Vrindavan, 2017.10.01 (VT): The holy month of Kartik is a special time of year when devotees come from all around India and the world to perform spiritual practices in Vrindavan.
Although Vrindavan is here on earth, and Kartik month comes every year, what a tragedy that some people still do not come to Vrindavan during Kartik, and remain suffering in the ocean of birth and death! (Haribhakti Vilas 16.162, quoting the Padma Purana)
The scriptures are full of praise for the month of Kartik. The Skanda Purana says na kārtika samo māso – there is no month equal to Kartik. The Padma Purana further states, “Of all the twelve months, Kartik is the most dear to Shri Krishna. Know it to be certain that if someone worships him even a little during this month, the Lord grants that person entrance into his eternal Home.”
Niyam Seva: Special Practices During Kartik month
During Kartik, devotees observe a month of resolutions, known as Niyam Seva. Many devotees are beginning their Niyam Seva today on Ekadashi, whilst others will begin on Sharad Purnima. There are a number of scriptural recommendations for this month, which include:
*Worshiping Radha-Damodar: “Krishna who is bound by love” with his beloved Radha
*Deep Daan: offering a ghee lamp
*Bathing in holy waters like Yamuna and Radha Kund
*Performing jaagran (staying up all night) whilst singing kirtan
*Giving up certain foods and spices
*Fasting on Ekadashi
*General increased spiritual practice
Although the resolutions differ from person to person, deep daan – offering of ghee lamps – is generally performed by all. The Padma Puran states “Just as one gets fire by rubbing two sticks together, one gets the benefit of the Kartik vrat by offering a ghee lamp to Shri Krishna.” (quoted in Haribhakti Vilas 16.120)
The Mouse who Offered a Lamp in Kartik
In the Kartik Mahatmya of Padma Puran, the story is told of a mouse who attained the eternal dham by offering a lamp during Kartik. The mouse lived in a temple. One day, feeling very hungry, she tried to eat the ghee from a lamp which someone had offered to Shri Krishna.
The lamp was still burning, and unfortunately the wick got stuck in her teeth. She began to leap about in pain in front of the deity of Shri Krishna. She died from the fire, but the Lord accepted her writhing about as aarti, and thus granted her a place in his eternal home.
Upcoming Festivals in Kartik:
Papankusha Ekadashi (Ashwin Shukla Ekadashi): The last Ekadashi in Ashwin marks the beginning of Niyam Seva for many devotees. Many people try to observe this Ekadashi in the traditional way by fasting and staying awake all night singing kirtan. In 2017, this festival is being celebrated on October 1.
Sharad Purnima (Ashwin Purnima): Sharad Purnima is the day when the sharadiya Raas Lila began. Shri Radha and Krishna are dressed in white, like the light of the full moon. Special sweets called makhane ki kheer and chandrakala are offered in Vrindavan temples. Shri Ramesh Baba begins his 84-krosh Braj Mandal parikrama from this day. In 2017, this festival is being celebrated on October 5.
Karwa Chauth (Kartik Krishna Chaturthi): Married women keep a fast for their husbands and worship Chandra Dev. They break the fast only after having darshan of the moon. In 2017, this festival is being celebrated on October 9.
Bahulashtami (Kartik Krishna Ashtami): Bahulashtami is a special day for taking bath in Radha Kund. In the Padma Purana it is said, govardhana girau ramye rādhākuṇḍaṁ priyaṁ hareḥ, kārtike bahulāṣṭamyāṁ tatra snatvā hareḥ priyaḥ “Whoever bathes in Shri Krishna’s beloved Radha Kund at Govardhan on Bahulashtami during Kartik becomes very Him.” After Krishna killed the bull demon Dhenukasur, Radharani teased Krishna that he had incurred the sin of cow killing and should never touch her again until he bathed in every holy place in the world. Krishna immediately brought all the holy waters into a single lake and bathed in it. Radha and the Gopis felt irritated by this, and so they decided to make their own lake by digging in the ground with their bangles and filling the hole with water from Mansi Ganga. When the project proved troublesome, Radha allowed Krishna to use water from his lake to fill hers. Thus Radha Kund and Shyam Kund were formed.
On this day, thousands of people take bath in Radha Kund at midnight. It is best to avoid the crowd, however, which can be dangerously thick. Rather, one may take bath at any time during the ashtami tithi.
This day is also known as Ahoi Ashtami, a special day for mothers and children. Around this time, people who desire to have children make a vow to give up a certain fruit or vegetable for one year, and then offer that same fruit to Radha Kund. Most people choose to give up petha, as it is not very popular anyway. Thus one can find the strange sight of Radhakund full of of pethas wrapped in red cloth during the week of Ahoi Ashtami! In 2017, this festival is being celebrated on October 12.
Ramaa Ekadashi (Kartik Krishna Ekadashi): The first Ekadashi of Kartik is Ramaa Ekadashi. Many people try to observe this Ekadashi in the traditional way by fasting and staying awake all night singing kirtan. In 2017, this festival is being celebrated on October 15.
Dhanteras (Kartik Krishna 13): This is the appearance day of Lord Dhanvantari and part of the Diwali celebrations. In the Shri Radharaman Temple, Shri Radha and Krishna play chaupar – an ancient boardgame resembling parcheesi or ludo – through their attendant Goswamis. Ghee lamps are offered to Yamraj on this day. In 2017, this festival is being celebrated on October 17.
Diwali (Kartik Amavasya): Diwali, also known as Deepawali, is the day Shri Sita-Ram returned to Ayodhya. The day is celebrated in Braj with the lighting of firecrackers. Homes, temples and the banks of holy lakes are filled with shining ghee lamps. Brajwasis deep-clean their homes and re-paint them. Shri Radha and Krishna celebrate this day with their families in a similar manner to modern-day Brajwasis by wearing new clothes, lighting ghee lamps, and enjoying sweets. Shri Raghunath Das Goswami’s Mukta Charitra (The Pearl Story) takes place on Diwali. In 2017, this festival is being celebrated on October 19.
Govardhan Pooja and Annakut (Kartik Shukla 1): On this day, Govardhan Hill is worshipped and offered a mountain of delicious food (Annakut). Millions of people flock to Govardhan to perform Govardhan Parikrama. Local children build Govardhan Baba – a mini version of Govardhan hill – out of cowdung. Govardhan Baba is also formed in the courtyards of temples. In 2017, this festival is being celebrated on October 20.
Bhaiya Dooj/Yama Dwitiya (Kartik Shukla 2): This is the appearance day of Yamraj, the god of death and the brother of the Yamuna River. On this day, sisters honor their brothers, and brothers and sisters bathe in the Yamuna River together In 2017, this festival is being celebrated on October 21.
Gopashtami (Kartik Shukla 8): This day celebrates the first time the child Krishna was allowed to herd full-grown cows. Shri Krishna is dressed in a cowherding outfit complete with a cowherding stick, lasso and buffalo-horn bugle. In some temples, Radharani is also playfully dressed as a cowherd boy on this day. In 2017, this festival is being celebrated on October 28.
Yugal Parikrama (Kartik Shukla 9): On this day, devotees perform a joint parikrama of Mathura and Vrindavan. In 2017, this festival is being celebrated on October 29.
Devotthan Ekadashi (Kartik Shukla 11): On the last Ekadashi of Kartik, the gods wake up from their four-month sleep during Chaturmasya. Brajwasis celebrate by making a teepee-type structure (minus the cloth) out of sugarcane branches. Seasonal fruits and vegetables are offered inside this structure. Many people try to observe this Ekadashi in the traditional way by fasting and staying awake all night singing kirtan. In 2017, this festival is being celebrated on October 31.
Raas Purnima (Kartik Purnima): On the last night of Kartik, Shri Krishna dances the Raas Lila with Radha and the Gopis. This is also Nimbark Jayanti – the appearance day of Nimbarkacharya. On this day, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu entered Vrindavan for the first time. For Nimbark Jayanti, a special procession goes out in the evening from Nimbark Kot, while in celebration of Shri Chaitanya’s Braj Yatra, another procession goes out from the Amiya Nimai Temple in Gopinath Bazaar at 4pm, and continues until after midnight. In 2017, this festival is being celebrated on November 4.