A Special Month for Devotion
In Vrndavana the Festivals of the month of
Damodara inspire the highest devotion to Lord Krsna.
After the scorching heat of Indias summer season. The peacocks sing and flit parrots bathe in the rain. The crops flourish and the cows become jubilant feeding on fresh grasses Swans and cranes move peacefully among lotuses in the full reservoirs.
As autumn approaches. a festive atmosphere pervades the entire country and many celebrations are held. Some are traditional, like Diwali, the Hindu new Year. Some are ceremonial like Kojagari, the harvest festival. And sonic are religious. like Rama-vijaya, which commemorates Lord Rama's Victory over Ravana but of all the many festivals, Karttika is the best. Karttika or the festival of offering lamps in file temples of Lord Krsna, lasts the entire month of Damodara (Oct-Nov).
Although the Karttika festival is observed in all temples of Lord Krsna throughout india the greatest concentration of Karttika celebrations takes place in Vrndavana the holy land of Lord Krsna's childhood pastimes. The Karttika Festival is observed for one month contiuously and Krsna devotees come from all over India and from around the world to take part. In the evenings devotees gather in Vrndavana's many temples to sing devotional songs chant Hare Krsna. and offer burning lamps before the deity. The devotees realize that Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and is not in need of their offering. The offerings benefit the devotees, who are awakening their natural love for God.
Lord Krsna is eager to accept the devotees' love and devotion. Love means to give, and the process of giving offerings to the Deity helps one develop love for God. Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita that He accepts offerings made by His devotees.
Another devotional practice of Karttika is lila-smaranam, remembering the transcendental pastimes of Lord Krsna. Devotees know that to think of Krsna always is the highest perfection of life, and during Karttika they especially meditate on Krsna's childhood pastimes, specifically the Damodara lila. In the Damodara pastime, the unconquerable Supreme Lord shows that he allows Himself to be conquered by the love of His devotees. The Srimad-Bhagavatam narrates Krsna's Damodara lila.
One day, the story goes, Krsna's mother, Yasoda was churning butter, when Krsna appeared on the scene demanding to be nursed. Yasoda stopped her work, took her son on her lap, and began feeding Him milk from her breast. Suddenly the milk on the stove began to boil over, and Yasoda hurriedly put Lord Krsna aside and ran to the kitchen. Lord Krsna, however, became very angry and immediately broke the butter pot and began to eat the butter. He even went into the courtyard and began distributing butter to the monkeys.
When mother Yasoda returned from the kitchen and found the broken butter pot, she could understand that this was the work of her naughty son. She decided to punish Him, and she began to search. When she at last found Him, He was in the courtyard feeding butter to the monkeys. Fearfully He was looking this way and that. He saw His mother coming toward Him with a stick in her hand, so He began to run. With great difficulty Yasoda caught Lord Krsna, who by now was on the point of crying. Yasoda could understand that Krsna was unnecessarily afraid, so she threw away her stick and decided to punish Krsna by binding Him around the waist with a rope.
Of course, it isn't possible for anyone to bind the Supreme Personality of Godhead, so when Yasoda went to tie the knot, the rope was two inches too short. She returned to the house for more rope, but again it was too short. Then she joined together all the available rope, but again it was too short. She was smiling, but astonished.
Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, was playing the part of an ordinary child. No one is able to bind the Supreme Lord; yet the Lord submits to the love of His pure devotees. Appreciating the labor of His mother, Krsna agreed to be bound by ropes.
By remembering this childhood pastime of Krsna the pilgrims at the Karttika festival remember that the goal of devotional service is to develop pure love for Krsna.
The Karttika month offers a special festival for the members and friends of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), for during Karttika ISKCON commemorates the passing of its founder-acarya, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. In Vrndavana, on November 14, 1977, Prabhupada gathered his disciples by his side, and with perfect humility, purity, and devotion he left the mortal world to reside with Krsna in His eternal abode, Goloka Vrndavana. Each year a festival is held on the anniversary of Prabhupada's passing.
The "Prabhupada Festival" attracts devotees from around the world. Many distinguished Vrndavana residents, mindful of Prabhupada's unparalleled work, also attend. The day is filled with remembrance of Prabhupada. Throughout the morning, Prabhupada's disciples, friends, and followers glorify his transcendental qualities and activities. At noon devotees perform a traditional arati ceremony before Prabhupada's samadhi (tomb), and more than one hundred eight vegetarian dishes are offered. Throughout the arati devotees chant the names of Krsna and Prabhupada.
In the evening, the disciples of Prabhupada gather in his rooms and, surrounding the bed from which he imparted his last instructions, speak about their spiritual master until late in the night. In the evening atmosphere of Vrndavana, the mood of separation from Prabhupada intensifies. By remembering him and his instructions, however, his disciples perceive his presence within their hearts.
In the days that follow the Prabhupada festival, the Karttika celebrations continue until the last day of the month, when everyone returns home satisfied and spiritually enriched. The Padma Purana states, "Lord Krsna may offer liberation or material happiness to a worshiper, but after executing devotional service, particularly in Vrndavana during the month of Karttika, the devotee wants only to attain pure devotional service to the Lord."