Hari-katha Articles Glories of Keśava-vrata, Candana-yātrā, and the Month of Vaiśākha (Kesava vrat -...

Glories of Keśava-vrata, Candana-yātrā, and the Month of Vaiśākha (Kesava vrat – Part 1)


kṛpā maradānita pāda paṅkajaṁ
aruṇa varṇam gaura rucim gurupādapadmam
santam sumalya varṇam guṇālayaṁ
smarāmi sad-bhakti-mayam-guru bhaktabāndhavam

I meditate upon he whose mercy defeats all types of impediments and unwanted desires. Those who keep his lotus feet in their hearts become spiritually powerful and realize their transcendental nature. Kṛṣṇa’s divine qualities reside within Guru-pāda-padma. I pray to that divine Gurudeva, who bestows pure devotion, and who is the dearest friend of the devotees.

śiṣyānugraha sandhānām smita nitya yūthānanam
keśava prema-sevādi dātāraṁ aśrita pālakaṁ
samasta maṅgala-dharam sarvānanda-mayam gurum
dhyāyaṁ śrī keśavānugata paramānanda prabhum

By following Keśava-vrata, one learns how to serve Śrīmatī Rādhārānī and receives Her shelter. I pray to that Guru-pādapadma, who is always helping those that follow in the footsteps of Keśava, that I will be able to seriously follow this Keśava-vrata throughout my life.

śrī-kṛṣṇa-caitanya prabhu-nityānanda
śrī-advaita gadādhara śrīvāsādi-gaura-bhakta-vṛnda

Hare Kṛṣṇa Hare Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Hare Hare
Hare Rāma Hare Rāma Rāma Rāma Hare Hare

Keśava-vrata Sādhāraṇa Vidhi:
Rules and Regulations to be Followed during Keśava-vrata

The scriptures and our preceptors have described certain rules and regulations to follow Keśava-vrata, known as sādhāraṇa-vidhi. Śrī Sūta Gosvāmī explains the activities to be performed during the sacred month of Vaiśākha. He explains that this Vaiśākha-vrata is also called Keśava-vrata.

Sanātana Gosvāmipāda has written in his Śrī Hari-bhaktivilāsa that vaiśākha-kṛtya means Keśava-vrata. The day before any auspicious tithi or event is called maṅgalādivāsa and should be celebrated in preparation for the commencement of the event. Before the month of Vaiśākha arrives, one should arrange sandalwood, a new clay pot, Gaṅgā or tirtha water, flowers, a Śālagrāma-śilā or a Girirājaśilā, (otherwise a Go-mati-śilā can be worshipped), Tulasī, cow dung, milk, yogurt, sugar, and honey.

After observing the day of the adhivāsa-mahotsava, or the festival celebrating the eve of Keśava-vrata, one should begin Keśava-vrata. Every day of the Vaiśākha-māsa, after Maṅgala-ārati, one should perform stava-stuti and kīrtana of the Lord and then do abhiśeka of the Śālagrāma-śilā or Girirāja-śilā. Afterwards, one should recite the glories of Vaiśākha-māsa and Keśava-vrata.

After finishing Tulasī-pūjā and Śālagrāma-pūjā, one should arrange for water to drip on Them from a clay pot throughout the day. In the evening one should perform śṛṅgāra by offering new cotton cloth and fragrant sandalwood paste to Śālagrāma or Girirāja, followed by a offering of sweet rice (kṣīra-bhoga). Then perform ārati, kīrtana, and reading of the Keśava-vrata-māhātmya. This will please Ṭhākurajī greatly. These rules are known as sādhāraṇa-pūjā-vidhi.

Śaunakādi Ṛṣi heard the glories of Keśava-vrata from Nāradajī at the forest of Naimiṣāranya, and they began to follow Keśava-vrata with great happiness.

to the Glories of Keśava-vrata, Candana-yātrā, and the Month of Vaiśākha

Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī has explained that the Vaiśākha month belongs to Viśākhā-devī. She is the śikṣā-guru of all the Vraja-devīs—the mañjarīs, sakhīs, everyone. In this month of Vaiśākha, Kṛṣṇa took shelter of Viśākhā-devī, requesting her, “Please teach me how to serve Rādhārānī.” At Śṛṅgāra-vaṭa, Viśākhā-devī lovingly taught Keśava the secrets of Rādhārānī’s service – how to comb Her hair, how to braid it, how to fan Her.

He learned how to properly apply candana (sandalwood paste), mahendi (minerals for hand decorations), kuṁkum (vermillion), alta (red color for applying on the feet), and alaka (mineral paint). He learned the art of hand decorations and feet decorations. He learned techniques for massaging head oils and how to properly dress Her. He learned how to wash Her clothes, how to dry them, and how to properly store them. He learned about massage and about flower decorations and preparing kuñjas.

For one month Viśākhā-devī continuously taught Keśava the specialities of 365 service tendencies and moods, as well as how to pray to all the sakhīs and mañjarīs to attain these eternal moods. If they are merciful and bless you with their moods, Śrīmatī Rādhārānī’s service will be easy attainable, otherwise not. By learning this process, nothing will stay the same, everything will be ever fresh.

In this month, the mañjarīs helped Keśava practice every day and taught Him many things. He learned the art of decoration, arrangement and the proper use of sandalwood, kuṁkum, kasturi (musk), goracana (bright yellow pigment), as well as various musical skills, singing, dancing, acting, and other arts. This is Keśava’s vrata.

Early every morning, Keśava would take the calves into the twelve forests of Vraja. There He would learn how to serve Śrīmatī Rādhikā by twelve rasas. He would sometimes learn from Viśākhā in Sūrya-kuṇḍa or Rādhā-kuṇḍa, and sometimes in Candra-sarovara, Māna-sarovara, Kusuma-sarovara, Prema-sarovara, Kāmyavana, Biharvana, or in Vṛndāvana. Anywhere Keśava would go He would secretly learn these services while everyone would think He was only tending His cows. This is what is called gopana—confidential—gopa-līlā, or gopī-līlā. This is govinda-līlāmṛta, the nectar of Govinda’s pastimes.

During His time in Vraja, the Vraja-devīs taught Keśava how to serve Śrīmatī Rādhikā. After His training was complete, He spent 100 years outside Vraja trying to teach others these arts. And in Kali-yuga, He took sannyāsa, giving up everything in order to teach these lessons.

Accompanied by Viśākhā-devī, Lalitā-devī, Rūpa Mañjarī, Rati Mañjarī, Lavaṅga Mañjarī, Vilāsa Mañjarī, Anaṅga Mañjarī, Kastūrī Mañjarī, and all the other Vraja-devīs, He continuously served Śrīmatī Rādhārānī, and trained others how to lovingly serve Her.

Sevā-kuñja is where these teachings are continuously being taught. Guru-pāda-padma has manifested branches of Sevā-kuñja across the world. Under the guidance of Vinoda Mañjarī, he is fulfilling the desire of Keśava deva and Viśākhā-devī, and is teaching others how to follow Keśava-vrata.

Seeing anyone following this vrata, Lord Keśava becomes overjoyed and blesses that person. Such a person will quickly attain the foot dust of Śrīmatī Rādhārānī. Rādhikā will give Her shelter and mercy to that person. Anyone who strictly and sincerely follows this vrata will definitely achieve mañjarī-bhāva, becoming qualified to serve Śrīmatī Rādhārānī and Vrajendra-nandana Śyāmasundara.

This Keśava-vrata book has manifested by the mercy of the Guruparamparā, Vaiṣṇavas, and Vraja-devīs. It does not come from any mundane person. This truly is the causeless mercy of Keśavadeva. It is His own property that He is giving.

During the month of Vaiśākha, in which Candana-yātrā comes, sādhakas offer candana, sandalwood paste, to the Deity of Kṛṣṇa. They smear His entire body with this sandalwood paste. During the rest of the year a little candana is applied to the body of the Lord daily, but during Candana-yātrā they cover His entire body with candana, and Kṛṣṇa hides under all the candana as though He were a vana-devatā, a forest Kṛṣṇa. Everyone wonders, “Where has Kṛṣṇa gone?” Even the demigods who come to see Him and offer Him respects cannot find Him anywhere, and they all become bewildered.

During Candana-yātrā in Jagannātha Purī, Lord Jagannātha goes out every day in His vijaya-mūrti form to Candana Sarovara, and there He performs His boating pastimes. Every day a different demigod helps to perform the service there; Brahmā, Gaṇeśa, Śiva, and so forth, all come and smear candana on the Lord’s form. They participate in the huge saṅkīrtana party that goes to Candana Sarovara, and there they ride in the boat of the Lord in the evening. Afterwards Lord Jagannātha returns to the temple with a cool, fresh body. Śiva Ṭhākura smears His body with ash taken from cremation grounds, but for Lord Kṛṣṇa Śiva Ṭhākura offers the very best candana.

Once in Treta-yuga, Hanumān was in Sītā-devī’s room and saw Her putting sindhura in the parting of Her hair. He asked, “Oh Mother Sītā, why are you wearing this sindhura?”

She replied, “I use this on my forehead as a symbol of My love and respect for Rāma. The scriptures describe that when a chaste wife wears this sindhura, the span of her husband’s life is increased. It also shows how I am one-pointedly dedicated to Rāma. When Rāma accepted me at the time of our marriage, He made this mark upon my head and told me, ‘Always keep this mark upon you, it is a symbol of the connection between us.’”

When Sītā-devī left the room, Hanumān took her kuṁkum and smeared his whole body with it, and then he went and entered the assembly of Lord Rāma. Lord Rāma asked him, “What have you done, why are you completely covered with kuṁkum?”

Some present in the royal court of Rāma began to laugh, but Rāma silenced them.

Hanumān replied, “Every day, Sītā-devī wears this sindhura as a symbol of the connection between you both, and She told me that by wearing this sindhura You would be blessed with a long life, so I thought that I would cover my whole body with this sindhura, and then you will definitely have a long life without any problems.”

Hearing this, Rāma smiled and said, “Oh, you have offered everything to me, so I completely accept you.” Therefore, in the Rāmānuja-sampradāya they have a red line in between their tilaka.

In Vraja, Kṛṣṇa rolls and decorates His body with the dust (raja) of Vraja. Va means that which has a special quality, and thus Vraja means that place where the dust is full of transcendental potency. When Kṛṣṇa was a young boy, Yaśodā Mātā would bathe and dress Him, and then He would immediately go out into the fields of Vraja and roll in all the dust. When mother Yaśodā would see this, she would become angry saying, “I just dressed You in nice new cloths and now You have gone and spoilt them all by rolling around in the mud and dirt.”

Kṛṣṇa answered, “All the animals lie in the dust of Vraja, and in this way they have a relationship with Vraja-bhūmi. I took birth in Vṛndāvana only so that I could take this dust on My body.”

Śrīla Gaura-kiśora dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja said, “The big gosāīs of the temples in Vraja are not really in Vraja, for they sleep in big palaces on high beds, and they never touch the dust of Vraja, nor have any relationship with the dust of Vraja.”

We see that the pilgrims who go for Navadvīpa-dhāma parikramā all sleep in the dirt of Navadvīpa and in this way they receive so much mercy from Navadvīpa-dhāma, but those who are wealthy, they sleep in hotels on top of nice big beds. They do not get the mercy of Navadvīpadhāma like the simple humble pilgrims who sleep in the dirt.

Kṛṣṇa has so much love for this dust, and we see the evidence of this in the pastime of Madhvācārya finding the Deity of Gopāla inside a lump of gopī-candana. Kṛṣṇa asked Mādhavendra Purī to bring Him candana from Jagannātha Purī, as this candana represents the dust of the Vraja-devīs’ lotus feet. This dust was taken by the Yamunā to the ocean, and the ocean deposited this dust at Mysore, and there it grew into so many sandalwood trees.

So the bhaktas began to collect this sandalwood and offer it to the Lord. Kṛṣṇa asked Mādhavendra Purī to bring this special candana for Him from Jagannātha Purī, because Mādhavendra Purī is also a gopī, and he possesses that special kind of love that makes this dust so special. Kṛṣṇa says that of all the bhaktas, the gopīs really have love for Me, for they are ready to do anything for Me, but the others will not give Me their foot dust when I ask, for they are selfish and think of their own welfare.

In Jagannātha Purī during this month, the daitya-patis go to Jagannātha after brāhma-muhūrta and smear the Lord with candana paste. All day long, five or six people are pasting sandalwood. They mix it with saffron and camphor and other spices, and then they take this paste and smear the Lord’s body with it every morning and every evening.

In the Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Antya 6.60) it is written:

bhakta-pada-dhūli āra bhakta-pada-jala
bhakta-bhukta-avaśeṣa – tīna mahā-bala

“The foot dust of a devotee, the water that has washed his feet, and the remnants of food left by him are three very powerful items.”

These three things are very powerful. Lord Jagannātha Himself says, “Without bhakta-dhūli, I have no strength to take care of all My responsibilities. You may give Me everything in the world on one side, but this will not be equal to just one particle of dust from the feet of the pure bhaktas. This dust is the greatest bhoga for Me; I am not attracted to gold, silver, jewels, or tasty food. I only have attachment and attraction to the dust of the bhaktas feet and to Śrī Tulasī.” So when we offer candana, we offer Tulasī leaves at the same time, and then Kṛṣṇa becomes very pleased.

Our ācāryas have marked this vrata, which is performed in the month of Vaiśākha, April/May, in the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava Calendar. This month is named after Śrī Viśākhā-devī. Lord Keśava took shelter of her. Viśākhā-devī is our śikṣā-guru, as written by Śrī Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī in his Manaḥ-śikṣā (verse 9): “viśākhāṁ śikṣālī-vitaraṇagurutve priya-saro—O mind, always remember Śrī Viśākhā as the instructing spiritual master in the arrangements of service rendered unto the Divine Couple.”

Without a guardian, one is destitute. When this month comes, it means that Viśākhā-devī has now arrived to take responsibility for our development. She promises to train those who surrender to her during this month and to help them achieve spiritual perfection. We pray to her for blessings that we may properly follow this Keśava-vrata and Candana-yatra, and please Śrīla Gurudeva and the Divine Couple, Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa.

Srila Gurudeva ki Jaya! (Excerpted from “The Holy Dust of Vraja”)
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The foot dust from the lotus feet of Rādhārānī should be the ornament of your body. Mahāprabhu says, “I cover My body with the anurāga, or the foot dust, which is decorated with kuṁkum, from Rādhārānī’s feet. I will not wear anything not colored with the dust from Rādhārānī’s lotus feet.” Kṛṣṇa also showed the value of this dust. He brought all the sakhās to Varṣāṇā and smeared His body with Śrīmatī’s foot dust. Then His color also became golden. This is called holī-līlā or dhūla-khela. Also in Dvārakā, Kṛṣṇa, with the help of Nārada, smeared this dust on His body, and showed the value of this treasure. Why do we wear white also? White is meant for the paramahaṁsas. Mahāprabhu says, “The saffron colored cloth of anurāga, like Rādhārānī’s foot dust, is a protective barrier, so that no one can come and acquire one’s love.” For Gauḍīyas, this cloth signifies one as being a maidservant of Śrīmatī Rādhārānī. Rādhikā-caraṇa-renū bhūṣana kariyā tanū. Take shelter of the lotus feet of Śrīmatī Rādhārānī. Then you are very great. Why should you go to anyone else for shelter? In this way, Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura advises the rāgānugā-sādhaka. How can you meet with Kṛṣṇa? How can Kṛṣṇa be pleased with you? Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura tells us to only take Rādhārānī’s foot dust. Śrī Bharata Mahārāja said: rahūgaṇaitat tapasā na yāti na cejyayā nirvapaṇād gṛhād vā na cchandasā naiva jalāgni-sūryair vinā mahat-pāda-rajo-’bhiṣekam Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 5.12.12 552 O King Rahūgaṇa, perfection in devotion cannot be achieved unless one bathes in the dust of the feet of great devotees. It can never be gotten by tapasyā, grand worship, renunciation, household dharma, Vedic hymns, or penance under the hot sun, surrounded by fire, or by submerging within cold water. Śrī Prahlāda Mahārāja said in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (7.5.32): naiṣāṁ matis tāvad urukramāṅghriṁ spṛśaty anarthāpagamo yad-arthaḥ mahīyasāṁ pāda-rajo-’bhiṣekaṁ niṣkiñcanānāṁ na vṛṇīta yāvat The lotus feet of Bhagavān Urukrama, who is praised for His uncommon activities, destroy all unwanted things in the heart (anarthas). However, mundane persons cannot be attached to His lotus feet until they cover their bodies with the dust from the lotus feet of great personalities who are absorbed in love of God and who are completely free from material attachments. The foot dust of pure devotees is supremely powerful. One who does not smear his body with this dust can never become purified and clean. In the Bhakti-sandarbha, Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī tells us to slowly practice. Take this bhakta-pada-dhūli and the pada-dhūli of the mahā-bhāgavatas and the Vrajavāsīs. Then pray for the foot dust of Rādhārānī.

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