The Hindu month of Shrawan, probably the holiest month of all is dedicated entirely to Lord Shiva, the destroyer among the Trimurti, the three forms. Trimurti refers to the Hindu trinity; Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva – the three main deities of Hinduism.
The month of Shrawan is an extensive religious period that is celebrated across the Indian subcontinent, including Nepal, with puja (worshipping) and offerings to Lord Shiva.
Hindu mythology embraces many different narratives to the month of Shrawan. It is believed that the gods and demons were churning the ocean (referred to as Samundra Manthan) for Amrita, the immortal nectar in the prehistoric period. During the very manthan, in Shrawan, poison emerged from the ocean.
No one was willing to accept this poison, it had to have acquiesced just like any other offerings from the ocean. Surprisingly, Lord Shiva came to the rescue and consumed it. Shiva, who is also referred to by his devotees as Shambhu, held the poison in his throat and his throat thus turned blue. Maheshwar (another name of Lord Shiva), therefore, is often referred to by his followers as Neelkantha – which literally translates to “one with blue throat”.
To inundate the poison’s toxicity, gods participating in the Samundra Manthan offered water to Shiva. Therefore, devotees during this holy month offer water to Shivalinga (an abstract or aniconic representation of the Hindu god Shiva in Shaivism).
The anecdotes concerning the holy month of Shrawan, however, are not limited to this. Goddess Parvati, with a longing to have Lord Shiva as her husband, performed intricate fasting rites and worshipping rituals throughout this month. Pleased by Pravati’s prayer, Lord Shiva fulfilled her wish.
Accordingly, even today both married and unmarried women perform fasts and prayers to Lord Shiva at least on Mondays, if not throughout the month. Unmarried women observe fasts in expectation of an ideal husband, supposedly like Lord Shiva himself. While married women pray for the long life and well-being of their better halves.
All Sombars (Mondays) which fall during the month of Shrawan are considered incredibly auspicious for fasting (Vratas)and devotion. These Mondays are thus known as Shrawan Sombar Vratas.
Many of such devotees also observe sixteen Mondays or Sorah Sombar fasting from the first Sombar of Shrawan month and continue for the next fifteen Mondays.
Shrawan: The month of Green
During the holy month of Shrawan, cosmetic shops all around Nepal are filled with green-yellow chura (bangles) and mehendi (henna). Women are seen dressed in green and red sarees (drape wraps) around religious shrines throughout Shrawan, thus it’s also the month of womanhood. Dressed in green, red, and yellow with beautiful henna designs on their palms, women celebrate this month of womanhood in full swing.
Each year, during this holy month, women manifest the health and prosperity of their husbands. Unmarried women, too, dress in green and yellow wishing for an ideal life partner.
It is not just the serene environs that turn lushy green during this month. Alongside the amazingly beautiful green bounty of nature, women, irrespective of their age, are adorned in green. Whether it be Kathmandu, or any other city around Nepal, women queuing to get their palms decorated with henna is a common sight.
The Shrawan Mela : Bol Bam
From the very first Monday of Shrawan, devotees and pilgrims, dressed alike in saffron robes, congregate at a specific place and walk barefoot to Lord Shiva’s temples again in hopes of health, well-being, and happiness. This march takes place all Mondays of this holy month and is called “Bol Bam”.
The pilgrims carry holy water in pots, which is later used to anoint Shivalinga in the temples. Thousands of devotees dressed in saffron indulge in this unique pilgrimage while chanting “Bol Bam”, in praise of Lord Shiva, throughout the march. Men and women, young and old, weak and strong, and people from all walks of life, share this holy barefoot march and the procession is called “Bol Bam”.
It is quite an experience to just watch thousands of such religious followers walking with a desire to anoint the sacred Shivalinga. To be one among these many devotees is a whole other adventure entirely. For Shiva-Bhaktas (followers of Lord Shiva) it is a pilgrimage that they are determined to make at least once in their lifetime to pay obeisance to Shiva.
Pilgrimages to Visit During This Month
On the banks of Bagmati, a sacred river uniting different ethnic groups across Nepal under a shared umbrella of religious togetherness passes by Shree Pashupatinath temple. This magnificent pilgrimage situated in the vicinity of Bagmati banks is dedicated to Lord Shiva. During the month of Shrawan, especially on Mondays, thousands of devotees from Nepal and as far as India visit this World Heritage Site to worship Lord Shambu.
Besides Pashupatinath, there are many temples to visit and worship Shiva, the destroyer. Doleshwar Mahadev temple, another popular temple in Kathmandu valley, is also flooded by devotees.
Gokarna Mahadev Temple, located northeast of downtown Kathmandu, is yet another popular destination among Shiva-Bhaktas (worshippers of Lord Shiva).
Santaneshwor Mahadev temple of Lalitpur, Siddhababa temple of Palpa, Ashapuri temple of Bhaktapur, Kuseshwor Mahadev temple of Sindhuli are among other celebrated shrines of Lord Shiva.
Nepalese Shiva-Bhaktas also visit various shrines in neighbouring India during this month of auspiciousness. Amarnath temple in Kashmir, Kedarnath temple in Uttarkhand, Kashi Viswanath in Uttar Pradesh, Kailashnath temple in Maharastra are among many popular Shiva temples in India.
Along these lines, Shrawan, the holiest month of the Hindu calendar, is marked as a festival by all devotees and worshippers. The fifth month of the sacred Hindu calendar – Shrawan truly is a synonym of auspiciousness.
Feature Photo by Sulav Shrestha