Understanding Kartik

temple painting of the maha-rasa-lila

Kartik month is a time when Lord Krishna makes Himself more available to His devotees than at any other time of the year. During this time, whatever you do in remembrance of Krishna will bear merits a hundred times more than usual, even for the smallest of offerings. But it is Kartik night we typically focus on as that is the night we celebrate the Rasa-lila between Krishna and the gopis.

In the weeks leading up to the Rasa-lila, the gopis began intense penance to Katayayni Devi. They woke early for baths in the Yamuna and fasted on unsalted kitchari. They had one aim: to make Krishna their husband. Not for their own sake or desire but because the only thing they cared about was Him and His happiness.

Eventually, Krishna began to answer their prayers and called them with the sound of His flute. The gopis stopped everything upon hearing the call. They left dinner half-cooked, make-up half done, children unattended. Their husbands and brothers tried to stop them but nothing could keep them from following Krishna’s flute. But as the gopis went to search for Him, Krishna hid Himself, leaving them desperate in the pain of separation. 

It was this pain of separation that led to their song known as the Gopi Gita which Paramahamsa Vishwananda refers to as ‘the heart of the Bhagavatam.’ Such was the intensity of their prayers that they melted Sri Krishna’s heart and He revealed Himself to the gopis.

The Lord Krishna appeared in front of the gopis. His lotus-like face was smiling, and He was wearing a garland made of wildflowers and a yellow garment. His form is so attractive that it perturbs everybody’s mind and even bewilders the mind of Cupid.

Shreemad Bhagavatam, 10.32.2

This is the moment marking the beginning of the Rasa-lila. Krishna manifested another version of Himself so each gopi had their own Krishna to dance with. Deep inside the heart of each gopi was Krishna and within the heart of Krishna resided each gopi

The entire Rasa-lila symbolises the cosmic form of Krishna performing His Leela within each person. However, He manifests Himself only to those who truly long for Him. He is the indweller of each heart. Whether it is a bad person or a good person, there is no heart where Krishna is not present. Whether you believe in Him or not, He is there.

Paramahamsa Vishwananda 

The Rasa-lila is symbolic of the supreme Love relationship between the bhakta and the Lord. On Kartik Night, we celebrate Krishna as the centre point of our lives and express our love and devotion to Him in the form of a kambam lamp: a large oil lamp made up of smaller individual lamps representing the bhaktas

While it is typically Kartik Night we focus on, the entire month of Kartik is considered to be a favourite of Sri Krishna. Whatever prayers we offer during this month will bear more merit, but it is really the gopis we should take our example from. It was not merit or punya they concerned themselves with. Their only aim was to please, serve, and love Krishna. If we learn anything from Kartik month, let it be to live and serve with love and devotion to Krishna.

Pictures of Kartik celebrations
Pictures of Kartik celebrations
Pictures of Kartik celebrations

Celebrate at Home

Offer Tulsi or an Oil Lamp

In various satsangs this month, Paramahamsa Vishwananda has spoken frequently about offering Tulsi or an oil lamp to Sri Krishna. Tulsi is devotion incarnate. To offer Her to Krishna is to offer our devotion. Similarly, offering an oil lamp is symbolic of offering our souls. 

Meditate on Krishna

While every day is a good day to meditate on Krishna, this month is particularly auspicious. Whatever offers we make, even in the smallest of prayers, He accepts and returns with His Love a thousandfold.