What should we do in the month of Kartik (the eighth month of the Hindu lunar year,October-November)is a question often asked by bhaktas.
Pilgrims Bathing in Rameshwaram
Waking up early in the morning, one should bathe in some sacred river like the Yamuna or Ganges or on the holy shores of the ocean such as Jagannath Puri or Rameshwaram.On not having the facility to do so one must invoke these pilgrimage sites and bathe early in the morning day.
Offering Arghya to the Sun
There is a distinctive tradition of giving arghya (a respectful offering of water to a deity) or libation to the sun god.
Lighting Diyas Around the Sacred Tulsi
Lighting a diya before the tulsi (sacred basil plant) in the evening, do aarti (a dish holding a lamp,burning ghi, incence or other articles is moved in a series of circles in front of the idol during worship) while chanting, “Jai, jai Tulsi Maharani, Namo nama! Shri Hari Ki Patrani,Namo nama!”
One must vow to chant the mahamantra one and quarter crore times or have recitation of either the Srimad Bhagwad Parayan or Shri Ram Charit Manas or carefully study while reflecting upon the Bhagavad Gita.
Prabhat Pheri of Bhaktas
The prabhat-pheri of bhaktas(a circumambulation taken by devotees at dawn) doing Shri Hari Kirtan at the crack of dawn, steps out at several places.This group of Kartik lovers heading towards Shri Yamunaji in Vrindavan, appear very lovable.
At least one circumambulation of Mount Giriraj should be undertaken during the pious Kartik Month.The so very famous festival of Diwali also falls during the month of Kartik.
Lord Ganesha, Laxmi and Saraswati
Along with worshipping Lord Ganesha, Goddess Laxmi and Saraswati we have the tradition of venerating Lord Vishnu, Vaikunth where he forever dwells, Sheer Sagar,Sheshnaag and Garuda, his vehicle,
God Vishnu and Goddess Laxmi
because Laxmiji wedded Vishnu on this day. Lord Narayan in his Vamana incarnation released Laxmi, the goddess of fortune, from King Bali on this particular day.
Lord Rama Returns to Ayodhya
A distinctive puja of Shri Hanumanji is done along with the Shri Ram Durbar. Calling to mind the earthen lamps which were lit in joyously to welcome Shri Ramji's return to Ayodhya along with Sitaji and Laxman, we must light up the entire house and courtyard. One must make obeisance to the god of fire.
Precisely two days before Diwali we have the manifestation day of Lord Dhanvantari, an incarnation of Lord Hari,therefore light lamps from Dhanteras onwards. Buying new vessels- utensils on this day do Diwali Puja in them.Apart from mithai or sweetmeats, all fruits particularly the pomegranate and tambul (paan) should be offered to God. Along with lighting, offer the fragrant divine flower garlands as well and clad in new clothes do the Diwali Puja.
Abandoning laziness, totally clean the house from Dussehra itself, striving indefatigably to lighten and make the residence appear fresh.Invariably women make beautiful rangoli patterns in the house and escalate the grandeur of the festivities.Griha Laxmi or the lady of the house is also a svarupa of Laxmi. Respecting and holding her in high esteem is seen as escalating one's prosperity and affluence,' Yatra Naari Poojyante, tatra ramte devta.'
Lord Krishna Battling Narakasura
In southern India Lord Krishna in particular is remembered on Diwali because he had released 16,000 maidens from Narakasura. One should take care to worship-venerate one's kul devta or family deity and spiritual preceptor-respected saint with equal respect.One must do stuti (sing the praises of) of Lord Shiva, everyone's adi guru, along with goddess Parvati, Mount Kailash, Kartikeya,Ganesha and Nandi
Bhaktas of Braj, particularly the Pushti Margis (the philosophico-devotional system of Vallabha) worship Shri Radha-Krishna because we have the Goverdhan Puja and Annakoot on the very next day.
All elements of the Supreme Being can possibly comingle only in Lord Krishna because of his lila or divine play which is both real and illusionary which makes him both human and divine at the same time, 'Sambhav maami yuge, yuge!'(The Bhagavad Gita).
Dark-Hued Krishna is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu
Dark-hued Krishna is considered the complete incarnation of Vishnu (says Shukdev ji in the Shrimad Bhagavad) 'Shri Krishna stoo Bhagvan svayan.' Therefore by offering all kinds of grains, sweetmeats, salted snacks and drinks to Lord Krishna or Giriraj who is a form of Brahma, the Supreme Being regarded as personal and in his capacity as creator of the world,we are blessed because these eatables work to makes us healthy, for the entire year.
Delicacies Offered to Shri Giriraj
The maximum variety of foodstuffs should be offered to Giriraj ji-all sorts of grains-puri,paranthe,roti, chapatti, makki ki roti, differnt kinds of vegetables and spinach, sprouted grains-boiled or roasted corn-all varieties of lentils-karhi-rice and mixed vegetables.
Assorted delicacies like sweetmeats, pedas,kheer, halwa, gulab jamun, jalebi, imarti,rabrhi sweetened milk, butter cream,malpua, petha, mithi puri, kachori, samosa, rice, bajre ki khichdi,daliya, dhokla,namkeen murmura, bhelpuri, sweet and salted cheele (pancakes), pickles particularly teent,chaat, tikki, chutney,pakoras made of potatoes or spinach, besan pakoris,mattha, chhach,lassi, raita, yoghurt,dryfruits,murabba,
Mathri, shakkar, para, kheel, batasha, aam papad,honey, all sorts of gajjak, peanuts, patti khedi, gurh sharbat,juice, dates, raw coconut,should be offered as bhoga (food offered to an idol)because Lord Krishna himself relishes this feast and is delighted.By reading the 24th chapter (tenth canto) of Shrimad Bhagwat over and over again, we are blisfully motivated in a novel way each time round.
The sumptuous food for bhoga should be cooked at home since the khoya, ghi and cooks in the market are said to be impure.The use of garlic and onions is strictly forbidden.It is a customary norm to serve the maximum number of sumptuous cooked foods for bhoga but the presence of loving affection is a must.
Shri Murari Bapu
As Murari Bapu endorses in his katha, “One must serve the bhoga with great love and respect,” by singing devotional songs in joyous abandon, Jai Giriraj Dharan, Baba teri sharanh' or else 'Jai jai Goverdhan Dhaari, Shri Radhavar Kunj Bihari!'
The Basil Leaf
It is a must to add the basil leaf (tulsi)to every preparation cooked for bhoga which should be liberally given to everyone and even those who do not have the finances to buy pure dry fruits and meva.Lord Krishna has lucidly announced how the food should be distributed during Giriraj bhoga.
Coax the children not to spend much on crackers or waste money on gambling and other addictive vices so that the pure svarupa of Diwali remains intact.Hand out sweetmeats, new clothes and food amongst the poorer factions through the young ones and make them aware of the sacred history of the festival of lights.
Bathing in Shri Yamuna, celebrate the pristine bhai dooj and worship Lord Chitragupta (Sanskrit: rich in secrets,a god assigned with the task of keeping records of human beings on earth.)Reaching the heights of elation and ecstasy and being endowed with goodness or being sattvic is the very life of the Kartik Month, particularly the festival of diwali.
Gopashtami comes exactly eight days after Diwali.Lord Krishna and Balram worshipped all the cows which were the wealth of their tiny village before taking the cows for grazing (tenth canto of the Shrimad Bhagwat).Hence the tradition of applying tilak to the cow our mother and feeding her roti is followed on this day.Wherever there are cowsheds we should go and fervently attend to needs of the cows by serving them.
We have the Akshay Naumi, next day, which is the manifestation day of Vrindavan,'Jai jai Shri Vrindavan Dhaam.' Hence its parikrama is done without fail. It is also believed that Mother Earth appeared on this particular day. There exists a tradition of bowing being mother earth daily and on Akshay Naumi, in particular.
The Devothan Ekadashi which comes right before Kartik Poornima has a great significance. After Lord Narayan wakes up, weddings start taking place.We have the tradition of Tulsi's marriage to Lord Shaligram on this day.The circumambulation of Garuda-Govinda near Chatikara in Vrindavan is undertaken on this ekadashi.
In the words of revered saint Murari Bapu, “ Do worship goddess Tulsi at home along with Lord Shaligramji and entreat for bhakti or religious devotionbecause Ma Tulsi is actually the svarupa or living presence of bhakti. Chant,”Jai jai Tulsi Maharani, namo namah!” particularly followed by aarti in the evening. Make a concentrated effort to bathe early in the morning and following the regime of special meditation up until Kartik Poornima.
The ethereal scene in Shri Dhaam Vrindavan, Goverdhan and Parikrama Marg on Dev Uthani Ekadashi is worth seeing. Lakhs of bhaktas who could not do the circumambulation in the entire year for some reason set out for the parikrama on this day particularly of Radha-Damodar Mandir (near Nidhi Van).
The Vivah of Tulsi with Shaligram ji
The vivah or marriage of Lord Shri Shaligram ji and Tulsi is brought to a successful conclusion in this temple and the nearby Ras Mandal (Shri RadhaVallabh Sampradaya) with enthused exultation. Everyone sings the congratulatory songs with joyous abandon and there is a grand feast after the marriage ceremony. What can we say about the splendid or joyous festivals of Braj.
The Kartik Month comes to an end with Kartik Poornima which is considered by some as Raas Poornima too. Everyone takes a dip in sacred pilgrimage sites like the Ganges, Yamuna, Shri Jagannath Puri, Shri Rameshwaram, Mansi Ganga (Goverdhan). Millions of devotees circumambulate or do parikrama of Shri Giriraj-Goverdhan, Vrindavan Dham, Chitrakoot and Kamad Giri.Kartik Poornima has a distinctive significance for the Gaudiyas and special kirtans plus conventions are held wherever they have their sites.
Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu
In Shri Vrindavan the savari or float of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is taken in a procession right from Gopinath Bazar to Shri Radha-Damodar Temple in Nidhi Van as bhaktas sing joyously,
Hare Ram Hare Ram, Ram Ram Hare Hare
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hence the entire month of Kartik is full of festivals-celebrations and laden with joyous abandon.Considering it to be a sacred month of devotion for attaining the divine, one must act and behave accordingly during this time span.
Lighting Diyas Like Diwali
Creating a scene very similar to Diwali and being delighted on Kartik Poornima, the last day of the month by lighting the maximum number of diyas or earthen lamps around the sacred tulsi plant, points towards this festive spirit.