship. Since this month is set apart for worship, marriages and other such functions are not performed in Dhanur masam.
It is considered to be high auspicious to worship Siva and the devotees go to the temple before sunrise for 'darshan'. Apart from the worship in the Siva temple, there is a celebration in the houses. The day of Ar(u)dra star ( thiruvathirai) in the month of Dhanurmasam /markazhi in Dec-Jan is of specialsignificance in Shiva temples.
Lord Shiva represents the complete cyclic process of generation, destruction and regeneration. Shiva represents stillness in the form of Dakshinamurthy. The same Shiva is also known by the popular name Nataraja, the Lord of the Cosmic Dance. It is said that it was from his dance that the science of language was born. The small drum in His hand is the symbol of rhythm and sound. There is rhythm in the whole movement of the universe. The sound is the divine music that comes from the Supreme Deity and carries the revelations of the ultimate truth.
The Cosmic Dance is called Ananda Thandavam or Dance of Bliss. This is of special significance in Shiva temples when thousands of devotees worship Nataraja early in the morning on the full moon day of the month of Dhanurmasam/markazi. This is called Ar(u)dra Darshan. The grace of this dance symbolizes the five divine acts – creation, sustenance, dissolution, concealment and bestowal of grace. In this a deep understanding of the universe is hidden.
The puja performed during the entire month of mArgashIrSha before sUryodayam (sunrise) at the Usha kalam for Maha Vishnu, with abhiShekam and tulasI archana, offering in nivedanam pongal prepared using payattam paruppu (greengram dhal) would bring welfare with all the doShas cured, for the village, the creatures and animals and people living in that area.
Thus the dhanur masa puja is done in all the temples for the welfare of the people at dawn time during the margashirsha month. In addition, people also perform such pujas in their homes.
When the sun is in the dhanur rasi, Sri Vishnu puja done during the Usha kalam for a single day could obtain the fruits of doing puja for a thousand years.
“Masaanaam margasheershoham” – which means “in all the months, Margasira is the most auspicious”, is what Lord Krishna says about this month in Bhagavad-Gita. One year is One day for the Gods and Margasira is the Brahma muhurat in this – this is the 96 minutes before sunrise and this is the period which increases the godliness in a person. Hence this is the time to perform Tiruppavai – Shree Vratam.
Shree Vratam was performed between the two full moon days of margasira and pushyami. On these two days the moon is full. The between phase has the moon waning and waxing. It symbolizes the life of a man. The godliness in a man wanes away from him till he realizes and gets close t o it. Tiruppavai or Shri Vratam is to keep this godliness in one forever.
There is an importance of doing this ritual in the month of Margasira. Margam means a way, and seersham means head and best. The best way for a man is realizing his real self. It is Him that makes us and haves us. This is the concept of Upanishads. Margashirsha ritual is the one which emphasizes on the belief that - He is the way and no other way is a real way. In the Upanishads the word Dhanu means Pranava Naadam – which is the Omkara. Hence it means the way and the result is that of the Lord. Hence it is also called the Dhanurmasam Ritual.
As Sun transits through Dhanur Rashi (Sagarittus) it is called as Dhanur Maasa. Usually this maasa will be observed during Dec16, 17th to January 14, 15th. During this month, the sun transits the Dhanur Rasi until it enters the Makara Rashi during the end of this month on the Makara Sankranthi day.
During this period devategalu and Rushigalu will pray Srihari early in the morning before Sunrise, i.e, during Brahmee Muhurtha with special prayers. As such, we have to get up early in the morning and do snaana, ahneeka, sandhyavandana, devarapooja, vaishwadeva, agnikarya (for brahmacharis), and Madhyahnika before Sunrise. Further, it is as per the orders of Srihari that we have to wake up early in the morning to all the rituals.
- We have to finish pooja when the stars are still twinkling. It is considered as the best. Pooja that finishes after the stars have vanished, but before sunrise, is considered as Medium, whereas pooja that completed after sunrise is inferior. Puja performed in the afternoon is practically useless. We have to do the pooja and naivedya atleast 96 minutes before sunrise.
- As per Agneya Purana – One who does not do pooja of Srihari in time, i.e., before Sunrise will get Daaridrya during his next seven births as well, he will suffer from diseases and his mental strength will be very limited.
Story Behind Dhanurmasam
Once, on the eve of dakshinaayana, the celestials assembled on the peaks of Mountain Meru and prayed to the Upendra form of Lord Vishnu. When the Lord arrived, the celestials told Him that their “night” was approaching and sought His permission to go to their respective abodes. Then Ratri devi, the patron deity of night and dakshinaayana, took on the form of a beautiful damsel and prostrated before the Lord. She pleaded with Him as follows “Lord, everybody views dakshinaayana as a bad time. Nobody performs any good deeds in that period. I am universally reviled. I will undertake penance to obtain your grace. If I do not achieve my goal, I will commit suicide and end this life of infamy”. The assembled celestials concurred and pleaded her case before the Lord. The merciful Lord took pity on her and blessed her as follows, “Ratri devi, your duration consists of 3 seasons of 2 months each. Out of these, the first two seasons shall be deemed to dear to me. Within these 2 seasons consisting of four months, there shall be a hierarchy in which kartika shall be the dearest, followed by Ashvija, Bhadrapada and finally shravana. All pious and meritorious acts performed in these four months shall yield immense benefits. Due to this, people will now look forward to this time of the year, thus removing the stigma attached to you”. From then on, these fours months became special in the Hindu calendar.
The last portion of the night i.e., the one-and-half hours before sunrise, has been given a very special status by our shastras. They decree that this is the best time for humans to wake up and start performing their prescribed religious activities like sandhyavandane, chanting of mantras etc. The beginning of this period is called ‘brahma muhurta’. The same injunctions hold true for the nighttime of the celestials also. Here, their special time starts with Margashirsha shukla Ekadashi (the eleventh day in the bright half of the lunar month of Margashira) and extends upto the end of dakshinaayana. This period is called ‘dhanur maasa’ and roughly corresponds to the time when the Sun transits the zodiac sign of Dhanus or Sagittarius. It is said that the celestials wake up at this time and perform special prayers to the Lord. Our shastras decree that during dhanur maasa, humans too should wake up at the brahma muhurta and perform puja to the Lord. People failing to do so will be cursed with leprosy and dire poverty for 7 lives while those following these injunctions will be specially blessed with health, wealth, happiness and the good fortune of being a pious Vaishnavite in all seven lives. It should be remembered that puja to the Lord should be performed every single day during the dhanur maasa.
Thiruvathira is being celebrated for ages now but there is no clear theory about the origin of the festival. There are numerous myths associated with this thiruvadhira fast. But the origin of this festival is obscure.
Some legends says that it is the birthday of Lord Shiva. Some legends says that Lord Shiva merged all nine powers into him before initiation of creation, on this day. Some legends says that Lord Shiva’s return to the world after ending the harsh austerities and tapas that he was performing after the death of Goddess Sati.
Some legends says that Parvathi performed rigorous penance to win the Lord Siva’s heart and after a long penance on the Thiruvathira day Lord Siva accepted her as his wife. Therefore, it is the holy day of marriage of God Shiva and Goddess Parvathi.
Some legends say that it is the day when Kamadeva, the mythological God of love was reborn. He burnt to ashes in the fatal flames of fire from the third eye of Lord Siva. The Lord pardoned him, on request of Sree Parvati and Rathidevi, later.
Another legend associated with this festival is that in tune with Narada Maharshi’s advice, Rukmini followed the fast following Sree Parvati, to become Lord Krishna’s bride.
The history of Dhanurmasa Vratam which is also known as pavai nonbu/ Margazhi Nonbu is more than 2000 years old and is mentioned in the early scriptures. During dwapara yug, Narada Maharishi tells the Gopikas to perform the “Katyayani Vratam”, to get the blessings of Lord Krishna, hence have been first followed by the Gopikas of Vrindavan and they were blessed with His presence and all the troubles of the people of Vrindavan have been removed. Women and girls observing pavai nonbu woke before sunrise, bathed in the Kalindi river and made an image of Goddess Katyayani with the clay found on the river bank and offered prayers to the Goddess to get good husbands. It is also believed that Andal, one of the twelve Alwars, on the advice of her father, Perialwar, performed pavai nonbu to merge with Sri Ranganatha [Lord Vishnu]. The story of this was sung by Godadevi in the form of Tiruppavai pasuras (meaning Auspicious Songs).She regarded the presiding deity of the temple Sri Vatapatra Sai (Alilla Kanan) as the Lord Krishna, villiputtoor as Vrindavan, the temple as Nanda Gopa’s home, her friends as Gopikas and she herself as one Gopika. As a result she found her Sri Ranganatha swamy Lord Vishnu. Today women and girls undertaking pavai nonbu during Margazhi take a bath in the morning, draw big rangolis and keep a pumpkin flower with a little dung as a holder, light oil lamps in front of their houses.
Vishnu Chitta was born in the family of Vishnu Vahana – Garutmantha. He was one of the 12 alwars. He was the main alwar in Shree Villiputtoor, in the sanctum of Lord Vishnu as Vatapatra Sai. He found a baby, the incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi, in the garden of Tulasi. He named her “Kodai” – which means a garland. Kodai used to prepare the garlands that her father carried to the temple to decorate the Lord. Once she prepared the garland, she would adorn them herself to see if they look beautiful, then used to give them to her father for offering. Unawares of this Vishnu chitta used to offer them to the Lord. One day when he found some hair in the garland, he realizes the reason and worries about the innocent folly committed. But that night the Lord appears in his dream and tells him he prefers to be offered with those garlands worn by Kodai.
Thus Kodai became “Amukta Malyada” – mukta – worn and removed, mala – garland da – one who gives.
During dwapara yug, Rishi Narada tells the Gopikas to perform the “Katyayani Vratam”, to get the blessings of Lord Krishna. The story of this was sung by Godadevi in the form of Tiruppavai pasuras (meaning Auspicious Songs). Goda also sung “Nacchiyar Tirumoli” – a work of 143 pasuras, depicting her love for the Lord. When Goda decided to perform the vratam followed by Gopikas to get the blessing of Lord Krishna, she converted villiputtoor into Vrindavan. She resolved that she was the first beloved of the Lord and yet born on that day as a human and suffering from his separation, and hence she will considered the other women as the Gopikas and perform the vrata.
During the vratam, she sang on pasuram on one day – for 30 days. First they prayed to the doorkeepers of NandaGopa. Then they invoke Devi yashoda, nanda raj, bala Rama, Srikrishna with his wife Neela. They offered Him the auspicious throne. They prayed that they be granted all the required items to complete the pooja. Goda wished in her mind that as a result of the vratam she should be able to eat the ghee filled payasam along with the Lord.
In later days, Sri Ramanujaachri made this vratam popular and gained the name – Godaagrajulu. Women who wish to get married to the man they love perform this vratam during the Dhanurmasam month.
The month of Dhanurmasam is very auspicious to Vishnu devotees. Unlike the other days when the Lord Vishnu starts his day with Suprabhatam, this month he opens his eyes listening to the Tiruppavai – pasuras.
Other names of DhanurmasaDhanurmasa is also known by the names Chapa Masa, Kodanda Masa, Karmuka Masa etc. Chapa, Kodanda, Karmuka etc., in Sanskrit are synonyms of Dhanus; meaning a bow.
Importance of Dhanurmasa
The importance of this Masa is mentioned in the Dhanurmasa Mahatmya of Pancharatragama, Agneya Purana and also in a work called Smruti Muktavali.
In Pancharatragama, the Mahatmya of Dhanurmasa is presented in 4 chapters, as conversation between Hamasa form of Supreme Lord and four-faced Brahma. The dialogue between Hamasa and Brahma is narrated by Sage Suta in response to a query by Shaunaka.
In the first chapter, Sage Suta hails the greatness of the Month of Chapa (Dhanus) and gives the fruits one would be blessed with by following the prescribed austerities in this holy month.
In the second chapter, the Hamsa – Brahma Samvada is given where Brahma asks Lord Hamsa to tell him the importance and greatness of Dhanurmasa. The greatness of the Dhanurmasa is brought out by the story of the King Satyasandha.
In the third chapter, giving alms during this auspicious period is hailed. The devotee is instructed to do pious deeds as per his capacity. Otherwise, he is warned of dire consequences.
In the fourth and final chapter, different ways of feeding Brahmins are discussed. Arranging for the meals of a Brahmin who cooks for himself is lauded as the best way. The importance of this is brought out by a small anecdote of the Pandavas.
Story of Andal
he life history of Andal tells us that a person named Vishnucitta found her, as a little baby girl, under a Tulsi plant in the temple garden of Srivilliputtur. He gave her the name of Goda, meaning 'the gift of Earth'. Vishnucitta brought her up in an atmosphere of love and devotion towards the Lord. The intensity of her love and dedication towards the Lord grew so much that she decides to marry Sri Ranganatha, a form of Lord Vishnu. As she grew, her determination to marry Lord Ranganatha also increased. She also started making a unique offering to the Lord. She used to wear a flower garland first herself and then offer it to God. As an explanation, she said that first wanted to see whether the garland looked good or not by wearing it herself and looking in the mirror. Only after she was convinced that the garland looked nice, did she offer it to God.
When it is time for Aandal to get married, Perialwar looks for a groom. But Aandal insists that she would marry Lord Ranganatha Himself. Ordered by Ranganatha, Perialwar takes Aandal to Srirangam. Aandal, at the right auspicious moment, goes into and merges with Sri Ranganatha.
The month of Dhanurmasam is very auspicious to Vishnu devotees. Unlike the other days when the Lord Vishnu starts his day with Suprabhatam, this month he opens his eyes listening to the Tiruppavai – pasuras. Tiruppavai means Shri Vratam – Auspicious Ritual - A giver of all prosperity. This is performed in the month Dhanurmasam. One year is One day for the Gods and Margasira is the Brahma muhurat in this – this is the 96 minutes before sunrise and this is the period which increases the godliness in a person. Hence this is the time to perform Tiruppavai – Shree Vratam. Shree Vratam was performed between the two full moon days of margasira and pushyami. On these two days the moon is full. The between phase has the moon waning and waxing. It symbolizes the life of a man. The godliness in a man wanes away from him till he realizes and gets close t o it. Tiruppavai or Shri Vratam is to keep this godliness in one forever.
People recite the pasurams from Thiruppavai and visit temples. Some also sing the Tiruvempaavai written by the poet, Saint Manickavasakar to invoke the blessing of the Lord Shiva during these thirty days of Margazhi. The hymns on the Lord Vishnu and Shiva are recited for the prosperity of the universe – the universe to be perfect bliss devoid of famine or any form of unhappiness.Thus both Thiruppavai and Thiruvempavai are relevant till date.
Rituals in Temples of Lord Venkateshwara
Lord Vishnu is worshipped by the name of Madhusudhana in Dhanurmasam.
Even in Tirupati, Tiruppavai is read in place of Suprabhatam. Reciting of Thiruppaavai is the most important ritual in Dhanurmasam.
The Archana and other regular activites are completed before sunrise for the first fifteen days of the Dhanurmasama and for the remaining fifteen days Archana and other regular activities are performed after sunrise.
Vratas observed during Dhanurmasa
Katyayini Vrat, Dhanurmasa Vrat are the Vrats that are observed by ladies during Dhanurmasam.
Dhanurmas Vrat is observed in Dhanurmas by unmarried women. More details of Dhanurmas Vrat can be read at “Dhanurmas Vrat”
Benefits of Observing the Dhanurmas Vrat
It is believed that by observing the Dhanurmasa Vrat Goda Devi was able to get Lord Sri Vishnu as her husband. Hence it is believed that a lady who observes a Dhanurmasa Vrat would get a good husband.
Katyayini Vrat was observed by Goddess Parvathi and achieved Lord Shiva as her husband. After the death of Dakshayani or daughter of Daksha during the Daksha Yagna, Goddess Parvati was reborn and observed the Katyayani Vrat.
Danurmasam of the Hindu calendar is considered extremely holy. Shivas ArudraDarshan comes in this month. Vaikunda Ekadasi comes in this month. Aandals Tiruppavai and Manikkavasagars Tiruvempavai is chanted during this month. Leaving behind Hinduisim, Christmas and the Christian new year falls within this month. Bakrid of Islam comes within this month. Buddhists, Jains and also Sikhs consider this month Holy. Some tribes have their Harvest Fest within this month. Many countries celebrate various traditional fest during this month.
Unjavruthi is another popular tradition followed by people especially during Danurmasam. People wake up early in the morning and walk around in the all the streets singing Bhajans accompanied with musical instruments.
Danurmasam is the time for harvest for the farmers. Itâ€™s the time they reap their produce and make their living. After getting good harvest in Danurmasam, they thank the Sun God on the day of Pongal festival (Makara Sankaranthi).
Early rise requires early bed for the Bhaktas. Also day time is minimum for the year in this month. So temples are closed earlier.
Process of Dhanurmas Vratas
Devotees who wish to perform the Dhanurmas Vrat have to get an idol of Lord Vishnu prepared. The idol of Lord Vishnu can be prepared either of Gold or Silver or Copper. The metal that is used for preparation of the idol is left to the capacity (financial state)of the devotee.
A mandap has to be made ready in which the Lord Vishnu would be worshipped. Lord Vishnu has to be worshipped with the name of Lord Madhusudhana.
Vaikuntha Ekadashi falls during Dhanur solar month in Hindu calendar. Dhanur month or Dhanurmasa is known as Margazhi month in Tamil Calendar. Vaikuntha Ekadashi is Shukla Paksha Ekadashi out of two Krishna Paksha and Shukla Paksha Ekadashis in a month. Vaikuntha Ekadashi is observed according to Solar Calendar and because of that it might fall either in Margashirsha or in Pausha month in Hindu Lunar calendar. In Gregorian calendar there might be none, one or two Vaikuntha Ekadashis in a year.
Vaikuntha Ekadashi is also known as Mukkoti Ekadashi. It is believed that Vaikuntha Dwaram or the gate of Lord's inner sanctum is opened on this day and devotees who observe fast on Vaikuntha Ekadashi attain salvation by going to Heaven.
Vaikuntha Ekadashi is very important day for Tirumala Venkateswara Temple at Tirupati and Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple at Srirangam.
Vaikuntha Ekadashi is known as Swarga Vathil Ekadashi in Malayalam Calendar followed by people of Kerala.
Parana means breaking the fast. Ekadashi Parana is done after sunrise on next day of Ekadashi fast. It is necessary to do Parana within Dwadashi Tithi unless Dwadashi is over before sunrise. Not doing Parana within Dwadashi is similar to an offence.
Parana should not be done during Hari Vasara. One should wait for Hari Vasara to get over before breaking the fast. Hari Vasara is first one fourth duration of Dwadashi Tithi. The most preferred time to break the fast is Pratahkal. One should avoid breaking the fast during Madhyana. If due to some reasons one is not able to break the fast during Pratahkal then one should do it after Madhyana.
At times Ekadashi fasting is suggested on two consecutive days. It is advised that Smartha with family should observe fasting on first day only. The alternate Ekadashi fasting, which is the second one, is suggested for Sanyasis, widows and for those who want Moksha. When alternate Ekadashi fasting is suggested for Smartha it coincides with Vaishnava Ekadashi fasting day.
Ekadashi fasting on both days is suggested for staunch devotees who seek for love and affection of Lord Vishnu.
Significance of Vaikunta Ekadasi
The significance of Vaikunta Ekadasi can be traced back to the Padma Purana. The Purana indicates that Lord Vishnu took the form of ‘Ekadasi’ – female energy – to kill demon Muran. This happened during the month of Margazhi. Impressed by ‘Ekadasi,’ Lord Vishnu told her that whoever worships him on this day will reach ‘Vaikunta’ (heaven).
Like all Ekadasi days, devotees fast on this day and observe vigil the whole night. Some people indulge in meditation, Japa and singing of Hari Kirtan. Rice is avoided during ekadashi days as it is believed that the demon Mura finds a dwelling in the rice eaten on Ekadasi day.
It is widely believed that the gates to the heaven open - the Gate of Vaikuntha - on the Vaikunta Ekadasi day. It is one of the most auspicious days in Lord Vishnu Temples in South India.
The ‘Vaikunta Dwaram’ or ‘the gate to the heaven’ is opened on this day.This is the passage encircling the innermost sanctum of the Lord. Scores of devotees queue up to pass through the Gate of Vaikunta in the temples.
The observance of Ananta Vrata is believed to rid one from all sorrows. Escape from sorrow is not possible by merely performing rituals. But by realizing what Ananta Shayana symbol represents. Meditating on the symbolism represented in Sri Narayana in yoga-nidra on a great serpent bed (Ananta). It is for each person to realize the symbolism. Rituals are just an initial step in the long journey of self realization.
In the Mahabharata, Shri Krishna advises Yudhishtara to observe Ananta Vrata for 14 years to get back his lost kingdom. A fast is observed from sunrise to sunset by Lord Vishnu devotees Sesha Naga is the thousand headed snake on whom Hindu God Vishnu reclines. Shesha Naag floats on the cosmic ocean and Sri Hari Vishnu reclines on the bed created by coiling of the body of Sesha. As per Hindu tradition, when the dissolution of the world takes place, Sesha remains. He witnesses the destruction of the entire universe. As He is eternal, he is known as Ananta Sesha.
Rules and Regulations of the Vratas
The following are the set of rules and regulations for observing the Vrat. The following is the daily routine that a devotee has to follow while observing the Vrat.
1) Should get up early in the morning atleast 2 hours before sun rise or 5 Ghatis before sunrise.
2) Finish his daily routines
3) Perform head bath
4) Perform his daily Sandhya Vandanam , then his daily Puja.
After this he can start the Puja of the Dhanurmasa Vrat.
Different kinds of materials needed to bath Lord Madhusudhana
Pancha Amruta, Cows Milk,Coconuts, Coconut water, Pongal/Pulagam, Dhadhojanam or Curd Rice.
How to perform the Puja to Lord Vishnu
As a part of the Puja Lord Madhusudhana would be bathed with enchanting the Mantras. Lord Madhusudhana has to be bathed with Pancha Amruta which means a mix of Milk, Curd, Ghee, Sugar and Honey.
Lord Madhusudhana has to be bathed with Cows Milk separately and also with Coconut water. The bath is better performed if all these are filled into the Shankam or Conch and then poured on the Lord.
Lord Madhusudhana has to be worshipped with the leaves of the Tulasi or Basal plant. The leaves should not be individual but each branch should have three leaves. If it has three leaves it is called as a Dalam. Lord Madhusudhana should be worshipped with Tulasi Dalams.
After which the Lord has to be worshipped with different kinds of flowers.
All the above, worshipping with Tulasi or Basil leaves and flowers can be performed while reciting either the Ashtotara Setha Namavali or Sahasranamam of Lord Vishnu.
Dhanurmasa - phala shruti
Worshipping Vishnu on a single day during this auspicious period is equal to worshipping Vishnu with devotion for 1000 years. Every single step taken towards the nearby lake, river etc for morning dip during this month brings forth merit equal to performing an Ashvamedha Yaga.