Memories of Shravan Mahina (month), in our house was always in the summer holidays…. Our first thoughts were… “Oh no”!!!! mums not gonna cook meat for a month, and my Ma (Grandama), mum and mami always observed the traditions, and the food during the festivals. There were always so many pooja’s that month, from the cooker pooja eating cold food… I love Mal Pura, to stories of a mongoose, and snake. Then waiting for the tadpoles to sprout (moong beans) for Nori Nem for Vudo Shak and rotla. Then there was also Nag Paacham where we ate Kicthri.
Shravan occurs on the fifth month of the Hindu calendar and is considered the most auspicious, and fruitful month to worship Lord Shiva. It is said that worshipping Shiva during this month is considered 108 times more powerful than regular prayer. Each day of Shravan represents something different and each day is considered very holy. I do Shiva pooja every Wednesday and Sunday with my boys, there always a fight who can put the most milk on the Shivling which is practically drowned in milk. I know Shiva looks down upon their innocence with love.
According to a traditional stories told by my grandparents, Shravan month is so important and significant to Lord Shiva as this is the month, he married Parvati. Parvati wanted to marry Lord Shiva, which is why she participated in the rituals that were involved during Shravan. Lord Shiva was so pleased with the devotion that Parvati showed towards him especially during the month of Shravan, he fulfilled her wish to marry him. A very well know couple Shiv-Parvati.
My son’s inquisitive mind asked me why is Shiva is represented as being blue? Another story behind the month of Shravan, (which I have recently learnt whilst writing the Jai Jais Lord Shiva books) is one which is referred to as ‘Samudra Manthan’ or the churning of the oceans which took place during Shravan. The ocean produced a poisonous drink called ‘halahal’ along with lots of valuables like gemstones, riches, cows, the moon and goddesses Lakshmi. These were taken up by the gods and the demons. However, the gods got scared as this poison could destroy all creation. Shiva decided to drink the poison in order to save the world. Instead of swallowing it Parvati held his throat to make sure the poison didn’t go down turning his throat blue. Which is why he has the name ‘Neelkantha’ meaning blue neck.
To reduce the impact of the poison Shiva wore the crescent moon on his head. Gods started offering him holy water from the River Ganges to reduce the effects of the poison, therefore performing Abishek (pouring the water and cleansing Shiva) on the Shivling. Abishek is now a ritual that occurs during the main Shravan pooja. Abishek is done to cool his head. Lord Shiva is worshipped with a shivling- (a representation of the Hindu deity Shiva.)
The pooja starts with taking water in your right hand and making a wish, which is then poured on the shivling then Panchamrita is offered- (a mixture of milk, water, curd, ghee, honey or sugar). Whilst reciting the mantra ‘Om Namah Shivaya’. At the end of the pooja a sacred thread, Belva leaves and argarbatti Incense) is offered. Then sweets, flower are offered to the Lord in order to seek his blessings.
The meaning symbolism of the offerings are:
Milk for purity.
Honey for sweetness.
Sugar for happiness.
Ghee (clarified butter) for victory.
Curd (yoghurt) is for prosperity.
We had a chat with my social media team the other day and Nemash is vegan and said, “are we allowed to use vegan alternatives in pooja”… definitely one for thought….
Many strict Shiva worshippers/ devotees observe a strict fast for the whole month, however some only observe the fast on Mondays (Somvar). Mondays are considered to be very important during this month as Monday is represented by the moon, which also symbolises the mind. There are four Mondays during shravan and by fasting on these four days is considered important for young women seeking husbands. Other devotees who choose not to fast may observe different vows such as only eating vegetarian food, reading a particular Holy scripture every day of the month or wearing a Rudraksh, the holy bead which represented for the followers of Lord Shiva. To be honest I feel anyway is the right way as long as the pooja or different worship is done with a kind heart and mind, and good intentions.