Bhakti Sandarbha 299 : Limbs of Arcana – Janmāṣṭamī, Kārttika vows, Ekādaśī, Bathing in Māgha

This is the concluding anuccheda of the arcana section. Sri Jiva Prabhu gives a lengthy defense of Ekadasi, no doubt this extended discussion is an indication of controversies in Vrindavan, where the Radha Vallabha sampradaya considers honoring prasadam to be a higher principle than fasting. Jiva appears to have the shastras on his side.

Anuccheda 299

Limbs of Arcana – Janmāṣṭamī, Kārttika vows, Ekādaśī, Bathing in Māgha

299.1 Janmāṣṭamī

तदेतदर्चनं व्याख्यातम्। अस्याङ्गानि चागमादौ ज्ञेयानि। तथा श्रीकृष्णजन्माष्टमीकार्त्तिकव्रतैकादशीमाघ-स्नानादिकमत्रैवान्तर्भाव्यम्।

In this way arcanam has been described. The various limbs of worship can be learnt from books, such as the Āgamas. Other devotional practices, such as the celebration of Kṛṣṇa’s birth, observance of vows during the month of Kārtika, fasting on Ekādaśī, and bathing during the month of Māgha, are to be included as parts of arcanam.

तत्र जन्माष्टमी यथा विष्णुरहस्ये ब्रह्मनारदसंवादे—

Among these, Kṛṣṇa’s birth celebration is described in a dialogue between Brahmā and Nārada in the Viṣṇu-rahasya:

तुष्ट्यर्थं देवकीसूनोर्जयन्तीसम्भवं व्रतम्।
कर्तव्यं वित्ताशाठ्येन भक्त्या भक्तजनैरपि।
अकुर्वन् याति निरयं यावदिन्द्राश्चतुर्दश॥ इति।

Devotees should also celebrate the birth of Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa, the son of Devakī, for His satisfaction, by observing the appropriate vows with devotion and without miserliness in regard to expenditure. If he does not observe this festival, he goes to hell for a period of fourteen Indras.

कृष्णजन्माष्टमीं त्यक्त्वा योऽन्यद्व्रतमुपासते।
नाप्नोति सुकृतं किञ्चिद्दृष्टं श्रुतमथापि वा॥ इति।

If a person gives up the celebration of Kṛṣṇa’s birth and observes other vows instead, he derives none of their benefits as he may have heard from scriptures or witnessed in others.

वित्ताशाठ्यं चोक्तमष्टमे (भा. ८.१९.३७) 

धर्माय यशसेऽर्थाय कामाय स्वजनाय च।
पञ्चधा विभजन् वित्तमिहामुत्र च मोदते॥ इति।

Liberality in regard to expenditure of wealth is described in the eighth canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam:

A person who utilizes wealth in five areas—for dharma, for renown, for investments to increase wealth, for enjoyment and for family—enjoys this life and the next. (SB 8.19.37)

Commentary by Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji Maharaj

In this Anuccheda Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī concludes his discussion on deity worship, arcanam. It has may limbs and would unnecessarily increase the size of the book if they were to all be described in detail. Therefore he limits himself to some of the most important ones.

Janmāṣṭamī, the birthday of Kṛṣṇa, is celebrated all over the world, and is one of the oldest birth festivals, especially in Vraja where it is observed with great pomp and show. Because Kṛṣṇa is Svayaṁ Bhagavān His birthday celebration is more important than that of any other avatāra. One should celebrate it without sparing any expense. Even a person like Śukrācārya who advised his student Bali not to keep his promise of giving three steps of land to Vāmana Deva said that one should use wealth for five purposes, one of them being religion. This is not to say that all these categories are to be taken as equal, but in any case one must spend a portion of one’s earnings for religious purposes. For a devotee, this means services and ceremonies related to his worshipable deity.

299.2 Kārttika-vrata

अथ कार्त्तिकः, यथा स्कान्दे "एकतः सर्वतीर्थानि" इत्यादिकमुक्त्वा—

Next we will describe the observance of vows during the month of Kārtika, as in the Skanda Purāṇa. After saying, “The combined benefit of visiting all the holy places, and executing all the yajñas with distribution of gifts do not deserve to compare even to one sixteenth of the result earned by observing the vow of Kārtika month” (, the text says (2.4.1. 23b,24):

एकतः कार्त्तिको वत्स सर्वदा केशवप्रियः।
यत् किञ्चित् क्रियते पुण्यं विष्णुमुद्दिश्य कार्त्तिके।
तदक्षयं भवेत् सर्वं सत्योक्तं तव नारद॥ इति।
अव्रतेन क्षिपेद्यस्तु मासं दामोदरप्रियम्।
तिर्यग् योनिमवाप्नोति सर्वधर्मबहिष्कृतः॥ इति।

My boy Nārada, the month of Kārtika is always especially dear to Bhagavān Keśava. Whatever pious acts one performs during this month for the sake of Viṣṇu, bear imperishable results. O Nārada, this is verily true. But one who passes the month of Kārtika, which is so dear to Bhagavān Dāmodara, without observing any vow for His pleasure, takes birth as an animal, being deprived of all dharma.

Commentary by Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji Maharaj

Kārtika is the eighth month of the lunar year. It comes during October-November. It is also called Dāmodara, which is one of Kṛṣṇa's name. Kṛṣṇa’s pastime of being bound by ropes happened during this month and hence the name Dāmodara (one who was bound by ropes, dāma, around the belly, udara). This festival is especially celebrated in Vṛndāvana. Devotees from all over the world flock there to celebrate for the entire month. They sing special prayers to Kṛṣṇa and offer Him ghee lamps.

299.3 Ekādaśī

अथ एकादशी—तत्र तावदस्या अवैष्णवेऽपि नित्यत्वम्। तत्र सामान्यतः विष्णुधर्मे—"वैष्णवो वाथ सौरो वा कुर्यादेकादशीव्रतम्" इति ।

Next we will discuss the observance of Ekādaśī, or fasting on the eleventh day of the lunar month. This is a compulsory vow to be observed even by non-Vaiṣṇavas. There are many general statements about Ekādaśī, such as in the Viṣṇu-dharma: "Whether one is a devotee of Viṣṇu or the Sun God, he must observe the vow of Ekādaśī."

सौरपुराणे—"वैष्णवो वाथ शैवो वा सौरोऽप्येतत् समाचरेत्" इति।

And in the Saura Purāṇa: "Whether one is devoted to Viṣṇu, Śiva or the Sun God, one must follow the vow of Ekādaśī."

विशेषतश्च नारदपञ्चरात्रे दीक्षानन्तरावश्यकृत्यकथने "समयांश्च प्रवक्ष्यामि" इत्यादौ,

More specific injunctions about Ekādaśī can be found in the Nārada-pañcarātra. In the description of duties that are compulsory after receiving dīkṣā, it is said, “I will explain to you the rules regarding the observance of Ekādaśī.” And then:

एकादश्यां न भुञ्जीत पक्षयोरुभयोरपि।
जागरं निशि कुर्वीत विशेषाच्चार्चयेद्विभुम्॥ इति।

One should not eat on either of the two Ekādaśīs that occur fortnightly in the lunar month. One should remain awake throughout the night and worship Bhagavān with special attention.

विष्णुयामलेऽपि तत्कथने दिग्। विद्धैकादशीव्रतम्—

The Viṣṇu-yāmala gives directions in how to observe Ekādaśī. After stating that one should not fast on mixed Ekādaśī, it is said:

शुक्लाकृष्णाविभेदश्चासद्व्यापारो व्रते तथा।
शक्तौ फलादिभुक्तिश्च श्राद्धं चैकादशीदिने॥
द्वादश्यां च दिवास्वापस्तुलस्यावचयस्तथा॥

One should not make any distinction between the Ekādaśīs that occur on the light and dark fortnights of the lunar month, thinking that one of them need not be observed. One should not act irreligiously on the day of fast, and if able to, one should abstain even from light foods, like fruit. One should not perform the śrāddha ceremony to the forefathers on the day of Ekādaśī. One should not pick tulasī leaves and should not sleep throughout the following day of Dvādaśī [in completion of the vow].

तत्र विष्णोर्दिवा स्नानमपि निषिद्धत्वेनोक्तम्। पाद्मोत्तरखण्डे च वैष्णवधर्मकथने—"द्वादशीव्रतनिष्ठता" इति।

The Viṣṇu-yāmala also forbids the bathing of Viṣṇu during the day on Dvādaśī. In the description of duties to be performed by Vaiṣṇavas found in the Uttara-khaṇḍa of the Padma Purāṇa, it is said: “One should be firmly resolved to follow the vow of Dvādaśī [i.e., to follow the Ekādaśī fast when it falls on the day of Dvādaśī].

तथा स्कान्दे काशीखण्डे सौपर्णद्वारकामाहात्म्ये च चन्द्रशर्मणो भगवद्धर्मप्रतिज्ञा—

And in the Kāśī-khaṇḍa of the Skanda Purāṇa, in the section known as "The glory of Sauparṇa-dvārakā," the brāhmaṇa Candraśarmā declares his vows of devotion ( :

अद्यप्रभृति कर्तव्यं यन् मया कृष्ण तच्छृणु।
एकादश्यां न भोक्तव्यं कर्तव्यो जागरः सदा॥
महाभक्त्यात्र कर्तव्यं प्रत्यहं पूजनं तव।
पलार्धेनापि विद्धं तु मोक्तव्यं वासरं तव॥
त्वत्प्रीत्याष्टौ मया कार्या द्वादश्यां व्रतसंयुताः॥ इत्यादिकाः।

O Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa, please hear what my duties are henceforward. I will not eat on Ekādaśī and will always remain awake on the Ekādaśī night. I will worship You every day with tremendous devotion. And if the lunar day of Ekādaśī is overlapped even fractionally by the day of Daśamī [the tenth day of the lunar month], I will not observe fasting on that day. For Your satisfaction I will observe the eight Mahā-dvādaśīs fasts.

अत उक्तमाग्नेये, "एकादश्यां न भोक्तव्यं तद्व्रतं वैष्णवं महत्" इति।

Thus it is said in the Agni Purāṇa: "One should not eat on Ekādaśī because this is a great vow undertaken for Bhagavān Viṣṇu."

वैष्णवो यदि भुञ्जीत एकादश्यां प्रमादतः।
विष्ण्वर्चनं वृथा तस्य नरकं घोरमाप्नुयात्॥

And in the Gautamīya-tantra (31.62b, 63a):

If due to negligence a Vaiṣṇava eats on Ekādaśī, his worship of Viṣṇu becomes futile and he will fall into a terrible hell.


एकादश्यां निराहारो यो भुङ्क्ते द्वादशीदिने।
शुक्ला वा यदि वा कृष्णा तद्व्रतं वैष्णवं महत्॥ इति।

And in the Matsya and Bhaviṣya Purāṇas:

One should fast on Ekādaśī and eat on the following day of Dvādaśī. The observance of Ekādaśī, whether it falls during the dark or light fortnight of the lunar month, is a great vow for the Vaiṣṇavas.

मातृहा पितृहा चैव भ्रातृहा गुरुहा तथा।
एकादश्यां तु यो भुङ्क्ते विष्णुलोकच्युतो भवेत्॥ इति।

And in the Skanda Purāṇa:

One who eats on Ekādaśī is a killer of his mother, father, brother and preceptor. He will never attain the abode of Bhagavān Viṣṇu.

अत्र वैष्णवानां निराहारत्वं नाम महाप्रसादान्नपरित्याग एव, तेषामन्यभोजनस्य नित्यमेव निषिद्धत्वात्। यथोक्तं नारदपञ्चरात्रे—

The statements in this section regarding the Vaiṣṇavas’ fasting on the day of Ekādaśī specifically refer to abstinence from food grains offered to Bhagavān Viṣṇu. There is no need to mention abstinence from food not offered to Viṣṇu because the Vaiṣṇavas are ever-forbidden to partake of such food, as stated in the Nārada-pañcarātra:

प्रसादान्नं सदा ग्राह्यमेकादश्यां न नारद।
रमादिसर्वभक्तानामितरेषां च का कथा॥ इति।

O Nārada, food grains offered to Bhagavān Viṣṇu are always forbidden on Ekādaśī for all devotees, headed by the Goddess Lakṣmī, so what to speak of others.

पत्रं पुष्पं फलं तोयमन्नपानाद्यमौषधम्।
अनिवेद्य च भुञ्जीत यदाहाराय कल्पितम्॥
अनिवेद्य तु भुञ्जानः प्रायश्चित्ती भवेन् नरः।
तस्मात् सर्वं निवेद्यैव विष्णोर्भुञ्जीत सर्वदा॥ इति।

In the Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa it is said:

Whatever food one considers suitable for consumption, whether it be leafy vegetables, flowers, fruits, water, grains, beverages, or even medicine, should not be taken without first offering it to Bhagavān Viṣṇu. If one eats without offering it to Viṣṇu, he is liable to perform atonement. Thus, one should always eat after offering everything to Viṣṇu.

जागरस्यापि नित्यत्वं, यथा स्कान्दे उमामहेश्वरसंवादे—

सम्प्राप्ते वासरे विष्णोर्ये न कुर्वन्ति जागरम्।
भ्रश्यते सुकृतं तेषां वैष्णवानां च निन्दया॥
मतिर्न जायते यस्य द्वादश्यां जागरं प्रति।
न हि तस्याधिकारोऽस्ति पूजने केशवस्य हि॥ इति।

Remaining awake throughout the night of Ekādaśī is also a compulsory principle, as stated in a dialogue between Umā and Maheśvara in the Skanda Purāṇa (

Those who do not remain awake throughout the night of Ekādaśī, which is known as the day of Viṣṇu, lose all piety. The same outcome results from the blasphemy of Vaiṣṇavas. One who is not inclined to remain awake throughout the night of Dvādaśī has no right to worship Bhagavān Keśava.

तद्वत् तस्य विष्णुप्रीतिदत्वं च श्रूयते पाद्मोत्तरखण्डे (प.पु. ६.२३४.३)—

Similarly, observance of the vow of Ekādaśī grants love for Viṣṇu, as indicated in the Uttara-khaṇḍa of the Padma Purāṇa:

शृणु देवि प्रवक्ष्यामि द्वादश्याश्च विधानकम्।
तस्याः स्मरणमात्रेण सन्तुष्टः स्याज्जनार्दनः॥

O Goddess, hear from me the method of observing the vow of Dvādaśī. By mere remembrance of Dvādaśī, Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa becomes happy.

एकादशी महापुण्या सर्वपापविनाशिनी।
भक्तेस्तु दीपनी विष्णोः परमार्थगतिप्रदा॥ इति।

And in the Bhaviṣya Purāṇa:

The vow of Ekādaśī is highly meritorious, it dispels all sins, enhances one's devotion to Bhagavān Viṣṇu and bestows the supreme goal.

अत एव श्रीमदम्बरीषादीनां भक्त्येकनिष्ठानां महाप्रसादैकभुजां तद्व्रतं दर्शयता श्रीभागवतेनापि तदन्तरङ्गवैष्णवधर्मत्वेन सम्मतमिति दिक्। पाद्मे कार्त्तिकमाहात्म्ये च ब्राह्मणकन्यायाः कार्त्तिकव्रतैकादशीव्रतप्रभावात् श्रीमत्सत्यभामाख्यभगवत्प्रेयसीपदप्राप्तिरपि श्रूयते। किं बहुना ?

Consequently, by showing that devotees like King Ambarīṣa, who were fixed exclusively in devotion and who ate only Bhagavān's remnants, also observed Ekādaśī, the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam establishes that Ekādaśī is approved as an essential feature of Vaiṣṇava duties. It is also stated in the Kārtika-māhātmya of the Padma Purāṇa that a brāhmaṇa girl attained a post similar to that of Bhagavān's beloved wife, Satyabhāmā by following the vows of Ekādaśī and Kārtika. So what more can be said about the glory of Ekādaśī?

Commentary by Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji Maharaj

Ekādaśī, the eleventh day of the lunar month, has a special significance for devotees of Vīṣṇu. It is called the day of Viṣṇu. There are two Ekādaśīs in a month and one should fast on both of them. Some make distinction between the Ekādaśīs coming in the dark or bright fortnights and fast only on one of them. Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī does not approve of it and says that even non-Vaiṣṇavas, including the devotees of Śiva or Durgā, should fast on both Ekādaśīs. [One should only eat once on the eve of the fast (HBV 12/91).] Then on the day of fast itself, one should not eat or drink anything. On the following day, one should break the fast after sunrise and before the prescribed time. On that day also one should avoid eating at night. One should keep vigil on the night of the fasting day. But if one is unable to follow this rigorous program completely, one is permitted to take a light diet consisting of fruits, roots and juices. Throughout the fast, one should be engaged in the devotional activities of chanting, kīrtana, reading or listening to scriptures like Bhāgavata Purāṇa. Eating grains, lentils, beans, and honey is completely forbidden.

Sometimes the fast is held on the twelfth day instead of eleventh. This happens if there is mixing of the tenth (daśamī) with the eleventh day, or on the basis of the constellations, nakṣatra. The time for breaking the fast also changes depending upon the ending time of the lunar day of fasting or on the length of the twelfth day. One should follow the local calendar made according to local sunrise timings.

The Purāṇas are full of the glories of the Ekādaśī fast and various stories related to the benefit of fasting. The story of Satyabhāmā’s past life is described in the 89th chapter of the Uttara-khaṇḍa of Padma Purāṇa. When Śrī Krṣṇa had fetched the Pārijāta tree from heaven for Satyabhāmā, she was very happy and marveled at her great fortune. She asked Kṛṣṇa, “What is that pious activity or vow I observed in my past life that I have obtained this fortune of being your dearmost wife?” Kṛṣṇa answered, revealing to her the mystery of her former birth:

At the end of the Satyayuga, in the city of Māyāpura [present day Haridvāra] lived a pious Brāhmaṇa named Ātreya Deva Śarmā. He was learned in the Vedas, devoted to guests, fire and the sun god. He worshiped the sun god regularly and had himself become effulgent like the sun. In his advanced age, his wife gave birth to a daughter named Guṇavatī. He married his daughter to his disciple Candra Śarmā. He had no son, but treated Candra like one and Candra was also very obedient to Ātreya Deva. One day they both went to the forest to gather some Kuśa grass and wood for a yajña. They were in the foothills of the Himalayas when a rākṣasa attacked and killed them both. By the influence of their worship and the holy land of Māyāpura, they both were carried to Vaikuṇṭha. When Guṇavatī heard that both her father and husband had been killed, she wailed and wept in her feeling of shelterlessness. She did the funeral ceremony for both of them. She lived the rest of her life in devotion to Viṣṇu, having full control over her senses, and observing the vratas of Kārtika and Ekādaśī. As a result of these two vratas she became you, My dearmost wife, in her next life.

299.4 Bath in Māgha

अथ माघः सौपर्णे—
दुर्लभो माघमासस्तु वैष्णवानामतिप्रियः।
देवतानामृषीणां च मुनीनां सुरनायक।
विशेषेण शचीनाथ माधवस्यातिवल्लभः॥ इति।

Now we will discuss the observance of vows during the month of Māgha, as referred to in the Garuḍa Purāṇa:

O Indra, chief of the gods and husband of Śacidevī, the month of Māgha is rare. It is extremely dear to the Vaiṣṇavas, the gods, the sages and the munis. And it is especially dear to Bhagavān Mādhava.

स्कान्दे ब्रह्मनारदसंवादे—
सर्वपापविनाशाय कृष्णसन्तोषणाय च।
माघस्नानं सदा कार्यं वर्षे वर्षे च नारद॥ इति।

In the Skanda Purāṇa, in a dialogue between Brahmā and Nārada it is said:

O Nārada, one should bathe [before sunrise in a holy river like the Gaṅgā] during the month of Māgha every year, in order to destroy all one's sins and to please Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa.

एकविंशगणैः सार्धं भोगान् त्यक्त्वा यथेप्सितम्।
माघमास्युषसि स्नात्वा विष्णुलोकं स गच्छति॥ इति।

And in the Uttara-parva of the Bhaviṣya Purāṇa:

By giving up desirable sense enjoyment and bathing early in the morning during the month of Māgha, a person goes to the abode of Bhagavān Viṣṇu, accompanied by twenty-one generations of his family.

एवं श्रीरामनवमीवैशाखव्रतादयश्चात्र ज्ञेयाः। एतत् सर्वमपि सदाचारकथनद्वारा विधत्ते—"गां पर्यटन्" (भा. ३.१.१८) इत्यादौ, "व्रतानि चेरे हरतोषणानि" इति॥ व्रतानि एकादश्यादीनीति। विदुर इति प्रकरणलब्धम्॥

The observance of other vows, such as Rāma-navamī and Vaiśākha, are to be understood in a similar manner. All these vows are ordained with reference to the conduct of saintly people, as Śrī Śuka said about Vidura (SB 3.1.19):

Wandering the earth, he observed vows for the satisfaction of Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa. 

The word vratāni refers to vows, such as Ekādaśī. This is a statement about Vidura, as is clear from the context.

Commentary by Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji Maharaj

Māgha is the eleventh month in the lunar year and falls in January-February. For the entire month, people take their bath in a holy river or pond before sunrise. This is also the coldest month in North India. This vrata is specially observed at Prayāga, where holy men from all over India come and reside on the bank of Gaṅgā river for the whole month while observing religious vows. Kumbha Mela, the world's biggest festival, also begins in Māgha, once in every twelve years.

DISCLAIMER: All the posts related to Bhakti Sandarbha are not the final product. This version will be refined by other readers and editors, including Babaji himself. Please do not use this material without reference to this disclaimer. This material is copyrighted by the Jiva Institute.

Bhakti Sandarbha 296-298 : More on Arcana and Eligibility for It
Bhakti Sandarbha 295 : Adhiṣṭhānas of the Deity
Bhakti Sandarbha 287-294 : Eligibility for Honor
Bhakti Sandarbha 286 : Other Important Aspects of Arcana
Bhakti Sandarbha 285 : The Gods Named in Āvaraṇa-pūjā are Bhagavān's Associates
Bhakti Sandarbha 284 : The Difference Between Mantra and Name
Bhakti Sandarbha 283 : Pāda-sevā (Concluded) and Arcanam
Bhakti Sandarbha 280-282 : Service to Bhagavān (Pāda-sevanam)
Bhakti Sandarbha 275-279 : Smaranam
Bhakti Sandarbha 273-274 : Conclusion of Kirtan Section


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