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From this news article:

Prayers offered for rains

Hundreds of people thronged Indrakeeladri on the bank of the river Krishna to witness 'Varuna yagam' and 'sahasraghatabhishekam' performed for copious rain.

...

This apart, Virataparva parayanam also began on the temple premises, he said.

What has Virāṭa Parva pārāyaṇa got to do with rains?

  • simple - first is the cause and second is the effect. – ram Mar 31 '19 at 17:59
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This web page says that the chanting of the Virata Parva of the Mahabharata was once done by Chandrashekhara Bharati II, a former Sharankaracharya of Sringeri Mutt, in order to produce rain. And his explanation was that Vyasa had embedded a mantra to Varuna within the Virata Parva:

The book "Guru Krupa Vilasam" mentions an interesting incident in 1925 at Devakottai (near Madurai) by Gurupada Shekaran on the Vana Parva chanting and its effect.

Sri Gurupada Shekaran is present during an discussion between Swamiji and the mutt manager.The manager says "It is better if we move our camp to Madurai. Its more than 5-6 years since it rained here. All the wells are empty. We are bringing water travelling a long distance with the help of elephants. There are a lot of people who have food in our camp. It is difficult to manage without water".

Swamiji says "If I was informed earlier we might have avoided coming here. But having come it is not fair to leave this place disappointing the people. Ask the priest to come with Mahabharata book along with puja items". After the priest came, Swamiji asks him to chant Virata Parva and the priests starts off in a traditional way. Swamiji also starts chanting mantras. Gurupada Sekaran witnesses all what was happening. It was around 1 PM in the noon and the sun was at its peak. At 2 PM, clouds from nowhere hid the sun. Cool breeze starts and its starts raining heavily. So heavy was the rain, except the sound of rain nothing could be heard. It continues to pour and at around 4:30 PM, the manager comes to Swamiji with a sign of relief. Swamiji asks "Is the rain sufficient?" and then asks the priest to light the camphor as a sign of completion. At 5 PM, the priest lights the camphor and almost spontaneously the rain stops.

The next day, he humbly enquires about what happened yesterday. Swamiji says "We did Varuna Japa. The rains came. Sage Vyasa has embedded the varuna mantra into the Virata Parva. The effect the of the mantra creates a subtle effect in the environment"

Now the text of the Virata Parva of the Mahabharata, which you can read here, contains no overt references to prayers to Varuna or obtaining rain. But this web page says that Chandrasekhara Bharati said "that the sage Veda Vyas had hidden the Bijaaksharas of Varuna mantra in the virata Parva section of the Mahabharata". So it could be that there are certain seemingly innocuous syllables in the Virata Parva are actually Bijas or seed syllables of some mantra to Varuna.

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The preface of the book "ESSENCE OF VIRAT PARVA OF MAHA BHARATA" states that it is believed that recitation of the Durga Stuti done by Yudhishthira just before entering the Virata Kingdom is capable of bringing even unseasonal rains.

There is a strong belief that reading of Virat Parva of Maha Bharata would not only entail enrichment of one’s thought and action but toughen one’s psyche to face life in the framework of fortitude and challenge without slipping into demerit and immorality. An allied faith is that daily recitation of ‘Durga Stuti’ -vide the sixth chapter of this Booklet- before Pandavas entered the Virat Kingdom- would usher in supreme faith and courage of conviction. In fact at the daily congregations of the five week long stay at the premises of Shri Lakshmi Kamakshi Nilaya mentioned above, HH Vijayendra Saraswati encouraged the open recitals of the Durga Stuti. Recital of this Stuti along with Rishyashringa Shlokas had indeed made it possible the typically Chennai weather of scortching heat to yield relieving but highly unseasonal rain pours as though Lord Indra Deva was happy at these daily recitals!

The Stuti,which is included in the above PDF and found from page 12 onwards,goes like this(for the full Stotram refer to the PDF or to the page linked below):

Vaishampaayana narrated to King Janamejaya as follows: Virata nagaram ramyam gacchamaano Yudhishtharah, Astuvanmanasaa Deveem Durgaa tribhuvaneshwareem/ Yashodaa garbha sambhutaa Naraayana varapriyaamanda gopaala kuley jaataam mangalyaam kulavardhineem/ Kamsavidraavana kareemasuraganaam kshayamkareem, shilaatata vinikshitaamaakaasham pratigaamineem/ Vaasudeva - sya bhagineem divya maalya vibhushitaam, Divyaambaradharaam Devim khadagakhetadhaarineem/ (King Yudhishthar at the time of Pandavas entering ‘Virat Sabha’ had within his own heart prayed to Tribhuvaneshwari Durga Devi and further to Vaasudeva Shri Krishna the Avataara Purusha or the Singular Deity of Dwapara Yuga! Durga Devi’s ‘amsha’was also born to Nanda gopaala even as the babies were interchanged as Maya flew away to high skies warning Kamsa for having imprisoned his own sister and brother in law viz. Vasudeva and Devaki and that Lord Krishna would eventually terminate the devilish Kamsa) Dharma Raja further prayed to Durga Devi: Bhaaraava tarane punye ye smaranti Sadaashivam, Taan vai taarayase paapaat panke kaamiva durbalam/...

It is important to note,that neither the Phalasruti of this Stuti nor Durga Devi Herself specifically promised that recitation of the same will bring rains or that it has anything to do with rains.

One can read the Stuti on this page as well.

As one can see, the last verse of the Phalasruti simply states:

There is nothing in this world that they cannot be got, By reading or hearing this great prayer with devotion, Due to my grace all the people of the city of Virata Would meet success in all their endeavors, Oh son of Pandu

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  • 2
    Indrakeeladri has Kanaka Durga (Swayambhu) and may be this is the reason to choose Indrakeeladri. Also, Indrakeela mountain is the place where Arjuna got Patupatastra from Lord Shiva. – The Destroyer Nov 21 '16 at 7:07
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Dr. Garikipati Narasimha Rao in his discourse on Mahābhārata in this YouTube video (Telugu) says that the custom of reciting Virāṭa Parva for rains has originated because Bhīṣma describes the 18 signs of Yudhiṣṭhira's presence, in Virāṭa Parva and one of them is: "where king Yudhiṣṭhira resides...the clouds, without doubt, pour abundant rain."

In Go-harana Parva of Virāṭa Parva, this is what Bhīṣma exactly says:

The ruler, O child, of the city or the province where king Yudhishthira resides cannot have any misfortune. Charitable and liberal and humble and modest must the people be of the country where king Yudhishthira resides. Agreeable in speech, with passions under control, observant of truth, cheerful, healthy, pure in conduct, and skilful in work must the people be of the country where king Yudhishthira resides.

The people of the place, where Yudhishthira is, cannot be envious or malicious, or vain, or proud, but must all adhere to their respective duties. Indeed, in the place where Yudhishthira resides, Vedic hymns will be chanted all around, sacrifices will be performed, the last full libations will always be poured, and gifts to Brahmanas will always be in profusion. There the clouds, without doubt, pour abundant rain, and furnished with good harvest the country will ever be without fear. There the paddy will not be without grain, fruits will not be bereft of juice, floral garlands will not be without fragrance, and the conversation of men will always be full of agreeable words. There where king Yudhishthira resides, the breezes will be delicious, the meetings of men will always be friendly, and cause of fear there will be none. There kine will be plentiful, without any of them being lean-fleshed or weak, and milk and curds and butter will all be savoury and nutritious. There where king Yudhishthira resides, every kind of corn will be full of nutrition and every edible full of flavour.

There where king Yudhishthira resides, the objects of all the senses, viz.,--taste, touch, smell, and hearing, will be endued with excellent attributes. There where king Yudhishthira resides, the sights and scenes will be gladdening. And the regenerate ones of that place will be virtuous and steady in observing their respective duties. Indeed, in the country where the sons of Pandu may have taken up their abode during this thirteenth year of their exile, the people will be contented and cheerful, pure in conduct and without misery of any kind. Devoted to gods and guests and the worship of these with their whole soul, they will be fond of giving away, and filled with great energy, they will all be observant of eternal virtue.

There where king Yudhishthira resides, the people, eschewing all that is evil, will be desirous of achieving only what is good. Always observant of sacrifices and pure vows, and hating untruth in speech, the people of the place where king Yudhishthira may reside will always be desirous of obtaining what is good, auspicious and beneficial. There where Yudhishthira resides, the people will certainly be desirous of achieving what is good, and their hearts will always incline towards virtue, and their vows being agreeable they themselves are ever-engaged in the acquisition of religious merit.

In the book, Hindu Dharma: The Universal Way of Life §, Swami Chandrasekarendra Saraswati cautions these mantras and pārāyaṇa don't work always:

Even today we see how mantras are efficacious though what we see is more often their power to do evil rather than good. The very word "mantrikam" inspires dread in us. If mantras have the power to do evil, they must also have the power to do good. We do hear reports of how mantras are beneficent, for instance how the mantras invoking the god Varuna produce rains.

It may be that sometimes the Varuna japa does not succeed in bringing rains. But this is no reason why all mantras should be rejected outright as of no value. Sick people die even after the regular administration of medicine. For this reason do we condemn medical science as worthless? We have an explanation for the patient's failure to recover: his illness and reached such an advanced stage that no medicine could be of any avail. Similarly, no mantra is of any help when it has to contend against the working of powerful karma. There is also another reason. If you are not strict about your diet, the medicine taken may not work. Similarly, if we are lax in the observance of certain rules, the mantras will not produce the desired result.

[Hindu Dharma » The Vedic Religion And Varna Dharma » Preserving the Vedas: Why it is a Lifetime Mission]

§ An older and copyright-free version of this book is available for free here.

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