Kartik is the best and most glorious month, purest of pure. It is particularly dear to Lord Krishna, because it is the month of Srimati Radharani. This month is full of love of the Lord towards His devotees. Any vow followed in this month, even a small one, brings tremendous results. The essence of Kartik-vrata is to satisfy Sri Sri Radha-Damodara with our more and better devotional service to them.
Kirttika is the name of the third daughter of Prajapati Daksa. It was a custom in Vraja to name girls after Daksa’s daughters. So the name of Radharani’s mother was Kirttika (or Kirtida) and Radharani became known as Kartiki, which means “born of Kirttika”. Sri Sanatana Goswami gave us the key to understanding the significance of the Holy month of Kartik. Krishna says: masanam marga-sirso ‘ham – “Of months I am Margasirsa (November-December)”. Kartik precedes Margasirsa. Therefore, Kartik represents Srimati Radharani.
Kartik is a month of a special vow, Kartik-vrata (Damodar-vrata, Urjja-vrata, niyama-seva-vrata). One of the names of the vow is Urjja-vrata. Urjjesvari is one of the names of Srimati Radharani, meaning “Mistress of Urjja-vrata”. The word urjjah means “wealth”, “power”. All the wealth and strength manifest in Her for serving Sri Krishna. She manages all the wealth and power that are meant for serving the Master of Her heart. So Urjja-vrata followed in the month of Kartik ascends to Urjjesvari, Sri Radhika, and therefore Vaisnavas attach very great importance to Kartik, especially in trying to satisfy Srimati Radharani to gain Her service and thus service to Her beloved Sri Krishna.
In addition, this month gopis worshiped Katyayani*, with the innermost intention to please the highest goddess Srimati Radharani. Nanda-gopa-sutam devi patim me kuru te namah. Such was their inner prayer to Katyayani * (SB10.22.4):”O goddess Katyayani, O great potency of the Lord, O possessor of great mystic power and mighty controller of all, please let us serve the son of Nanda Maharaja the way our heart desires. We offer our obeisances unto you.” With this prayer they perform the Kartik-vrata. (* Katyayani is one of the manifestations of Yoga-Maya in Sri Vraja Dhama. Katyayani-vrata continues in the month following the Kartik).
Therefore there is a particular importance for this last part of the caturmasya – Kartik-vrata. This month is exclusively connected with serving Krishna’s beloveds – Radharani and Her gopis – and Krishna. Srimad-Bhagavatam also inspires to imbibe the mentality of the gopis worshipping Katyayani.
Kartik is also known as the month of niyama-seva. Niyama means “rules” –additional prayers, pujas, reading, preaching, extra service to Lord Hari, Spiritual Master and the Vaisnavas. And thus this vow of niyama-seva inspires the sadhaka to dedicate this time to a special service regime, when he uses every minute for his highest good. Our aspiration should be such, most especially in this month, and Krishna likes it very much. If we do this to please Radharani, Krishna will be pleased even more so, because it gives pleasure to His most exalted devotee. And Her happiness attracts Krishna to us. When Radha is pleased with us, She will compassionately cleanse us and make us worthy to gain our eternal service in the groves of Vrindavan in the mood of Her friends.Satyavrata Muni says: namo radhikayai tvadiya priyayai – “I bow down to Your dearest beloved, Sri Radhika.” With this, he points out that the only engagement during the Damodara-vrata should be worship of Sri Radha-Damodara. The caturmasya-vrata is considered complete only if it’s last month of Urjja-vrata is observed. Last five days of Kartik are called Bhishma-Pancaka. And some vows are followed in those days.
Some of the observances for Kartik-vrata prescribed by Hari bhakti Vilas and Skanda Purana:
- Rise at brahma-muhurta and attend mangala-aratika – attain spiritual world.
Offer incense, ghee lamp, flowers (malati, lotus, rose, jasmine, lily) and camphor lamp three times a day.
- Daily ghee lamp to Radha-Damodara (any Radha-Krishna Deity or picture) and sing Damodarastakam.
- Maintain akhanda ghee/sesame lamp before Deity, base of Tulasi, hang in the sky – attain the spiritual world. Just by offering a ghee lamp to Sri Krishna, one attains perfection and goes back to Godhead.
- Offer sweet rice mixed with ghee, tasty food and varieties of fruits.
- Mandira-parikrama four times daily while reciting prayers – get the merit of a horse sacrifice with every step.
- Offer water and prasada to ancestors.
- Offer camphor lamp with aguru oil esp. on Ekadasi – no rebirth.
- Offer fresh flower garlands (rose or lotus) and sanadalwood paste.
- Offer new clothes.
- Offer one lakh of Tulasi leaves to Krishna
- Daily offer incense, ghee lamp and flowers to Tulasi and circumambulate her.
- Relight another person’s ghee lamp – attain unlimited merit and not see Yamaraja.
- Offer water to the moon.
- Offer floating ghee lamp.
- Enthusiastically dance, sing and play musical instruments, and recite prayers before the Deity – attain spiritual world with your ancestors.