Savan Somvar

Savan Somvar Vrat- why do Hindus offer milk and water to Lord Shiva

I did not know the significance of the Savan Somvar Vrat until yesterday when I got down to write a new blog post for my website.

For some time, I had been wanting to write on the ancient practice of offering milk and water to Lord Shiva by millions of Indians during July-August.

Adiyogi
Shiva is also known as Adiyogi and the Savan Somvar Vrat is devoted to Him

Fortunately, I got the inspiration to write this post on the second Somvar of this Savan i.e. yesterday.

Meaning of Savan Somvar Vrat

 

There are three words in Savan Somvar Vrat and I will explain each of them here, as simply as possible.

The word Savan represents a particular month in the Indian/ Hindu calendar. This month marks the beginning of the monsoons in India. Normally, Savan corresponds to July.

Somvar is Monday, the first day of the week. The word  Som denotes moon and Var is a day. So, Somvar is the day of the Moon or Monday.

Vrat in Hindu terminology means a penance or a vow. People observe certain vows on Mondays during July.The idea behind these vows is to clean one’s body, mind and spirit.

This year, there are 5 Somvars in the 2017 Savan.

I hope it is now properly understood.

Shiva and Parvati

 

On these Mondays in July, people offer milk and water to Lord Shiva. This year, there are 5 Mondays in the Savan month when devotees can offer milk and water to the Lord and observe penances and vows. The Savan Somvar Vrat tradition is tightly linked to Lord Shiva.

Shiva is one of the three Gods of the Holy Trinity. He is the God of Destruction but is also the primordial source of all creation.

The Vedas say that billions of years ago, there was a Golden Egg which burst open all of a sudden and created our Universe and Solar System. That Egg is represented by Shiva whom we represent in the form of a Shivaling.

When we all die, then our souls go and rest in that Egg.

Isn’t all this mystical?

Parvati is the wife of Shiva. He has an entire family which comprises Parvati and two sons- Ganesh and Kartikeya.

Shiva family

Why is Shiva worshiped?

 

First of all, Shiva is the God of Death so many Indians pray to him so that death doesn’t visit them.

But there is another reason why Shankar or Shiva is worshiped .He  is selfless and friendly and does not harbor any ill will towards any creation.

In fact, Shiva is so selfless that He once drank poison for the benefit of all His creations! That poison made His throat blue and that is why another name of Lord Shiva is Neelkanth or the One whose throat is blue.

Meaning of Shiva

 

We all know that the Somvar Vrat is connected to Shiva. But is the meaning of the name of the Lord of Death?

I did a little bit of research and found that Shiva means being pure, beautiful and truthful.

Being pure doesn’t mean being clean. Similarly, beautiful has a spiritual implication.

Shiva is a state of being beautiful, truthful and pure.

If you want to know more about Shiva, then click on the headline of this section.

How does Shiva look like?

 

The God and His consort live on Mount Kailash, which is in Tibet.

Shiva appears primarily in the form of a Shivaling, which represents the primordial Golden Egg.

Shiva
Shiva- the Adiyogi

Sometimes, He appears as an unbearded Sadhu, draped in tiger skin and holding a Trident. The favorite vehicle of Shiva is Nandi. Nandi is a bull.

Shiva sports the moon on His head and around His neck are several serpents.

The trident, bull, serpents, and the moon are metaphors and represent certain spiritual qualities that can not be described in simple words.

Having described Shiva, let us now read the story of the Savan Somvar Vrat.

Shivaling
Shivaling at Lepakshi, India. Creds- Flickr

Savan Somvar Vrat stories

 

The first story about Savan Somvar Vrat is about Goddess Parvati who prayed for several Mondays to get Lord Shiva as her husband.

Many ancient Hindus scriptures like Shiv Puran say that She prayed for several thousand years for this purpose.

Hindu unmarried girls follow the Goddess on all the Savan Somvars to get good looking and virtuous husbands.

Shahi Snan
Shahi Snan (Royal Bath) of Lord Shiva in Mahakaleshwar Mandir, Ujjain

Another story goes like this.

Several thousands of years ago, there was a rich merchant who lived with his wife.

This couple had everything that it desired and there was nor reason for it to complain.

However, there was a problem.

The couple was childless  even after several years of marriage. You know how terrible it is to be childless, don’t you?

However, the couple was a great devotee of Shiva. Every Monday, the husband, and wife went to the nearby Shiva temple and prayed to the Lord. However, their misery continued.

Seeing the miserable condition of the couple, one day Goddes Parvati requested Lord Shiva to help them out. “Please help them have a child”, she requested.

Only till 16 years

 

“Alright, they will have a child, and it will be a boy,” said Shiva, ” but the boy will live only up to 16 years.”

That night, the God of Death appeared in the dreams of the merchant and told him about the child. ” But don’t tell all this to your wife, else she will get disturbed”, advised Shiva.

And indeed, a few months later, the couple was blessed with a baby boy. Finally, their troubles were over.

The couple devoted a large part of their time in educating the young boy and when the lad grew up, his mother started thinking of his marriage.

But the father had other ideas. He knew that the child won’t cross 16 and would leave a widow behind if the child got married. The father was not very enthusiastic about his handsome son’s marriage.

One day, the father called his brother -in-law and asked him to take the son to Varanasi. The father wanted his son to pursue spiritual studies in Varanasi.

Off to Varanasi

 

Soon enough, the young man settled in Varanasi where he was admitted to a college by his uncle .Varanasi ghats

The teachers were pleased  by the discipline and intelligence of their new pupil. The young man was doing pretty fine in his college.

One day, when the young man was coming back to his house, he met a wedding procession. This party was going to the King’s palace.The bridegroom was going to that palace to marry the King’s daughter.

Also read- Maheshwar, the Varanasi of Central India

However there was a problem. The bridegroom was blind by one eye and did not want to tell the King about his disability. This marriage was going to be a sham affair and the King was unaware of this plot.

The indecent proposal

 

When the bridegroom saw the handsome young man standing by the road, he came to the latter and made a proposal; why don’t you marry the girl in my place? I will reward you with lots of gems and jewellery. Once the marriage is over, you can go back to your house and leave the girl with me.

I think our young man was tempted by the lure of money for he agreed readily.

When he sat down for the marriage rituals, the young man reflected on his stupid act. He fished out a handkerchief and began writing a small message for his ‘wife’- I am not your bridegroom, the real person is somebody else.

Alas, the young boy could not hand over his note to the girl and finally both of them were married.

Nevertheless, the young man finally explained the situation to his wife and told her that he was leaving for his house to pursue studies. Of course, the girl was shattered upon hearing all this and she too decided to go back to her parents’ home. She simply did not want to continue her life with her one-eyed husband.

The clock was ticking..

 

We all have limited lives on this planet but we don’t know when our time will be over.

In the case of our handsome young man, the clock was ticking all the time.

One day, tragedy struck finally.

It so happened that on that fateful day, the uncle was feeding some guests in house and his nephew was studying in another room.

All of a sudden, the nephew experienced a pain in his chest and in the next few minutes, passed away. The time of the nephew was well and truly over. The God of Death had come and taken away the young man’s life.

When this information reached the young man’s parents, they were stunned. While the father had prepared himself for this eventuality, the mother went into a painful silence.

Tragedy had revisited this couple.

Seeing all this, Goddess Parvati again requested Shiva to intervene. But, the Lord merely said,” Dead men can’t be brought back to life”.

But She persisted and later the Lord had to concede to her request.

Happiness!

 

Lo and behold, the young boy came back to life once again !

You can imagine the happiness that swept through the hearts and minds of the couple.

But why did Shiva bring back the dead boy to life ?

The Lord says to his consort, ” All those who keep the Savan Somvar Vrat make me happy and contented. I return that happiness to my devotees”.

This is also one reason why many Hindus practice this Vrat on Savan Somvars as it keeps death away.

Thank you

 

Do you know that Shiva is also offered milk , leaves, and water to cool HIS throat? After consuming poison, His throat is always burning and one way of thanking him is to offer cold milk, leaves and lots of water.

What a way of thanking the gentle Shiva!

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Devshayani Ekadashi 2017- what is the story behind it

This year, the Fourth of July is being observed as the Devshayani Ekadashi. Tomorrow, millions of Hindus will take vows to lead lives of honesty, purity, and abstinence. For the next four months, they will try to stick to their vows.

Sleeping Vishnu
Image Creds- www.mountainsoftravelphotos.com

The word, ‘Devshayani’ means Sleep of the Dev or Lord and ‘Ekadashi’ means the Eleventh Day.In this context, the Eleventh Day refers to the eleventh day of the first half of Ashadh month (June-July).

The Dev, in this case, Vishnu, goes to sleep for the next four months until November. He sleeps in the Ksheer Sagaror the ocean of milk and His bed is made up within the coils of Sheshnag, or the Great Serpent.

Devshayani Ekadashi
Vishnu in Yog Nidra or Yogic Sleep in the Ksheer Sagar. Creds- Pinterest

Devshayani Ekadashi is also known as Shayan Ekadashi or Hari Shayan Ekadashi. The word Hari means Vishnu and Shayan means Sleep.

Devshayani Ekadashi and Jagannath Yatra

 

For many Hindus, Devshayani Ekadashi begins a few days after the Jagannath Yatra. This Yatra marks the journey of Krishna, Balram and their sister, Subhadra to their house and back.

Millions of Hindus believe that Vishnu and Krishna are one and the same. Many thousands of years ago, Vishnu took the form of Krishna to protect the good folks of the world. Reincarnation or avatar is a central thought in the Hindu thought.

Significance

 

People have been observing fasts and other penances on Hari Shayan Ekadashi for many thousands of years. It is not a new phenomenon.

In the Bhavishyottar Purana, Lord Krishna advises Yudhisthir, the head of the Pandava clan, to observe fasts to mark this day. Similarly, Sage Angiras also had advised King Mandhata to observe severe penances and fasts on Shayan Ekadashi. He said that these fasts were necessary to bring rain to the King’s parched kingdom. Sage Angiras also advised that the King’s subjects must join him in observing fasts to bring rains to the country.

Since then, observing fasts and penances has become an important activity for millions of Hindus on Devshayani Ekadashi.

Chaturmas Period

 

Many Hindus put off their travel plans during the Chaturmas period as the roads become slippery and there is always the risk of sudden rains. In the hills, there is always the risk of landslides and flash floods.

This period comprises the months of July, August, September and some part of October. During these months, Hindus try to stick to their vows and also fast on some days.

For some, this means no liquor, non-vegetarian food and in some cases, no onions also.

Rituals of Devshayani Ekadashi

 

  1. Devotees must take a bath in the Bramha Muhurta ( before sunrise) to clean their bodies and minds
  2. They must observe a fast for the entire days on Hari Shayan Ekadashi
  3. Do not eat grains, cereals, spices, onions and other tamsik food
  4. Clean the praying area and decorate the idol of Lord Vishnu
  5. Bathe the idol with panchamrit ( curd, milk, honey, ghee, and gangajal)
  6. Offer roli, flowers, kumkum, incense sticks, holy water, fiyas, a hand fan, and prasadam to the deity
  7. Visit nearby temples of Lord Vishnu with their families
  8. Chanting of bhajans

Pandharpur Yatra

 

On Hari Shayan Ekadashi, many people go to the ancient temple at Pandharpur finish their yatra (journey).

Pandharpur is a small town in the Sholapur district of Maharashtra and is known for the Vitthal Temple. Vitthal or Vithoba is another name of the combined form of Krishna and Rukmini.

On this day, many devotees carry the images of several renowned saints in palkis. These saints are known all over the country for their devotion to Lord Vishnu.

These saints are Dnyaneshwar, Namdev, Tukaram, Eknath, Nivruttinath, Muktabai, Sopan and Gajanan Maharaj.

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