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“The Caturmasya period begins in the month of Ashadha (June-July) from the day of Ekadasi called Sayana-ekadasi, in the fortnight of the waxing moon. The period ends in the month of Kartika (October-November) on the Ekadasi day known as Utthana-ekadasi, in the fortnight of the waxing moon. This four-month period is known as Caturmasya.
“Some Vaishnavas also observe Caturmasya from the full-moon day of Ashadha until the full-moon day of Kartika. That is also a period of four months. This period, calculated by the lunar months, is called Caturmasya, but others also observe Caturmasya according to the solar month from Sravana to Kartika. The whole period, either lunar or solar, takes place during the rainy season. Caturmasya should be observed by all sections of the population. It does not matter whether one is a grihastha or a sannyasi. The observance is obligatory for all asramas. The real purpose behind the vow taken during these four months is to minimize the quantity of sense gratification. This is not very difficult. In the month of Sravana one should not eat spinach, in the month of Bhadra one should not eat yogurt, and in the month of Asvina one should not drink milk. One should not eat fish or other non-vegetarian food during the month of Kartika. A nonvegetarian diet means fish and meat. Similarly, masura dal and urad dal are also considered non-vegetarian. These two dals contain a great amount of protein, and food rich in protein is considered non-vegetarian. On the whole, during the four-month period of Caturmasya one should practice giving up all food intended for sense enjoyment.”
– A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. (Sri Caitanya Caritamrita, Madhya-lila 4.169, purport.)
Urja vrata – means restricting eating.
The term “spinach” in India refers to all similar green leafy vegetables.
The yogurt fast is fasting from eating yogurt by itself. Yogurt used as a binding agent for cake is not included.
Milk fast means refraining from drinking milk. Milk sweets and other milk derivatives are okay.
In the fourth (last) month, Ashvin Shukla Dashami to Kartik Shukla Dwadashi one should not eat dicotyledon grains (grains breaking in two parts) like gram, tur urad, masur etc. Similarly, one should not eat fruits or vegetables containing lot of seeds. This also applies to tubers. The reason for making a list of prohibited items seperately for each of the four months is in the nature of dietary discipline, and declared as daily regimen (nityavrata) by the scriptures.
During festivals of the Lord (i.e. Balaram’s appearance day, Sri Krishna Janmastami, Radhastami etc.) all preparations are offered to the Lord and the vow of restricting foods in the above categories does not apply. For example, one can honour urad dal kachoris that have been offered to Srila Prabhupada on his appearance day.
Also, during the Purushottam Adika masa there is no observance of Caturmasya.
Caturmasya means ‘four months’, which is the duration that Vishnu sleeps.
Ekadasi, Asadha 11 (July 20, 2002). The time Vishnu goes to sleep for four months.
Naga Panchami, Sravana 5 (Aug 12, 2002). The cobras are appeased at this festival, which is dedicated to the serpent Ananta (aka Sesha), on whose coils Vishnu rests when he creates the universe.
‘Vishnu lies on Ananta’, Bhadra 14 (Sept 19, 2002). Celebration of Vishnu lying on Ananta.
‘Vishnu wakes’ – eleven days after new moon in Agrahayana – Vishnu wakes.
First month of Caturmasya: In the month of Sravana one should not eat spinach.
Second month of Caturmasya: In the month of Bhadra one should not eat yogurt.
Third month of Caturmasya: In the month of Asvina one should not drink milk.
Fourth month of Caturmasya: In the month of Kartika one should not eat masura dal or urad dal.