In the Vedas it is said that one who observes the Chaturmasya-vrata will attain eternal happiness in the heavenly kingdom. One who performs the Chaturmasya-vrata becomes pious. By becoming pious, one may be promoted to the higher planetary systems. In the Bhagavad-gita, it is said that this flowery language of the Vedas mostly attracts persons who identify with the body. To them such happiness as that of the heavenly kingdom is everything; they do not know that beyond that is the spiritual kingdom, or kingdom of God.
Purpose of Chaturmasya-vrata
Sannyasis are generally meant to travel all over the country for preaching work, but during the four months of the rainy season in India, from July through October, they do not travel but take shelter in one place and remain there without moving. This non movement of the sannyasi is called Chaturmasya-vrata. When a sannyasi stays in one place for these four months, the local inhabitants of that place take advantage of his presence to become spiritually advanced.
During these four months, saintly persons who are accustomed to travel from one place to another to propagate Krishna consciousness remain at one place, usually a holy place of pilgrimage. During these times, there are certain rules and regulations which are strictly followed. It is stated in the Skanda Purana that during this period, if someone circumambulates the temple of Vishnu at least four times, it is understood that he has travelled all over the universe. By such circumambulation, one is understood to have seen all the holy places where the Ganges water is flowing, and by following the regulative principles of Chaturmasya one can very quickly be raised to the platform of devotional service.
The Chaturmasya period begins in the month of Ashadha (June-July) from the day of Ekadashicalled Shayana Ekadashi, in the fortnight of the waxing moon. The period ends in the month of Kartika (October-November) on the Ekadashi day known as Utthana Ekadashi, in the fortnight of the waxing moon. Some Vaishnavas also observe it from the full-moon day of Ashadha until the full-moon day of Kartika. That is also a period of four months. This period, calculated by the lunar months, is called Chaturmasya, but others also observe Chaturmasya according to the solar month from Shravana to Kartika. The whole period, either lunar or solar, takes place during the rainy season.
Fasting during Chaturmasya
Chaturmasya should be observed by all sections of the population. It does not matter whether one is a grihastha or a sannyasi. The observance is obligatory for all ashramas. The real purpose behind the vow taken during these four months is to minimize the quantity of sense gratification. This is not very difficult. In the first month of Shravana one should not eat spinach, in the second month of Bhadra one should not eat yogurt, and in the third month of Ashvina one should not drink milk. One should not eat fish or other non-vegetarian food during the fourth month of Kartika. A non-vegetarian diet means fish and meat. Similarly, masura dhal and urad dhal are also considered non-vegetarian. These two dhals contain a great amount of protein, and food rich in protein is considered non-vegetarian. And hence they should not be eaten during the fourth month. On the whole, during the four-month period of Chaturmasya one should practice giving up all food intended for sense enjoyment.
Below is the list of food items which should not be eaten during the Chaturmasya
|Month||Fasting From||Items to be avoided||Exceptions|
|Shravana||Shak||Red and Green Spinach. All varieties of Shak (Green leafy vegetables)||Coriander Leaves, Methi Leaves, Pudhina, Curry leaves. Cabbage can be taken as it is not a Shak.|
|Bhadra||Curd / Yogurt||Any item in which curd is the major ingredient: Kadi, Pacchadi, Butter milk, Lassi||If little curd (two or three spoons) is added in Sabji to get taste, it will not break the vow. Charanamrita should be honoured even if it contains curd in it.|
|Ashvina||Milk||Any item in which milk is the major ingredient: Sweet Rice preparation using milk, Milk Shakes, Ice Creams, Condensed Milk||Milk Sweets (like Peda, Rasagulla, Sandesh), Milk products (like Paneer, Cheese) since milk is transformed and used. Charanamrita should be honoured even if it
contains milk in it.
|Kartika||Urad Dhal||Idli, Dosa or any other preparation containing Urad Dhal / Urad Gram should not be taken.|