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By: Mahanidhi Swami

* What is it?

Extensively described in the Puranas, the magha month vrata is a one month long penance, vow or vrata observed from pausa purnima until magha purnima to please Bhagavan Sri Krishna worshiped as Lord Madhava, the presiding Deity of the month of January 15 to February 15.

The vrata involves mainly taking a bath daily before sunrise in a holy river like Ganga, Yamuna, especially in a holy place like Radha-kunda, Vrndavana, Navadvipa, Jagannatha Puri, Prayaga Triveni (Allahabad)

* Is the magha month vrata for Gaudiya Vaisnavas?

Yes, definitely for Srila Rupa Gosvamipada mentions it in Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu (1.2.260), “bathing in the Ganga or Yamuna in magha month is part of hari-bhakti, pure devotion to Sri Krishna.” In Hari-bhakti-vilasa, Srila Sanatana Gosvami gives a 40 page description of this vrata, which is summarized herein with reference verses in brackets.

* Who observed the magha month vrata?

In Chamatkara Chandrika, Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura describes a wonderful pastime of how Sri Krishna, on the pretext of observing a magha month vrata, secretly met Srimati Radharani and the Vraja-gopis early in the morning in the keli-kunjas near Keshi Ghata beside the Yamuna river in Vrndavana. At that time, Kutila devi, the crooked, inane and suspicious sister-in-law of Sri Radha, came to spy on Radha in hopes of catching Her with Syamasundara.

However, Sri Krishna cleverly fooled Kutila by disguising Himself as Sri Radha’s alleged husband Abhimanyu, the brother of Kutila. Then after tricking Kutila, Sri Krishna went to Yavat, and enacted even more hilarious and satisfying conjugal pastimes with Srimati Radharani right inside the home of Kutila and her nasty mother Jatila.

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu passed ten days in Prayaga bathing daily at the confluence of the Ganga and Yamuna (Triveni) during the yearly magha-mela, the magha month vrata (Cc. 2.18.222).

All the pious demigods and their chaste wives like Aditi, Anasuya, Arundhati, Rohini and Saci observed the magha month vrata. In 1971, Srila Prabhupada and 40 disciples attended the Kumbha Mela in Allahabad to honor the magha month vrata and preach pure Krishna consciousness.

* What benefits does it give?

Like most of the austerities and vratas mentioned in the Puranas, the magha month vrata gives good health, beauty, good qualities, wealth and long life. Bathing outdoors in any body of water during Magha month is very pleasing to Bhagavan Sri Krishna.

It also destroys unlimited sins because the demigods place all their individual potencies in outside bodies of water (163) during this month. Magha snana in a holy place instantly destroys all sinful reactions (115), and grants residence in Vaikuntha (78, 154, 164).

* When to observe the vrata?

Start on Pausa Purnima and end on Magha Purnima. (67)

* How to observe the vrata?

Admittedly, most devotees do not observe this vow, but everyone should be familiar with it and then decide accordingly what is best for your devotional advancement. At least, this most beneficial magha month vrata gives one a good reason to spend a few days in a holy dhama to bathe in Radha kunda, Yamuna or Ganga.

And do not think this vrata is only for neophytes, because I have personally seen one of the biggest Bengali preachers at Radha kunda observing the magha month vrata with a daily pre-sunrise bath.

Like any vow or vrata, this vrata also includes many details concerning diet, prayers, pujas, personal restrictions, chanting astakams etc. but specifically in relation to this vrata, the Hari-Bhakti Vilasa stipulates, “You don’t have to follow any other vow except bathing in a holy place (88). Thus the main vrata or activity is to bathe before sunrise (90, 138) in an outside body of water, preferably Radha-kunda, Yamuna or Ganga (or a bucket of water left outside over night to collect the celestial nectar).

Every step one takes to go outside for bathing pleases Yamaraja, and burns up the reactions of sins that have not yet fructified.

a. Daily Sankalpa Mantra

(affirms your determination or vow)

Upon waking, recite: “O Supreme Lord Madhava! I will bathe every morning without fail during Magha masa.”

b. Before bath, chant this mantra:

“O Acyuta, O Govinda, O Madhava! I am bathing in the month of Magha when the sun travels to the Makara rasi. O Govinda, Madhava kindly bestow upon me the appropriate fruit of this vow.”

c. Puja:

Offer your Thakurji lots of tulasi leaves, manjaris, kitri, kheer, sesame seed preps, fried items and dry fruits.

d. Charity:

Magha, Vaisakha, and Kartika are the most auspicious and beneficial months of the year to observe vratas and give charity. Hari-bhakti-vilasa says Bhagavan Sri Kåñëa becomes very pleased if one donates blankets, quilts, warm clothes, shoes, rice, ghee, oil, wood, ghee lamps and kumkuma (47).

e. Breaking the vrata: On magha purnima, feed Vaisnava Brahmins and give them money and gifts. At the end of the Purnima tithi, break your fast if you fasted.

Concluding prayer:

“O Acyuta, O Govinda, O Madhava! Please give me the fruit of this magha vrata and grant me the eternal service of the lotus feet of Srimati Radharani in the groves of Vrndavana as Her eternal maid in attendance.”

Magha Month Pre Sunrise Radha Kunda Snana ki jai!

Jai Jai Sri Radhe!

*****(Note: this fb article is a streamlined version, but if you want a detailed description of the magha month vrata, then request and we will e-mail to you)****

By: Mahanidhi Swami

Any conditioned soul from any country, caste or creed can get freed from the samsara. All one needs to do is take diksha in the Gaudiya Vaisnava Sampradaya. Then by the grace of Guru and God, he/she will eventually attain Vraja prema, the eternal seva of Radha Govinda Yugala, and life eternal in the land of loving joyful play, Sridhama Vrindavana.

To achieve this perfection one must undergo five rites of purification which are called the pancha samskaras.

The word samskaras means “perfect duties.” It is a highly beneficial, purifying, and sanctifying ceremony. Its rite rests on a series of actions in harmony with metaphysical rules that manifest the invisible reality in the visible world of sense perception. Samskaras eradicate bad karma and increase the auspicious influence of material nature.

Samskaras (rites of purification for mind and body) exist in all religions and in all countries. The purer the religion is, the more its samskaras are sacred and complete. Purification rituals are needed because the original spiritual nature of every conditioned soul is covered by contamination.

Without samskaras the life of the conditioned soul remains impure. Samskaras are rites of sanctification which purify the consciousness, attach one to God, and ultimately lead to prema. Performing a samskara renders an individual fit to execute a particular duty. Prescribed in various Vedic texts, the samskaras are a series of about ten physical and mental purification rites beginning from birth and ending at death.

Gaudiya Vaisnavas accept five sacraments or rites of purification (panca-samskaras). Upon adopting these panca-samskaras, a faithful person receives Gaudiya Vaisnava diksha and begins his life of Radha-Krishna worship, bhajana-kriya, the personal worship of God which eventually leads to pure love of Krishna.

These five sacraments have both internal and external aspects. Tapa, pundra, nama, mantra, and yaga—these five rites are the panca-samskaras. They are the basis of intense devotion to Lord Hari.

1) Tapa—using sandalwood paste or tilaka to write the holy names on the body: Jaya Gaura-Nitai, Hare Krishna, Sri Radhe, and so on. Tapa also includes internal cleansing of the heart by repentance, and developing a genuine aversion to material life.

2) Urdhva-pundra—marking the body with the tilaka symbols of your particular Gaudiya lineage to designate it as a temple for the Lord’s service. The tilaka symbol represents Krishna’s footprint. Seeing it, the devotee thinks, “I have Krishna’s footprint on my head. He is my eternal master, and I am His eternal servant. In all times, places, and circumstances I have an eternal relationship with Krishna.” In a broader sense, urdhva-pundra means all the things related to one’s identity as an eternal servant of Krishna, such as neck beads, dhoti, sari, andjapa mala. Urdhva-pundra also means the illumination of the body, mind, soul and attachment to the Supreme Lord.

3) Nama—receiving the name of Hari (Hare Krishna maha-mantra) in the ear from the preceptor and a spiritual name as Krishna’s servitor like Radha-carana dasa or Priyaji dasi. By taking shelter of the holy names, (and his diksha mantras), and by practicing intense devotional bhajana a disciple will taste the nectar of bhakti, realize his spiritual identity and rejoice in devotional service.

4) Mantra—receiving the eighteen-syllable Gopala-mantra from the spiritual master. By giving a mantra the teacher helps his student more easily experience the nectar of the holy name. The mantra also helps the disciple taste a particular flavor or mellow in the holy name of Krishna.

5) Yaga—utilizing the guru-given mantras to worship Sri Murti or Salagrama. Such puja purifies and protects the devotee from the danger of falling into maya. Yaga, the fifth and final samskara, is the procedure of worshiping the Lord by employing all the mental and physical faculties of meditation, seeing, touching, smelling, tasting, thinking, discriminating and acting. A person without yaga has no life, and he is forced to reap the results of his karma.

“Without accepting the panca-samskara system a conditioned soul cannot develop intense devotion to Lord Krishna. Therefore, panca-samskara is extremely necessary.” (Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura)

Our next article will define and describe the rite of initiation into sacred mantras, diksha.

(Excerpt from book Gayatri Mahima Madhuri by Mahanidhi Swami)

Jai Jai Sri Radhe!