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Mahanidhi Swami

You might be surprised to know that according to the only available authentic scriptural reference today (sravana sukla ek) is the actual day of Lalita-sakhi’s avirbhava tithi or appearance day. Now let’s discuss why today is Lalita-sakhi’s actual appearance day.

In Radha-Krishna Ganoddesa Dipika (v. 79 or 80 sapta vimshati-vaasarih) Srila Rupa Goswamipada says Lalita sakhi’s appearance day is 27 days before Radhastami, which means EVERY YEAR the app. day of Lalita is today Sravana sukla ekadasi. And this date has been acknowledged by many Gaudiya Vaisnava acharyas whom I inquired from. There are no other sastric references mentioning any other day. However, it is also a fact that ISKCON, Gaudiya Math and the Radha Kunda Babaji’s Panchangam say it’s on saptami, one day before Radhastami, and Vrajavasis say it’s on sashti, the 6th day.

Either way, Lalita’s app. day is not really celebrated much by any Vaiṣṇava group with fasting, feasting, a specific lecture about Lalita, or even a mentioning of Lalita-sakhi during a lecture. During my 12 years in U.S. Iskcon, before moving to Vrindavana, we never observed this day.

Srila Prabhupada did not give one lecture on Lalita-sakhi, nor did His Divine Grace give any instructions on observing her birthday. Hence the contradiction of dates is not so important. Of course, in Vraja I think it is observed in Unchagoan (Lalita’s temple) and maybe Iskcon Vrindavana.

The conclusion is that in principle, based on the authority of Srila Rupa Goswamipada, one could according to their personal wish celebrate Lalita’s avirbhava today, sravana sukla ekadasi, which is the actual day. But how to properly celebrate it since there are no sastric descriptions or historical examples to guide its observance?

As a suggestion, today you could pray to Lalita-sakhi for her for mercy, and chant Srila Rupa Goswamipada’s beautiful Lalita-ashtakam. Certainly this will bring gain and no loss.

Srimati Lalita Sakhi ki jai! Jai Jai Sri Radhe!

Sri Lalitastakam

Srila Rupa Goswamipada (sing like Brahma-samhita)

Radha-mukunda-pada-sambhava-gharma-bindu

nirmaïchanopakaraëé-kåta-deha-lakñäm

uttuìga-sauhåda-viçeña-vaçät pragalbhäà

devim gunaih sulalitam lalitam namami (1)

I offer praëäma unto the haughty Sri Lalita-devi who is charmingly endowed with

many beautiful, sweet qualities (sulalitä). She has natural expertise in all arts (lalitä),

thus her sevä self-manifests. She wipes away the glittering drops of perspiration which appear upon the lotus feet of Sri Radha and Mädhava when They meet; and she is perpetually immersed in the most elevated mellow of sauhåda-rasa, or undivided absorption in fulfilling the heart’s desire of her intimate friend Srimati Radhika.

räkä-sudhä-kiraëa-maëòala-känti-daëòi

vaktra-çriyaà cakita-cäru-camüru-neträm

Radha-prasädhana-vidhäna-kalä-prasiddhäà

devim gunaih sulalitam lalitam namami (2)

I offer praëäma unto Sri Lalita-devi whose beautiful face mocks the brilliance of the full moon, whose eyes are ever-restless like those of a startled doe, who is famous for her extraordinary expertise in the art of dressing Srimati Radhika, and who is the treasure-house of unlimited feminine qualities.

läsyollasad-bhujaga-çatru-patatra-citra

paööäàçukäbharaëa-kaïculikäïcitäìgém

gorocanä-ruci-vigarhaëa-gaurimäëaà

devim gunaih sulalitam lalitam namami (3)

I offer praëäma unto Sri Lalita-devi whose body is adorned with a splendid säré as brilliant as the multi-coloured tail-feathers of an ecstatically dancing peacock, whose breast is covered with an exceedingly attractive blouse (kaïculi), whose hair part is decorated with shimmering red vermilion, and who wears various necklaces and other jeweled ornaments. Her golden complexion defeats that of even gorocanä bright golden pigment that comes when rain-water from svati-nakçatra hits the head of a qualified cow and she possesses innumerable good qualities.

dhürte vrajendra-tanaye tanu suñöhu-vämyaà

mä dakñiëä bhava kalaìkini läghaväya

rädhe giraà çåëu hitäm iti çikñayantéà

devim gunaih sulalitam lalitam namami (4)

I offer praëäma unto Sri Lalita-devi, the charming treasure-house of all good qualities, who instructs Srimati Radhika in this way: “O Kalaìkini (unchaste one)! Rädhe! Listen to my good instructions which are favorable for you! Vrajendra-nandana is very crafty (dhürta). Don’t display Your mood of gentle submission (dakñiëä bhäva) to Him; instead, in all circumstances be contrary.”

Radham abhi vraja-pateù kåtam ätmajena

küöaà manäg api vilokya vilohitäkñém

väg-bhaìgibhis tam acireëa vilajjayantéà

devim gunaih sulalitam lalitam namami (5)

I offer praëäma unto the abode of all good qualities, the supremely charming Sri Lalita-devi, who, upon hearing Sri Krishna speak even a few sly words to Srimati Radhika, immediately becomes furious and shames Krishna with her biting, sarcastic remarks, “You are so truthful and simple-hearted, and such a chaste lover!”

vätsalya-vånda-vasatià paçupäla-räjïyäù

sakhyänuçikñaëa-kaläsu guruà sakhénäm

Radha-balävaraja-jévita-nirviçeñäà

devim gunaih sulalitam lalitam namami (6)

I offer praëäma unto the supremely charming Sri Lalita-devi, who possesses all divine qualities; who is also the recipient of Yaçodä-devé’s parental affection; the guru of all the sakhés, instructing them in the art of friendship; and the very life of both Srimati Radhika and the younger brother of Baladeva.

à käm api vraja-kule våñabhänu-jäyäù

prekñya sva-pakña-padavém anurudhyamänäm

sadyas tad-iñöa-ghaöanena kåtärthayantéà

devim gunaih sulalitam lalitam namami (7)

I offer praëäma unto the supremely charming Sri Lalita-devi, the treasure-house of all good qualities. Upon seeing any young maiden anywhere in Vraja and discerning that she is inclined towards her priya-sakhé Srimati Radhika, Lalitä immediately tells Radha that She must accept this person in Her own party (sva-pakña). Radha obeys Lalitä, who thus fulfills that maiden’s desires.

Radha-vrajendra-suta-saìgama-raìga-caryäà

varyäà viniçcitavatém akhilotsavebhyaù

à gokula-priya-sakhé-nikuramba-mukhyäà

devim gunaih sulalitam lalitam namami (8)

I offer praëäma unto Sri Lalita-devi, the embodiment of all divine virtues and the foremost of all the favorite sakhés of Gokula. Her primary task is providing pleasure for Sri Radha-Govinda by arranging Their meetings – this delightful sevä surpasses the enjoyment of all the best festivals combined together.

nandann amüni lalitä-guëa-lälitäni

padyäni yaù paöhati nirmala-dåñöir añöau

prétyä vikarñati janaà nija-vånda-madhye

taà kértidä-pati-kulojjvala-kalpa-vallé (9)

If a person with a cheerful and pure heart recites this añöaka in praise of Lalita-devi, he will be affectionately brought into Srimati Radhika’s own group of sakhés. Lalitädevé is superbly ornamented with beauty, grace and charm, and, along with Srimati Radhika, is the effulgent wish-fulfilling creeper (kalpa-vallé) of Våñabhänu Mahäräja’s family that winds around the kalpa-våkña of Krishna.

Mahanidhi Swami

What is an Utsava?

Every year, Radha-Krishna’s devotees celebrate many kinds of festivals (aka utsava) of varying sizes called either utsava, maha utsava or maha maha utsava. In Sanskrit, the word utsava means a festival or celebration that gives happiness to all.

Especially held in honor Bhagavan Sri Krishna and His devotees, an utsava will typically include these features: flower petals and garlands, gates, decorations, and sprinkling sandal-scented water; special gorgeous dresses, offerings and worship of Radha and Krishna; music with many kinds of instruments like karatala, mrdanga, horns, flutes, bells, gongs and conches; harinama sankirtana with euphoric dancing; hearing Govinda lila-katha, enthusiastic maha-prasada seva; and meeting with devotees—sharing hearts, aspirations and Krishna-katha.

Bhagavan Sri Krishna personally describes how to observe a mahotsava for the pleasure of one’s cherished Thakuraji, “During a mahotsava, devotees should become absorbed for some time in singing along with other devotees, chanting loudly and dancing, acting out My transcendental pastimes, and hearing and telling stories about Me.” (SB 11.27.44)

One devotee said, “A festival means plans, preparations, creativity, color, smells and surprises. It means friends—giving, receiving and sharing; along with lots of singing, dancing, playing and merrymaking—ALL for the pleasure of Thakuraji.”

One Vrajavasi said, “Utsava means an enjoyable festival of bliss by seeing Radha Ramanaji, singing, dancing and feasting on His maha-prasada!”

I definitely agree with this!

Types of Utsavas

Gaudiya Vaisnavas observe all kinds of spiritual celebrations including even a “mango eating” festival (Amotsava). Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja explains, “Every day for twelve months, Lord Gauranga performed kirtana, and held a mango-eating festival with His bhaktas, bara masa kirtana avasane, amra mahotsava prabhu kare dine dine.” (Cc. 1.17.88)

Here is a list of some joyous celebrations: birth, janmotsava (Sri Krishna Janmotsava and Nandotsava; Krishna’s dancing with gopis, Rasotsava; swinging festival, Dolotsava; chipped rice and sweet yogurt, Cida-Dadhi Mahotsava; bathing Sri Jagannathaji, Snana-yatra Mahotsava; beholding a youthful Jagannathaji, Netrotsava; Lakshmi coming to see Jagannatha Swami, Hera Panchami Mahotsava; lighting hundreds of ghee lamps, Deepavali Mahotsava; offering Giriraja a mountain of grains, Annakuta Mahotsava; name giving, nama karana mahotsava; marriage, vivahotsava; disappearance day, tirobhava mahotsava; and a super big blissful Harinama festival, maha maha utsava sankirtana range.

One can even hold a daily super grand festival of bliss, as Sri Advaita Prabhu did when Mahaprabhu visited him in Shantipura, prati-dina kare acarya maha mahotsava. (Cc. 2.3.201)

Beside all the wonderful benefits, one will derive from observing the festivals described above, Srila Rupa Goswamipada says, “If one celebrates festivals in the temple of Lord Hari, then such a person’s festivals will be forever celebrated in the realm of Lord Hari [as a result], bhavati nityam hari-loke mahotsavah.” (Brs. 1.2.220)

Considering all these points, devotees can also observe wonderful festivals of bliss, mahotsavas, to honor the most auspicious appearance days of Srimati Radharani and Her beloved asta-sakhis. Their avirbhava tithis are listed here for your observance.

Sakhi Janmotsavas 2016

August 14: Lalita-sakhi, Shravana shukla ekadasi (see below too)

September 2: Ranga & Sudevi-sakhis, Bhadra shukla ekam

September 4: Tungavidya-sakhi, Bhadra shukla tritiya

September 6: Indulekha-sakhi, Bhadra shukla panchami

September 8: Campakalata & Lalita-Sakhis, Bhadra shukla saptami

September 9: Sri Radhastami & Visakha-sakhi, Bhadra shukla ashtami

October 4: Chitra-sakhi, Ashwina shukla tritiya.

Ashta-sakhi shiromani, Radhe! Radhe! Jai Jai Sri Radhe!