Shani Dev Kee Mahimaa
|23-Vrat and Fasts|
Vrat and Fasts
[not in the book]
Any Upavaas or Vrat is directly or indirectly connected with some sort of material comfort.
Fast on Sunday is devoted to Soorya Dev -
Among the several myths about this Upavaas, dedicated to Lord Shiv, has numerous stories,
but three have gained
popularity – the first is the story of a poor Brahmin gaining wealth due
to Monday fasting, second is the story of a rich merchant begetting a son
after long wait and the subsequent death of the son and his rebirth due to
the grace of Lord Shiv and Paarvatee and the third story is the most
famous involving the game of dice played between Shiva and Paarvatee.
The procedure to worship to be followed is similar, but in each case the Kathaa to be read or heard is different. Food is eaten once in the day. Cereals are permitted. After prayers to Shiv and Paarvatee one must read or hear the appropriate Kathaa. To appease Chandramaa one must wear pearls and silver. When inclined to give charity, one must give white things like rice, white clothes, conch shells, silver or pearls.
Mondays in the Hindi month of Shraavan
(July – August) is dedicated to Lord Shiv and Hindus in North India
observe Shraavan Maas Somvaar Vrat. In this month, Shiv Ling is bathed
with holy water from River Gangaa or water mixed with raw milk and Bilva (Bel)
flowers and leaves are offered to the Shiv Ling. Fasting is observed
from sunrise to sunset on all Mondays in the month. Married women observe
the fast for a happy and long married life. Unmarried women observe it for
getting good husbands. Men observe it for a happy and peaceful life. Those
who observe fast eat only a single vegetarian meal. The importance of
Shraavan Som Vaar is because it is believed that the Saagar Manthan
(Churning of the Milky Ocean) took place in this month and Lord Shiv drank
the poison Halaahal poison to save the world during this period. Offering
milk to Lord Shiva in this month is considered highly auspicious. People
also worship Paarvatee, Ganesh and Nandee Jee along with Shiv Ling.
Mangal Vrat is observed by those couples who wish to have a son. Other benefits include happiness in the family. People who believe in astrology observe fast to alleviate the harmful effects associated with the planet Mangal or Mars. Those who undertake the fast on Tuesdays only take a single meal. It is a whole day fast. The single meal on the day is usually any food made of wheat and jaggery. Food prepared of wheat and jaggery must be eaten once in the day. After prayers to Hanuman one must read the Kathaa.
Most people observe the fast for 21
Tuesdays without a break. People wear red colored clothes on the day and
offer red flowers to Lord Hanuman. It is believed that Lord Hanuman will
help his devotees in overcoming difficulties in life especially those that
arises from the activities of Mangal Graha.
You may keep Brihaspati Vrat as many
times you want. Generally people keep 7, 11, 21, 40, 48, 51, or 108 times
or Life Time. Its not necessarily to observe fast, but Vrat is considered
a short route to appease God. Only listening of
Kathaa will also do. Even
if you don’t listen to Kathaa or do any thing for Brihaspati Dev, you may
be benefited by just thinking of its “Mahimaa”.
It is believed that those who have the blessing of Lord Hanuman are protected from the wrath of Shani. Shani Dev do not harm them. Legend has it that Lord Hanuman had rescued Shani from Raavan. This happened during the burning of the Lanka episode in the epic Raamaayan. Lord Shani had then promised that he would not trouble Lord Hanuman devotees. Therefore many people make it a point to worship Hanuman at home or in temples. Black is the preferred color on Saturday. Black colored items like sesame seeds (Kaalaa til), sesame oil, black clothes, and black gram whole are offered to Shani. It must be noted here that the color of the idol of Shani is also always black in color and is made of iron. Those devotees who fast on Saturday only take a single meal that too in the evening after prayers. Food prepared usually consists of sesame (Til) or black gram or any other black colored food item. Salt is avoided by many on the day.
Some devotees worship a black iron idol of Shani. Some worship the Peepal Tree and tie thread around its bark. Black colored items like sesame oil and black clothes are also donated on the day.