Ritualistic Significance of ‘Magha-Masa’ in Hindu Calendar

– Prof. C. L. Prabhakar, President, WAVES, Bangalore Chapter


Prof. Prabhakar obtained Ph.D. in Vedic  Studies (thesis on’ Sukla Yajurveda’) from  Poona University, Poona in 1968. He is former Professor of Sanskrit and has published many books and articles. Honored with the award ‘Veda Vaaridhi’, currently he is director of the Nada Veda Adhyayana Kendra, Bangalore. He is active to spread Vedic heritage and culture.

Magha-Masa is important among the months in Hindu calendar. This month is an opportunity to get reduced of our sins. ‘Maaghamsyaatitimaaghah’ meaning no sins more could be acquired further. Doctors know the reducing tablet to reduce pain. So like this month to reduce our sins.

Hindu calendar is invested with twelve months. Each month is covered by 30 days. Every day has the five (pancanga) elements viz. Tithi, Vara, Nakshatra, Yoga and Karanas. Everyday is important for spiritual Practices. But there is choice and special importance. We have twelve months beginning form Caitra-Masa and going upto the Phalguna-Masa. Every month has a connections of some significance and mythology to speak the importance of the month and marking auspicious days in it. Sun would be transiting every month in to one sign (rasi) to another sign. It occurs usually on the 14th day of each month called Sankramana technically. There are twelve zodiac signs to complete one year’s time.When Sun is in Makara-Rasi, from then, for six months it is called Uttarayanam and the remaining six months are known as Dakshinayanam. These indicate the direction of the Sun astronomically moving towards north and southern directions. As a result there would be effects upon the people and nature: good, bad and different due to the movement of Sun. Manasollasa of Somadeva is a source Book for us to know about the importance of days and months, festivals and more.

Magha-Masa is the eleventh Month of each Year. This year is called by name Manmatha and the next would be Durmukha year by name. Out of the cycle of sixty years, this is the 29th/30thYear of the cycle. Each month is characterized with the Nakshatra-name. For example, if Sravana-Nakshatra is there on the full moon day then it is called Sravana-Masa. Likewise the Magha-Masa is the name derived from the Magha-Nakshatra on the Purnima. Similarly the other months go by the name of a Nakshatra. Although we have many numbers of years, we have only seven days of life. One day to take birth and another some day to exit from the body and the world. However seven are the days of life beginning from Sunday to Saturday. These days too go by the names of the planets Ravi, Candra and so on. Rahus and Ketu are the two nodes who entered the count among the planets as Chayagrahas. They follow the main planets. Moreover they do not have any orbit .They are simply ascending and descending nods of ecliptic and moon orbit

Magha _3

Let us know the prominent festivities in this month. At first, on 5th day of Shukla-Paksha it is called Sri Pancami or Vasanta Pancami. This is the first festival when Goddess Sarasvati is worshipped. She is known also as Sarada Devi, Syamala Devi and Vag Devi. She is called Jnanasarasvati. On this day Sarada-puja is done. She is a Goddess who blesses good knowledge and good education (sadbuddhi and vidyanaipunya). On this day many people observe the important samskara namely Aksharabhyasam to their children with a belief that the child would be good in education, learning and prosperity.The child is introduced to writing the alphabets and salutation to Lord Siva well known as Dakshinamuty, a guru to all. On this day Goddess Sarasvati is offered Payasa as food. And the child is made to write ‘Om namahsivayasiddhamnamah’. In Devi Bhagavata details of Sarasvati Aradhanaare given. We have prayer to Sarasvatiin a length of a Veda-Sukta by name Sarasvati-Sukta that could be recited on that occasion specially.The sixth day of the month namely Shashthi is festival of Lord Subrahmanya. He is born on this day and so his puja is done. Abrahmacari (unmarried Boy) is fed and worshipped symbolically on this day to get the grace of the Murugan. The next day is Rathasaptami, when Sun turns to the northern direction fully and gallops to pick up more and more heat. On this day Suryaradhana is done with offering of payasa (naivedya). Arunaprasnapurvaka Surya-namaskaras could be done to get the grace of this deity. Arunaprasna is the first section of Taittiriya Aranyaka. It contains thirty two passages reciting which 32 namaskaras are offered to Suryadeva. Surya loves prostrations (namaskarapriyobhanuh). On the Eleventh day we get Bhishma Ekadasi when Bhishamacarya gave up his body (bhautikasarira) in the presence of Sri Krishna. He is the avatar of one of the eight Vasus. This ekadasi is virtuous and people get their desires fulfilled. This day is called ‘Bhishmaikadasi’. Bhishma had the boon from his father Santanu Maharaja to leave the body whenever he desired (svacchandamarana scope). Then we get the Purnima, the full Moon day. Every month we get Full moon days (Purnimas.) But this is one of the three special Purnimas of each year. Actually Asvija Purnima, Kartika Purnima and Magha Purnima are best. Especially on this Purnima day, there would Magha Nakshatra. On this day when bath to Siva is done, it is highly fetching and beneficial. Siva Purana extols more details on this aspect. Texts like Padmapurana, Nirnayasindhu, Krityatattva elaborate on the importance of bath at early hours of the day before sunrise. Very auspicious would it be if the bath and dip is taken in the sacred river Ganges at Kasi or elsewhere where the Ganga flows. Even other sacred rivers too remain helpful for the ritual of Maghasnana with sankalpa. In Bhagavata too the merit of taking dip in Ganga is described, It is said there that no other river but ganga waters has exclusive power to undo the sins at that time. In this month not only the Devataradhana even Pitrutarpana is also recommended to be significant as it pleases the Manes (the Pitrus). Magha-Nakshatra is the constellation of Pitri-devataa (deity of ancestors).

After Purnima, New Moon days begin. On eighth day it is called ‘Anaghashtami’. Lord Dattatreya is worshipped. Anagha Devi is revered as the goddess Lakshmi herself. She is called Anagha Lakshmi. We can get the blessings of Guru as well as Goddess with this worship. He is known as Dattaguru. We recite amantram ‘Dattagurumbhaje’ simply to get his grace. Dattatreys is the avatar of three Murtis Brahma, Siva and Vishnu who are three forces and Powers creation, annihilation and maintenance of the Universe. Therefore, Dattatreya is the preceptor who blesses all the three abilities in the upasakas. Also Natya Ganapati is worshipped on this day. He provides expertise further in the performing arts and excellences in the professional career. Ganapati is known in 32 forms and therein Natya Ganapati is special.

Actually every thirteenth day (trayodasi) of each month we get Pradosha Puja when Siva is worshipped. That day is called as Masasivaratri. The next day on the caturdasi at midnight Sivaratri actually dawns. But this month alone that day is called Mahasivaratri when Siva is worshipped strongly all the time. It has three durations (yamas) of night. People worship Lord Shiva with Mahanyasapurvaka Rudrabhishekas and other pujas. They also recite many Siva stotras. All this activity provides benefit and hope for liberation and mundane prosperity. After all one of the most important is to a get masa-punya as far as possible in the given calendar of Life to everybody including gods and others. Everybody is born but never the Brahma who is Lord Purusha Narayana who is described as ‘ajayamanobahudhavijayate’ in Purushasukta of RV. It is said here that the Lord does not take birth but causes births to take place.

Besides all these festivals and vows (vratas) etc. in this month, the Sundays are auspicious and important. They are best days for Surya Anushthanas. The forms of rites and devotion like Arunaprasnaparayanam, Arunahomam and recitation of Surya Sahasranama, Adityahrudayamand more are observed these days depending on the convenience and time-scope. This is technically called as Maghabhanuvara.

All the days of this month bath before sunrise is precious. This is called as Maghasnanavratam. That itself brings merit, unknown cleansing, peace and prosperity (punya).

Thus this Magha-Masa is a month well liked by gods and more so the Goddess Saradadevi, Subrahmanyaswamy, Bhismacarya who is Vishnu Rupa only. On Purnima, Siva Parvatis, Goddess Anagha Devi, Anjaneya, Lord Narasimha, Lord Kumaraswamy etc. can be worshipped.

We have Magha Purana where we come across the super importance of this month. So let us get the special grace of the deities to smoothen our life free from hurdles and unwanted things.

Om namahsivayasivataraya ca.’

Ethics of the Gita – lessons for individuals to work according to their nature

– Dr. Shakuntala, Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy,  University of Gauhati, Guwahati, Assam

Dr. Shakuntala did M.A. and Ph.D. from North-Easter-Hill-University, Shillong, Meghalaya. She has authored the following books – Enquiry into Nature of Self (2009), Essays on Philosophy of JidduKrishnamurti (2010), ‘What Ought I to Do?’ The Gita’s Perspective (2014), Rethinking Philosophy of JidduKrishnamurti (2015), and Revisiting the Upanisads (2016).

In the ethics of the Gita svabhava or one’s own nature plays a very important role. It holds that everyone, including the man of knowledge acts according to his own nature. It further says that one is compelled to act as prescribed by his nature and it is simply futile to try otherwise. Krishna tells Arjuna that it is pointless on the part of Arjuna’s to say that he would not fight for nature will certainly induce him to fight. ‘That which, through delusion, thou wishest not to do, O Son of Kunti (Arjuna), that thou shalt do even against thy will, fettered by thy own acts born of thy nature.’ (XVIII.60). Arjuna is born Kshatriya and thus there is no escape but to fight: ‘Even the man of knowledge acts in accordance with his own nature. Beings follow their mature. What can repression accomplish?’ (III.33) Gita says that the karma or action prescribed by one’s nature or svabhava is one’s duty or dharma. What one ought to do is prescribed by what one’s nature is. ‘Heroism, vigour, steadiness, resourcefulness, not fleeing even in a battle, generosity and leadership, these are the duties of a Kshatriya born of his nature.’ (XVIII.43). In fact, there is no good other than performing one’s duty as prescribed by one’s nature: ‘Having regard for thine own duty, thou shouldst not falter, there exists no greater good for a Kshatriya than a battle enjoined by duty.’ (II.31).

Now, if one indeed realizes the truth of such a situation, that one cannot escape doing what one’s nature forces one to do, one automatically becomes happy. When one acts according to one’s nature there is no conflict between what one is and what one thinks one ought to be. The ‘is’ is the ‘ought’. In other words, there is nothing one is putting up as ideal in such a situation to achieve. There is no gap between what one is and what one is trying to be- action becomes niskama, that is, action is performed without desire for becoming.


We further see that svadharma of the Gita as prescribed by one’s svabhava also dissolves the gap between individual and social duty. Arjuna by svabhava is a Kshatriya and thus is asked by Krishna to give up the thought of not-fighting and enter into the battle. But while performing his individual duty he also performs the social duty of a Kshatriya that demands from him generosity and lordly nature; demands that Arjuna does not get affected by personal preference while deciding an action that can change the fate of thousands of people. The Gita does not say that one is to perform two kinds of duties- individual and social. In the Gita in performing one’s individual duty one helps in smooth running of the society.

The Gita does not tire of saying that one cannot change the way nature behaves. Actually this has an important bearing on the whole issue of the ethics of Gita. On one hand we have seen that it helps one in performing action without desire, and on the other hand such a realization, the Gita shows, helps one in working out moral dilemmas.  According to Gita the realization that one cannot change the way nature behaves automatically brings in detachment. When one truly understands the futility of trying to change course of nature, one in a way resigns to it. This attitude, the Gita shows, helps one in solving moral dilemmas of life. In the Gita, Arjuna is shown not questioning the rightness or wrongness of the action of going to battle. But Arjuna is shown as not wanting to enter into battle having seen his friends and family as his opponent: ‘When I see my own people arrayed and eager to fight O Krishna, my limbs quail, my mouth goes dry, my body shakes and my hair stands on end.’ (I.29). The question for Arjuna is not rightness or wrongness of action of doing battle but whether he would incur evil by killing the people who are his relatives: ‘And I see evil omens, O Kesava (Krishna), nor do I foresee any good by slaying my own people in the fight.’ (I.32). Krishna is reprimanding Arjuna for his behaviour that is borne out of attachment for his loved ones: ‘Thou grievest for those whom thou should not grieve for, and yet thou speakest words about wisdom.’ (II.11). If Arjuna were detached, he would not have been affected by who is standing against him but would have performed his duty: ‘As the unlearned act from attachment to their work, so should the learned also act, O Bharata (Arjuna), but without any attachment, with the desire to maintain the world-order.’ (III.25). Again, if Arjuna were detached he would have seen the fact that the battle would not stop with him not-fighting and in fact his not-fighting would affect the fate of all those people who agreed to enter into the battle and are fighting for the Pandavas in a negative way.

*The translation of the verses are taken from The Bhagavadgita by S. Radhakrishnan, HarperCollins India, Impression 2008.