By: Mahanidhi Swami
from padma purana and hari bhakti vilasa, 14th vilasa (verses in brackets)
I. Tattva / identity
If one does not take Magha snana, his life is meaningless. Magha snana pleases krsna more than observing vows, austerities and charity. This is the best month to do pious activities. (160) One should observe Magha vrata every year. (76) It is the duty of every human being to bathe in a holy place during Magha masa to please lord Krsna. (127) Water is pure and destroys unlimited amount of sins during Magha masa because the demigods place all their individual potencies in water. (163) Dattatreya explains, “The human body is useless without Magha snana.” (P.P. Vol. 46, Pg. 2763). These five acts are very pleasing to Lord Krsna: (i) observe Magha vrata; (ii) observe Karttika vrata; (iii) chant twelve–syllable mantra ─ Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya; (iv) worship Lord Visnu daily with sixteen articles; and (v) maintain a Tulasi grove. There is also a triad of vows which is very dear to Lord Visnu ─ Magha vrata, Karttika vrata, Ekadasi vrata.
II. Magha Vrata Summary
It is best to bathe before or at sunrise in a holy place. One should give gifts esp. sesame seeds and gur to brahmanas. Worship the sun-god and keep the ghee lamps lit in the home or temple.
III. Date to Start and finish the vow
Start on pausa Purnima and end on Magha Purnima. (67) On Magha Purnima, feed brahmanas, give charity and break your fast.
IV. The daily bath
1.Time : Best before sunrise (90, 138) or pratah kala (6:00 – 8:30 a.m.).
2.Place: Outside in a pond, lake, kunda or river. Ganga bath awards 1,000 times the benefit. By bathing in Triveni, one gets 1,00,000 times the benefit. Every step one takes to go outside for bathing burns the reactions of sins that have not yet fructified and pleases Yama. (93) It is a sastric injunction to bathe in a holy place only to give pleasure to Lord Krsna. One must bathe outside the home at least 3,5 or 7 times in the month. Even bathing in a mud puddle awards mukti.
House Bath – Set a bucket outside in the open air overnight, bring it inside and bathe. This equals bathing in a holy place. Such a bath bestows all desirable objects. (Add a drop of Ganga, Yamuna or Radhakunda water).
3. Sankalpa Mantra Vow: Upon waking in the morning, one should recite this : “O Supreme Lord Madhava! I will bathe every morning without fail during Magha masa.”
maghamasam imam purnam
snasye’ham deva madhava
4. Best Bath Time Mantra : “O Acyuta, O Govinda, O Madhava! I bathe in the month of Magha when the sun travels to the Makara rasi. O Lord, kindly bestow upon me the appropriate fruit of this vow.”
makaraste ravau magha
govinda acyuta madhava
snanenanena me deva
yathokta phalado bhava
5. Benefits of magha snana in a holy place: Grave sins committed knowingly or unknowingly are destroyed. (79) Lord Brahma says, “All sins committed with the mind, speech or action are destroyed by bathing in a holy place. Any pious acts (e.g., chanting mantras or yajnas) performed for the pleasure of lord krsna give unlimited benefits.” (81) If one person from a family bathes in a holy place, all the past and future relatives get liberated by Lord Krsna. (83) All sins are vanquished. (141, 145) just by bathing in a holy place for three days, one gets wealth and long life. One becomes free from all distress and sins and goes to Svarga. (60) One goes to Vaikuntha with 21 generations. (78, 154, 164) Nothing is more effective in destroying sinful reactions than bathing in a holy place. Magha snana in a holy place is the best remedy for conditioned souls because it instantly destroys all sinful reactions. It is more beneficial than all vows. It awards all types of boons. (115) Gives good health, beauty, good qualities, wealth and long life. (118) Daily Magha snana destroys all sins and calamities, pleases Lord Visnu, and gives liberation. Magha snana fulfills all one’s desires. if one takes Magha snana anywhere outside of home, he will experience no sorrows in this or next life. Magha snana at Prayaga is equal to worshiping Lord Visnu at a 100 crore of other places. The fruit of fasting for ten years is equal to three days Magha snana at Prayaga.
6. Bath rules: You don’t have to follow any other vow. Nothing else is required except bathing in a holy place. If you bathe in a holy place, you don’t have to do anything else. (88) One should bathe in silence. (31, 85) Put clay on your head before bath. While bathing, offer oblations to Suryadeva. Brahmanas should remember the names of Hari, Madhava, Vasudeva and Visnu.
V. Magha Vrata
1.Rules : (i) One should control the mind and senses, observe celibacy, sleep on floor and follow proper behaviour; (ii) no oil on body; (iii) don’t eat food cooked or given by others; (iv) eat once a day; (v) give up receiving gifts; (vi) renounce your favorite object. (106)
2.Deity Puja : Worship the Supreme Lord with special care and attention, offering lamps, food, incense and sandalwood paste. By worshiping the supreme lord with care and attention, one attains spiritual world. (69) One should worship a brahmana couple with food, sandalwood paste, blanket, cloth, jewels. (46) light an akhanda-dipa from sunset to sunrise near Deity, offer lots of tulasi leaves and manjaris to the deity. Offer fragrant rice. If you offer lotus or campaka flower, you’ll go to Vaikuntha. Bathe the Deity daily in water and milk. Offer sesame seed preparations to the Deity, khichri with dry fruits, kheer and ghee fried items.
4.Charity: Give charity according to your capacity throughout the month. Blankets, warm clothes, shoes, wood, waterpot, umbrella, ghee, oil, cotton wicks are preferred items. Giving food items with sesame seeds and gur destroys your sins, esp. on Sankranti. Magha masa is a special month to give gifts to brahmanas. It destroys sins, awards happiness and residence in heaven. Austerities and penances performed without giving gifts don’t shine like sky without sun. Whatever gifts one gives to brahmanas, one gets inexhaustible results. One should also offer food to ancestors. Lord Krsna says: “On sankranti, Amavasya or Purnima in Magha, Vaisakha, Asadha and Karttika, if you give charity to a brahmana, you will receive a house, happiness, other enjoyable things and liberation.” It especially pleases Krsna if we give blankets, quilts, warm clothes, shoes, rice, ghee, oil, wood, ghee lamps and kumkuma. (47)
VI. Special puja days
Everyone should observe vasanta pancami, Bhaimi Ekadasi and Varaha Dvadasi. (166)
Krsna Paksa : 1. Makara Sankranti (Jan. 14) : offer fragrant rice to thakuraji. Offer lotus or campaka flower ─ go to Vaikuntha. One should definitely take Magha snana in a holy place. One must distribute gur and sesame gajjak to brahmanas in public.
2. Amavasya (Mauni Amavasya): One must take a bath in a holy place. Observe complete silence from sunrise to sunset and constantly chant Hare Krsna mahamantra.
Sukla Paksa : 3. Tritiya (Manvantari): Any gifts given on this day bestow inexhaustible results.
4. Pancami (Vasanta): It is a very important bathing day. Bathe the Deity with milk and coconut water. Offer lots of fruits. Decorate the temple with mango leaves. Dress them in new, fine clothes. Illuminate the house with lamps. Offer whole coconut, grapes, sugarcane juice, green vegetables and yellow food items like saffron rice. Worship sun-god, Ganga and Mother earth. Worship Saraswati, and also worship Srimad Bhag., Bhag. Gita, Guru-Parampara, and articles which are worshiped as dwelling places of saraswati like notebooks , pens, papers, musical instruments e.g., karatals, mrdangas etc. Keep everything on the altar and cover the picture of Saraswati with yellow cloth. Serve vaisnavas, sing and dance. (167) Play musical instruments in Vasanta raga. If you worship Lord Krsna on Vasanta Pancami, you will become very dear to Supreme Lord. (170)
5. Saptami: It is a special day to worship Surya Bhagavan (Sun–God). If you fast on this day, you get liberation and attain the punya equal to observing a solar eclipse. Recite this prayer:”This seventh day of Magha sukla should destroy the sins of my seven lives, and destroy my diseases and miseries. This saptami day is the mother of all Saptamis! Belonging to the Sun, you have appeared on the seventh day. I offer my respects to you, O devi, living on the Sun planet.”
On Sapatmi, donate grains and red cloth out of love for the sun. Worship Surya Narayana. Offer an arka leaf, a fragrant red flower, badri fruit, rice, sacred thread coated with kumkuma, all inside a copper pot. Offer saffron water. Offer grains and red cloth. Also wear red clothes.
6. Bhisma Astami: For five days, beginning on astami, when bathing stand in water facing North and hang one’s brahmana thread like a flower mala. Offer water to Bhisma with this mantra: ”Let me offer this oblation of water to the great devotee Bhisma, who belongs to the Vaiaghra pada (Lion), is enriched with spiritual understanding and who had no son. (173)
vaiaghra padya gotraya
sankrti pravaraya ca
aputraya dadyam ye tat
salilam bhisma varmmane
VII. Breaking the magha vrata
On Magha Purnima, feed brahmanas and give them gifts. At the end of Purnima tithi, break the fast. End with this prayer : “O Govinda, Acyuta, Madhava! Please give me the fruit of Magha vrata and eternal service of the lotus feet of Srimati Radharani in the groves of Vrndavana as Her eternal palyadasi.” (9027)
Jai Jai Sri Radhe!