The holiest month Kartik and beliefs

Written by Sidheswar Misra

Lakhs of devotees, mostly old and widows have thronged the pilgrim cities Puri of Odisha and Vrindavan of Uttar Pradesh, to observe the month long Kartik Vrata, which started from October 25, 2018 and will end on November 23, 2018.

Because the whole month of ‘Kartika’ is considered to be the most sacred for the pious Hindus, the believers take pre-dawn bath and visit temples. Especially during this month huge crowd gathers in Jagannath Dham Puri of Odisha and Mathura /Vrindaban of Uttar Pradesh. The last five days of the month, called ‘Bhishm Panchuka’, are considered more sacred; the last day is called the “Kartika Purnima“. The devotees, mostly old couples and widows, stay in these holy places the entire month and spend most of their time in divine activities. The crowd increases in Puri during the last five days of the month. Last five days have been described as most important in Hindu scriptures. It is described that if anyone could not observe Vrata the whole month, can get the similar result if observes Vrata on these five days while following the practices whole month. The ‘Vrata’ would conclude on the “Kartik Purnima” day with devotees taking holy dip in Pancha Teertha before darshan of Lord Jagannath. The lords used to take five different new ”Veshas” (attires) each day. Similar rituals get performed in Krishna temples in Vrindaban as well and here most of the crowd are Widows.

It is widely believed that people get divine result by taking holy dips during the Kartik month which is  known as “Kartik Snan”. This year the snan has started from 25th October and will end on 23rd November. Numerous references regarding the holiness of the month is found in various scriptures associated with Hinduism. Taking a holy dip (Bathing) in River Ganga at Prayag and Badarikashrama in the Himalayas in Kartik Mahina is considered to be a means of attaining salvation.

It is believed that Lord Vishnu appeared in the form of Matsya (fish) to restore the Vedas in this month. The greatness of taking a bath in the holy rivers in Kartik month is mentioned in Puranas and other scriptures. Lord Krishna has narrated about the importance of Kartik mahina to his Satyabhama. Lord Shiva destroyed demon Tarkasur on the Purnima day in this month.

As per Hinduism, the month of Kartik normally comes around October-November as per English Calendar and is considered as the Holiest Month. Kartik Month is otherwise termed as Damodar and also considered as the best, the most glorious and the most purified month in the year. The reason it is termed as “Damodar” month has a story behind it. Ancient Hindu scriptures like sakand Purana, Narad Purana, Pagh Purana etc have mentioned the significance of this month.

The word Damodar has been associated with Lord Krishna. Damodar word is the derivative of two words Dama – means ‘ropes’ and Udara – means “the whole abdomen”. There is also a story behind naming Lord Krishna as ‘Damodar’. It is mentioned in Puranas that during the child hood days of Lord Krishna, because of his naughty nature, mother Yashoda was disturbed once and had tied him up with a rope at his abdomen and fix him between two trees. Because the rope was tied up in his abdomen, Krishna is known as Damodar and this incident had taken place in the month of Kartik and hence this particular month is dedicated to Damodar and has become favourite of Lord Krishna as per the narration in Skanda Puran.

There is also a narration in the Puran how Lord Krishna scrawled with the tied rope to enroot two huge trees and saved two cursed Divine beings. The childhood pastimes were glorified during this time and hence to celebrate this pious movements it has been a ritual to offer lamps to Lord Krishna in the month of Kartik.

The Puranas narrated how dearer is this month to Lord Krishna out of the twelve months in a year. The weather and atmosphere remain pious during this month as well. There is a ritual of observing Vratas (Disciplined Lifestyle) and austerities in lifestyles during the month and it is believed that even the smallest discipline in this month yields huge results. It is also a common belief in Hindu religion that if one keeps performing the Vrata during Karti Vrata, the effect lasts for one hundred lifetimes. Lord Krishna’s mercy is very easily accessible in this month and to demonstrate their sincerity devotees accept different austerities such as fasting, cutting down on non-essential activities and offering charity.  Worship of Tulsi and serving Lord Krishna’s cows is especially glorified.

In the month of Kartika (October-November); especially in Vrndavana/Mathura of Uttar Pradesh and Puri (Jagannath Dham) of Odisha, there are specific programs for temple worship of the Lord in His Damodara form.

As the Skanda Puran and Vishnu Puran narrate about the offerings need to be made and rituals to be performed to purify a soul, the devotees follow specific norms to observe the Kartik Vrata. During Kartik month, there is a tradition of worshipping Lord Krishna with Tulsi & Amla in the morning along with all other gods and goddesses after taking early morning Bath. In the evening there is a tradition of worshipping Lord Vishnu and goddess Tulsi by lightning a diya.

It is believed that in the Kartik month, the rays of Sun and Moon have a positive effect on the body and mind of humans. Worshipping Lord Vishnu, goddess Tulsi in Kartik month has a special significance and the one who does it gets blessed with good results.

Those who follow the practices in this holy month, normally take bath very early in the morning before the Sun rise, offer ghee lamps to Lord Krishna, chant the Damodarastakam, meditating on meaning, always remember Supreme Lord Hari, try to organise Kirtan or special shloka chanting, Read or Listen Srimad Bhagavatam, hear the scriptures from sadhus during this month, Eat only once in the evening after offering the food to the Lord, offer lamp to Tulsi devi daily, do 4 parikrama (circumbulation) of Tulasi, make nice offerings for Lord Krishna, observe the festival of Annakuta, Giriraj Govardhan Puja, Practice brahmacharya – celibacy and perform austerities.

 

It will be pertinent to put some excerpts from some Hindu scriptures (Puranas) describing the glory of the pious Kartik month. Puranas describe “If somebody performs even a little worship of Lord Shri Hari in this month, He offers that devotee His own abode.” “If somebody burns a lamp in the temple of Lord Shri Hari even for a short time (in the month of Kartik), then whatever sins, he has acquired for millions of kalpas (one kalpa equals 1000 yugas) are all destroyed.” “A person, who for the entire month of Kartik eats only once a day, becomes very famous, powerful and heroic.” “A person who happily reads the Bhagavad Gita in the month of Kartik does not return to the world of birth and death.” “Of all gifts, the gift of a lamp during the month of Kartik is the best. No gift is its equal.” “The pious result obtained by bathing in all holy places and giving all charities is not equal to one ten-millionth part of the result obtained by following the vow of Kartik.”

In Vishnu Puran and specifically in “Kartik Mahatmya”, it is described *** damodaram prapadye ‘ham shri-radha-ramanam prabhum prabhavad yasya tat-preshthah kartikah sevito bhavet ***. This means “Living all Luxury of life, I take shelter in the Supreme Lord, Damodara, Who is Shrimati Radhika’s beloved, and under whose influence His dearest month, Kartika, can be served.”

Hinduism respect Sage Narada as the best of pious souls! In Skanda Purana, it is described by Lord Brahma to him that any human being who does not follow the duties & go against the practices in the month Kartika is like a murderer of his mother & father and will never get the result of former pious deeds. It is believed that a human being who wastes the month of Kartika is like the fool who acquires the most precious cintamani gem and then throws it in a morass. In a conversation between Narada & Shaunka and other sages in Padma Puran, it is also mentioned in those scriptures that the Brahmins  will get rejected by Shri Krishna if they spend Kartik month without regulations, because this month is very dear to Him albeit there is no compulsion for everyone who could not follow it due to certain reasons.

Also it is believed that this month is equally favourite of Lord Shiva as well. According to Hindus, pujas, rituals, Kartik month give them great pleasure and happiness in life because this is the most favorite month for both of the Supreme Gods Lord Vishnu and Shiva. They believe that praying to Lord during Kartik maas fetches them Moksha (salvation). In the Padma Purana, Kartik Mahatmya, there is a very famous story of a mouse. “In a temple of Lord Vishnu, there was a mouse that used to eat the ghee from the extinguished ghee lamps which had been offered by devotees to Him. One day when she felt hungry to eat ghee, she tried to eat the ghee from a lamp which was not yet extinguished. While eating ghee from the lamp, the cotton wick got stuck in her teeth. Since the ghee wick had a flame, the mouse started jumping in front of the Lord’s Deity form and thus died due to fire. But Lord Sri Vishnu accepted the jumping of that mouse with a lit ghee wick in her mouth as his Aarti. In the end, He gave her liberation, the highest destination.”

Perform austerities – Lord Shiva said to His son Kartikeyaji, “Dear son! One who takes a bath before sunrise in the month of Kartik is absolved of all sins.” A bath during the Brahma-murat in this month at home as well affords the same religious merits as bathing in holy places of pilgrimage like Gangaji, Kashi, etc. By sleeping on the ground during Kartik, one is entitled to the same religious merits as obtained by donating a piece of land to Brahmins during the solar and lunar eclipses.

The Glories of Kartik is Whatever one does for Krishna–at any time, at any place, under any circumstance–is to one’s eternal benefit. In chapter two of Krishna Bhagwad Gita, it is narrated  *** nehabhikrama-naso ‘sti pratyavayo na vidyate *** which means “In this endeavor there is no loss or diminution, and a little advancement on this path can protect one from the most dangerous type of fear.”

Such is the benefit of devotional service in general. However, during certain times of year–such as appearance anniversaries of Lord Krishna and His devotees–the benefits of one’s service are compounded. During the month of Damodar, or Kārttika (October/November), rewards for service to Krishna are greater than at any other time of year. For instance, Krishna always likes tulasi leaves, so it’s always a good time to offer tulasi leaves to Krishna. However, in the Hari-bhakti-vilas of Sanatan Goswami, we find these statements: “The result one obtains by giving ten thousand cows in charity can be obtained by offering only one tulasi leaf to the Supreme Lord during the month of Kārttika.” And “Those who worship Lord Hari with an offering of one hundred thousand tulasi leaves during the month of Kārttika certainly advance on the path of pure devotional service, which includes liberation, with each leaf offered.”

It is also recommended to offer malati (very fragrant white jasmine-like flowers) to Krishna, and here’s what Hari-bhakti-vilasa says about malati offerings during Kārttika: “It is better to offer malati flowers to Lord Kesava in the month of Kārttika than to donate gold, cows, or land to worthy recipients. Malati flowers are pleasing to Lord Kesava (Krishna) in whatever month they are offered. In the month of Kārttika, the offering of malati flowers awards one the merit of performing a horse sacrifice. “

Not bad. And the list goes on. Whatever you offer–tulasi, malati, ghee lamps, time, energy, attention–takes on greater significance this month.

Kārttika could be thought of as the ultimate “buy one, get a-whole-lot-more free” sale, or the equivalent of a “super, multi-triple word score” in the game of Scrabble. For a limited time only, whoever is lucky (or greedy, or intelligent) enough to do some service for Krishna during this special month gets a uniquely huge return on their investment. The ultimate return: one becomes more Krishna conscious.

 

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About the author

Sidheswar Misra

The writer is a Freelance Journalist in Delhi and may be followed in twitter @msidheswar