ACCORDING to Hindu scriptures, there are four holy months in the year. Together these are called “Chaturamas”. It starts with “Shravan” and ends with “Kartik” month. “Shravan”, which is popularly known as “Sawan”, is dedicated to Lord Shiva. This year Sawan begins on July 24 and ends on August 22. So, this time try to take immense benefit with your devotion. But for some communities like Gujarati, Marathi etc, it will start a few days later or earlier as per their calendar and custom. Legends and stories: 1. The legend says the churning of oceans took place in this month. 2. Nag Panchmi is celebrated on August 13 during Sawan month. On this day in India, snake charmers can be found in the Shiva temples. Devotees worship Lord Shiva and offer milk to the snakes. Astrologically, if one does this it helps to get rid of snake dreams and minimises negative effects of planet “Rahu” and “Ketu”. As some species of snakes are considered sacred for Lord Shiva and Vishnu devotees, if anyone kills a snake due to ignorance, then this fast will help to overcome the after-effects. 3. This day is also very important as Lord Krishna defeated the serpent “Kaaliya” and saved the people of “Vrindavan”. It is believed that out of all Gods, Lord Shiva can be easily pleased and he grants boons easily. Worship of the Shivalinga is considered the prime worship for devotees of Lord Shiva. In “Sawan” month, immense blessing is gained and wishes can be fulfilled quicker by doing the following: 1. It is best to be vegetarian this month. The main days to observe fast are on Mondays and Saturdays that fall in this month. Devotees who want to observe Sawan fast completely for one month should start from July 23 (Guru Purnima). 2. No other Mondays in the year are so greatly honoured. These Sawan Mondays are extremely auspicious and are observed by many to get quick results. Astrologically, unmarried girls must also observe this fast to get their desired husband and have a happy married life. Many devotees observe 16 Mondays (Solah Somwar) fasting from the first Monday of Sawan month. 3. Married women, especially, observe the fast and perform Shiva Puja with sincerity to appease Goddess Parvati who is also regarded as Maa Gauri – one who bestows marital bliss and long and prosperous married life. 4. Varalakshmi Vratam: It will be observed on August 20. Those who pray and fast on this auspicious day will please Mother Lakshmi easily. 5. Astrologically, it would be greatly beneficial if a married couple observe this month of “Sawan” to attain blessings. On August 18, the couple who wants to have a child should pray to the Almighty and refrain from eating grains. If one does this with dedication it leads to an astrologically divine child. The day is called Putrada Ekadashi. 6. If all Saturdays in this month are observed it will help to escape from the bad influence of Lord Shani (planet Saturn). Do the following to get greater astrological results in a short time: ¡ Light a mustard oil diya at the peepal tree. ¡ Read Sunderkand or Shree Hanuman Chalisa under a peepal tree. ¡ Take a lota (brass or copper water vessel) filled with water and offer it to the roots of the peepal tree. ¡ It is extremely beneficial for society if the temple includes a programme on this day. ¡ Circumambulate the tree seven times. ¡ Lord Shiva fulfils the wishes of his devotees without them asking if he is worshipped with “bel leaves” (bilva-patra) especially during Sawan month and on Maha Shivaratri. ¡ It is believed that just by offering bel leaves with stalks on Shivalinga, sins of three births are removed. NB: The upper side of the leaf should be placed on Shivalinga while offering. If the bel leaves are not available then one should offer “Panchaamrit”. If the above cannot be done, water can be offered to the Shivalinga. You can do “mansik puja” and offer above on Shivalinga. Mansik puja means devotees mentally offer items and dedicate everything to the Lord. One should chant Om Namah Shivaya as much as possible during this month. Another very powerful mantra to be chanted in this month is the “Mahamritunjaya” mantra: Om Tryambakam Yajamahe Sungandhim Pustivardhanam Urvarukamiva Bandhanan Mrityor Muskshiya Maamritat. There are many fasts that are recommended for females during this month to get marital bliss. One of them is Mangala Gauri Vrat, observed by married women on each Tuesday in Hindu month of Shravan. Women, especially newly-weds, observe it to seek conjugal bliss from Goddess Gauri. According to Hindu scriptures every day of Sawan is important therefore I am unable to explain all the benefits in detail in this column. It is of utmost importance for one to observe and pray in this sacred month. Any prayer done in this month will give you manifold benefits. Lord Shiva is called “Ashutosh” as he pleases so easily and quickly. He grants wealth, health, prosperity, son, longevity, marital bliss and happiness to his devotees. Pray to Lord Shiva to open your way astrologically. Namah Shivaya.