Dhanurmasa - Its meaning
Dhanur Masa is not an independent month like the months of Chaitra etc. The start of the Dhanurmasa is marked by the entry of the Sun in the Dhanur Rasi (Saggitarius) called the Dhanuh Sankramana; hence the name Dhanurmasa for this month. During this month, the sun transits the Dhanur Rasi until it enters the Makara Rashi at the end of this month.
Dhanurmasa - its other names
Dhanurmasa is also known by the names Chapa Masa, Kodanda Masa, Karmuka Masa etc. Chapa, Kodanda, Karmuka etc., in Sanskrit are synonyms of Dhanus; meaning a bow.
Dhanurmasa starts with Margashirsha shukla ekadasi (the eleventh day in the bright half of the lunar month of Margashira) and extends up to the end of Dakshinayana. More appropriately, the start of the Dhanurmasa is marked by the entry of the Sun in the Dhanur Rasi (Saggitarius); this is called Dhanuh Sankramana.; hence the name Dhanurmasa for this month. During this month, the sun transits the Dhanur Rasi and enters the Makara Rashi at the end of this month. So, the period extending between Dhanus Sankramana and Makara Sankramana is the auspicious Dhanurmasa Period.
Our scriptures have set apart this month to be completely focused on devotional activities. Other non-devotional social activities (such as weddings) are prohibited during this month so that attention can be given exclusively to the worship of God without any diversions.
According to tradition, the Gods wake up early in the morning during the month of Dhanurmasa. They perform special prayers to Sri Maha Vishnu during the auspicious period of “Brahmi Muhurta,” which is one and half hours before sunrise. During this month, devotees offer prayers to the Lord very early in the morning. The month of Dhanurmasa is considered a very special month for performing Pooja of Vishnu.
Importance of Dhanurmasa
The importance of this Masa is mentioned in the Dhanurmasa Mahatmya of Pancharatragama, Agneya Purana and also in a work called Smruti Muktavali.
In Pancharatragama, the Mahatmya of Dhanurmasa is presented in 4 chapters, as conversation between Hamasa form of Supreme Lord and four-faced Brahma. The dialogue between Hamasa and Brahma is narrated by Sage Suta in response to a query by Shaunaka.
In the first chapter, Sage Suta hails the greatness of the Month of Chapa (Dhanus) and gives the fruits one would be blessed with by following the prescribed austerities in this holy month.
In the second chapter, the Hamsa – Brahma Samvada is given where Brahma asks Lord Hamsa to tell him the importance and greatness of Dhanurmasa. The greatness of the Dhanurmasa is brought out by the story of the King Satyasandha.
In the third chapter, giving alms during this auspicious period is hailed. The devotee is instructed to do pious deeds as per his capacity. Otherwise, he is warned of dire consequences.
In the fourth and final chapter, different ways of feeding Brahmins are discussed. Arranging for the meals of a Brahmin who cooks for himself is lauded as the best way. The importance of this is brought out by a small anecdote of the Pandavas.
Dhanurmasa – rituals
During the entire month of Dhanurmasa, special worship of the Lord should be conducted early in the day during the auspicious “Brahmi Muhurta”. The morning worship should be necessarily completed before sunrise, while the stars are still twinkling.
The morning worship is graded into three types depending on the time when it is conducted.
The worship which is conducted during Arunodaya time is said to be of highest quality.
The worship which is performed when the stars disappear is of medium quality.
The worship which is performed after sunrise is of lower quality.
The worship conducted during afternoon is said to be fruitless.
Dhanurmasa – chantings
Chantings addressed to Vishnu such as Vishnu Sahasra Nama are specially recited during this period. Along with Vishnu, the worship of Sri Maha Lakshmi is also performed reciting the Bhadra Lakshmi stotra.
मा-क्षीराब्धिसुतारविन्दजननी, विद्या-सरोजात्मिका ।
सर्वाभीष्टफलप्रदेति सततं नामानि ये द्वादश
प्रातः शुद्धतरा पठन्ति सततं सर्वान् लभन्ते शुभान् ।।
Dhanurmasa – offerings
Special Mudganna (Moong Dal Rice) is offered to Lord Vishnu after worshipping him early in the morning.
The Pancharatra Agama gives three alternatives for preparing the Mudganna as follows
If rice and Moong Dal are in 1:1 ratio then the Mudganna is said to be of the highest quality and brings forth highest mertis.
If rice and Moong Dal are in 2:1 ratio then the Mudganna is said to be of average quality and brings forth average merits.
If rice and Moon Dal are in 4:1 ration then the Mudganna is said to be of poor quality and brings forth poor merits
Dhanurmasa - para kruti
It is said that Goddess Shashi, the consort of Lord Indra, performed special worship by offering Mudgannaduring this auspicious period and regained the riches.
निवेदयित्वा मुद्गान्नं पुरेन्द्राणी सहार्द्रकम् ।
विष्णवे दुःखिता साध्वी नित्यैश्वर्यमवाप सा ।।
Dhanurmasa - phala shruti
Worshipping Vishnu on a single day during this auspicious period is equal to worshipping Vishnu with devotion for 1000 years. Every single step taken towards the nearby lake, river etc for morning dip during this month brings forth merit equal to performing an Ashvamedha Yaga.