For Shiva devotees, Mondays are special days for worshipping their favorite deity, as this day is associated with Shiva. But the Skanda Puranam claims that the Mondays in Karthika Masam (Nov-Dec) are very special. Mondays are called Somavaram as one of Shiva’s names is Someshvara, meaning ‘the One who wears Soma (crescent Moon) on his matted hair’. Soma is also a form in which Shiva is present along with his consort, Parvati. Karthika Somavara Vratham is a ritual that devotees perform in this month to appease Shiva.
Karthika Somavara Vratham includes a day-long fast. Rudra Abhishekam is also performed, accompanied by chants of Rudra Namakam and Rudra Chamakam. Devotees consume food after sighting the stars.
The Skanda Purana says that there are 8 fasts or Vrathams that are dedicated to Shiva, one of which is Karthikai Somavara Vratham. The belief is that it is this Vratham that pleases and satisfies him the most.
Legend behind Karthika Somavara Vratham
Hindu Scriptures claim that it was Chandra or the Moon who observed the Karthikai Somavara Vratham. And he had a good reason for it.
Chandra was married to the 27 Nakshatras, who were the daughters of King Daksha. But Chandra chose to lavish his affections on Rohini and ignored the others. When Rohini’s sisters complained to Daksha, he cursed Chandra with a dreadful, wasting disease that made him lose his power and radiance. As a consequence, Chandra began to fade away. Chandra, along with his favorite wife, Rohini, is believed to have observed this Vratham to please Shiva and gain relief from Daksha’s curse. Shiva eventually appeared before them and said that he could not remove the curse completely, but he could modify it. Thenceforth, he said the Moon would wax and wane every month. Supposedly, it was on a Monday in Karthika Masam that Chandra got relief from his curse and began to regain his radiance. The Puranas, therefore, claim that those who observe Karthika Masa Somavara Vratham will likewise gain relief from their sufferings due to the grace of Shiva and have their wishes fulfilled. Women believe that by observing this Vratham, they can have a blissful life and ensure their husbands’ well-being. It is also believed to cure diseases.
Ekadasa Rudra Abishekam
It is very auspicious to perform “Ekadasa Rudrabhishekam” on Karthika Somavaram days. Those who cannot do it at home visit Shiva temples, where it is performed on this day.
Deepa Daan (offering lamps)
One can also worship Shiva by offering lamps (diyas), flowers, incense, food, etc. This is called “deep-daan” and brings great religious merit when it is performed during Karthika Masam.
In the Padma Purana, there is a story about a mouse that reveals the importance of Karthika masam.
In a Vishnu temple, there was a mouse that used to eat the ghee from the extinguished ghee lamps offered by devotees. One day, it tried to eat the ghee from a lamp which was still burning. While eating the ghee, the cotton wick became stuck in its teeth. Since the wick was still burning, the mouse caught fire. It jumped about in agony before Vishnu’s idol and died. But Vishnu accepted it as his Aarti and gave the mouse liberation.
The belief is that those who burn a lamp in the temple of Hari in the month of Karthika will be rid of all sins acquired for millions of kalpas (one kalpa equals 1000 yugas). This story reveals that the gift of a lamp during Karthika masam is the best gift to God.
Rituals of Karthigai Somavara Vratham
Shiva devotees observe Karthigai Somavara Vratham and perform special Poojas for Shiva on all Mondays in this month. They begin the fast early in the morning and break it when they see the Moon. Throughout the day, they also chant Shiva Mantras, like ‘Panchakshari Mantra,’ and offer prayers to Shiva. Offerings include cooked rice and flowers. Performing Archana with Bilva leaves to Shiva on Karthigai Mondays can bestow mental strength and clarity. As Shiva appeared in the form of Agni or fire during this month, there will also be Sangu Abishekam (hydration Pooja with conch shells) in all Shiva temples to cool him down and please him.
It is very beneficial to visit Shiva temples during Karthika Masam. Devotees should wake up early on Karthikai Mondays, take a bath, and do Shiva Pooja. It is also the custom to invite an elderly couple home and serve them on this day. One should also give them whatever they can afford and get their blessings. The fast can be broken with a light meal after offering prayers at a Shiva temple in the evening. Those who are unable to observe it can visit Shiva temples and take part in the special Poojas and rituals at the temples. They can also donate materials for the Poojas and Abishekams. Many married couples visit Shiva temples on this day as they believe that it helps them gain the blessings of Shiva and Shakti for a blissful and harmonious married life.
Benefits of Observing Karthigai Somavara Vratham
Worshipping Shiva on Karthigai Somavaram days and observing Vratham bestows many benefits, which are given below.
1. One can get a good spouse. Women can also ensure the husband’s longevity.
2. Good health, wealth, and prosperity.
3. Freedom from debts.
4. One can enjoy a peaceful life.
5. It offers freedom from sins and helps one attain Moksha (salvation).