Pradosh means dusk or evening time. This fast is observed in the evening twilight, and thus called Pradosh Vrata. It is kept on the 13th day of each lunar fortnight for propitiating Lord Shiva. With his blessings all desires are fulfilled and one attains spiritual enlightenment. Devotees who practice it with implicit faith and dedicated devotion are invariably delighted with joyous abandon.
It is said that on this day all gods and goddesses assemble at Mount Kailash to worship Lord Shiva. Deities descend from heaven to attend the propitiation, bestowing abundant wealth and comforts to the sadhaka or devotee; adding immensely to the sanctity of the worship.
Visiting a Hindu temple, imbibing shakti or enery from resplendent Gods of Hindu religion, can totally change an individual’s life. Altering the flow of pranas or life currents in the body and cleansing the karmas or actions of many past lives, sighting the Deity during this time span destroys all sins, bestowing generous blessings upon the fortunate devotee.
If a shrine is not within reach, one can communicate with the Deity through visualization. The Vedas endorse that propitiating Lord Vishnu in the morning and Lord Shiva in the evening particularly during Pradosha is highly beneficial to the sadhaka; when dwadashi or the 12th tithi of the Krishna Paksha or Shukla Paksha ends before midnight.
Generally people observe Pradosha Vrata on every trayodashi tithi (13th lunar day falling in Krishna and Shukla Pakshas) in the evening or sandhya. (During or after sunset).
The Lord of trayodashi tithi is Kaama Deva whereas the Lord of the succeeding tithi, chaturdashi is Lord Shiva himself. The 14th day of the dark half (Krishna Paksha) of every month – is called Shivaratri. The one in the month of Magh (Feb-Mar) is called Mahashivaratri, being supreme most.
The origin of Mahashivaratri: When Brahma and Vishnu were disputing each other’s greatness to ascertain their supremacy, a huge linga or pillar of fire appeared all of a sudden. Whoever found the starting or ending point of this linga would be most powerful. Neither of them succeeded and had to accept the greatness of Shiva who had manifested as the pillar of light. This led to the origin of the Shivalinga and Mahashivarati; also acclaimed as being the day of Shiva & Parvati’s marriage.
The other instance of Shiva’s Greatness: Mahadev Shiva, drank the halahala or poison which surfaced from ksirasagara or the milky ocean when it was churned by the devas and danavas (gods and demons), and thus saved the worlds from destruction.
All the four purushaarthas, dharma or good deeds, artha or wealth, kama or material pleasures and moksha or liberation are attained by a person who keeps vratas, constructs temple and so on.
The Pradosh Vrata is for all humans. The basic guidelines to be followed on this day are:
- Ahimasa (non-injury)
- Satya (speaking the truth)
- Brahmacharya (continence)
- Daya (compassion)
- Ksama (forgiveness)
- Anasuyata (absence of jealousy).
Worship of Shiva throughout the night, bathing the Shivalinga with panchamrta (milk, curd, ghee, sugar and honey), homa, japa or chanting of the mulamantra (Aum Nama Shivaya) and praying for forgiveness are the other customary rituals. At the end of the vrata one must do parana (break the fast by partaking the offerings)
One may observe this vrata for 24, 14 or 12 years. At the end of this period one must do the udyapana, a final rite for completion of the vow.
Five Types of Pradosh:
1. Nitya Pradosh: The evening on all days, between just 3 ghatis (72 minutes) between sunset and when stars are visible in the sky.
2. Paksha Pradosh: To be observed in the evening or sandhya of Shukla Paksha Chaturthi (4th Lunar day after New Moon) of every month.
3. Maasa Pradosh: During sandhya or the evening of trayodashi (13th Lunar day after full moon) in the Krishna Paksha fortnight of every month.
4. Maha Pradosh: Sandhya or evening time of the Krishna Paksha Trayodashi which falls on a Saturday.
5. Pralaya Pradosh: The time when the entire universe is annihilated or merged with Lord Shiva. Pradosh Vrat is observed on every 13th lunar day after full and new Moon, by both the wife and husband desirous of being free from miseries or gaining material wealth. Bathing early in the morning, they adulate Lord Shiva, and fast during the day. Soon after a bath in the evening, the two propitiate Lord Shiva and his consort Pravati with offerings of flowers and Naivedyams; then taking their meal. This Vrat is brought to a close at the end of a year.
Guidelines of the Pradosh Vrata:
Bathing an hour before sunset the worshipper performs a preliminary worship of Lord Shiva along with all other members of the divine family, Pravati, Ganesha, Skanda and Nandi.
After propitiating Lord Ganesha, Lord Shiva is invoked in the particular kalasha or water pot placed on a square mandala with a lotus drawn on it and spread over with darbha grass. Soon after the completion of the customary worship, the Shivaratri legend or the Shiva Purana is read.
This is followed by a chanting of the Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra 108 times.
AUM TRYAMBAKAM, YAJAAMAHE, SUGANDHIM PUSTIVARDHANAM, URVAARUKAMIVA, BANDHANAAN, MRITYOR, MUKSHEEYA, MAAMRITAAT.
Finally the sacred kalasha water is taken, sacred ash applied to the forehead and the sacred water, used to bathe the Lord, is drunk as prashad.
A gift of a pot, a cloth and an image of god are gifted to a Brahmin or the poor for completion of the sacred rites. Even a single bel leaf offered to the Lord at this exclusively auspicious moment equals a hundred Mahapujas.
Reciting Aum Namah Shivaya with dedicated devotion 108 times during this period will enable the devotees to attain tremendous mental peace and material benefits.
It is customary to have radiant lights festooning the shrine during Pradosh. To light even a single diya, at this time is greatly meritorious and beneficial both materially and spiritually.
The most favorable moment for direct contact with God; by fasting and praying on Pradosh, we minimise bodily functions and easily envision the lord residing in our heart.
Legend of the Pradosh Vrata
The Skanda Purana relates how Sandilya Muni prescribed this Vrata to a Brahmin lady. She came to the sage with two boys, her son, Suchivrata, and an orphan prince, Dharmagupta, whose father was slain in battle and the kingdom overrun by enemies.
Acting upon the advice of the sage, the woman and the boys performed the Pradosh Vrata with dedicated devotion. After four months, on the eighth Pradosha, Suchivrata attained a pot of nectar and drank the divine ambrosia. On the other hand, Prince Dharmagupta married a celestial princess and, as ordered by Lord Siva, he triumphed over his enemies with the kingdom being restored to him. Soon after, Dharmagupta attained the Lord's supreme abode.