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. 15) and end on Utthana Ekadasi (Nov. 13), 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, don’t eat….)
Diet # 1
Urad dal(e.g. kachoris)
Diet # 2
Don’t eat #1 plus avoid the following:
2. 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 –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.
Observe 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!!
JAI JAI SRI RADHE SYAMA!!