Dhanur-maas is also known by other names such as Shoonya-maas, Chapa-maas, Karmuka-maas and Kodand-maas. During this period of one month, the Sun is in Dhan (Sagittarius) constellation. It transits into Dhanur Rasi until it enters the Makar Rashi (Capricon) during the end of this month on the Makar Sankranthi day.
The Lord is bathed in warm scented water, dressed in warm clothes and then venerated accompanied with Goddess Lakshmi. The Pujari should place an open stove (heater) to stave off the cold. The Lord should then be offered a Rotlo (thicker Rotli) of millet, butter, yoghurt, Ghee, rice and cooked aubergines as Naivedhya (Food offering).
In the 4th Canto, 59th Chapter of Shreemad Satsangi Jeevan, Lord Swaminarayan instructs His fellowship heads, the Acharyas to celebrate this whole month as a festival.
Original Text from Shreemad Satsangi Jeevan (4:59):
ધનુર્માસોત્સવ:- ભગવાન શ્રીનારાયણમુનિ કહે છે, હે પુત્રો ! સૂર્ય ધન રાશિમાં પ્રવેશ કરે ત્યારે ધનુર્લગ્નમાં રમાપતિ શ્રીકૃષ્ણ ભગવાનને શરીરે તૈલમર્દન કરી ગરમજળથી સ્નાન કરાવવું. આવી રીતે પૂરા એક માસ સુધી કરાવવું, એમ જાણવું. પછી ભગવાનને વસ્ત્રો ધારણ કરાવી તેમની આગળ સગડી રાખવી ને લક્ષ્મીએ સહિત ભગવાનને દરરોજ શણગાર ધરાવવા. નૈવેદ્યમાં તલે સહિત ચૂરમાના લાડુ, માખણ, દહીં, ઘી, રીંગણાનો ઓળો, તેમજ રાબ અને બાફેલા મૂળા સમર્પણ કરવા. તથા ઉપર નીચે શ્વેત તલસહિત બાજરાનો રોટલો ગરમ ઘીમાં ઝબોળીને ધરાવવો અને ભગવાનના ગુણોના વર્ણનયુક્ત પદોનું ગાયન કરવું.
Dhanurmāsotsava:- Bhagavān ShrīNārāyaṇamuni kahe chhe, he putro ! Sūrya dhan rāshimān pravesh kare tyāre dhanurlagnamān ramāpati shrīkṛuṣhṇa bhagavānane sharīre tailamardan karī garamajaḷathī snān karāvavun. Āvī rīte pūrā ek mās sudhī karāvavun, em jāṇavun. Pachhī bhagavānane vastro dhāraṇ karāvī temanī āgaḷ sagaḍī rākhavī ne lakṣhmīe sahit Bhagavānane dararoj shaṇagār dharāvavā. Naivedyamān tale sahit chūramānā lāḍu, mākhaṇa, dahīn, ghī, rīngaṇāno oḷo, temaj rāb ane bāfelā mūḷā samarpaṇ karavā. Tathā upar nīche shvet talasahit bājarāno roṭalo garam ghīmān zaboḷīne dharāvavo ane bhagavānanā guṇonā varṇanayukta padonun gāyan karavun.
Lord Shree Krishna underlines its special nature in Bhagavad Gita that among months He is Maghshirsha. All over India pre-dawn worship is a common occasion during this month. Since this month is set apart for devotional practices, marriages and other such functions are not performed.
bṛhat-sāma tathā sāmnāṁ
gāyatrī chandasām aham
māsānāṁ mārga-śīrṣo ’ham
Of the hymns in the Sama Veda I am the Bṛhat-sama, and of poetry I am the Gayatri.
Of months I am Maghshirsh (November-December), and of seasons I am ﬂower-bearing spring.
Lord Shree Krishna, Shreemad Bhagwat Gita, 10.35
During the entire month of Dhanurmaas, special worship of the Lord should be conducted early in the day during the auspicious time of Brahmi Muhurta (about 96 minutes before Sunrise while the starts are still twinkling.)
Morning worship is graded into three types depending on the time when it is performed.
- Worship during Arunodaya – Pre-Dawn while stars are visible in the sky is considered the best.
- Worship performed pre-dawn but when the stars disappear is of medium quality.
- Worship performed after sunrise is of lower quality.
- Worship performed during afternoon infructuous i.e. fruitless.
As per the Agni Puran by Ved Vyaas, the merits of worship performed pre-dawn in Dhanurmaas are outlined as follows:
मुख्यारुणोदये पूजा मध्यमा लुप्ततारका | अधमा सूर्यसहिता मध्याह्ने निष्फला भवेत् ॥
Mukhyāruṇodaye pūjā madhyamā luptatārakā | adhamā sūryasahitā madhyāhne niṣphalā bhavet ||
Worship before Sunrise (Pre-dwan) is best (whilst stars are twinkling), after starts have vanished but before sunrise is medium, completed after Sunrise is inferior and completed in the afternoon is infructuous i.e. not fruitful.
यस्तु दारिद्र्यबुद्द्या मुद्गान्नं न निवेदयेत् | विष्णवे कार्मुके प्रात: सप्तजन्मसु निर्धन: ॥
Yastu dāridryabuddyā mudgānnaṃ na nivedayet | viṣṇave kārmuke prāta: saptajanmasu nirdhana: ||
One who does not perform worship of Srihari in time (before Sunrise) will attain poverty during his next seven births, suffer from diseases and will have very limited mental strength.
कोदंडस्थे सवितरि प्रत्यूष: पूजनाद्धरे: । सहस्राब्धार्चनफलं दिनेनैकेन लभ्यते ॥
Kodaṃḍasthe savitari pratyūṣa: pūjanāddhare: | sahasrābdhārcanaphalaṃ dinenaikena labhyate ||
Conducting worship early in the morning in Dhanurmaas (One day), one attains merit (Punya) equal to 1000 years. (Worship of every day, during the early hours – not restricted to a single day). One attains wealth and prosperity and is born as a devotee of Lord Vishnu in any births.
The greatness of this month is further detailed within the Narad Pancharatra in four chapters, as the conversation between Hans Avatar (The Swan Incarnation of Supreme Lord) and four-faced Brahma. The dialogue between the two personalities is narrated by Sage Suta in response to a query by Sage Shaunaka.
1. First Chapter - Sage Suta hails the greatness of Dhanurmaas and explains the merits that one would be blessed with upon following the prescribed austerities in this holy month.
2. Second Chapter – The conversation between Hans Avatar and Bhrama – Bhrama inquires about the greatness of Dhanurmaas, which is brought out by narrating the story of a King Satyasandh.
3. Third Chapter – The greatness of donation of alms during this auspicious period is hailed. Devotees are instructed to perform pious deeds as per their capacity and also warned of dire consequences if not performed.
4. Fourth Chapter – Various different ways of feeding Brahmins are discussed. An arrangement of meals for Bhramins who cook for themselves is lauded as the best way which is brought out by a small anecdote of the Pandavs within the Mahabharat.