The month Dhanurmasa, is of great spiritual significance. Dhanurmasa starts with Margashirsha shukla ekadasi (the eleventh day in the bright half of the lunar month of Margashira) and extends up to the end of dakshinayana. The period when the sun starts moving northward from the Topic of Capricorn to the Tropic of Cancer is called uttaraayana. The opposite period when the sun moves southward is called dakshinaayana. According to our shastras, one human year corresponds to one day for the celestials; uttaraayana is their daytime and dakshinaayana the night. This â€œnightâ€ begins with Ashadha shukla ekadashi (the eleventh day in the bright half of the lunar month of ashadha).
Dhanurmasa is also called as Shoonya Masa because it is considered as inauspicious to do any good things other than Godly functions. This month is allotted to Gods and for us it is a blank – meaning Shoonya. Lord Krishna declares in the Bhagavad Gita: “I manifest the most in the month of Margashira ( Dhanurmasa – Dec 16 to Jan. 13) among the months of a year.â€ This highlights the religious significance of Dhanurmasa in the Hindu calendar. For this reason, sages have set apart this month to be completely focused on devotional activities. Other non-devotional social activities (such as weddings) are prohibited during this month so that attention can be given exclusively to the worship of God without any diversions.
According to tradition, the Gods wake up early in the morning during the month of Dhanurmasa. They perform special prayers to Sri Maha Vishnu during the auspicious period of â€œBrahmhi Muhurta,â€ which is one and half hours before sunrise. Human Brahmhi Muhurtham and celestial Brahmhi Muhurtham occur simultaneously in the early mornings of Dhanurmasa. People should attempt to complete the puja to the Lord before sunrise. All other activities like sandhya vandane, tarpana to Rishis, celestials and ancestors that one performs as part of the puja routine should be taken up after the puja has been completed. Timing is so critical that the shastras rate the quality of the puja based on when it completes. Puja that finishes when the stars are still twinkling is deemed to be the highest quality. Puja that finishes after the stars have vanished, but before sunrise, is deemed to be medium, whereas puja that finishes after sunrise is inferior. Puja performed in the afternoon is practically useless.
The key to the timing of many rituals and festivals and other important social events, is the weather and harvest! As the customs and traditions evolved, man had to take into the weather conditions as one among the most vital factors. The cold weather in Danurmasa and limited number of day hours, called for special efforts to shake off lethargy, a natural tendency (hibernation!), and some reasons were created for early rising and early morning vigour of activities on the social plane! Religion and spirituality being the easiest routes to motivation showed the way to effective measures to keep man active in healthy social interactions! Therefore, as adjuncts, the concepts of gods’ last few sleeping hours before the gods got up (in ‘Uttarayana’, after the ‘dakshinayana’, at the end of Danurmasam) from sleep to commence their day (six months of ‘uttarayana’!), and the ideal days for religious worship, were evolved and refined in all regions where winter peaked around those days, with similar thoughts and allied traditions evolving in other comparable religious practices! Cold weather is the most ‘creative’ weather for production of all kinds, stamina for work being maximum, once the inertia and initial lethargy are successfully tackled, thus Lord Krishna also acknowledged the prime place of that month of winter, as top among the months.
Another of the highlights of the dhanurmaasa puja is the special offering of mudganna (called as Huggi or pongal in south indian languages) as naivedya to the Lord. This dish uses Greengram (Moong daal or hesaru bele) and rice as the primary ingredients. Shastras rate the naivedya based on the proportion of Green gram to rice in the mudganna. The naivedya is rated as supreme if the ratio (of greengram to rice) is 2:1. It is Good if 1:1, medium if 1:2 and low if 1:4 or higher. People should endeavour to prepare mudganna to the best of their ability and financial status, taking care to keep the quantity of Greengram to be at least half (if not more) of the quantity of rice used. It is said that Shachi devi, the wife of Indra, offered such supreme mudganna mixed with ginger to the Lord and got rid of her troubles. If possible, people should prepare mudganna using Curds (yoghurt), Jaggery and ginger, offer it to the Lord and then serve it to deserving brahmins.
Danurmasam of the Hindu calendar is considered extremely holy. Shivas ArudraDarshan comes in this month. Vaikunda Ekadasi comes in this month. Aandals Tiruppavai and Manikkavasagars Tiruvempavai is chanted during this month. Leaving behind Hinduisim, Christmas and the Christian new year falls within this month. Bakrid of Islam comes within this month. Buddhists, Jains and also Sikhs consider this month Holy. Some tribes have their Harvest Fest within this month. Many countries celebrate various traditional fest during this month.
Unjavruthi is another popular tradition followed by people especially during Danurmasam. People wake up early in the morning and walk around in the all the streets singing Bhajans accompanied with musical instruments.
Danurmasam is the time for harvest for the farmers. Itâ€™s the time they reap their produce and make their living. After getting good harvest in Danurmasam, they thank the Sun God on the day of Pongal festival (Makara Sankaranthi).
Early rise requires early bed for the Bhaktas. Also day time is minimum for the year in this month. So temples are closed earlier.
They say that the Ozone layer is so clean during the early mornings of this month and you can breathe fresh and pure oxygen during that time. Imagine waking up early in the morning, having bath and going for a walk amidst fresh air. And during the course you get to breathe the fresh oxygen without any pollution.