Religious Significance of Adhik Maas:
Regarding Adhik Maas (Mal Maas) Hemadri says that Mal Maas Vrat (Adhik Maas Vrat) is capable of washing away all the sins of people (who observe the Vrat). During this month mukta, nakta, fasting etc are undertaken and garments etc. are distributed to charities. A beautiful story relates to how, in ancient times, through the observance of Mal Maas Vrat, king Nahush was released from all bondage and acquired the throne of Indra (the ruler of devtas in heaven (Indra Lok or Swarga).
It is written in the Devi Bhagavat that charitable and meritorious acts and fastings etc. carried out during this Mal Maas (Adhik Maas) inevitably produce results. Just as atomic sized contents within a seed produce a giant and long living Banyan tree, so in the same manner even a little charitable act observed during Mal Maas (Adhik Maas) produces great results.
As mentioned before, Mal Maas or Adhik Maas is also known as Purushottama Maas. There is an enlightening story about this. According to the lunar year, there were only 12 months. Each of the twelve months was assigned to 12 Devtas. So that the lunar and the solar years do not get out of step with days and seasons, the far-sighted Rishi-Munis calculated and facilitated Adhik Maas (extra month) and shown its importance. But one problem still remained. Each of the 12 months was assigned to 12 different devtas. But the 13th extra month was not assigned to any devta. Adhik Maas (Mal Maas) showed concern and approached Lord Vishnu and said that no devta was assigned to him (Adhik Maas) and for that reason he was called Mal Maas or Malimmucha.
Adhik Maas further spoke to Lord Vishnu: ‘ I am filled with anxiety and I have therefore come to seek your refuge and help.’
Lord Vishnu showed pity on him. The Lord (Vishnu) agreed and assigned Adhik Maas to Himself and gave the name Purushottama Maas to this month. Lord Vishnu also said that acquisition of merits during other months through good deeds, japa, austerities etc can be acquired with greater results by japa, austerities of his name etc. carried out within this one month. Since then it is known as the Purushottama Maas and acquired greater significance than the other months.
In a book called Purushottama Granth can be found many aspects of the special religious significance of this month. Many people read or listen to this book being read during Purushottama Maas (Adhik Maas). By reading and listening, high merits are acquired. There are lots of interesting pieces of history connected with the special significance of this month.
It is written in the Bhavishyottar Purana that fasting or eating once a day should commence on the first day of the bright fortnight (Shukla Paksha) and end on the last day of the dark fortnight (Krishna Paksha). According to one’s capability and ability, distribute to charities and carry out good deeds.