Chaturmas literally means "four months", derived from the sanskrit catur (चतुर्), "four", and māsa (मासः), "month".
Chaturmas is a holy period of four months (July to October), beginning on Shayani Ekadashi the eleventh day of the bright half, of Ashadh—until Prabodhini Ekadashi, the eleventh day of the bright half of kartik. It is believed that Hindu gods and goddesses are at rest during this period and should not be disturbed, so no auspicious ceremonies, such as weddings and thread ceremonies, are held during the four months’ period.
Fasts and purity during this period help maintain health, for which there is likely a scientific rationale, disease spreading more readily with the onset of monsoon.
A number of Hindus, particularly those following the Vaishnav tradition, refrain from eating onions, and garlic during this period.
The sanyasis, who generally do not stay in one place for long, observe their annual ‘Rains Retreat’ during this period, by living in one place during the entire period amidst lay people, observing a vow of silence (mauna), meditation, fasting and other austerities, and also giving religious discourses to the local public.
Average people undertake vrat during Chaturmas. One should follow some rule when taking a meal from the various patterns of meals, such as parna-bhojan (eating on a leaf), ek-bhojan (eating only one meal), ayachit (eating only what is provided), ekavadhi (eating only one helping of food) or a mixed meal (eating food served once, after mixing it) etc.
Several women undertake the vrat known as ‘dharne-parne’ in the Chaturmas. In this, one should eat and fast on alternate days for four consecutive months. Many women sustain themselves on one or two types of food grains during the Chaturmas. Many subsist on only one meal during the day. Various patterns of conduct during Chaturmas are seen depending on the region.
In some regions, devotees avoid eating certain food items in each month during Chaturmas Vrata. In Shravan month, they avoid leafy vegetables. During Bhadrapada month, curd is avoided. In Ashwin month, milk is avoided and in Karthik maas, pulses or dal are avoided.
Acts prohibited during Chaturmas
Prohibited-1. In the Chaturmasya one is forbidden from consuming lime prepared from animal ash, water from a leather vessel, lime, the citron fruit, food not offered to God as oblation through fire (vaishvadev) and food not offered to Shri Vishnu, lentils, meat, white beans, beans, kidney beans, pickles, brinjals, watermelons, multi-seeded or seedless fruits, radish, ash gourd, berries, gooseberries, tamarind, onion and garlic.
2. Sleeping on a bed.
3. Intercourse with a woman, in the period excluding the sixteen nights after the first menses following marriage.
4. Eating food cooked by others.
5. Getting married or other related tasks.
6. Ascetics are forbidden from shaving in Chaturmasya. It has been recommended by Dharmasindhu and other scriptures, that they should stay in one place during these four months and if that is not possible, at least for two months.
Maintaining Mauna Vratam (keeping thyself silent) and spending time in worshipping Lord Vishnu is also meritorious. Keeping away from anger is recommended.
On the final day of Chaturmas Vrata (Utthana Ekadasi or Kartik Shukla Ekadashi), saadhak offers Dakshina (includes food, clothes and other daily commodities) to Brahmin and gets his blessings.