By Swami Harshananda
Asidhārā-vrata literally means ‘vow of walking on the edge of a sword’.
Vratas or religions vows are undertaken either as expiation for sins committed or as a self-imposed discipline to gain something in life which cannot normally be gained by human endeavors or even as a mark of thanksgiving to God when certain desires have been fulfilled.
‘Asidhārā-vrata’ is one such vrata and is so called because it is as difficult as walking on the edge of a drawn sword. It begins on the full-moon day of Āśvina (September-October) and may be continued for five days, ten days, four months, one year or even twelve years. During this vrata, one has to sleep on the bare ground, bathe outside the house, eat food only in the night, eschew anger and should observe strict celibacy even though sleeping with one’s wife.
During this period, gifts must be given to worthy persons. Sometimes a daṇḍa (stick) or even a sword is kept in between the person and his wife when they sleep in the night, as a reminder that they have to practice self- control and are observing a vow as difficult as walking on the edge of a sword.
Many rewards have been promised to those who perform this vrata successfully.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore