India is a land full of myriad cultures and traditions, and one such Hindu festival is “Pradosh”. Hindu devotees’ believe, it is one of the most powerful vrat (fast). They observe a fast on this day and celebrates this Vrat with a lot of enthusiasm and zeal. The Pradosh ritual is a penance aimed at seeking good health, peace, and liberation (Moksha).
The word ‘pradosh’ means ‘beginning part of the night’, or ‘relating to the evening’. So, this scared vrat is observed during evening twilight (Sandhyakaal) and called “Pradosh Vrat”. According to the Divine scripture ‘Shiva Purana’, it is believed that Lord Shiva and his Consort, fulfils the wishes of their devotees on this festival. The vrat is usually observed on the 13th day (tithi) of the lunar month. Out of all seven pradosh, Shani Pradosh (when a pradosh falls on a Saturday) and Soma Pradosh (When a Pradosh falls on a Monday) are considered to be most important.
Pradosh Vrat Katha (story) : Skanda Purana, the largest of all the Puranas describes the renowned story of Lord Shiva. How He saved the universe by drinking poison which was emerged from the ocean and that is the reason behind observing Pradosh vrat.
According to a tale from Skanda Purana, even before Satya Yuga, the demigods (who represent divinity) and the Asuras (demonic characters) jointly performed the Samudra Manthan under the guidance of Lord Vishnu. They churned the cosmic ocean by using the biggest snake Vasuki as the rope to obtain the ambrosia and consume it to become immortal. And the first outcome of the churning of the ocean was the Halahala (poison). When poison emerged from the sea bed, it was so venomous that it could have wrecked the universe. So, neither the good nor the evil minds came forward to claim it. Lord Shiva then drank the Halahala to save the creation and lives on earth. The day when Lord Shiva decided to drink the last drop of this poison is celebrated as the day of Pradosh.
Significance of Pradosh fast: Pradosh is an auspicious day as it is believed that, by fasting and worshiping Lord Shiva on this day, an individual can eliminate all his/her sins and obtain liberation (moksha after death).
The Skanda Purana beautifully describes the significance of pradosh fasting:
• Just visiting a Shiva temple and lighting a single lamp during the Pradosh Kaal is enough to please Mahadev (Supreme among deities).
• Those, who observe a fast on this auspicious day with devotion and faith are bound to possess contentment, health, and wealth.
• Chanting of Maha Mrityunjaya mantra 108 times inside a shrine of Lord Shiva and Parvati tranquilizes the mind and supports for spiritual upliftment as well as fulfilment of one’s desires.
The Shiva Chalisa explains the significance and benefit of keeping a fast on pradosha vrat as per their fall on weekdays:
• Som Pradosh which falls on a Monday brings good health to a devotee and helps in fulfilment of all his/her wishes.
• Bhaum Pradosh which falls on a Tuesday cures many diseases and blesses the devotee with long life.
• Wednesday Pradosh fulfils the wishes of a person, who observes a fast.
• Guru Pradosh falls on a Thursday helps the devotee to get rid of his enemies and for a peaceful life.
• Bhrigu Vaara Pradosh which falls on Friday helps to eliminate negative energies surrounding one’s life.
• Shani Pradosh which falls on a Saturday is believed to be the most auspicious and keeping a fast on this day brings good fortunes such as happy and blissful married life, offspring to the childless parents by the grace of Shiva Parvati.
• Bhanu Vaara Pradosha which falls on Sunday brings boundless progress in life.
How to observe the Pradosh fast: This auspicious day is believed to be a day of happiness, well-being, and welfare. It is the most important day to visit Goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva in His temple. The puja begins with prayers and mantras to please Lord Shiva and Parvati, followed by other deities. With a meditative mind, a devotee worship the Shivalinga by chanting the Maha Mrityunjaya mantra 108 times and lighting a Diya (lamp) with clarified butter.
As per the Hindu calendar and beliefs, there are two ways of fasting on this holy day. As this festival starts with the sunrise in the morning, devotees take a bath in the morning and observe a 24-hour fast without sleeping in the night and fasting from sunrise till the next sunrise. Then they can only break the fast after taking a bath in the next day morning and by eating some fresh food.
Another part of the clan observers fasts from sunrise to sunset, as the term pradosh refers to the evening time around sunset. Typically, the pradosh time starts from 90 minutes before sunset to 60 minutes after sunset. On this auspicious day, devotees observe a fast from morning till the completion of puja and aarti in the evening. They visit a temple of Lord Shiva during the evening hour after taking a bath before sunset. These devotees go with a restrictive and light diet in the night upon completion of the rituals in the temple.
Foods to eat on this auspicious day: Though most of Hindu devotees do not eat food during Pradosh fasting, for the few who cannot observe a fast for 24 hours, they can have some restrictive and light diet after the evening puja. The followings are few sattvic great food ideas:
Fruit Salad: Fruit salads are great for fasting days. It not only fills your stomach but also provides all the essential nutrients.
Aloo Raita: It is prepared with curd, potatoes, salt, and ghee and this brings freshness and strength to the vrat holder.
Kuttu Puri: This is one of the famous and mouth-watering food that one can eat for a vrat.
Sweet Potato: Boiled sweet potato pieces are the best snack to have on this day.
Mango Lassi: It is the perfect beverage as it fills a stomach and keeps hydrated.
The day of Pradosh is celebrated with joy and devotion among followers of the Hindu religion, and devotees of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Besides keeping a fast, prayer, and chanting of mantras during evening hour (sandhyakaal) is an important part of this ritual. Lord Shiva and His consort fulfils all wishes of a devotee because of their benevolent mood on this day.
Hindu Scriptures and Puranas give much importance to this auspicious day and describes that, keeping a fast on this day bring good fortune and open the door towards liberation (Moksha) for a devotee.