Chaturmas is the four holy Hindu months in a calendar year. In 2013, Chaturmas begins on July 19 and ends on November 13. Hinduism and Nature is completely entangled and Nature plays a major role in important rituals and festivals associated with Hindu Religion. The Chaturmas occurs during the monsoon season and most of the important festivals in Hinduism take place during this period. Hindus also observe different vows and fasting during this period. It must be noted here that for some communities Chaturmas begins on Poornima day (July 22).
Chaturmas begins on the Ekadasi day in Shukla Paksha in the month of Ashada and ends on the Ekadasi in the Shukla Paksha in the month of Kartik.
Most of the important festivals associated with Hinduism are closely linked to agriculture and especially the harvest season. The monsoon rains brings joy, greenery and fresh air and the four months is considered highly auspicious and ideal for rituals, pujas and festivals.
The first month in Chaturmas, Shravan is dedicated to Lord Shiva, especially the Mondays. The next month is Bhadrapad, the month of festivals including the Ganesh Chaturthi and Krishna Ashtami. Then comes Ashwin month and the important festivals include, Durga Puja, Navratri, Diwali etc. Finally, Kartik, Diwali celebrations end in this month.
People take different vows during Chaturmas – some people avoid non-vegetarian food, some decide to read the Mahabharata or Ramayana or Bhagavad Gita or the Bhagavad Purana on all days, some make it a point to visit temples on all days, some decide to chant a prayer or mantra daily ‘x’ number of times.
Health is given importance during the four months. Many people avoid garlic and onion as it can stimulate unnecessary excitements, cause indigestion and distract devotee from pujas and prayers. In some regions, people avoid green leafy vegetables in the Shravan month. Curd, or yoghurt, is avoided in Bhadrapad, milk is avoided in Ashwin month and pulses, the split variety, are avoided in Kartik month.
More about Chaturmas Varta and how to observe is explained in this post.