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.
Tulsi, the sacred basil plant
Waking up early in the morning, one should bathe in the Yamuna or else at home. Lighting a diya before the tulsi (sacred basil plant), 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!”
Goddess Tulsi Marries Shri Shaligram ji
We have the tradition of Tulsi's marriage to Shri Shaligram ji on Devothan Ekadashi which comes right before Kartik Poornima.(The legend from the Padma Purana is centred around Tulsi who was Vrinda, the chaste wife of demon Jalandhar, in her previous birth.Born in water, Jalandhar demanded the treasures churned out of the ocean in Vishnu's second incarnation and endangered the gods. He had the boon of immortality as long as his wife Vrinda was chaste.
As a last resort Vishnu deceived Vrinda, guised as her husband. Whereas she cursed Lord Vishnu who turned in to a black stone (Salagram), He transformed Vrinda into the sacred Tulsi plant in admiration of her indestructible peity and vowed to marry her on this day of Kartik every year.
Shri Shaligram ji
This led to the origin of Shaligram,the ammonite black stone found in the bed of river Gandaki.)The parikrama of Garuda-Govinda near Chatikara in Braj in undertaken on Dev Prabhodini Ekadashi.
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,
Lord Vishnu and Laxmi
because Laxmiji wedded Vishnu on this day. Lord Narayan in his Vamana incarnation liberated fortunate Laxmi from King Bali on this particular day.
A distinctive puja of Shri Hanumanji is done along with the Shri Ram Durbar. Calling to mind the earthen lampswhich 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.
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.
The 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'(Bhagwad Gita).
Krishna, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu
Thus dark-hued Krishna is considered the complete incarnation of Vishnu by says in the Shrimad Bhagwat, '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 all pervading spirit of the universe,we are blessed because these eatables work to makes us healthy, for the entire year.
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.
Delicacies Served on Annakoot
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 delicacies 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 sattvicta is the very life of the Kartik Month, particularly the festival of diwali.
Lord Krishna & Balram Tending a Cow
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 is a customary norm 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.
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!” followed by aarti distinctively 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 Kartik Month comes to an end with Kartik Poornima which is considered by some as Raas Poornima too.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.