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Maagh - the month of spiritual renewal

Maagh - the month of spiritual renewal

Every month in Hindi calendar has some distinctiveness. Magh ( माघ )the 11th month of Hindi lunar calendar has rich spiritual and philosophical tradition. As we delve into the distinctiveness of this month, we find ourselves transported to the spiritual epicenter of Prayag, where ancient traditions come alive.

Magh, falls at the starting of Uttarayan when sun starts its annual northward journey. The month of maagh falls around January and February according to the Gregorian calendar. In the region of Prayag, this month is renowned for two significant events – Kalpwaas (कल्पवास) and Maghsana.(माघ स्नान). Though Amavasya( अमावस्या -no moon) comes every month in the calendar but the Amavasya  of Maagh month has special significance as it is also referred as mauni amavasya. Maun ( मौन) in Hindi means silence. People observe maun vrat ( मौन व्रत) on this day exemplifying the power of silence and introspection.

The cultural heritage of spiritual and intellectual confluence at Prayag traces its roots back to the Ramayan, where Tulsidas Ji vividly describes this sacred congregation in the Ramcharitamanas.In the dialogue between two great Rishi’s  Yajyavalakya and Bharadwaj, the Ramcharitamanas speaks of the spiritual and intellectual confluence at Prayag. For a month, humans , Gods and other celestial assemble, bathing in the holy waters of the Ganga, meditating, engaging in philosophical discourse, and sitting in the assembly of knowledgeable sages and scholars.

भरद्वाज मुनि बसहिं प्रयागा। तिन्हहि राम पद अति अनुरागा।।
तापस सम दम दया निधाना। परमारथ पथ परम सुजाना।।

(भरद्वाज मुनि प्रयाग में बसते हैं, उनका श्री रामजी के चरणों में अत्यंत प्रेम है। वे तपस्वी, निगृहीत चित्त, जितेन्द्रिय, दया के निधान और परमार्थ के मार्ग में बड़े ही चतुर हैं॥1॥)

Bharadwaj Muni resides in Prayag. He holds immense love for the feet of Lord Rama. He is an ascetic, with a controlled mind, conquered senses, a treasure of compassion, and highly intelligent in the path of ultimate truth."

माघ मकरगत रबि जब होई। तीरथपतिहिं आव सब कोई।।
देव दनुज किंनर नर श्रेनी। सादर मज्जहिं सकल त्रिबेनीं।।

(माघ में जब सूर्य मकर राशि में जाते हैं, तब सब लोग तीर्थराज प्रयाग को आते हैं। देवता, दैत्य, किन्नर और मनुष्यों के समूह सब आदरपूर्वक त्रिवेणी में स्नान करते हैं॥।2॥)

In the month of magh when sun transits to the sign of   Capricorn , every one visits the chief of holy place - Prayag , . Troops of Gods, humans, demons , Demi gods all bathe in the confluence of three sacred rivers.

Today, even in the 21st century, the tradition continues. During the month of Magh, countless pilgrims flock to Prayag, drawn by the sacred appeal  of the Ganga. Some visit for a dip in the holy waters, while others embark on a profound journey called Kalpwaas. Kalpwaas is also believed to be an annual purification ritual by many. Where we pay penance for the known and unknown.

Kalpwaas, a practice rooted in ancient texts like the Mahabharat and Puranas, involves individuals staying on the banks of the Ganga in makeshift tents for the entire month of Magh. These dedicated souls engage in spiritual activities, reflecting the age-old concept of seeking purification and enlightenment through austere practices.

तहाँ होइ मुनि रिषय समाजा। जाहिं जे मज्जन तीरथराजा।।
मज्जहिं प्रात समेत उछाहा। कहहिं परसपर हरि गुन गाहा।।

(तीर्थराज प्रयाग में जो स्नान करने जाते हैं, उन ऋषि-मुनियों का समाज वहाँ (भरद्वाज के आश्रम में) जुटता है। प्रातःकाल सब उत्साहपूर्वक स्नान करते हैं और फिर परस्पर भगवान्‌ के गुणों की कथाएँ कहते हैं)

Those who go to bathe in the confluence of the rivers at Prayag, those group  of sages and ascetics gathers there (in the ashram of Bharadwaj). In the morning, they enthusiastically bathe and then share stories of the qualities of the Lord with each other."

एहि प्रकार भरि माघ नहाहीं। पुनि सब निज निज आश्रम जाहीं॥

प्रति संबत अति होइ अनंदा। मकर मज्जि गवनहिं मुनिबृंदा॥1॥

(भावार्थ:-इसी प्रकार माघ के महीनेभर स्नान करते हैं और फिर सब अपने-अपने आश्रमों को चले जाते हैं। हर साल वहाँ इसी तरह बड़ा आनंद होता है। मकर में स्नान करके मुनिगण चले जाते हैं॥1॥)

In the same way, they bathe throughout the month of Magh, and then everyone returns to their respective ashrams. Every year, there is great joy there in the same manner. After bathing in Makar (the month of Magh), the sages depart."

The annual tradition of Kalpwaas exemplifies the deep connection between humans and the divine, echoing the profound journey undertaken by characters in ancient scriptures. As the month concludes, the kalpwasis disperse, returning to their respective lives, having enriched their souls in the sacred confluence of spiritual knowledge and devotion.

Immersing ourselves in these sacred gatherings is significant to rejuvenate our soul, mind, and body, preparing us for life's myriad challenges. Just as a gadget requires periodic recharging to operate at its best, so too does the human spirit and body need this annual revitalization to navigate a world full of diverse experiences.