Hindu Fasts: The King Of All Vows

Said The God Of Fire:

Now I shall describe the process of practising the king of all the Vratas, viz the vow of Bhishma Panchakam, which should be practised on the day of the eleventh phase of the Moon's increase in the month of Karticka. The penitent should observe a vow of silence on the occasion, bathe thrice every day and perform such a rite of ablution for the five successive days from the day of the first observance of the vow, and offer libations of water to the gods and his departed manes, containing the seeds' of five different sorts of Vrihi and sessamum orientale.

The rite of ablution should be done unto the image of the god Hari, with the composition known as the Panchagavya and the Panchamrita. The body of the idol should be smeared with sandal-paste etc., and crystals of scented gum resin soaked in clarified butter, should be burnt before it. Day and night, and lamps should be kept lighted before the image, and obla- tions of sweetened porridge should be offered to the god whom it represents. The Vrati should repeat hundred and eight times the Mantra, running as "Obeisance to the god Vasudeva," and cast into the sacrificial fire, an equal number of libations of clarified butter, containing seeds of Vrihi and sessamum, by repeating the six- lettered Mantra of the god, followed by the term of obeisance (Svaha). On the first day of its observ- ance, the feet of the god should be worshipped with lotuses, the regions of his thighs and keen-joints on the second day, with the leaves of a Bel tree; the umbilical region on the third day with Bhringaraja; with the flowers of Vana and Java and the leaves of a Bel tree on the fourth, and with the Malati flowers on the fifth day.

The penitent should sleep on the bare floor during the continuance of the Vratra, and take cowdung, the urine of a cow, curd, milk and the composition known as the Panchagavya, respectively on the first (Ekadashi), second, third, fourth, and the fifth day of its observance. He should break his fast in the night of the following full moon, whereby be would be liberated from the trammels of life, after a happy and prosperous career on earth. The Vrata is named after the hero (Bhisma) who practised it in the by- gone age, and attained the god Hari through its merit. The supreme Brahma is to be worshipped in all the Vratas, which has the observance of a fast as its essential condition.

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