Mahanidhi Madan Gopal Das
I. What is Karttika vrata?
It is a 30-day vow observed during the Karttika (Damodara) month for the sole pleasure of Srimati Radharani, the transcendental form of pure devotion to Krishna. During Karttika, one offers daily regulated extra services (eg. pujas, dipams, prayers, sastric study, parikramas).
II. Who observes it?
Because the Karttika vrata is extensively glorified and recommended in the Puranas and other Vedas, all Vaisnavas observe it, especially Gaudiya Vaisnavas.
III. How is Karttika vrata related to Sri Radha?
In Bhakti-rasamrita Sindhu, Sri Rupa Goswamipada calls it the “Urja vrata”. This refers to Sri Krishna’s internal potency for performing pastimes i.e. Urjeshvari Sri Radha, who is the Queen of all Krishna’s powers and pastime potencies.
In Stavamala, Sri Rupa Goswamipada Gosvami says Sri Radha is Karttiki-devi, the ishta-devata of Karttika. Therefore, Gaudiya Vaisnavas observe Karttika vrata to please the Queen of Bhakti, Sri Radhika, and attain Radha’s eternal service.
In Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna says, “I am the month of Nov.-Dec. (margashirsha -aham).” The shakti always precedes shaktiman as in Lakshmi-Narayana, Sita-Rama, Radha-Krishna. Thus, the month preceding Nov.-Dec. (Krishna month) is Oct.-Nov. or Karttika (Radha month)!
IV. The Radha Damodar Lila
The Brahma Vaivarta Purana describes a lila wherein Sri Krishna arrived 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, during the month of Karttika, Gaudiya Vaisnavas focus their worship on Radha-Damodara. Jai Jai Sri Radheee!!
V. What are the benefits?
The good results of other vratas last for only one lifetime, but Karttika vrata awards one inexhaustible benefits (akshaya phala). [Hari Bhakti Vilasa 16.54] For the smallest offering during Karttika, Sri Krishna gives one a spiritual form and eternal residence in Goloka Vrndavana.
VI. When and where to observe it?
Wherever you are that’s where, but make sure your heart is in Vrndavana. Why is Vrndavana the best place 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-Krishna in Vrndavana during Karttika. Sri Rupa Goswamipada quotes Padma Purana in Bhakti Rasamrta Sindhu (1.2.222), “Sri Hari very quickly awards pure Krishna bhakti to anyone observing Karttika in Vraja Mandala.”
Summarizing Sri Jiva Gosvami’s tika on this verse, Srila Prabhupada said, ”Even an unserious person who executes the Karttika Vrata in Vraja Mandala is very easily awarded Lord Krishna’s personal service.” (Nectar of Devotion pg. 103)
Hari Bhakti Vilasa (16.183) says, “You can start on Ashvin Ekadasi or Purnima.” Many Gaudiya Vaisnavas start on Purnima and breakfast on Karttika Purnima.
VII. 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
Don’t eat Urad dal (e.g. kachoris)
Diet # 2
Don’t eat #1 plus avoid the following:
2. Your Favorite food items
3. Fried food
6. Kidney Beans (Rajma)
7. Mustard oil (in or on the body)
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-Krishna.
4. Observe celibacy one month.
5. Chant 16, 32 or 64 rounds of Hare Krishna mahamantra japa.
6. Recite ashtakams and prayers glorifying Radha and Krishna, e.g. Radha Krpa Kataksham; Gopi Gita (SB 10.31)
7. Hear, recite or speak Bhagavad-gita or Srimad Bhagavatam, Radha-Krishna’s 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 offerings to the maximum level.
12. Keep ghee or sesame oil lamp burning daily near Thakuraji.
* Utthana Ekadasi Vrata: If possible you should observe the Utthana Ekadasi vrata with 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.
VIII. Last Words
Before starting the Karttika Vrata you should worship your spiritual master and take blessings for success. Upon concluding the vrata, you should again worship your spiritual master, and offer Krishna prasada to the Vaisnavas.
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!!
Jai Jai Sri Radhe! Giriraja Baba ki jai!