Shukla Paksha Dwadashi Vratas from Margasirsha to Kartik Months

Sage Narada desired to ascertain the procedure of performing monthly Dwadashi Vratas  from Sanaka Kumara with a view to enlightening the normal Public; Bhagavan Vishnu is pleased easily with devotees performing Vratas by way of ‘Puja’(worship), ‘Dhyana’(meditation), ‘Bhajan’ (collective singing) and ‘Stutis’ with ‘Shraddha’ (sincerity) and ‘Bhakti’ (Devotion). Indeed it is not essential to execute ‘Yagnas’ and ‘Tapas’ involving considerable rituals and complications, but simple Pujas by merely taking the name of Bhagavan. Such Vratas have far reaching impact for fulfilling desires in ‘Iham’ or the on-going life and attainment of Mukti in ‘Param’ or post-life.

On Shukla Dwadashi in Margashirsha month, a devotee needs to observe fasting and silence and perform dutiful worship with Gandha (Sandalwood paste), Pushpa (flowers), Akshata (rice grains mixed with turmeric powder), Dhupa (Incense), Deepa (Light), Naivedya (offering of food items and fruits) and such other Upachaaras (Services), while reciting the simple Mantra at each service viz. Keshavaya namastubhyam. By reciting the same Mantra, one should offer hundred eight oblations to Agni Deva with ghee mixed with til (sesame seed) oil, keep awake through night ensuring the lights are lit and perform three ‘Abhishekas’ (bathing by milk the Salagram / Pratima representing Bhagavan Vishnu along with Maha Lakshmi) followed by three ‘pujas’ with a gap of three hours along with the Upacharas of Dhupa, Deepa, Naivedya also devotional music and dances in praise of Bhagavan. Next morning, after ablutions and bathing, maintaining external and internal cleanliness), one should Puja again and offer ‘Kheer’(boiled milk and cooked rice with jaggery) along with coconut / fruits and ‘dakshina’(cash) to the Brahmana engaged for the Vrata or otherwise), while reciting the following Mantra:
              Keshavam Keshiha Devah Sarva Sampat pradaayakah,
              Paramaanna pradaanena mama swadishtadayakah/
(Keshava! You had destroyed the Keshi named Daitya; You are the provider of boons to me to receive all kinds of wealth; I am hereby giving away charity of Quality Anna to a Brahmana). After the ‘daana’, satisfy the Brahmana with good food and eat along with family and friends with devotion and silence. Conclusion of the Vrata on the above would fetch the ‘Punya’ of eight Paundarika Yagnas.

            On Shukla Paksha Dwadashi of Pousha Month, a devotee should observe fasting and silence as also perform Puja to Narayana as above by continuously reciting the Mantra Om Namo Narayanaaya and provide Naivedya of ‘Kheer’ along with fruits. Jaagaran (keeping awake through out the night), performing three Pujas as also intermittent musicals and ‘nrityas’ of devotional kind in exalting Bhagavan’s deeds and miracles are observed. Next morning after the Punah Puja (repeat worship), give away ‘daana’ of ‘Khichidi’ (cooked rice / wheat grains and vegetables) along with dakshina by reciting the Mantra:
             Saravatmaa Sarva Lokeshah Sarva Vyaapi Sanaatanah,
             Narayanah Prasannah Syat Kushaanna pradaanatah/
(May Narayana - who is the Soul present in every body, the Over Lord of the Universe, the All Pervasive and the Timeless-be contented as I am offering the daan of ‘Khichidi’ along with dakshina). Then full meals are organized to Brahmanas and eat the food later along with family and friends; observance of this Vrata would secure the fruits of executing eight Agnishtoma Yagnas.

            Observing a Madhava Vrata as above with fast and devotion, the Shukla Dwadashi Vrata of ‘Magha Maasa’ is also performed, while the devotee offers eight oblations to Agni Deva with ghee by reciting the Mantra Namastey Maadhavaaya, performs ‘Abhisheka’ (Bathing) to Bhagavan Madhava and Puja as above with Gandha, Pushpa, Akshata etc. followed by ‘Jaagaran’, three Pujas during the night and ‘Punah Puja’ next morning. With a view to destroying sins, ‘daana’ of til, clothing and dakshina should be given away by reciting the following Mantra: Maadhavah Sarva Bhutaatmaa Sarvakarma phala pradah, Tila daaneyna mahata Sarvaan kaamaan prayachhatu/ (Bhagavan Lakshmipati! You are the bestower of all of our desires and the Omni-Present Supreme Soul; kindly be contented with this Maha Daan of Tilas and fulfill our wishes too).The Vrata is concluded by organizing satisfactory food and Dakshina to Brahmanas. By performing the Vrata as above, the devotee is qualified for the ‘Punya’ of executing hundred Vajapeya Yagnas.   

              Phalguna Shukla Paksha Dwadashi Vrata of Govinda is observed with the key Mantra of Govindaaya Namastubhyam along with one hundred and eight oblations of Til and Ghee into the Fire Place; ‘Snaan’ to Govinda; formal worship with the services, day-night fasting, jaagaran and three Pujas in the night as described above. Next morning, after Punah Puja along with the prescribed ‘Upacharas’ (Services), daana is given away to a Brahmana comprising four big measures of food grains while reciting the Mantra as follows:
            Namo Govinda Sarvesha Gopikaajana vallabha,
            Anena Dhaanya daanena Preeto bhava Jagadguro/
(Govinda! Sarveshwara! Gopi Vallabha! Kindly be pleased with this daana of ‘Dhaanya’). By performing this Vrata with Bhakti and Shraddha (devotion and conviction), the devotee would get rid of all the sins committed in the current birth, besides reaping the fruits of a Maha Yagna. Namostu Vaishnavey Tubhyam is the Mantra to be recited at all the Pujas to be done at the Vrata of Chaitra Shukla Dwadashi. ‘Abhisheka’ is performed with milk and / ghee before worship as suggested at that of Margasirsha month’s puja above. Observing fast, Jaagaran, musical intermissions after the three pujas in the night, the schedule for the next morning would include one hundred ‘Ahutis’ (oblations) in the ‘homas’ using honey, ghee and thila-mixed rice as also Daana to Brahmana of big measures (four seers) of rice while reciting the Mantra:
               Praana ruupih Maha Vishnuh Praanadah Sarva Vallabhaha,
               Tandulaadhaka daanena preeyataam me Janaardana/  
               (Bhagavan Maha Vishnu is the epitome and bestower of Life to all the Beings in Creation; May Janaardana be pleased with this daana of major measure of rice). A devotee who performs the Chaitra Shukla Dwadashi Vrata would not only be free from sins but would also obtain the fruits of executing ‘Atyagnishtoma Yagnas’ eight times!

A devotee desirous of observing Vaishakha Shuddha Dwadashi Vrata has to fast with dedication and give ‘Shuddhodaka Snaana’ (Pure water bathing) to Madhusudana with milk and perform worship as prescribed above in the context of Margasirsha month’s Vrata; oblations of ghee to Agni Deva be offered hundred and eight times along with the Key Mantra Om Namastey Madhu hantrey followed by Puja with the usual services like Gandha, Pushpa, Dhupa, Deepa, and Naivedya. During the night that would follow, the devotee would perform three Pujas with attention and devotion and on the next morning after repeat Puja, he should give away daan and dakshina in the name of Maha Vishnu with the Mantra Om Namo Vaasudevaaya. Whoever does the Vrata would qualify for abolition of sins and be eligible of securing the fruits of eight Ashwamedha Yagnas.

         The key Mantra to be recited at the Vrata of Jyeshtha Shukla Dwadashi is Namas Trivikrama as the name that Vishnu is worshipped on that day is Trivikrama. The hundred and eight oblations to Agni would be in the form of ‘Kheer’, following which there would be ‘Abhisheka’(Sacred bath) to the Trivikrama Rupa Vishnu by a very large measure of milk (four seers) continuously reciting the Mula Mantra of the day as mentioned. The Homa and Abhisheka is followed by the formal worship by the prescribed Sevas (Services) viz. Gandha, Pushpa, Dhupa, Deepa and Naivedya. Observing a day-night fast and silence, the devotee would be engaged in three Pujas and ‘Bhaganan naama smrarana’ viz. the Key Mantra, besides Sangeeta-Nrittha-Vaayidya or music-dance and instrumentals all dedicated to Lord Trivikrama. On the next morning after repeat Puja, ‘daana pradaana’ or giving away charity of twenty measures of food grains along with Dakshina by reciting the daana mantra as follows:
        Deva Deva Jagannatha Praseeda Parameswara,
       Upaayanam cha samgruha mamaabhishtha prado bhava/
(Deva Deva! Jagannaatha! Parameswara! Kindly be pleased with me by accepting the daana and fulfilling my desires). This Trivikrama Vrata shall indeed help eradicate the sins of the ‘Vrata Karta’ and bestow the Punya of Eight Yagnas.

Dedicated to Vamana Swarupa Vishnu, the Aashaadha Shukla Dwadashi Vrata has to be given a heavy bath of milk with the Mantra viz. Namastey Vaamanaaya, besides oblations of hundred and eight inputs of ghee and durvara tree figs to Agni Deva, followed by Vamana Deva Puja with the services of Gandha-Pushpa-Dhupa-Deepa and Naivedya. Observing fast and Jaagaran the devotee would perform three pujas through the night along with intermittent hymns, bhajans and Vishnu-related activities and on the following morning after Punah-Puja, charity to Brahmana be given by way of cooked rice, curd and coconut simultaneously reciting the Mantra :
Vaamano Buddhido hota dravyasto Vaamanah sadaa,
Vaamanas taarakosmaachya Vaamanaaya namonamah/
(Bhagavan Vaaamana is a Provider of  intellect; he is the ‘hota’ or the Chief Priest of Yagnas; he is also known for his wealth; he is the unique device to cross the deep ocean of ‘Samsara’; my sincere salutations to Vamana Deva again and again). Thereafter, Brahmanas are treated with good food and dakshina. Vamana Vrata would confer the advantage of Agnishtoma. 

On the Shukla Dwadashi of Shraavana month, execution of the Shridhara Vrata grants the benefit of one thousand Ashwametha Yagnas. Bathing with honey and milk of Bhagavan Shridhara is an integral component of the worship on this day along with the recitation of the Shridhara Mantra viz. Namostu Shridharaaya, besides the Puja with Gandha, Pushpa, Dhupa, Deepa and Naivedya as well as hundred eight ‘Ahutis’ to Agni with curd /ghee. After jaagaran and three hourly pujas, the next morning Puja would be followed by daana to Brahmana of large quantity of milk, ‘vastra dwaya’and dakshina while reciting the Mantra:
Ksheerabdhi shayana Devesha Ramaakaanta Jagatpatey,
Ksheera daanena supreeto bhava Sarva sukhah pradah/
(Deveshwara who rests on the Ocean of Milk! Lakshmi kaanta! Kindly be contented with this ‘daana’ of milk and fulfill all our comforts). After the Daana, full meals should be served to Brahmanas and satisfied with dakshinas.)

As always on Shukla Dwadashi Vratas, fasting is a must on Bhadrapada month also which is dedicated to Hrishikesha when the Idol is bathed by milk by reciting the Mantra viz. Hrishikesha Namostutey. After the formal Puja to the Deity with the requisite ‘Upachaaras’, hundred eight ‘Ahutis’ are offered to Agni with honey. Having done Jaagaran and three pujas through the night, the Vrata performer has to purify with bath for doing Punah Puja and then give away ‘daan’ of large measures (six seers) of wheat grains if possible with gold as dakshina while reciting the Mantra:
Hrishikesha namastubhyam Sarva lokaika hetavey,
Mahyaam sarva sukham dehi godhumasya pradaanatah/
(Bhagavan Hrishikesha! You are the chief cause of Creation and my sincere Salutations to You; do accept this daana of wheat and confer to me all kinds of happiness). By completing the Vrata after ‘bhojan’ to Brahmanas, the devotee would have no sins left, besides acquiring the fruits of performing a Maha Yagna.

Padmanabha Vrata is observed on Aswayuja Sukla Dwadashi with piety, fasting and cleanliness. Observance of the Vrata is stated to assure the benefit of thousand Maha Yagnas. Worship of Padmanabha starts with bathing the ‘Vigraha’ with milk with the Mantra Namastey Padmanaabhaaya; the Mantra should be continued while doing the Puja with Gandha, flowers, etc. Hundred and eight oblations to Agni as a mix of til, cooked rice and ghee are also done with it. After Jaagaran, three Pujas and singing, there would be a repeat Puja on the next morning, followed by daana to a Brahmana with lot of honey and dakshina; the Mantra along the daana is:
Padmanaabha namastubhyam Sarva loka Pitamaha,
Madhu daanena supreeto bhava Sarva sukhapradah/
(Our Salutations to You Pamnanaabha, the great grand father of the Universe! Please be gratified with this daana of honey and bestow comforts to us).  Damodara Vrata on Kartika Shukla Dwadashi is stated to be of extremely high in significance as the ‘Punya’ to be acquired would equal to two thousand Ashwamedha Yagnas! The key Mantra to be recited is Om Namo Damodaraya at the time of ‘Abhisheka’ of the Deity which is prescribed as large quantity of milk (four seers), curd / ghee; or at the time of hundred and eight ‘Ahutis’ to Agni with honey, ghee and til seeds; or at the time of Jaagaran in the night and the three hourly Pujas as also the hymns in commendation of Lord Vishnu who  incarnated himself as Matsya, Kurma, Varaha, and so on; or at the Punah Pujas with lotus flowers on the day after. When the devotee performs daana to Brahmanas with five kinds of ‘Bhakshya Padarthas’(Snacks and food recipes) along with dakshina, the following Mantra is to be recited:
Damodara Jagannatha Sarva kaarana kaarana,
trahimam kripayaa Deva Sharanaagata Paalaka/
 (Daamodara! Jagannatha! You are the Cause of Causes and the Supreme Protector of refugees; my sincere request to You Bhagavan to provide me fortification).If the Vratas on all the Shukla Dwadashis in a year are performed, Udyapana (winding up) needs to be performed in Margasirsha month by Pujas, Homams, Illuminations, Ringing bells, floral arrangements, flying Dwaja Flags, Purana Shravanas, musical and dance extravaganza, Anna Daanas, and so on. The Concluding obeisance and prostration to the Lord would say:
Lakshmipatey namastubhyam Ksheeraarnava nivaasiney,
Arghyam grihaana Devesha Lakshmyaaka Sahitam Prabho/
Yasya smrityaa cha naamoktya tapoyagna kriyaadishu,
nuunam Sampurnatam yaati Sadyo vande tamachytam/ 

Lakshmi Pati who is lying on the Ocean of Milk! My salutations to you and Lakshmi; please accept our ‘Arghya’. The Yagnas and Tapas pale into insignificance when Your mighty names are memorized and uttered with commitment; there is no end to our worship to you, excepting that we bend our heads in awe and total dedication.
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