Chaturmas Vrata, or Chatur Mas Vrat, is observed for a period of four months and it begins from the Deva Sayana Ekadasi in Ashada month and ends on Utthana Ekadasi in Kartik Month. In 2012, Chaturmas Vrat begins on June 30 and ends on November 24. The four months of Shravan, Bhadrapad, Ashwina and Kartik are considered as the holiest months in the Hindi calendar. Different types of vows and Vratas are observed by Hindus during this period.
Many people avoid non-vegetarian food during the four month period. Some people observe flexible fasting – eating just one meal or two, or just one meal on particular days in the month. Certain food items like jaggery or oil is avoided during the period or in any one of the four months. Some people avoid salty and sweet preparations. Those people who plan to undertake serious vows and fasting avoid garlic and onion as it can stimulate unnecessary excitements.
There are no hard and fast rules regarding the Chaturmas Vrata. It is often left to the devotee to decide how he/she wants to spend the four months.
Most people decided to read the Mahabharata or Ramayana or Gita or Bhagavad Purana during the fourth month period. Some people make it a point to visit temples daily and indulge in spiritual activities.
The four months is of great importance to Lord Vishnu devotees as this period is believed to be the night of Vishnu. Vishnu devotees listen to his stories and spend time in helping the poor and in cleaning and maintaining Vishnu temples.
Shravan month is of great importance to Lord Shiva devotees. The Mondays in the month are highly auspicious.
Importance is given to maintaining a healthy body during the four months, as the first two months are the peak monsoon season. Due to this reason, in some regions people avoid green leafy vegetables in the Shravan month. Curd, or yoghurt, is avoided in Bhadrapad month. Milk is avoided in Ashwin month. Pulses are avoided in Kartik month. Again there are no strict codes regarding food. It all depends on the person how he/she wants to observe the Chaturmas Vrat.