Kartik (Damodar)…The Holiest Month…
Kartik (Damodar) is the best, the purest of purifiers, and most glorious of all months. Kartik month is particularly dear to Lord Sri Krishna. This month is full of bhakta vatsalya. Any vrata, even the smallest, will yield huge results. The effect of performing a Kartik Vrata lasts for one hundred lifetimes, Kartik or the festival of offering lamps to Lord Krishna, glorifies Lord Krishna’s pastime of being bound with ropes by Mother Yashoda.
Everybody should follow following practices in Kartik (Damodar) month:
1. Daily offer a ghee lamp to Krishna and sing the Damodarastakam, meditating on meaning.
2. One should always remember Supreme Lord Hari. Devotees should try to do more Harinam Chanting. Do extra rounds and more kirtana.
3. Hear Srimad Bhagavatam, daily in association of exalted Vaisnavas, if possible. All other duties should be given up in favor of hearing the scriptures from sadhus during this month. It is most beneficial to recite and read Gajendra Moksha Lila-stava from 8th canto of Srimad Bhagavatam, which teaches complete surrender/dependence of Supreme Lord.
4. Eat only prasadam.
5. Daily recite Siksastaka of Sriman Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and meditate on its meaning. Read the commentary on Sikastaka by Bhaktivinod Thakur.
6. Daily Read the the Updeshamrata of Srila Rupa Goswami .
7. Daily offer lamp to Tulsi devi and pray for eternal residence in Vrndavana and eternal service of the lotus feet of Radha and Krishna. Do 4 parikrama (circumbulation) of Tulasi.
8. Make nice offerings for Krishna. Devotees should observe the festival of Annakuta, Giriraj Govardhan Puja.
9. Associate more with devotees.
10. Practice brahmacharya – celibacy.
11. Perform austerities.
Following are excerpts from some scriptures (Puranas) describing the glory of the pious Kartik month:
“If somebody performs even a little worship of Lord Shri Hari in this month, He offers that devotee His own abode.”
“If somebody burns a lamp in the temple of Lord Shri Hari even for a short time (in the month of Kartik), then whatever sins, he has acquired for millions of kalpas (one kalpa equals 1000 yugas) are all destroyed.”
“A person, who for the entire month of Kartik eats only once a day, becomes very famous, powerful and heroic.”
“A person who happily reads the Bhagavad Gita in the month of Kartik does not return to the world of birth and death.”
“Of all gifts, the gift of a lamp during the month of Kartik is the best. No gift is its equal.”
“The pious result obtained by bathing in all holy places and giving all charities is not equal to one ten-millionth part of the result obtained by following the vow of Kartik.”
Damodarastakam : Must sing during Kartik month
(1) namāmīśvaraḿ sac-cid-ānanda-rūpaḿ , lasat-kuṇḍalaḿ gokule bhrājamanam
yaśodā-bhiyolūkhalād dhāvamānaḿ, parāmṛṣṭam atyantato drutya gopyā
(2) rudantaḿ muhur netra-yugmaḿ mṛjantam, karāmbhoja-yugmena sātańka-netram
muhuḥ śvāsa-kampa-trirekhāńka-kaṇṭha-, sthita-graivaḿ dāmodaraḿ bhakti-baddham
(3) itīdṛk sva-līlābhir ānanda-kuṇḍe, sva-ghoṣaḿ nimajjantam ākhyāpayantam
tadīyeṣita-jñeṣu bhaktair jitatvaḿ , punaḥ prematas taḿ śatāvṛtti vande
(4) varaḿ deva mokṣaḿ na mokṣāvadhiḿ vā , na canyaḿ vṛṇe ‘haḿ vareṣād apīha
idaḿ te vapur nātha gopāla-bālaḿ , sadā me manasy āvirāstāḿ kim anyaiḥ
(5) idaḿ te mukhāmbhojam atyanta-nīlair , vṛtaḿ kuntalaiḥ snigdha-raktaiś ca gopyā
muhuś cumbitaḿ bimba-raktādharaḿ me , manasy āvirāstām alaḿ lakṣa-lābhaiḥ
(6) namo deva dāmodarānanta viṣṇo , prasīda prabho duḥkha-jālābdhi-magnam
kṛpā-dṛṣṭi-vṛṣṭyāti-dīnaḿ batānu , gṛhāṇeṣa mām ajñam edhy akṣi-dṛśyaḥ
(7) kuverātmajau baddha-mūrtyaiva yadvat , tvayā mocitau bhakti-bhājau kṛtau ca
tathā prema-bhaktiḿ svakāḿ me prayaccha , na mokṣe graho me ‘sti dāmodareha
(8) namas te ‘stu dāmne sphurad-dīpti-dhāmne, tvadīyodarāyātha viśvasya dhāmne
namo rādhikāyai tvadīya-priyāyai , namo ‘nanta-līlāya devāya tubhyam
1) To the Supreme Lord, whose form is the embodiment of eternal existence, knowledge, and bliss, whose shark-shaped earrings are swinging to and fro, who is beautifully shining in the divine realm of Gokula, who I (due to the offense of breaking the pot of yogurt that His mother was churning into butter and then stealing the butter that was kept hanging from a swing) is quickly running from the wooden grinding mortar in fear of mother Yasoda, but who has been caught from behind by her who ran after Him with greater speed–to that Supreme Lord, Sri Damodara, I offer my humble obeisances.
2) (Seeing the whipping stick in His mother’s hand) He is crying and rubbing His eyes again and again with His two lotus hands. His eyes are filled with fear, and the necklace of pearls around His neck, which is marked with three lines like a conch shell, is shaking because of His quick breathing due to crying. To this Supreme Lord, Sri Damodara, whose belly is bound not with ropes but with His mother’s pure love, I offer my humble obeisances.
3) By such childhood pastimes as this He is drowning the inhabitants of Gokula in pools of ecstasy, and is revealing to those devotees who are absorbed in knowledge of His supreme majesty and opulence that He is only conquered by devotees whose pure love is imbues with intimacy and is free from all conceptions of awe and reverence. With great love I again offer my obeisances to Lord Damodara hundreds and hundreds of times.
4) O Lord, although You are able to give all kinds of benedictions, I do not pray to You for the boon of impersonal liberation, nor the highest liberation of eternal life in Vaikuntha, nor any other boon (which may be obtained by executing the nine processes of bhakti). O Lord, I simply wish that this form of Yours as Bala Gopala in Vrndavana may ever be manifest in my heart, for what is the use to me of any other boon besides this?
5) O Lord, Your lotus face, which is encircled by locks of soft black hair tinged with red, is kissed again and again by mother Yasoda, and Your lips are reddish like the bimba fruit. May this beautiful vision of Your lotus face be ever manifest in my heart. Thousands and thousands of other benedictions are of no use to me.
6) O Supreme Godhead, I offer my obeisances unto You. O Damodara! O Ananta! O Vishnu! O master! O my Lord, be pleased upon me. By showering Your glance of mercy upon me, deliver this poor ignorant fool who is immersed in an ocean of worldly sorrows, and become visible to my eyes.
7) O Lord Damodara, just as the two sons of Kuvera–Manigriva and Nalakuvara–were delivered from the curse of Narada and made into great devotees by You in Your form as a baby tied with rope to a wooden grinding mortar, in the same way, please give to me Your own prema-bhakti. I only long for this and have no desire for any kind of liberation.
8) O Lord Damodara, I first of all offer my obeisances to the brilliantly effulgent rope which binds Your belly. I then offer my obeisances to Your belly, which is the abode of the entire universe. I humbly bow down to Your most beloved Srimati Radharani, and I offer all obeisances to You, the Supreme Lord, who displays unlimited pastimes
In this Kartik we may get the same mercy as Nalkuber and Manigrive get at that time…
damodaram prapadye ‘ham shri-radha-ramanam prabhum
prabhavad yasya tat-preshthah kartikah sevito bhavet
“I take shelter in the Supreme Lord, Damodara8, Who is Shrimati Radhika’s beloved, and under Whose influence His dearest month, Kartika, can be served9.” (1)
The activities to be performed during Kartika are exhaustively dealt with in Puranas such as Skanda and Padma. Here I’m summarizing the essential features of those descriptions. (2)
In this month a Vaishnava should regularly worship Shri Damodara and undertake vows such as bathing before sunrise, giving alms, and so on. Worship and other activities for specific occasions will be discussed later in this vilasa.
Cogency of Kartika vows
O Narada, best of pious souls! After attaining the rare human form, whoever does not follow the duties prescribed for Kartika is like a murderer of his mother and father. One who wastes this month without undertaking any vrata10 is excluded from any religious duty and will be born in an animal species. Such an individual shall be counted among brahmana-murderers, cow-slaughterers, gold-thieves, and congenital liars. If this person is a widow, hell is her secure destination. If he is a householder, other pious deeds will be worthless, and he will reside in hell until the dissolution of the universe. If he is a brahmana, he will be neglected by all the demigods, beginning with Indra. Especially sannyasis, widows, and vanaprasthas who fail to undertake Vaishnava vows during Kartika will fall in the infernal regions. (5-12)
O great brahmana, if the opportunity to perform vratas during Kartika is neglected all pious merits amassed in the past are reduced to ashes, the study of Vedas and Puranas becomes futile, charity, japa, and penances become fruitless, and reaching svarga, becomes impossible, despite the performance of countless sacrifices and hundreds of Shraddha11 ceremonies. (5-17)
Whoever wastes the month of Kartika without undertaking any vow for Vishnu, O Narada, will not get the result of former pious deeds. (18)
O sage, he who passes Kartika and Caturmasya12 without imposing any regulations on himself shall be considered the lowest of his race and a killer of brahmanas. (19)
O Narada, I can not fathom the destiny of persons who fail to offer pinda13 to the ancestors during pitri-paksha14, to undertake vows during Kartika, to offer oblations to the Sages during Shravana, to take part of the swing festival during Caitra, to bathe in pure water during Magha and to follow the Amardaki vrata during the conjunction with Pushya15, the Rauhinashtami vrata during the month of Shravana, and the Shravana-dvadashi vrata. (20-22)
(Skanda Purana, dialogue between Brahma and Narada)
A human being who wastes the month of Kartika is like the fool who acquires a cintamani gem and then throws it in a morass. O brahmanas, one will be rejected by Shri Krishna if he spends Kartika without regulations, because this month is very dear to Him. (23-24)
(Padma Purana, dialogue between Narada, Shaunaka, and other sages)
Compulsion of specific vows such as ablutions and charity.
O son Narada, even a twice born shall be known as the lowest of men if in this month he does not resolve to perform charity, ablutions, homa16, or japa for the pleasure of Shri Hari. (25)
Those who do not give alms and do not take on homa, japa, or other religious observances during Kartika are certainly losers, because they will not reach their coveted goals. By showing indifference for Janardana during the month of Kartika, they are doomed to suffer in Yama’s abode along with their ancestors. Indeed, those who do not devotedly worship Keshava during Kartika will go to hell, where they will be tormented by the Yamadutas. (26-28)
This most rare human form, attained after billions of births, will be taken away from tho