(Last Updated on : 21/04/2010)
One of the adhyayas of Agni Purana elaborates on the fasts, ceremonies and penances which are to be respectively observed, performed and practised by men and women on the different days of the weeks, and on the passing of the sun over to new zodiac signs. It has been said that rules of self-control which are known as the Niyamas, when conformed to, and carried out, in actual life, constitute what are known as the Tapas. The specific features of Tapas are the subjugation of one's senses and such acts. A vow, taken out of a sense of sincere contrition and repentance, is technically known as the Tapas.
It has been stated in the Agni Purana
that by fasts, vows, and penances a man will be able to propitiate the gods and in turn will ascertain salvation in their lives. Mantras should be repeated, and libations should be cast into the consecrated fire. When the Purana has enlisted the duties of a Brahmana, having undertaken a Prajapatya Vrata should abstain from taking anything in the morning for the first three consecutive days, from taking anything in the evening for the second three consecutive days, and should live for the next three days on food and then fast for the last three days. The penance known as the Krichchha Santapanam, the diet of the penitent should be composed of the dung and the urine of; cow, thickened milk, curd, clarified butter.
In the Sopavasaka penance, the diet should consist of the articles enjoined in the case of a Krichchri Santapanam, for a period of six days at intervals, while the Krichchha Vrata, extending over a period of seven days constitutes the sin destroying Maha Santapanam. The penance known as the Paraka Vrata, consists of a fast for twelve days, while in the Maha Paraka form, the fast should be observed for thrice that time.
Agni Purana narrates that a solar month should be computed from the passing of the sun from one zodiacal sign to the next, while an astral month is closed by one full revolution of asterism marriages and such like ceremonies should be celebrated in the solar months. The Savan months are the most auspicious for the performance of sacrifices, while the yearly Shraddha ceremonies in honour of one's departed manes, should be performed in a lunar month. It has been stated in the Purana that the Shraddha ceremonies of one's deceased ancestors, should be performed within the five fortnights computed from the day of the full moon in the month of Ashada, no matter whether the sun would be in the sign of Virgo or not by that time. In the case of discrepancy between a monthly and an annual Tithi, the latter should be followed, while in matters of asterisms, preference should be given to the former. A man should observe a fast (in Nocturnal vows), till the asterism in which the sun sets on that particular day, does not go down the horizon. The Tithis or the phases of the moon should be deemed auspicious in the day time only, regarding the observance of vows (Vratas) which should be kept in the day, the contrary being the rule in respect of the nocturnal ones.
It has been said in the Agni Purana that the birthless deity should be worshipped on such a day, and the worshipper should observe fast for the entire day and night. The god should be contemplated as possessed of a golden complexion, earning a rosary and a ladle in his right hand, and a Kamandalu and a small ladle in his left, and wearing long clotted hairs, and should be worshipped with the Mantra.
The Purana has also described the Dhyana Vrata with the performance of which an insignificant man becomes glorious. In order to perform the Dhyana Vrata on a Pratipad Tithi, in the month of Magh, the performer should fast and offer libations of clarified butter into the fire in the night. He should worship the sacrificial fire, by repeating the Mantra. In observing the vow known as the Shikhi Vrata, the performer should take a single meal on the Pratipad Tithis. Such a vow when fulfilled, makes its observer the possessor of a Kapila cow, and bestows on him the characteristic divinity of the Fire-God.