Oct 18, 2016 CANADA (SUN) By Durgamadhab Dash of Bhubaneswar, for Orissa Review.
Scriptures say that those who perform spiritual sadhana by observing the customary practice of Habisya taking one-time strict vegetarian meal and spend their time reading or listening to Karttik Puran in remembrance of Lord Jagannath and His cosmic Lilas are sure to be absolved of all sins. They attain Moksha after death.
In this way, the month of Karttik is considered a religious month. Generally, the devotees of the Lord observing Karttik Brata in the Grand Temple in the month of Karttik practice austere sadhana and lead a strict disciplined life away from their homes. It is said in Karttik Purana that a devotee observing Karttik Brata gains immense virtues in life. He gains the highest spiritual reward of "no life after death" which means that he has no further birth after this life. This is the actual goal of life.
It is said in Skanda Purana (Utkal Khand) that once King Dillip, a Suryabansi ruler, asked his Kulaguru Vasista to explain to him, the surest ways to attain Moksha in life. In reply to the king, Maharshi Vasista said that by observing Karttik Brata, one can have Moksha in life. The king then wanted to know the ways of observance of Karttik Brata which is a unique spiritual practice. He also wanted to know from his Kulaguru the inhibitions, in particular, that are required to be strictly followed to achieve this goal.
As regards the rituals to be observed in this regard, Vasista said that in the first instance, one should observe Karttik Brata in Purusottam Kshetra. This Kshetra is also known as Brahma Kshetra in scriptures. One should have the Darshan of the Lord every-day during this month. Along with it, one should also have Habisyanna i.e. one-time strict vegetarian meal in the month in observance of the Brata. One should, at the same time, take bath in the sea early in the morning and do Japa of Astakshara Mantra and religiously listen to Karttik Purana for spiritual elevation. All these rituals go to show that one should be truthful in one's behavior practicing the Brata resorting to charity according to one's capacity. These are the minimum spiritual practices one has to do while observing Karttik Brata during the month of Karttik.
Next, the Maharshi also said that while observing Karttik Brata, one has to keep one's inclinations of sense-indulgence under strict control in the order of hard austerity in the month. There is a Puranic story which says that at an auspicious moment in the spiritual evolution, Lord Narayan had descended on earth in His incarnation as Divine Fish. His incarnation in this divine form was known as Matsya Avatar. In that appearance, He retrieved the four Vedas which a demon called Sankhasura had stolen from earth and escaped with into the deep sea. The Lord went to that place and had a fierce battle with Sankhasura. After killing him in the fierce battle, He recovered the Vedas from possible destruction. This occurrence had taken place in the month of Karttik.
Devotees during Karttik Brata observe Ekadashi in remembrance of this Cosmic Lila of the Lord and gain spiritual virtues. In practice of this spiritual Brata, they take their ablution early in the morning. They observe strict fasting with the Japa of Astakshara Mantra before Lord Jagannath. They also observe other spiritual restrictions.
There is another spiritual story in this regard. One day, Lord Krishna was sitting alone in a pensive mood in the garden of His Dwaraka palace. Satyabhama, the consort of the Lord, was closely observing His state of mind. The Lord was looking absentminded as Satyabhama distinctly marked. She came near the Lord and said "Prabhu, You are oblivious of your surrounding and not in Your usual undisturbed self. I find on your face a faint mark of abnormal consternation which presents You in a different form. What has actually happened to You?"
The Lord said, "Satyabhama, It is simply nothing. It is a case of my casual divine digression. In fact, I was thinking about my devotees in the cosmic evolution. Saying so, He narrated the facts about her past life which runs as follows:
Satyabhama was a girl-child in a Brahmin family. She was born in a poor Brahmin family. However she was devoutly upright in her spiritual behavior. Her Ista was Lord Narayan. She worshipped Him in deep devotion. She religiously observed all Ekadashis along with acts of charity on all auspicious days. According to the custom of the family, she also practiced all spiritual rituals. Accordingly, she observed Karttik Brata with all the austerities of her religion. She earned spiritual virtues as a result of her austere Sadhana. She got the Lord in His Krishna Avatar as her husband in Dwapara Yuga. So there is a belief among the Hindus that he or she who observes Karttik Brata with unflinching faith in the glories of the Lord shall have immense spiritual benefits as Satyabhama had earned by getting, for instance, Lord Krishna as her divine consort.
It is said in Narad Purana that there is no month like Karttik month just as there is no Veda like Sama Veda and no Tirtha like Ganga Snana (bath in the River Ganga).
As regards the procedure of observance of Karttik Brata, it is said in the scriptures that devotees practicing this religious order are required to take one-time meal with Arhar Dal or Mung Dal, raw-plantain, colocacia along with acid-fruit (OUUE) in different recipes according to taste, and worship Radha-Damodar reading or listening to Karttika Purnana in the Grand Temple or at any other sacred place. It may be mentioned here that Maa Radha is the Hladini- Sakti of Prabhu Damodar i.e. Lord Krishna. He is also Lord Jagannath in Kali Yuga. Devotees for that purpose everyday take bath early in the morning and worship Lord Jagannath with Tulasi leaf. They repeat the name of Lord Jagannath in profound devotion.
Habisanna is very important on this score. First it is to be prepared with raw-rice. Specific vegetable are to be used for this purpose. The food is to be prepared with Cow Ghee. The devotees either cook the holy food with sanctified Bhab or even they take the Mahaprasad in the Temple.
Turmeric powder is not to be used in Habisanna. There is no bar to take Gazar in Habisanna. One may take milk, Harida, Til, ripe banana and coconut. In the Habisanna, one may also take jackfruit and mango if such fruits are available during this period. No food is to be taken in night during the period of the austerity. The devotee has to read or listen to Karttik Purana every day. This is said to be compulsory. In the Grand Temple, this part of the Brata is celebrated in evening hours at different places on the premises of the Grand Temple. In addition, if the devotees find time, they also read other holy scriptures like the Gita or the Bhagabat. Japa of Lord Jagannath is very important during this month. The whole purpose of this holy observance is that the devotee has to spend his entire time during the month in strict remembrance of the Lord. He is not to think about any other thing relating to the material world. This is the strict spiritual regimentation which every devotee has to follow during the entire month of Karttik. Another spiritual practice is noticed during the holy month of Karttik. This is in relation to what is known Akash Deep. Akash Deep is light on an earthen ware with cow ghee. It is tied to a bamboo embedded near the platform of the holy Basil Plant. This is a temporary arrangement. This is to last only in the month of Karttik. The Hindu devotees believe that the Akash Deep near the platform of the Basil Plant displays sacred light to the Pitrupurushas i.e. the ancestors of the family during the holy month of Karttik. The process of Akash Deep is discontinued after the month of Karttik.
In Padma Purana it is said that women adore Maa Tulasi as a Devi of impeccable virtues. She is the most loved devotee of Lord Narayan. Most unfortunately, her husband was a demon. He was an unholy person. He was a terror in his time in the three worlds of the cosmic creation. In his unusual behavior, he played havoc with the Rishis and the spiritually enlightened people of his time. He also tortured them very much in their day-to-day lives. He destroyed their Ashrams. He did not allow them to perform any sort of spiritual activity to worship the Gods.
Jalandhar as described in scriptures was most powerful because of his wife, Tulasi who was chaste and virtuous in her life and according to a divine boon, she was the strength and lifesavior of her husband. According to the said boon, he was not to die so long as his wife remained chaste.
The gods of the Heaven were very much afraid of Jalandhar. One day, they appeared before Lord Narayan in Golak Baikuntha and appealed to Him to save them from the torture made by Jalandhar. The Lord had known the strength of Jalandhar. The Lord heard the appeal of the gods. At last He said that He would take care of the entire situation and do the needful for the safety of the gods. The gods at last dispersed after getting the assurance of Lord Narayan. The Lord next made out a plan and He acted upon it with utmost caution.
One day, the Lord disguised Himself as Jalandhar and appeared before Tulasi. The chaste lady, by then, had been overpowered by Maya of the Lord. So she could not know the mystery of the divine sport of the Lord. Tulasi had mistaken the Lord for her husband, Jalandhar. That way, she had lost her virtues. Later when she came to know of the details, she was greatly disheartened. She was very angry. And she expressed her anger to the Lord.
At last, the Lord pacified her by telling her the purpose of His cosmic Lila. When He explained the whole purpose of His game, Tulasi calmed down. The Lord blessed Tulasi saying that she would be His ardent devotee at every point of time in future. She would be worshipped by one and all on earth as Maa Brundabati and He as Lilamaya Purusha would like to be adorned with Tulasi leaves on Himself. This way, there is a saying that the Lord in Srimandir gets immensely delighted when He is offered a single Tulasi leaf at the time of His worship.
In Srimandir, there is a big garden of Tulasi plants. Every day, Tulasi leaves are collected from this place and offered to the Deities seated on Ratnasimhasan. Oblation of the Lord's Prasad is also sanctified with Tulasi leaves. Devotees of the Lord wear Tulasi malas on their necks. With Tulasi beads, they chant the name of the Lord.
Tulasi is thus the divine object most needed in all rituals and functions in the Grand Temple. A function called Aanla Nabami is observed in the Grand Temple on the ninth day of the bright fortnight of Karttik. On this day too, they take their baths early in the morning anointed with Aanla paste. They also offer the same to the idol of Lord Bishnu and celebrate His divine worship in a ritualistic way. Next, they worship the Lord by offering Balbhog. Later they prepare Anna Prasad (Rice, Dal etc) under Aanla Tree and offer the same to the Lord. They take this Prasad in the usual practice of Habisya and spend the rest of the time of the day in Japa and meditation.
Aanla Nabami is an important function of the Vaishnavas in the holy month of Karttik. At Puri, there is another religious custom in this regard. On the day of Aanla Nabami, a special Puja (worship) is observed in the Sakhigopal Temple at Sakhigopal, about 8 km away from Puri. Here, the devotees have a special religious custom. They touch the feet of Radha and Gopal and worship them by offering Tulasi Malas at their feet. There is a day-long line of devotees for this purpose. Special vehicles are inducted for this purpose from Puri and Bhubaneswar to Sakhigopal by the local administration to facilitate transport convenience of the devotees on this sacred day.
The five days preceding Karttik Purnami are observed as Panchaka Parba. These five days mean a very sacred occasion to all the devotees. Normally it is said that Hindus not observing the sacred Brata during the month of Karttik strictly observe these five days with Habisyanna at their respective places and worship Lord Jagannath/Sri Krishna in utmost devotion. They read scriptures. They do Japa and meditation and aspire to gain divine virtues of the month. It is believed in this connection that even the Crane-bird that is generally non-Vegetarian in nature does not take fish during these five days. So in religious books, this period of five days is known as Baga-Panchak.
It is said in Skanda Purana (Utkal Khanda) that in the past, Lord Jagannath had prevailed upon Lord Siva to observe Karttik Brata and the latter had observed the same with due regard to the Lord's instructions in appreciation of the virtues one gains during this period. It is further said in this connection that Lord Siva had prevailed upon Swayambhuba Manu and Rishi Agasti to observe Karttik Brata to gain spiritual virtues. They had also observed the austerity in obedience to Lord Siva's spiritual instructions.
Thus the month of Karttik is symbolic of fact that this is the holy month of a year. Karttik Brata is a sacred spiritual practice. It preaches spiritual austerities. It gives us spiritual progress in life. It teaches us the spiritual lesson that mundane pleasure is not the end-all and be-all of life. One needs to have spiritual austerities in a regular way. By listening to the sacred words of scriptures, the devotee internalizes the spiritual values. His life is filled with peace and joy. Month long practice of hard austerities creates positive spiritual vibrations in the minds of the devotees and neutralizes their negative emotions.
Once, a Swami known as Swami Sachidananda, while narrating the glory of Karttik said that on one occasion, he was at Puri Temple during the holy month Karttik. He was calmly watching the activities of the devotees observing the sacred Brata in the Temple. At a little distance from his place, he found a group of women sitting together and gossiping about their respective homes. One woman of the group who appeared to be very strong-willed was speaking ill of her daughter-in law and deriding her social activities. Others present also joined the chorus and vomited out aspersions against their respective kith and kin.
The Swami thought to himself that those women should be brought to proper line. They should be dissuaded from the wrong path from the following day. He started his Satsang at the same place where another small group of devotees were sitting. Naturally the women of the other place also joined the Satsang.
During his spiritual discourse, he said to them, "My dear devotees, all of you who are here, have left your respective homes and come to Srimandir to observe the sacred Brata of Karttik. The austere observance here will bring positive transformations in your life; you should therefore free yourself from mundane desires and need to have positive spiritual thoughts. You should have self-introspection for that purpose. You should either read or listen to scriptures. Please remember one thing in this connection. This Temple is a mysterious place. Here, if you think good, the spirit of goodness in you will fly high in your life. If you think bad of others, the spirit of badness in you will rise to an excruciating end in your mind. And this will bring your spiritual downfall over the period of time. Please always bear his spiritual truth in your mind".
The Sanyasi observed in this connection that from those days there was a great change in the minds of the devotees. They were found sitting calmly, at their places and doing Japa of the Lord's name. This should be the spirit and the attitude of the devotees during observance of any Brata in general.
Thus the Karttik Brata as observed in the Grand Temple, Puri has a different religious implication. Here, a devotee has the privilege to observe the austerities by taking Avada of the Lord during the entire month. One reads or listens to scriptures at different places on the premises of the Grand Temple. One also attends Satsangs which are organized at different places in the Temple. It is believed that Karttik Brata properly observed in the Temple leads a devotee to Baikuntha after his or her Mahaprayana on earth.