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Kartika month is the most important month in our calendar, as it is very dear to Sri Sri Radha-Madhava. Just as there is no yuga equal to Satya-yuga, no scripture equal to the Vedas, and no place of pilgrimage equal to the Ganges, so there is no month equal to Kartika. During the Kartika month, millions of devotees worship Damodara Krishna with ghee lamps and devotional bhajans, glorifying His playful childhood pastime of stealing yogurt. And traditionally, desiring to satisfy Their Lordships, Gaudiya Vaisnavas celebrate this month by following certain vows. Below we present these vows, observing which one can easily get a priceless treasure of the pure love of Sri Sri Radha-Madhava! Let us take the opportunity and accept this wonderful gift of the most merciful Karttika .
Daily offering of ghee lamp to Radha-Damodara (any Radha-Krishna Deity or picture) and singing Damodarastakam is one of main seva that everyone could offer during Karttika month. One should also inspire as many souls as possible to offer lamps to Sri Radha- Damodara for their spiritual benefit. Hari Bhakti Vilasa states that the best place to perform Karttika vrata is at Sri Vrindavan dhama or other holy dhamas like Mayapur.
Karttika is the best and most glorious month, purest of pure. It is particularly dear to Lord Krishna, because it is the month of Srimati Radharani. This month is full of love of the Lord towards His devotees. Any vow followed in this month, even a small one, brings tremendous results. The essence of Karttika-vrata is to satisfy Sri Sri Radha-Damodara with our more and better devotional service to Them.
Kirttika is the name of the third daughter of Prajapati Daksa. It was a custom in Vraja to name girls after Daksa’s daughters. So the name of Radharani’s mother was Kirttika (or Kirtida) and Radharani became known as Karttiki, which means “born of Kirttika”. Sri Sanatana Goswami gave us the key to understanding the significance of the Holy month of Karttika. Krishna says: masanam marga-sirso ‘ham – “Of months I am Margasirsa (November-December)”. Karttika precedes Margasirsa. Therefore, Karttika represents Srimati Radharani.
Gaudiya Vaishnavas follow Karttika-vrata especially to satisfy Srimati Radharani by worshipping Her during this month. Srimati Radhika is most famous for Her compassion, therefore we follow the rules and regulations of Karttika-vrata, which are called niyama-seva so that Srimati Radharani will pour upon us Her divine compassion. Let Sri Radhika and Her sakhis bestow upon us the eternal loving devotional service to the Divine Couple in Vrindavana groves.For Gaudiya Vaisnavas, Karttika-vrata is more important than any other vows during the year. Most of the other vows for the pleasure of Syamasundara and His expansions last only half a day or one day, Janmastami, Rama-navami, Nrisimha-caturdasi, Vamana-dvadasi, but for the pleasure of Sri Radha Karttika vow lasts a month.
Of course, during this month Vaisnavas sing about Lord Damodara – the Lord of Gokula. They heartily glorify Him and with devotion worship Lord Sri Krsna in His most naughty and beautiful form. But Gaudiya Vaisnavas in particular focus this month on the worship of our most revered Aradhya Devi – Srimati Radharani and perform special service for Her pleasure.
Karttika is a month of a special vow, Karttika-vrata (Damodar-vrata, Urjja-vrata, niyama-seva-vrata). One of the names of the vow is Urjja-vrata. Urjjesvari is one of the names of Srimati Radharani, meaning “Mistress of Urjja-vrata”. The word urjjah means “wealth”, “power”. All the wealth and strength manifest in Her for serving Sri Krishna. She manages all the wealth and power that are meant for serving the Master of Her heart. So Urjja-vrata followed in the month of Karttika ascends to Urjjesvari, Sri Radhika, and therefore Vaisnavas attach very great importance to Karttika, especially in trying to satisfy Srimati Radharani to gain Her service and thus service to Her beloved Sri Krishna.
In addition, this month gopis worshiped Katyayani*, with the innermost intention to please the highest goddess Srimati Radharani. Nanda-gopa-sutam devi patim me kuru te namah. Such was their inner prayer to Katyayani * (SB10.22.4):”O goddess Katyayani, O great potency of the Lord, O possessor of great mystic power and mighty controller of all, please let us serve the son of Nanda Maharaja the way our heart desires. We offer our obeisances unto you.” With this prayer they perform the Karttika-vrata. (* Katyayani is one of the manifestations of Yoga-Maya in Sri Vraja Dhama. Katyayani-vrata continues in the month following the Karttika).
Therefore we attach particular importance to the observance of this last part of the caturmasya – Karttika-vrata. This month is exclusively connected with serving Krishna’s beloveds – Radharani and Her gopis – and Krishna. Srimad-Bhagavatam also inspires us to imbibe the mentality of the gopis worshipping Katyayani. Having such internal feeling we observe the last month of Caturmasya with even greater attention.
Karttika is also known as the month of niyama-seva. Niyama means “rules” –additional prayers, pujas, reading, preaching, extra service to Lord Hari, Spiritual Master and the Vaisnavas. And thus this vow of niyama-seva inspires the sadhaka to dedicate this time to a special service regime, when he uses every minute for his highest good. Our aspiration should be such, most especially in this month, and Krishna likes it very much. If we do this to please Radharani, Krishna will be pleased even more so, because it gives pleasure to His most exalted devotee. And Her happiness attracts Krishna to us. When Radha is pleased with us, She will compassionately cleanse us and make us worthy to gain our eternal service in the groves of Vrindavan in the mood of Her friends.Satyavrata Muni says: namo radhikayai tvadiya priyayai – “I bow down to Your dearest beloved, Sri Radhika.” With this, he points out that the only engagement during the Damodara-vrata should be worship of Sri Radha-Damodara.
Urjja-vrata is one of the sixty-four methods of devotional service, performed by Gaudiya Vaisnavas. The caturmasya-vrata is considered complete only if it’s last month of Urjja-vrata is observed.
Last five days of Karttika are called Bhishma-Pancaka. And the Vaisnavas also follow some vows in those days.
To observe Karttika-vrata is one of the main engagements for the Vaisnavass.
Some of the observances prescribed by Hari bhakti Vilas and Skanda Purana:
Rise at brahma-muhurta and attend mangala-aratika – attain spiritual world.
Offer incense, ghee lamp, flowers (malati, lotus, rose, jasmine, lily) and camphor lamp three times a day.
Daily ghee lamp to Radha-Damodara (any Radha-Krishna Deity or picture) and sing Damodarastakam.
Maintain akhanda ghee/sesame lamp before Deity, base of Tulasi, hang in the sky – attain the spiritual world. Just by offering a ghee lamp to Sri Krishna, one attains perfection and goes back to Godhead.
Offer sweet rice mixed with ghee, tasty food and varieties of fruits.
Mandira-parikrama four times daily while reciting prayers – get the merit of a horse sacrifice with every step.
Offer water and prasada to ancestors.
Offer camphor lamp with aguru oil esp. on Ekadasi – no rebirth.
Offer fresh flower garlands (rose or lotus) and sanadalwood paste.
Offer new clothes.
Offer one lakh of Tulasi leaves to Krishna
Daily offer incense, ghee lamp and flowers to Tulasi and circumambulate her.
Relight another person’s ghee lamp – attain unlimited merit and not see Yamaraja.
Offer water to the moon.
Offer floating ghee lamp.
Enthusiastically dance, sing and play musical instruments, and recite prayers before the Deity – attain spiritual world with your ancestors.