By: Mahanidhi Swami
* What is it? Extensively described in the Puranas, the magha month vrata is a one month long penance, vow or vrata observed from pausa purnima until magha purnima to please Bhagavan Sri Kåñëa worshiped as Lord Madhava, the presiding Deity of the month of January 15 to February15. The vrata involves mainly taking a bath daily before sunrise in a holy river like Ganga, Yamuna, especially in a holy place like Radha-kunda, Vrndavana, Navadvipa, Jagannatha Puri, Prayaga Triveni (Allahabad)
* Is the magha month vrata for Gaudiya Vaisnavas? Yes, definitely for Srila Rupa Gosvamipada mentions it in Bhakti-rasämåta-sindhu (1.2.260), “bathing in the Ganga or Yamuna in magha month is part of hari-bhakti, pure devotion to Sri Kåñëa.” In Hari-bhakti-vilasa, Srila Sanatana Gosvami gives a 40 page description of this vrata, which is summarized herein with reference verses in brackets.
* Who observed the magha month vrata? In Chamatkara Chandrika, Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura describes a wonderful pastime of how Sri Kåñëa, on the pretext of observing a magha month vrata, secretly met Çrématé Rädhäräëé and the Vraja-gopis early in the morning in the keli-kunjas near Keshi Ghata beside the Yamuna river in Vrndavana. At that time, Kutila devi, the crooked, inane and suspicious sister-in-law of Çré Radha, came to spy on Radha in hopes of catching Her with Syamasundara. However, Sri Kåñëa cleverly fooled Kutila by disguising Himself as Çré Radha’s alleged husband Abhimanyu, the brother of Kutila. Then after tricking Kutila, Sri Kåñëa went to Yavat, and enacted even more hilarious and satisfying conjugal pastimes with Çrématé Rädhäräëé right inside the home of Kutila and her nasty mother Jatila.
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu passed ten days in Prayaga bathing daily at the confluence of the Ganga and Yamuna (Triveni) during the yearly magha-mela, the magha month vrata (Cc. 2.18.222). All the pious demigods and their chaste wives like Aditi, Anasuya, Arundhati, Rohini and Saci observed the magha month vrata. In 1971, Srila Prabhupada and 40 disciples attended the Kumbha Mela in Allahabad to honor the magha month vrata and preach pure Kåñëa consciousness.
* What benefits does it give? Like most of the austerities and vratas mentioned in the Puranas, the magha month vrata gives good health, beauty, good qualities, wealth and long life. Bathing outdoors in any body of water during Magha month is very pleasing to Bhagavan Sri Kåñëa, and it also destroys unlimited sins because the demigods place all their individual potencies in water (163). Magha snana in a holy place instantly destroys all sinful reactions (115), and grants residence in Vaikuntha (78, 154, 164).
* When to observe the vrata? Start on Pausa Purnima and end on Magha Purnima. (67)
* How to observe the vrata? Admittedly, most devotees do not observe this vow, but everyone should be familiar with it and then decide accordingly what is best for your devotional advancement. At least, this most beneficial magha month vrata gives one a good reason to spend a few days in a holy dhama to bathe in Radha kunda, Yamuna or Ganga. And do not think this vrata is only for neophytes, because I have personally seen one of the biggest Bengali preachers at Radha kunda observing the magha month vrata with a daily pre-sunrise bath.
Like any vow or vrata, this vrata also includes many details concerning diet, prayers, pujas, personal restrictions, chanting astakams etc. but specifically in relation to this vrata, the Hari-Bhakti Vilasa stipulates, “You don’t have to follow any other vow except bathing in a holy place (88). Thus the main vrata or activity is to bathe before sunrise (90, 138) in an outside body of water, preferably Radha-kunda, Yamuna or Ganga (or a bucket of water left outside over night to collect the celestial nectar). Every step one takes to go outside for bathing pleases Yamaraja, and burns up the reactions of sins that have not yet fructified.
a. Daily Sankalpa Mantra (affirms your determination or vow)
Upon waking, recite: “O Supreme Lord Madhava! I will bathe every morning without fail during Magha masa.”
b. Before bath, chant this mantra: “O Acyuta, O Govinda, O Madhava! I am bathing in the month of Magha when the sun travels to the Makara rasi. O Govinda, Madhava kindly bestow upon me the appropriate fruit of this vow.”
c. Puja: Offer your Thakurji lots of tulasi leaves, manjaris, kitri, kheer, sesame seed preps, fried items and dry fruits.
d. Charity: Magha, Vaisakha, and Kartika are the most auspicious and beneficial months of the year to observe vratas and give charity. Hari-bhakti-vilasa says Bhagavan Sri Kåñëa becomes very pleased if one donates blankets, quilts, warm clothes, shoes, rice, ghee, oil, wood, ghee lamps and kumkuma (47).
e. Breaking the vrata: On magha purnima, feed Vaisnava Brahmins and give them money and gifts. At the end of the Purnima tithi, break your fast if you fasted.
Concluding prayer; “O Acyuta, O Govinda, O Madhava! Please give me the fruit of this magha vrata and grant me the eternal service of the lotus feet of Srimati Radharani in the groves of Vrndavana as Her eternal maid in attendance.”
Jai Jai Sri Radhe!