Hindu Fasts: Shivaratra Vratam
Brahma Said:-I shall now describe the mode of practicing the Shivaratra Vratam, the performance of which confers all wished-for blessings on the practiser. The goddess Gouri learnt it of yore from the god Mahadeva, the lord of all created beings.
Once upon a time, the vicious Sundara Sena, the king of the country of Arvuda, went out, with his dogs, on a hunting excursion in the forest. But the day wore on and night came without any game even being sighted. The hunter, hungry and jaded with the dev’s trouble sat down weary and watchful in a bower on the bank of a pool on the hill-brow. But lo, there happened to be a phallic emblem in that bower, and the leaves of the Vilva tree, which was shaken by the impact of the hunter’s body as he strove to lie down on the ground, rustled and fell in heaps over the emblem, without his knowledge.
The fowler fetched water from the pool and sprinkled it over the floor of the bower to lay down the dust; and drops of water thus dribbled down over the head of the emblem from the tips of his fingers. Suddenly there fell down a shaft from his quiver on the ground, and the fowler crawled on his all fours to lift it up, when unknowingly he touched the emblem with his chest. Thus he touched and bathed and worshipped a phallic emblem on the night of the Vratam. which he passed in a vigil, though for quite a different purpose.
The fowler returned home on the following morning and took his meal with his wife and children. So years came and years went away, and the fowler died a natural death at the end of his appointed days, when the emissaries of Death came to take his unclean spirit in fetters to the mansion of their lord. But lo, my own warders sprang upon them, and overpowered them in the scuffle that ensued, and finally brought him, a free and unfettered spirit, to my own special region of bliss (Shiva-loka) in the company of that faithful dog which watched by him on the night of the chase in the bower.”
The votary shall practise self-control on the day of the thirteenth phase of the moon’s wane, and worship the god Rudra by praying as follows:-”Next night, I will keep a vigil in thy honour, 0 lord, and worship thee and meditate on thy divine self. I under- take to perform a Homa ceremony and give alms to the poor for the glorification of thy honoured name. I will fast on the day of the fourteenth phase of the moon’s wane, and break it on the day following for the emancipation of my self. Be thou my help in that, 0 thou, the origin-less, all-pervading deity. The phallic emblem should be bathed with the compositions known as the Panchagavyam and the Panchamritam, and worshipped by reciting the Mantram running as, “Om, obeisance to Shiva.” Libations of clarified butter containing rice. Vrihi, sesame seeds and little morsels of the cooked sacrificial porridge should be cast into the fire, after which the closing libation should be cast.
The votary shall hear the legend of the Vratam recited by the priest, and worship the god once in each quarter of the night and recite the sacred Mantra till the break of dawn, when he shall bid farewell to the deity by asking his pardon as follows:-”I have safely and peacefully fulfilled this vow by thy grace,
Thus the Vratam should be practised for twelve consecutive years, the reward of which is fame, opulence, kingdom and progeny in this life and residence in the region of Shiva after death. The Vratam may be practiced as welt on the same night in each month of the year, and should be closed by feasting a dozen hermits and by illuminating the temple of the deity, by which a perpetual residence in heaven may be ensured.