What is Fasting and why it is observed?
Abstaining from food or at least some kinds of food items is referred to as Fasting. It does have its own benefits as it provides the much needed rest to the digestive organs and gives respite to the other over-worked systems. However the benefits of fasting on the spiritual side can be said to be much more profound.
Though Upavas or fasting is undertaken at times for the fulfillment of some vows and also for physical gains, its true purpose remains less material and substantially spiritual. Our consciousness often gets corrupted over time by accumulation of impurities, and it is fasting that helps significantly in its purification.
What is the importance of the individual week days?
Each of the 7 week days actually represents a planet and these are named only after them, as per the Hindu system. Thus, Monday represents the Moon; Tuesday, Mars; Wednesday, Mercury; Thursday, Jupiter; Friday, Venus; Saturday, Saturn; and Sunday, the Sun. This apart, the weekdays are also dedicated to different specific Gods and it is strongly believed that offering prayers to that particular deity on his or her special week day, will please the deity and get his or her blessings in abundance.
What is the associated mythology?
The widely accepted legend for associating Mondays with Shiva worship, speaks about Lord Shiva providing relief to Chandra, the Moon. Moon married all the 27 daughters of Dhaksha, but became fond of one of them, Rohini and began to remain close only with her. His other wives were upset and complained to their father, who advised the Moon to treat all of them with equal affection. But the Moon ignored this sane advice and continued with his unfair attitude. The enraged Dhaksha cursed Moon, who began diminishing in form, as a result. The chastised Moon realized his folly, rushed to Lord Shiva, worshipped him sincerely and pleaded for mercy. This pleased the Lord, who took pity on Chandra and blessed him. Thanks to Shiva’s compassion, the Moon started to increase in size to his original form and from then on, remained waxing and waning, on successive fortnights.
Hence Mondays are regarded very auspicious for accessing the energies of Lord Shiva.
Further, the Tamil month of Karthigai, also known as Margasira in North (November-December) is a believed to be a sacred month for Shiva worship. And so is the month Shravan that corresponds with the Tamil month Aadi (July-August), when the moon is said to have emerged out of the churning of the ocean along with the deadly poison Alahala, which Shiva swallowed to protect the world. These have made Karthigai Somavaram and Shravan Somavaram, that is the Mondays falling in both Karthigai and Shravan months special, and fasting and worshipping Shiva on those days is highly beneficial.
How Fasting is observed on Mondays?
Fasting, that is abstinence from food, begins right from early in the morning on that day, and continuing through the day, ends with the sighting of the Moon in the night. Devotees spend the day in constant prayers to Shiva, chanting hymns in his praise, singing bhajans, reciting the sacred mantra ‘Om Namah Shivaya’, and also reading and hearing his stories. Offerings like cooked rice, puffed sweet rice, coconut, flowers, betel leaves etc are also made reverentially to the Lord. Many continue this fasting worship, known as Somavar Vrat, for many successive Mondays.
What benefits accrue on undertaking Fasting on Mondays?
Lord Shiva becomes well pleased with the observance of Somavar Vrat or Monday Fasting and blesses the devotees generously. This will help them to attain wisdom and to fulfill their rightful desires. Women in the marriageable age can also observe this vow with firm belief and get blessed with good life partners.