Chaturmaas - Friday 15th July
Chaturmaas literally means the period of four months from Ashadh Sud Ekadashi (Padma or Devshayani) to Kartik Sud Ekadashi (Prabodhani). The Sun enters Kark Rashi (cancer zodiac) and travels southwards. Bhagwan Narayan and Devtas rest for this period. Therefore we must be more vigilant against the evils and sins. For all Hindus, this period is to augment their faith and devotion by listening to Katha and observing Vrats. It is inauspicious to undertake any social events such as marriages and Upavit ceremony during this period. The Brahmand Puran, Bhavishya Puran, Shreemad Bhagwat and many other holy scriptures extol the virtues of observing special Niyams for this period.
In verses 76 - 78 of Shikshapatri, Bhagwan Shree Swaminarayan has asked all His disciples - us to undertake special Niyams (religious vows) for the period of Chaturmaas. He has specified eight Niyams as His favourite - Reading religious scriptures, Listening to and Reading religious scriptures, Reciting Kirtans of His divine qualities, Performing Mahapuja, Chanting His Mantra, Reciting other sacred hymns, Performing Pradakshina and Ashtang or Panchang Pranam. Bhagwan Swaminarayan Himself as Nilkanth Varni undertook severe austerity for four months of Chaturmaas at Pulhashram. Shikshapatri Bhashya and other scriptures mention many other Niyams regarding absenteeism from certain foods such as radish, aubergines, sugarcane, pulses, milk, yoghurt, pumpkin etc. during Chaturmaas. However, any Niyam taken must reflect the inclination towards austerity. It is no point of taking Niyam of not eating aubergines if you do not like them and never eat them anyway. However, bear in mind that any Niyam/s taken for Chaturmaas actually come to end on Prabodhani Ekadashi and not on New Year's day as many believe. We may utilise this opportunity to try to give up any of our bad habits or vices by taking the vow not to indulge in them. The period of Chaturmaas not be allowed to lapse without taking a Niyam, however small.
Though He has permitted infirm and old to undertake Niyams for one month only (in month of Shravan), it must not be used for the excuse like lack of time or inclination.