Hindu Fasts: Nakshatra Fasts
The public region of the divine image, should be worshipped under the auspicies of the asterisms Purvas and Uttaras, while the region of the waist, should be worshipped under the influence of the asterisms known as the Krittikas. Similarly the sides of the figure, should be worshipped during the ascendancy of the asterisms known as the two Bhadrapadas, while the regions of its armpits should be worshipped, when the asterisms known as the Revatis would ascend a similar altitude in the skies. The cardiac region of the image, should be worshipped under the influence of the asterisms known as the Anuradhas, while its back should be worshipped during the ascendancy of the asterisms Dhanistha. The arms of the divine figure, should be worshipped, when the asterisms known as the Vishakas would be ascendant, while its figure should be worshipped under the blissful influence of the asterisms, known as the Punarvasus.
Similarly, its finger-nails should be worshipped under the auspices of the asterisms, known as the Ashleshas, while the region of its throat should be worshipped under a similar condition of the asterisms, known as the Jesthas, Likewise the ears, face, tips of teeth and mouth of Vishnu should be respectively worshipped under the benignant influences of the asterisms, known as the Shravana, the Pushya, the Svatis, and the Varuna. In the same manner, the nose, the eyes, the forehead, the hairs, and the complexion of the divine image, should be respectively worshipped under the auspices of such asterisms as the Magha, the Mrigashira, the Chitra, and the Ardra. The god should be invoked and worshipped on a pitcher, full of molasses. Gifts of beds, cows and money, should be given to the Brahmanas as remuneration for their officiating as priests at the ceremony or for attending the same as onlookers.
Each month, the observer of the vow, known as the Shambhavayaniya Vrata, should worship the god Vishnu manifest as the Nakshatra Purusha (the astral figure) who is but an incarnation of the divine essence of Shiva. The Vrata should be practised in the month of Karticka, and Magha under the auspices of the asterisms, known as the Krittika or Mrigashira, from which the months have respectively derived their epithets, and address and god Hari by such names as “Keshava,” “Achyuta” etc, or by invoking his presence as “obeisance to Keshava” and “Obeisance to the god who suffers no waste” (Achyuta). The penitent should recite the prayer, running as “I shall practise the “Shambhavayanikam Vratam, by worshipping the god Hari, present in the presiding asterism of the month, and which makes the life of its observer, a run of continuous pleasures, and grant him salvation after death. I invoke the presence of the god Hari, who contained in himself the water on which floated the seeds of a potential universe, and who, though eternally existant, suffers not the ravages of time, and grants health and longevity to his votaries.
During the four months, commencing from that of Karticka; boiled rice and potherbs should be offered to the god, Krishara (rice and pulse boiled together with spices) in the months such as Phalguna etc., while sweet porridge should be offered in the months of Ashada., etc., the Naividyas, after being dedicated to the deity in the night, should be made over to the Brahmanas. The penitent should bathe in water saturated with the composition known as the Panchagavya, and live on the same substance on the day of observance of the vow. An article offered to a god and kept behind his image, becomes a Naividya, while flowers etc, become Nirmalyas, simultaneously with their offering. The Vrata should be closed with the following prayer:-”! make obeisance to thee, 0 lord-may my sins grow more and more atenuated and my pieties grow more and more, every day. 0 thou god who knowest no waste, may my wealth, possessions and progeny suffer no decrease and become unnumbered and endless instead. 0 Achyuta, as thou art greater than the greatest of beings, as thou art the Supreme Soul, absolve me of all impieties, and may the wishes of my heart take fruit in this life. Be pleased, 0 thou the waste less (Achyuta) protector of the universe, grant me the fulfillment of my desires and make me waste less as thy own self, 0 thou the immeasurable spiritual light, 0 thou the best of beings.” A man by worshipping the god as above indicated, for seven consecutive years, enjoys all the comforts of the world and becomes as emancipated spirit after death.
Now I shall describe the process of performing the Ananta Vrata, which is one of the greatest of the boon conferring Nakshatra (astral) Vratas. The god Hari should be worshipped under the auspicies of the asterism Mrigha shira in the month of Margashirsha, the penitent living on the urine of a cow on the day of its observance. The god Ananta (infinite) grants infinite merit and enjoyment in the next birth of the ob- server. Infinite merit is acquired by the observance of such a vow, and infinite enjoyment follows in its wake which knows no waste or satiety, and the heartfelt desires of the penitent are realised hundredfold in his next existence.
The Vrati should break his fast in the night after the worship, and should not take any thing containing oil, the Homa being continuously performed for four months with libations of clarified butter. By taking nothing else than clarified butter on the day of its observance, a Vrati ascends the region of the Rudra manifestation of the god Shiva after death. Likewise, the man who practises the Triratra Vratas, (a Vrata or a fast of three nights) each fort- night, by taking a single meal on each day of its observance, becomes the master of unbounded wealth. Similarly by practising each month, the Vrata as above indicated, a penitent goes to the region presided over by the god Ganapati. Thus by practising the Vrata in honour of the god Janardana, a man is enabled to live in the same region with Vishnu, in the company of the souls of all his friends and relations.
The penitent should first observe the vow (Triratra Vrata) on the day of the ninth phase of the moon’s increase in the month of Magha; and hundred times repeat the Mantra, running as “Om obeisance to the god Vasudeva.” Only a single meal should be taken on the eighth day of the moon’s increase (on the day immediately preceding the day of observance), then a fast should be for the next three days. The god Vishnu should be worshipped on the day of the twelfth phase of the moon’s increase in the month of Karticka, and the Vrata should be duly practised on the same day. The Homa should be performed with libations of clarified butter, containing grains of Shali rice, while it should consist of clarified butter simply in a similar ceremony undertaken in the month of Shravana. By performing Homa ceremonies as above indicated, Mandhata was able to perpetuate his memory as the venerable Juvanashva.