By Mahanidhi Swami

The Karttika Vrata means, “Don’t eat, don’t sleep; just chant Hare Krishna 24/7!”

In 1972, Srila Prabhupada once observed Karttika month in Sri Vrindavana beginning on Ashwina Shukla Ekadasi, and he advised his American disciples to do likewise. Before leaving America to go to India for Karttika, Srila Prabhupada said, “In Vrindavana, we shall have Urja vrata [means Karttika vrata] for one month. You also could observe Karttika vrata here [Los Angeles] from the next EKADASI for one month.” (721005DP.LA)

When Srila Prabhupada arrived in India, some disciples asked, “Srila Prabhupada, can you describe how to observe the Karttika vrata? Srila Prabhupada replied, “You should chant the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra twenty-four hours a day for one month. That’s all! Yes! And don’t sleep, don’t eat. This is Karttika vrata. Can you execute? (721018ND.VRN) Srila Prabhupada ki jai!

More Karttika posts coming soon. Karttika niyama-seva Vrata ki jai!

Srimati Radharani ki jai! Shyama-kunda Radha Kunda ki jai!

Jai Jai Sri Radhe!

By Mahanidhi Swami

Why do Gaudiya Vaisnavas observe Karttika Vrata? Gaudiyas especially observe Karttika Vrata for the purpose of worshiping and pleasing Srimati Radharani. Because Radha is most famous as Karunamayi Radha, we very strictly follow all the rules and regulations of the Kartika Vrata, NIYAMA SEVA, so that Srimati showers us with Her divine compassion.

The goal of this month, our lives and every moment is simply to gain a glance of mercy and favor from our beloved Swamini Radha.

May Sri Radha, all Her merciful sakhis and manjaris, Sri Krishna, Nitai-Gauranga, and all the Gurus in our parampara bless us with gopi-bhava and Srimati Radhika’s eternal loving service in the groves of Sridhama Vrndavana.

For Gaudiya Vaisnavas, Karttika Vrata is more important than any other vrata in the year. Other vratas observed for the satisfaction of Syamasundara and His expansions last for one day at most, but Sri Radha’s pleasure vow of Karttika LASTS FOR ONE MONTH.

In Stavamala, Sri Rupa Gosvamipada describes Sri Radha in one verse as Kartiki-devi Srimati Radharani. In Bhakti Rasamrta Sindhu, he describes Karttika Vrata as the Urja-vrata. Urja means power, strength and empowerment. And who is the source of this urja, power and spiritual strength? Urjeshvari Radha and only Radha. Kishori Radha is the Goddess or the Queen and one and only worshipable Deity of the month of Kartika.

Kartikidevi Srimati Radharani ki jai! Urjeshvari Radhika ki jai!

All Vaisnavas, including Gaudiyas, observe many other vows, vratas, and fasting days to honor Bhagavan or His various expansions on days such as Janmastami, Ramnavami, Nrsimha Chaturdashi, Vamana Mahadvadasi etc.

It is interesting to note that these shaktiman Purusha Bhagavan Vratas only extend for one day or half a day at most. But in case of the shakti, sarva-sakti-mayi powerhouse source, Radharani, the vrata extends for one month. It is not one day long or fasting till midnight like Janmastami or fasting half a day. It is one entire month called niyama seva month.

And yes, like all other Vaisnavas, we will sing about and full-heartedly glorify Lord Damodara of Gokula throughout this month and devotedly worship Bhagavan Sri Krishna in this most mischievous and beautiful form. But this most auspicious and wonderful month of Karttika, we Gaudiya Vaisnavas especially focus on worshiping and performing special observances for the pleasure of our most worshipful Aradhya-devi Srimati Radharani.

Niyama means doing extra and special sevas simply to please Radharani; more Nama-japa and kirtana, extra prayers, extra puja, extra reading, extra preaching, extra Hari, Guru, Vaisnava seva and more—all for happiness of Srimati Radharani. This is the goal of our sadhana.

Our prayojana is Radharani’s pleasure! We observe Karttika Vrata only for the purpose of bringing more joy to Radhika. And if Swamini so desires, She will be compassionate to us, purify us, and make us eligible to attain Her eternal divine service in the groves of Vrindavana.

Other vratas like Harivasara Ekadasi and Bhagavan Janmotsavas are of course important, but for Gaudiya Vaisnavas, Kartika Vrata is by far the most powerful, extensive and necessary vow of austerities, penances, pujas and devotional practices.

To repeat, our ishta-devi is Srimati Radharani and Karttika is THE MONTH TO SPECIFICALLY WORSHIP Srimati Radharani.

And there are so many benefits of the Kartika Vrata described in Hari Bhakti Vilasa which will be described in our upcoming articles. When the days get longer and longer, and your vrata seems to become more and more difficult, simply remember: DO OR DIE, IT’S ALL FOR RAI!

(Rai is a sweet name for Radha)

Karttika Niyama Seva Vratotsava ki jai!

Jai Jai Sri Radheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!

By Mahanidhi Swami

2015/Oct 24—Nov 22

I. What is It?
It is a 30-day vow observed during the Karttika (Damodara)month for the sole pleasure of Srimati Radharani, the Goddess of pure love devotion to Bhagavan Sri Krsna in Vrndavana. In brief, niyama-seva means offering daily regulated extra services (eg. pujas, dipams, prayers, sastric study, parikramas).

II. Who observes it?
Because the Karttika vrata is extensively glorified, described and recommended in the Puranas and other Vedas, all vaisnavas observe it, especially the Gaudiya vaisnavas who strictly follow the teachings of their mahajana Rasikacarya Srila Rupa Gosvami pada.

III. How is Karttika vrata related to Sri Radha?
In BRS, Rupa Gosvami describes the observance as “Respecting the Urja vrata” and he says it is one of the sixty- four angas or important limbs of pure Krsna- bhakti. Urja refers to Sri Krsna’s internal potency for performing pastimes. Sri Radha is known as Urjesvari , the controller or Queen of all powers and pastime potencies. Therefore, Gaudiya vaisnavas observe Karttika vrata to please the Queen of Bhakti, Sri Radhika, in order to attain Her eternal service along with Her Priyatama Syama.

In Stavamala , Rupa Gosvami says Sri Radha is the ista-devata of the Karttika month by referring to Her as Karttiki Devi. The Brahma Vaivarta Purana describes the lila wherein Sri Krsna was late for His meeting with Radhika in a Vraja Nikunja. Priyaji punished Her beloved Priyatama by using many Madhavi- latas to tie Him up to a Kadamba tree.

Thus, the Gaudiya vaisnavas worship Radha-Damodara during the month of Karttika. Also in Bhagavad Gita, Bhagavan Sri Krsna says, “I am the month of Nov-Dec (Margasirsa aham).” As always, Sakti precedes Saktiman as in Laksmi-Narayana, Sita-Rama, Radha-Krsna. Therefore, the month preceding Nov-Dec (Krsna month) is Oct-Nov or Karttika which is Radharani’s month!
Jai Jai Sri Radheee!!

IV. What are the benefits?
The good results of other vratas last for only one lifetime but the Karttika vrata awards one inexhaustible benefits (aksaya phala). [HBV. 16.54] For even the smallest offering during Karttika, Sri Krsna gives one his spiritual form and eternal residence in Goloka Vrndavana.

V. When and where to observe it?
Wherever you are that’s where, but beware your heart is there— in Vrndavana. Why is Vrndavana the best place in universe to observe the Karttika vrata? It is because all the holy places, rivers and lakes reside in Vrndavana during Karttika.

The perfect atonement to purify the sins of a lifetime is to worship Radha and Krsna in Vrndavana during Karttika. Rupa Gosvami quotes Padma Purana in BRS (1.2.222), “Lord Hari awards enjoyment and liberation to devotees observing Karttika vrata outside Vraja Mandala.”

Summarizing Sri Jiva Gosvami’s tika on this verse, our Srila Prabhupada said, ”Even an unserious person who executes the Karttika Vrata in Vraja Mandala is very easily awarded Lord Krsna’s personal service.” (NOD 103)

In other words, the worship of Radha Damodara in Vraja during Karttika has such supercharged spiritual power that one immediately becomes eligible for the blessing of pure bhakti from our most merciful Lord, Bhakta Vatsala Sri Krsna.

You can start on Ekadasi or Purnima but most Gaudiya vaisnavas begin on Pasankusa Ekadasi (oct 24) and end on Utthana Ekadasi (Nov. 22), and break the fast the next day.

VI. How to observe Karttika vrata?
All the sevas and practices mentioned here must be done everyday for the entire month.

(Choose your diet plan, and then everyday FOR 30 DAYS DO NOT EAT…..)

Diet # 1
Urad dal(e.g. kachoris)

Diet # 2
Don’t eat #1 plus avoid the following:

  1. Carrots
  2. Favorite food items
  3. Fried food
  4. Hing
  5. Honey
  6. Kidney Beans (Rajma)
  7. Mustard oil (in or on the body)
  8. Pickles

Diet # 3
Avoid items in #1 and #2, plus eat only one time during 24 hours (sunrise to sunrise).

B.TWELVE DAILY SEVAS (Observe each of the following twelve sevas everyday for 30 days of Karttika )

  1. Rise brahma muhurta time and offer mangala aratika.
  2. Recite Damodarastakam by Satyavrata Muni.
  3. Offer ghee lamp to Radha –Krsna.
  4. Observe celibacy one month.
  5. Chant 16, 32 or 64 rounds Hare Krsna Mahamantra japa.
  6. Recite astakams and prayers glorifying Radha and Krsna, e.g. Radha/ Krsna Krpakataksam; Gopi gita.
  7. Hear, recite or speak Bhagavad Gita or Srimad Bhagavatam, Radha-Krsna Vrndavana lilas.
  8. Perform 1-3 hours daily Sri Hari Nama Sankirtana.
  9. Thakuraji/ Mandira parikrama.
  10. Tulasi—aratika, song and parikrama.
  11. Deity puja– Increase to maximun level.
  12. Keep ghee or sesame oil lamp burning daily near Thakuraji.

Finally on last day of Karttika, you should observe the Utthana Ekadasi vrata; complete fasting including water, and remain awake all night hearing, chanting, singing and dancing for the pleasure of Radha-Damodara. On Dvadasi, break fast by giving charity and donating food to vaisnava brahmanas.

VII. Last Words
Before starting the Karttika vrata you should worship your spiritual master and the vaisnavas, and take their blessings for success. Upon conclusion of your vrata, you should again worship your spiritual master, thank him and offer mahaprasada to the vaisnavas.

From our small corner at Radhakunda in Sri Dhama Vrndavana, we sincerely pray to our Swamini Sri Radha and our Prananatha Giridhari Syama to bless you all with full success in your Karttika Niyama Seva Vrata.

And remember that whatever difficulties may arise to test your heart’s determination just think: DO OR DIE, ITS ALL FOR RAI!!

By Mahanidhi Swami

On the day after Dipavali, Nanda Baba arranges for Jatipura brahmanas to do a pancha-amrta abhisheka of Giriraja Govardhana. Cooks prepare many kinds of sweets, rice, rotis and sabjis. Then then they arrange everything on leaf places to offer to Govardhana Hill. In one form Krishna sits next to Nanda Baba. And in another, huge form, Krishna sits atop Giriraja gobbling up all the offered foodstuffs at once with one very long arm! Observing this, small Gopala says, “Baba! Just see how Giriraja is eating everything!” Nanda and the cowherders happily gaze upon Giriraja in great amazement as Giriraja Baba concludes His bhoga and munches on some paan.

Then the Vrajavasis offer Giriraja Dharan lots of flower garlands and sandalwood paste. Local brahmanas offer Giriraja a huge ghee lamp held on a long pole. At the end, the gopas offer dandavats to Giriraja and ask Him, “O Giriraja Dharani! What is the best way to please You?”

Giriraja resoundingly replies, “I am most pleased by anyone who performs My parikrama!” So that’s exactly what Nanda Baba and all the gopas do. Leading the parikrama are the cows, then the brahmanas, the older gopas and gopis, the young gopis, Sri Krishna, His chums and lastly Nanda Maharaja and Yashoda Maiya. After Govardhana parikrama, Nanda Baba feed all the Vrajavasis brahmanas and give lavish charity of cows, gold, silver and cloth.

Nanda and his family then take prasadam and rest afterwards. The Playful Pair, Priya-Priyatama, slipped away for some confidential exchanges in a secluded Giriraja nikunja. Later, the Divine Couple return to the camp and meet again at midday at Radha Kunda for Their usual fun loving pastimes. (Gaur Govinda Gutika, adapted)

Radha-Govinda’s Giriraja Annakuta Utsava ki jai!

Giriraja Dharan ki jai!

Jai Jai Sri Radhe!

By Mahanidhi Swami

Hurry! Only 11 days remain until Karttika Vrata begins! The Karttika Vrata, the one month long vow performed especially to please Srimati Radharani, consists of “niyama-seva” or increased sevas and offerings in sadhana bhakti performed every day at particular times. Most sincere sadhakas are trying their best every day to serve Radha Govinda Yugala, so they really can’t do much more. But Karttika is a special time with special benefits available to devotees who need a boost to surrender more, do more and serve more.

Although many devotees observe Karttika Vrata from Ashvina Purnima to Karttika Purnima), the Radha-Damodara Mandira, all the Goswami temples in Vrindavana and Radha-kunda observe the Karttika Vrata “niyamaseva” month from Ashwina Sukla Ekadashi to Karttika Utthana Ekadashi (Oct.24—Nov.22)

We are reminding all the devotees to START NOW thinking about, planning and devising a reasonable and sustainable increased sadhana program for your Karttika Vrata. Remember the 5 P’s of sadhana success:

  1. Proper
  2. Planning
  3. Prevents
  4. Poor
  5. Performance

From Sri Radha-kunda Dhama within the Madana-sukhada Kunja, we sincerely pray that Radhika-Giridhari Shyama will fully bless all my devoted friends with the requisite enthusiasm, surrender and determination to complete their Karttika niyama-sevas vows. As always, every year we remind everyone of our Karttika motto, “DO OR DIE IT IS ALL FOR RAI!!!

Srimati Radharani ki jai! Radha-Damodara ki jai!

Sri Vraja Dhama ki jai!

Jai Jai Sri Radhe!