Keeping the aforesaid in keen view, every human being on earth needs to re-discover one-self and within the limited time available ahead in the current life resort to virtuous tasks so clearly described in various Scriptures that the delay to practise is the only factor and none else! Unfortunately, the pull of illusions, outward attractions, a state of indifference and non-chalance tend to slow down the process of self-awakening and the golden opportunity of the instant human birth is being unfulfilled and slipped by away! Let this not happen. The various ways of Self-Awakening range from good deeds, good behaviour and good words; at the other end of the balance are Japas, Tapas, Yagnas, Mantras, Tantras, Yogas, Sacrifices and several other means. The Holy Book of Bhavishya Purana prescribes Vratas related to specific aspects, targets, purposes and ‘Vidhanas’ or Procedures. A Vrata is a purified effort aiming at aligning the self with the Almighty as expressed in various nomenclatures, forms and features all belonging to the same, unique, everlasting and permanent Super Energy Known and Unknown, Very Far and Within the Self! One could put into practice a Vrata or as many as possible, since these are the short-cut routes to reach Paramatma by even one way and indeed even that one way could be the glorious Golden Route!
The ‘Uttara Parva’ of Bhavishyottara Purana (as distinct from Bavishya Purana) is a compendium of Vratas, Danaas and Snaanas-an independent Attachment of the Main Bhavishya Purana. Some of the popular Vratas in the Attachment are mentioned below:
Ananta Chaturdashi Vrata
Lord Krishna commended the Ananta Chaturdashi Vrata to Yudhishtara since the word ‘Ananta’ purports the concept of Time which was eternal and never ending. Just as Bhagavan was known by countless names as Vishnu, Jishnu, Hara, Shiva, Brahma, Bhaskara, Sesha and Ishwara, Ananta was another such name. In the days of yore, there was a Brahmana called Sumantu in the Vasishtha Gotra in Krita Yuga; he was married to Diksha the daughter of Bhrigu Maharshi and the new couples were blessed with a girl child named Sheila but unfortunately Diksha died soon.Sumantu remarried again Karkasha but she was vicious, cruel and mischievous. Sumantu was concerned about the marriage of Sheila. Finally he was able to fix up a wedding with Muni Kaundinya and Sumantu suggested that by way of family convention some gifts and money to be spared. But the reaction of Karkasa was highly negative and destroyed the material on the Marriage Platfom threw the new coulpes out! Kaundinya and Sheila were badly insulted and returned back to Kaundinya’s abode by a bullock cart. By about the afternoon, they had to cross a river and Shiela noticed many women performing puja and enquired the details of the Vrata. She took bath and made a Mandala in which Anantha Swarupa was installed and worshipped with Gandha, Pushpa, Dhupa and Deepa. For Naivedya, Shiela cooked rice with normal condiments and ghee, half of which was given to Brahmanas along with Dakshina and the rest by way of Prashad. Sheila prepared a ‘Thoran’ (thread) mixed with turmeric powder with fourteen ‘Grandhis’ (knots), showed to Paramatma and tie up on left hand wrist for women and on right wrist on men and while winding up the Thoran, recite the following Mantra:Anantha Samsara Maha Samudrey Magnaan Samabhyuddhara Vasudeva, Ananta Rupey viniyojitatmahyananta rupaaya Namo Namastey/ (Vasudeva! I am drowning in this huge Ocean of Samsara; kindly liberate me from the depths of the Ocean and let me be absorbed me into you!). After fastening the Thoran, the couples ate the Prashad with full faith and got into their bullok cart back to their village but the erstwhile cottage got converted into a splendid Palace as by virtue of the Vrata of Ananta Chaturdashi; Ananta Swami smiled and bestowed such riches that neither Sheila nor Kaundinya could ever dream of! The normally modest and highly devoted Sheila gradually got intoxicated with the sudden arrival of prosperity; she called her step-mother Karkasi to their house and bragged about their unexpected fortune; just as Karkasi threw Sheila out of her house after her wedding with Sage Kaudinya, Shiela magnified negligible issues out of proportion and summarily threw Karkasi out with all her vengence. In fact, she neglected her daily worship of Bhagavan Ananta Rupa and her self-conceit assumed large poportions in the name of Social Status! Finally, she discarded the Fourteen-knotted Raksha Thoran as a burden and nuisance. Her husband cautioned Sheila to behave more politely and her arrogance was replaced with ego, much less with modesty! The husband abandoned the Palace and his wife and shifed to Ashrams in Forests out of desperation. He started searching for the Ananata Swarup’s Idol which Sheila rejected wantonly. Muni Kaundinya started searching for the Idol from Place to Place; he adopted the life style of a Brahmachari, stopped taking food, always in the meditation of Ananta Deva and like a lunatic kept on enquiring of the Ananta Deva Vigraha; he asked a tree in a forest, a passing cow, the waterbody Pushkarini, and even a donkey! Since none responded about the whereabouts of the Idol, he swooned finally and was dumped in a remote corner of the forest unconciously. The Bhagavan was extremely pleased with the undying faith and pure hearted devotion of the Muni and manifested himself before the devotee who on regaining consciousness expressed his sin of neglect and utter disregard of the deity! He said most regrettably to pardon him for the unpardoanable:
Paapoham paapakarmaahum paapaatmaa Paapa sambhavah,
paahi maamPundareekaaksha Sarvapaapa harobhava,
Adya mey saphalam janma jeevitam cha sujeevitam/
(Bhavan! I am the sin, the sinner and the personification of sin; is it possible for you the most merciful Pandarikaasha to absolve me of all my ‘Paapas’! Then Bhagavan replied that tree which was a Brahmana never granted ‘Vidya daan’; the cow which was a barren land in the past birth and thus became a cow; the water body Pushkarini in the earleir birth wasof two sisters Dharma and Adharma and their arguments were unending and hence their waves clash always and the donkey was an elephant in the past which was arrogant thus turned as a donkey! Such were the twists of fate! Meanwhile Sheila lost her fortune and regretted her grave mistakes. Both of them performed the Ananta Vrata again earnestly and regained riches but never left Ananta!
Shri Krishna Janmashtami Vrata:
King Yudhishtar requested Shri Krishna to give the essentials of Krishna Janmashtami Vrata and the Lord recalled that when the cruel King Kamsa of Mathura was killed by Janardana, Devi Devaki cried out by keeping Krishna on her shoulders and Vasudeva embraced both Krishna and Balarama and said that the momentous day of Kamsa’s death had afterall arrived that he was able to witness the death scene by himself. The persons who surrounded the four of them were anxious to know as to when the posterity should befittingly celebrate Krishna’s day since there were many such remarkable days of his magnificence eversince his birth! Then Krishna replied that the best day of the celebration would be his birthday, the Janmashtami in Bhadrapada Krishna Paksha at midnight in the Rohini Star time as Surya was in Simha Rasi and Chandra was in Vrishabha Rasi (Simha rasi gatey Suryem gaganey jaladaakuley, MaasiBhadrapad –eshtabhyam Krishnapakshordharaatrakey, Vrishabha rashisthiteychandrey nakshatrey Rohinaayayutey). Krishna proclaimed that his birthday should be celebrated by perfoming the Vrata on this day at Mathura first and all over the World later on in each and every household. Yudhishtara asked about the procedure of the Vrata and Bhagavan Shri Krishna asserted that the performance of this Vrata would destroy the sins of the Karta’s previous seven births.Praatah kruta nityakritah pragmukhoh Desakaalou samkeertya tatthatkaaley saptamaadi satvepi Prathana bhuta mashtami meva samkeertya Shi Krishna preethyartham Janmaashtami Vratam karishye:: ithi samkalpayet/ (After the morning ablutions, seated facing the East, a proper declaration be made to perform Krishna Janmaastami Vrata); an improvised ‘Sutika Griha’ or the birth place of the Lord be made and the Idol of Krishna with accompaniments like the ‘Ayudhas’(Arms) and ‘Abharanas’ (Ornaments) be arranged along with the Idols of Devaki and Vasudava as also of Yashoda and Nanda, Balarama, and Devis Rukmini/ Maha Lakshmi and others; Vasudeva was of the Avatar of Kashyapa Muni, Devaki of Aditi, Balaram of Seshanag, Nanda of Daksha Prajapati, Yashoda of Diti, Garga Muni of Brahma and Kamsa of Kalanami. Decorated on these lines, a devotee would arrange with reverence for all the Puja requirements like ‘Gandha’, Camphor, Agarbatti, fruits and flowers, coconuts, butter, Akshata and ‘Naivedya’ as offering (Prashad). First of all, Devi Devaki be prayed to as follows:
Gaayadbhih kainnaraadaihi Satataparivrita Venu veena nanaadair
bhrungaadarshakumbha pramarakritakaraih sevyamaana Muneendraih/
Paryankey swastrutey ya mudita ramanaah putrini samyagaastey,
saa Devi Deva Mataa Jayanti Suvadana Devaki Kaanta rupaa/
(Salutations to you Mother of Bhagavan Krishna, Devi Devaki who is of the Avatar of Aditi Devi, in whose honour are several Kinnaras and other celestial musicians are playing Venu, Veena and other musical instruments in praise of You and also many Munis carrying ‘Mangala Kalashas’ and ‘Chamaras’ to serve Deva mata Devaki of Aditi’s ‘Amsa’.Also some were engaged in praying to Devi Lakshmi with the Mantra: ‘Namo Devyai Maha Devyai Shivaayai satatam namah’ and also with the Mantras saying ‘Om Devyai namah, Om Vaasudevaya namah, Om Balabhadraya namah, Om Krishnaya namah, Om Subhadrayai namah, Om Nandayai namah and Om Yashidayai namah to separate Pratimas. The Prayers are basically directed to Lord Krishna as follows:
Anagham Vaamanam Shourim Vaikuntham Purushottamam,
Vaasu Devam Hrisheekesham Madhavam Madhu sudanam,
Vaaraaham Pundareekaasham Nrisimham Brahmana priyam,
Damodaram Padmanaabham Keshavam Garudadwajam,
Govindamachutam Krishna manantam aparaajitam,
Adhokshajam Jagad beejam Sarva sthikyanta kaaranam,
Anaadi nidhanam Vishnum Trilokesham Tri vikramam,
Narayanam Chaturbaahum Shankha Chakra Gadaadharam,
Peetaambara dharam Nityam Vanamaalaa vibhushitam,
Sri Vatsaangam Jagatsethum Sri Dharam, Shri Patim Harim/
After the Prayers, Vedic Services are accorded by reciting the following Mantras: Yogeswaraya Yogasambhavaaya Yoga pataye Govindaaya namo namah –Snaanam samarpayami; YogeswaraayavYagna sambhavaaya Yagna pataye Govindaya namo namah : with this Mantra, perform Anulepana, Arghya, Dhupa, Deepa etc.; thereafter, Naivedya be performed and finally ‘Deepaarpana’with the Mantra saying: Dharmeswaraya Dharma pataey Dharma sambhavaya Govindaya namo namah. On the same lines, other Idols like Chandra, Vasudeva, Devaki, Nanda, Yashoda and Bala Deva should be worshipped. At the time of Chandrodaya, Arghya be offered saying : Ksheerodarnava sambhuta Agni netra samudbhava, Grihaanaarghya Shashaankendo Rohinya sahito mama. At midnight, one ‘Ahuti’ of jaggery and ghee to Agni Deva be offered to Vasundhara and puja performed to Shashti Devi. On Navami morning an Utsav of Lord Krishna be done and bhojan to Brahmanas arranged and dakshina given to them saying ‘Krishnome preeyataam’ and also recite the Mantra: Ya devam Devaki Devi Vasu devadjeejanam, Bhoumasya Braahmano guptayi tasmai Brahmaatmaney namah/then the Braahmanaas bless saying Shantirasthu Shivam chaarastu. Lord Krishna told Yudhishtara that who ever did the Vrata on these lines would be blessed with good progeny, health, Dhana-Dhanya, Sadgriha, and long and contented life. At the Region where this Vrata is performed would never be subjected by Anavrishti (famine), earth quakes and such natural calamities, poverty, ‘Akaala Mritu’ or untimely deaths, widowhoods, misfortunes, robberies and quarrels.
Madana Dwadashi Vrata
Yudhishtara desired to learn about the Madana Dwadashi Vrata from Bhagavan Shri Krishna, in the context of which Devi Diti the mother of Daityas gave birth to forty nine Marut Ganas. In the past, Vasishtha and other Sages described about the procedure of the Vrata. The ‘Vratadhari’ on Chaitra Shukla Dwadashi has to set up a pot full of white rice, decorate the pot with sandal wood paste and close the top with two pieces of white cloth and inside the pot keep seasonal fruits and sugarcane; this container might also be full of raw eatable material like pulses etc. as also a gold piece as per one’s capacity. Over this pot be arranged a copper utensil full of jaggery / sugar cane juice and cover it with plantain leaves and sandal paste, agarbattis etc.; arrange for bhakti hymns and instrumental music overnight; give away the pot as a charity to a Brahmana the next morning; treat the Brahmana with good food and Dakshina and address the Brahmana to say that may Bhagavan Janardana be pleased this ‘anushthan’ or service. In this way every dwadasi the drill be followed and in the previous night, the Vratadhari should eat only ‘Amlak phal’ and sleep on the ground. On the thirteenth month trayodasi the pot should be given away with lots of grains, edible raw maretials like pulses, vegetables and fruits with jaggery, ghee etc. with a bigger copper vessel and gold ornament as charity, treat the Brahmana with good food, clothing and dakshina and of course lots of sugarcane! By so performing the Vrata for a year with sincerity, the worship bestows excellent progeny.Having performed the Vrata, Devi Diti asked a boon from Maharshi Kashyap that she should beget a child who would kill Indra. She took all kinds of precautions during her pregnancy period to protect the boy in all possible ways; she took care of food regulations, never allowed to become temperamental, took several precautions to be happy and protected herself from enemies. But in the very tricky hours of a late night and the small hours of the day, Diti was fast asleep when Indra by using his Shaktis of Anima etc. entered Diti’s garbha and sliced the embrio into forty nine pieces and at the time of delivery gave out as many children who were subsequently called the ‘Maruganas’. And thus Diti’s evil desire to kill Indra no doubt did not materialise but the Marud ganas were famous as virtuous joining the ranks of Devas!
Muktabharana Saptami Vrata:
Bhagavan Krishna told that once Maharshi Lomesh arrived at Mathura and after comforting himself with the ‘Atithya’ or the status of an important guest, he enquired Devaki Devi as to how many of her boys met with instant killings by the cruel Kamsa; this saddened Devaki and wondered as why he was asking this strange question! The Maharshi explained that in the past, there was a Queen called Chandramukhi who too was unfortunate in losing her children like-wise and as she performed the Vrata her children who were dead for long got revived as a result of this sacred vrata! Lomesha Muni narrated further that there was a King of Ayodhya named Nahush and his queen Chandramukhi. The queen along with her companion Manamanika the wife of Raja Purohit went for bathing in Sarayu River. They noticed that several ladies were performing a Vrata and enquired of is importance. They all replied that the Vrata provided many fulfillments of their requests and the queen and her companion also decided to follow suit; after bathing in the River they were to worship to a Shiva-Parvati Idiol but after taking a vow that the concerned devotee women should always wear a golden thread on their right wrists, a ring be made on ring finger and that that they should never fail to perform daily pujas.But unfortunately one day when the Queen had to attend to some urgent Royal Tasks, she failed to turn up from her daily duties and missed the chance of worshipping Shiva and Parvati on the banks of Sarayu and her companion too did not. As there was a failure, the Queen became a monkey and har companion a hen. But both of them remembered their friendship and their failure to follow the Rules of the Vrata. In their subsequent births the queen became Ishwari of Malva desha and her companion was born as the wife of Purohit of the same King as Bhushana. After long gap of her wedding, Ishwari got a son but died when he was nine years old. But Bhushan’s many children were growing fine. The queen got jealous and got Bhushan’s sons killed. But Bhushan’s sons were revived and the queen wondered how! Bhushan then explained that this was all due to the great Vrata called Muktabharan Saptami of Bhadrapada Shukla Paksha; on that day Shiva Parvati worship be executed by way of ‘Atma Nivedan’ or offering the self to them and a gold or a siver thread must be worn around the rightwrist always. The queen felt ashamed of her actions of killing Bhushan’s sons who got revived and also neglecting the Vrata in the previous birth and performed the Vrata again sincerely by following the regulations most religiously again and regained happiness of begetting good children and brought fame to the King and the citizens.
Go Vatsa Dwadashi Vrata
King Yudhishtar appealed to Bhagavan Krishna that in the Maha Bharata Battle thousands of soldiers, Kings and a number of Great Personalities like Bhishma, Drona, Kalinga Raja, Karna, Shalya, Duryodhana most of whom were close relatives died and Pandavas committed untold sins in the process and could there be a way out to raze down or at least mitigate the impact of the sins! Bhagavan Krishna replied that a highly potent ‘Go Vatsa Dwadashi Vrata’ would be the befitting answer to demolish the sins and explained the background and procedure of performing the Vrata. Several Tapasvis were busy with meditation atop the Mount of Namavratadhara and Bhagavan assumed the form of an old Brahmana who was shivering with age and carrying a stick to support, while Devi Parvati took a form of a cow. At the time of churning the Ksheera Sagara by Devas and Danavas, five renowned cows viz. Nanda, Subhadra, Surabhi, Susheela and Bahula. Among these were Lokamata Parvati was also stated to have emerged. The five Sacred Cows thus surfaced were given to the care of Maharshis Jamadagni, Bharadwaj, Vasishtha, Asit and Gautami. The six products of the Cows viz. Gomaya (dung), Rochana (Chhaj / foam), Mutra (Urine), Dugdha ( Milk), Dadhi (Curd) and Ghrita (Butter) are all supposed to be Sacred. Gomaya is the beloved of Shiva and the source of Bilva Tree which is also considered as Shri Vriksha and is thus liked by Devi Lakshmi. Also Gomaya is the source of Lotus seeds. ‘Gorochan’ is extensively used for medicines and is known as a highly propitious material for many end-uses. Go mutra is the producer of ‘Guggul’seeds which are nice to look at and have good smell. These guggul seeds are a part of food by Devas, especially of Shiva.All the useful seeds of the world are stated to be from Go Dugdha. Go Ghruta is the root of Amrit which satisfies the hunger of Devas. Is is well known that Brahmanas and Cows are the two most sought after species of ‘Srishti’; the heart of Brahmanas is the seat of Veda Mantras, while that of Cows is the source of ‘havis’. Cows are the origin of Yagnas so intimately conneceted with all Devas; cow horns represent in a coarse form both Brahma and Vishnu. On the top of the horns are situated with the Sacred Tirthas of the Universe. In the middle of the horns is Shiva’s seat. Devi Gauri is seated on a cow’s forehead; Kartikeya represents the nose and in both the nostrils are two Nagas viz, Kambal and Ashvatar; in both the ears are set by the two Ahwani Kumars; Chandra and Surya in the Eyes; Vasuganas are represented by the teeth; Varun in the tongue; Sarasvati in the kuhara; ‘gandasthalis’ represent Yama and Yaksha; both the Sandhyas in ‘Aoushthas’; Indra in the Greeva; Rakshasas in ‘Kakud’; on both the sides of Parshnis are ‘dhows’ and gangas represent four legs illuminated by Dharma! In the ‘Prishtha bhaga’ are Ekadasha Rudras; in all the ‘Sandhis’ are the seats of Varun; Sronitata is the seat of Pitras; in the Kapolas are human beings; Apana Vayu is the seat of Swaha Rupa; Go mutra has Ganga Herself; Go maya as Yamuna; the hairs of the cow’s body represent thirty three crores of Devaganas; Udar has mountains and Prithvi and forests; Payodharas represent Maha Samudras; kheeradharas have clouds, rains etc; in Jathara a cow possesses ‘Garhyapatyagni’; in its heart is situated with Dakshinaagni; in a cow’s nech is set by ‘Aahavaneeyagni’ and in Taalu is the ‘Sabhyagni’; Asthiyas have mountains and Majja is the seat of Yagnas. All the Vedas are also situated in the Cow itself! Bhagavan Krishna told Yudhishtara that once Lord Shiva asked a few Maha Munis to protect a Cow and calf for two days as he would return then. The Munis took extreme care of the cow. After a while a tiger appeared and started frightening the cow and calf. Enve the Rishigana got frightened and sought ways and means of taking away the attention of the tiger from the cow and calf; the calf out of fright started jumping up and down and made defeaning sounds. The Munis utilised a Sacred Bell, called Dhridhagiri, that Brahma gave the Munis to face such eventualities. The hooves of the Cow and calf got caught in a Shila (boulder) and even now the marks in the broken khuras (hooves) are evident with the struggle of the Shila, which indeed is Shiva Linga. From the skies Devas and Kinnaras praised Bhagavan Shankara who assumed the form of the tiger and the Cow was Devi Parvati. Those who visit River Narmada and touch the Shiva Linga at the Shambhu Tirtha should get rid of ‘Brahma hatya mahapathaka’.Meanwhile, Maha Deva discarded the Vyaghra Rupa and appeared mounted on the ‘Vrishabha’along with Devi Uma on his left side, Ganesha and Kartikeya and accompanied by him are Nandi, Mahakaal, Shringi, Verrabhadra, Chamunda, and Ghantaakarna, followed by Matrikas, Bhutas, Yakshas, Raakshasas, Devas, Danavas, Gandharvas, Munis, Vidyadharas, and Nagas as well as their wives. On Sukla Paksha Dwadashi of Kartika Month, Munis performed a Vrata called ‘Go Rupa dharini Devi Uma’ named Nandini along with a calf.The Vrata was made popular by King Uttanapada and his wife Suniti. The King’s another wife Suruchi made several attempts to kill Dhruva out of jealousy, and each time she made such efforts, Dhruva came out hale and hearty. Suruchi then asked Suniti as which magic was at work that each time Dhruva came out unscathed despite many attempts at his life.Suniti then explained that she was performing the Vrata regularly and Surchi also did the Vrata annd hence she was able to beget a son, her husband’s esteem and the primary position in the kingdom after the King. Both the wives were happy in their own ways and Dhruva is visible in the skies till date as a Dhruvatara! The Procudure of the Vrata is ti take bath in a river or a water body, take one meal a day, and on the next afternoon worship a cow and calf with Pushpa, Gandha, Akshata, Kumkuma, Deepa, Urad-made Vada savoury and recite the Matra:
Om Maata Rudraanaam duhita Vasunaam Swasaaditya anaam- amrutasya naabhih,
pra nu vocham chikititushey janaaya Maagaamanaagaamadithim Vasishtha namo namah swaaha;
provide grass and by touching the cow and the calf ask for pardon by the Mantra:
Om sarva deva mayey Devi lokaanaam Shubha Nandini,
Maatarmamambhilashitam saphalam kuru Nandini!
The worship is thus concluded with providing water and performing prosration in reverence and eat siple food without using frying and sleep on the ground that night. Those who execute the Vrata as above would ensure safety of self, life partner and children, besides reaching ‘Goloka’ for a number of years.
[Some of the popular Vratas were referred to other Puranas like Shri Rama Navami Vrata, Laksha Varti Vrata and Chitra Gupta Vrata in Skanda Purana; Ksheerabdhi Vrata in Bramhma Kaivarta Purana; Amavasya Somavati Vrata and Rishi Panchami Vrata in Bhavishotthara Purana, Shatavarti Vrata in Brahmanda Purana and Trikarti Vrata in Nrisimha Purana.]