Hari-kathaArticlesThe First Day of Kesava-vrata

The First Day of Kesava-vrata

[Hari-katha inspired by the Guruvarga]

Today is the first day of Kesava-vrata. In all the sastras, the glories of Kesava-vrata have been stated everywhere. You will definitely get benefit by following this vrata. And also, this is the absolute truth; it is not ordinary speculation or imagination. It is not the upasana (worship) of Kali, Durga, Candi, or Bhairavi Devi. This vrata is not for the business of the body. It is for the well being of the soul. How can the soul receive a relationship with all the previous Acaryas and Guruvarga? Therefore, today we will do sankalpa for this vrata.

Everyone has forgotten their relationship with the Guruvarga. Everyone has been enraptured by the plane of mundane, physical attraction since millions of lives. The conditioned souls try to free themselves but it is not possible for them to get liberation or give up this tendency.

Just when the conditioned soul thinks of giving up this corrupt tendency, the soldiers of hate and lust attack and arrest him the very next moment. They choke the conditioned soul. It is not possible for the conditioned soul to escape. Therefore, it is said that Lord Sri Hari—Kesavadeva is present with the conditioned soul in any species of life he is encaged in. How? God has given us a very good chance to observe this Kesava-vrata once a year. We are especially in Navadvipa Dhama on the banks of the Ganga. He has given us the opportunity to be with the Guruvarga, Vaisnavas, and Vrnda Devi. Navadvipa Dhama, Vrndavana Dhama, and Jagannatha Puri Dhama are the Holy Dhamas. The appearance place of the Mahabhagavat Vaisnavas are also Holy Dhamas. This is true of the holy tirthas as well.

But how will we get a relationship with the Holy Dhama? How will we always be attached to the Absolute truth? How will we never forget or lose this relationship? We are observing this vrata and observing a sankalpa because we desire to only have a relationship with the Absolute Truth. So, the vrata is starting today. What is the benefit of following this vrata?

Lord Sri Hari-Krsna was in Dvaraka during Dvapara Yuga. After Krsna entered His unmanifest pastimes, His grandson Vajranabha came to Vraja-mandala. Vajranabha met with Uddhava, Vidura, and Maitreya Rsi.

Uddhava told Vajranabha, “You have come to eternal Vraja Dhama. So, you must install deities of Sri Krsna here.”

Vajranabha replied, “I don’t know anything. How can I make deities? Krsna is my great-grandfather. When I met Krsna, Pariksit Maharaja was the emperor of this world. But the arrangements that have been made for Krsna’s service are very strange. Why? People have no intelligence.”

Vajranabha performed austerities with Uddhava for a long time in Vraja during this month of Vaisakha (April-May). Visakha Devi is the Siksa-Guru of this month. Just as Uddhava performed many austerities to obtain the blessings of Visakha Devi and the Vraja Devis; similarly, Maharaja Vajranabha also did austerities this entire month. By Krsna’s and the Vraja Devis’ causeless mercy, Vajranabha manifested the deities of Krsna. He manifested Kesavadeva first. And then, he manifested the deities of Govindadeva, Harideva, and Baladeva. He installed these four deities.

Where did he find the deities? He found Kesavadeva in Mathura, which is Krsna’s appearance place. He found Harideva in Govardhana. Lastly, he found Govindadeva in Vrndavana. He also installed the deity of Dauji (Baladeva Prabhu). After finding these deities, Maharaja Vajranabha became very happy.

He thought, “How causelessly merciful Krsna is!”

Govindadeva is present in Vrndavana.


—Janama Saphala Ta’ra [Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura]


[Standing in His threefold bending form and holding His flute, Krsna displays unparalleled beauty.]

Kesavadeva is present in Mathura in a four handed form (catur-bhuja). He is not Dvi-bhuja (two handed). He appeared near Devaki and Vasudeva; He is Mathuradisa and Dvarakadisa. Why was the deity of Kesavadeva installed first by Vajranabha? He did so because he had a relationship with Dvarakadisa-catur-bhuja. He knew that his great-grandfather Krsna was four-handed. And then, he found Govindadeva in Vrndavana.

After Vasanti-rasa, Madhava-masa comes. Jiva Gosvami has written a book called Madhava-mahotsava. In Madhava-mahotsava, Jiva Gosvami has only described parakiya-rasa. After Vasanti-rasa, Krsna manifested the pastime of holi.

Krsna thought, “During this time of holi, all the Vrajavasis including the sakhas and Myself smear ourselves with the foot dust of the Vraja Devis. We also bathe ourselves with the water that has bathed the Vraja Devis feet. We splash this water on each other. The Vraja Devis’ service tendency and love is unparalleled. Everything about the Vraja Devis is special. But I cannot avail Myself of their love. How can this be made possible?

I will also serve and practice. I will also train Myself.”

Therefore, Krsna came to Srngara-vata. Krsna prayed and requested the sakhis. He told them, “Please give Me a chance to serve. I will also practice and undergo training. Everyone worships Me; everyone serves Me. They offer everything to Me and I accept whatever they have to offer. I do so for their pleasure. But I can’t serve Myself. Please teach Me; please help Me. Give Me the chance to comb Radharani’s hair.”

The sakhis became surprised on listening to Krsna’s entreaty. They thought, “Which mood has entered Krsna’s heart? After the holi-lila and Vasanti-lila, He has changed. Before, He was a crooked cheater. But now He has become very simple, sweet, polite, humble, and quiet. He repeatedly tells us, ‘Please give Me a chance to serve Srimati Radharani.’”

The sakhis asked Krsna, “How will You serve Her?”

“I will comb Her long hair. I will decorate Her hair with many flowers; then Her mercy will shower on Me.”

“What will You do with Her mercy?”

“Everyone serves Srimati Radharani; but I never served Her. I never practiced serving Her in My life. I am worshipable to the entire world; but I didn’t serve Srimati Radharani.”

Before, Krsna thought of helping the devotees. But He then thought, “The thirty-three million demigods are there to help and serve My devotees. My expansions serve the devotees as well.”

Now, Krsna felt He never learned how to serve. Therefore, He is in Srngara-vata. He proclaimed, “I will observe vrata for one month. I will be trained and I will learn how to serve.”

What was Krsna’s service? He would collect many flowers and make nice garlands. He would comb Radharani’s hair and decorate Her with the many flowers He had collected. He would also paint Radharani’s hands. Thus, Krsna became an expert in many forms of arts. But was this enough? No.

Krsna thought, “I will nicely clean Radharani’s feet and nails. I will decorate Her with great expertise.”

Radharani is mahabhava-svarupini; She is Krsna’s svarupa-sakti. You must not think of Her as an ordinary lady.

mahabhava-svarupa tvam
prema-bhakti-prade devi
radhike tvam namamy aham


[“O Srimati Radharani, You are the exalted form of mahabhava, therefore You are the most dear to Krishna. O Goddess, You alone are able to bestow pure love for the Supreme Lord; therefore I offer my humble obeisances unto You.”]

Krsna underwent extensive training in learning Radharani’s aradhana. Similarly, the devotees eternally pray under the guidance of Krsna. They sincerely pray and think, “When will I also serve Srimati Radharani? When will I get this continuous service tendency.”

Thus, Kesava started this vrata. On another side, Vajranabha, Uddhava, Narada, and the rest of the devotees started a vrata on the banks of Govardhana. They started their worship. Their worship was similar to how Gopala Bhatta Gosvami worshiped the salagrama-sila. Gopala Bhatta Gosvami would apply sandalwood paste and offer Tulasi leaves to salagrama-sila. On the next full moon, salagrama manifested as Radha-ramana. Therefore, Kesavadeva manifested Himself after Vajranabha and Uddhava worshiped Him for this one month.

What does Krsna do in this month. After the season of spring, the old leaves make way for the new ones. Many flowers also bloom on the four sides of Govardhana and Vrndavana. They exude such an intoxicating fragrance. Although there were many flowers, the kunjas (groves) weren’t entirely formed. So, where would Krsna hide?

Krsna thought, “I haven’t met the Vraja Devis since a long time. What should I do?”

Krsna told His sakhas, “Near Manasi-ganga, there is a forest. A God has appeared in this forest. This God is very special. He gives many boons. He will fulfil any desire of yours. But you should worship Him by pasting sandalwood. You should then smear this sandalwood paste all over His body. Also, offer some drinks to Him. Make drinks from chickpea flour, wheat, and barley-corn. Thus, He will be very pleased.”

All the Vrajavasis made many types of drinks. Drinks were made from honey, buttermilk, and mangoes. These drinks were stored in clay pots. The deity of the forest became very happy upon receiving sandalwood paste and these drinks. All the Vrajavasis asked for a boon and He gladly blessed them. His body was entirely covered by sandalwood paste. You can see the deity lying down in Govardhana.

The Vrajavasis thought, “Before, Krsna told us to worship Giriraja-Govardhana. But now He told us to worship this deity of the forest.”

The Vrajavasis only prayed for the well being of Krsna. They only wanted to serve Krsna. The gopis came with water from the Manasi-ganga. They told the forest deity, “We will bathe You with this water and apply fresh sandalwood paste on You. Why should You be covered by sandalwood paste that has become stale.”

When the gopis started to clean the deity, they saw that their hands were becoming black. They became very surprised. They thought, “How will the deity become golden upon being covered by sandalwood paste? He has always been black.”

They then abused the deity. Soon after, they were embraced and kissed by the ‘deity.’ The gopis then poured all the drinks on this mysterious figure and ran away. Thus, many pastimes manifest in this month. Tulasi appeared with salagrama-sila when Satya Yuga began. The Rsis and Maharsis worshiped Kesavadeva to have a spiritual relation manifest in their hearts.

Brahma thought, “I cannot control my sons. I cannot control my Brghu, Marici, Atri, Pulasta, Angira, Kavi, Havi, Antariksa, Pippalayana, Prabhudha, and the other Rsis-Maharsis who were born from my mind. Nobody follows me.”

Brahma asked his sons, “You love God, but I have love for you all. Now how can I change?”

The sons replied, “You also pray and serve God.”

But, when God came near Brahma, Brahma said, “I like my followers instead.”

But the followers said, “No. You should follow God.”

Then Brahma recited the Brahma-samhita prayers. Many Rsis and Maharsis prayed along with Brahma. Brahma then remembered his worshipable Lord and said:

santah sadaiva hrdayesu vilokayanti
yam syamasundaram acintya-guna-svarupam
govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami

—Sri Brahma-samhita 5.38


[I worship the primeval Lord, Govinda, who is always seen by the devotee whose eyes are anointed with the pulp of love. He is seen in His eternal form of Śyāmasundara situated within the heart of the devotee.]

cintamani prakara-sadmasu kalpa-vriksha-
laksavriteshu surabhir abhipalayantam
govindam adi-purusham tam aham bhajami

—Brahma-samhita 5.2


[I worship Govinda, the Primeval Lord, the First Progenitor Who is tending the cows, yielding all desires, in abodes built with spiritual gems, surrounded by millions of purpose-trees, always served with great reverence and affection by hundreds of thousands of Lakshmis or Gopis.]

venum kvanantam aravinda-dalayataksam
barhavatam samasitambuda-sundarangam
kandarpa-koti-kamaniya vishesha-shobham
govindam adi-purusham tam aham bhajami

—Brahma-samhita 5.3


[I worship Govinda, the Primeval Lord, Who is adept in playing on His flute, with blooming eyes like lotus petals, with head bedecked with peacock’s feather, with the figure of beauty tinged with the hue of blue clouds, and His unique loveliness charming millions of cupids.]

Kesavadeva appeared after listening to Brahma’s prayers. Kesavadeva thought, “Now My son-Brahma has come in line. Before, rather than following My orders, he followed the orders of his followers. They were his gurus.”

Neared Rsi is Vyasadeva’s Guru. Vyasadeva tried following everything, but he was unable to do anything. Only on following Narada Rsi’s advice could Vyasadeva understand the essence of everything. Therefore, today is a very special day. On this day everyone worships Kesavadeva with clay pots full of water, and many other delectable drinks. The Rsis-Maharsis only worship salagrama-sila with Tulasi leaves and Ganga water.

Although their worship seems extravagant, their only items of worship are Tulasi leaves and Ganga water. Sri Hari is very pleased by such service.

Sri Hari said, “I don’t like anything except Tulasi.”

Therefore, Mahaprabhu said, “Oh Raghunatha! You need only worship Krsna with Tulasi leaves.”

dui-dike dui-patra madhye komala manjari
ei-mata asta-manjari dibe sraddha kari

—Sri Caitanya-caritamrita Antya 6.297


[“With faith and love, you should offer eight soft Tulasi flowers, each with two Tulasi leaves, one on each side of each flower.”]

Mahaprabhu gave Giriraja to Raghunatha and told him to worship Giriraja with eight Tulasi flowers and water from a pitcher. Mahaprabhu then arranged for Svarupa Damodara to give khajja to Raghunatha das Gosvami. Thus, Raghunatha das Gosvami could offer khajja to Giriraja. Manasi-seva is important in our sampradaya. But how to do manasi-seva if we don’t practically practice? Therefore, vigraha-seva is a must. Manasi-seva is not very easy.

After trying to do manasi-seva for some time, you will think, “This is speculation. This is wrong.”

Therefore, after giving diksa and harinama, Srila Gurudeva would give a deity to the initiated devotees. He would tell them, “You should worship the deity; then you will get a relationship.”

Das Gosvami would worship Giriraja-Govardhana everyday. How would Mahaprabhu worship Giriraja? Mahaprabhu would bathe Giriraja with His tears and place Giriraja on His head or chest. Therefore, the Rsis and Maharsis thought about the onset of Kali Yuga. In Kali Yuga, Ganga, Yamuna, Tulasi, salagrama, sastras, Vaisnavas, and the Bhagavatam disappear. Before, every household would worship salagrama. They would blow on the conch early in the morning and ringing the bell, they would worship salagrama. They would sprinkle caranamrita on themselves and distribute it to others as well. They would diligently offer bhoga and partake of the prasada. And, they would do arati in the evening. But now, salagrama is not available anywhere.

The Yamuna has disappeared. The flow of the Ganga has been diverted and every state is trying to use Ganga to fulfil their vested interests. There is no water in the Ganga now. Or else, Ganga is diverted to Bangladesh. It is very rare to find a place in Kali Yuga where Vrnda Devi or Tulasi Devi is worshiped. Even the devotees don’t have Tulasi in their homes.

The Rsis and Maharsis became extremely fearful by the onset of Kali Yuga. They prayed to Sri Hari. Sri Hari told them, “I am sending My Sudarsana cakra to help you all. Follow the Sudarsana cakra; go everywhere it goes.”

The Rsis-Maharsis then followed the Sudarsana cakra while doing kirtana and chanting the Sudarsana-kavaca. Sudarsana soon reached Naimisaranya and made his way to Patalaloka. The Ganga then sprung from the path made by Sudarsana. Ganga flows even to this day there. The Rsis-Maharsis started reciting hari-katha in that area from all four sides. They recited the Puranas, Bhagavatam, and the other scriptures. They worshiped Sri Hari for protection.

It is said that if Tulasi Devi and salagrama are worshiped in any place in Kali Yuga, then that place is completely protected. This is also true of that place where the Gita and Bhagavatam is recited. But we don’t properly worship or respect the paraphernalia of the Lord. We would rather glorify eggplants, cauliflower, cabbage, and carrots than glorifying Tulasi Devi. We don’t glorify Tulasi Devi because she doesn’t bear any fruits.

In this month of Kesava-vrata, everyone goes to the Jagannatha temple and worships Tulasi Devi. Mostly, the priests in Puri have no children. It is very rare for them to have a daughter. If a daughter is born to them, they treat the daughter like a princess. They look after their daughters with so much love and respect. One such daughter of a priest would also go to the temple and worship Jagannatha and Tulasi Devi.

When youth dawned on her, her parents arranged for her marriage. Their daughter said, “When I get married, I will also take Tulasi Devi-Vrnda Devi to my in-laws home.”

She took Tulasi Devi with her and worshiped her like before. She would respectfully seat Tulasi Devi on her head. She would carry Tulasi Devi everywhere she went. She would carry Tulasi Devi with her when she would go to the kitchen or when she was offering bhoga or doing arati. Her in-laws became very angry with her.

They told her, “Why are you bringing this plant here?”

They then threw Tulasi Devi away. But she brought Tulasi Devi back. The in-laws then broke the pot. Undeterred, the daughter-in-law planted Tulasi Devi again. Her in-laws were cruel atheists. They would incessantly disturb their daughter-in-law.

They told their son, “You have not married a lady; you have married a raksasi. She always worships these plants. We throw this plant away; yet, she brings it back. She then destroys the house with this plant.”

The daughter-in-law said, “What is the problem? I am not doing anything wrong.”

The husband replied, “No. You must follow my parents.”

“I will not.”

“Then we will beat you and kill you.”

“No problem.”

Now, the father-in-law, mother-in-law, and the husband caught the devotee and tried beating her to her death. They broke the Tulasi pot and desecrated the plant in many ways. They threw the plant away. The daughter-in-law then fasted and she would bring a dry Tulasi plant and again continue her worship. She would continuously worship Tulasi Devi even on being disturbed in many a ways. She would water Tulasi Devi every morning.

One morning she saw that two leaves had unfurled on the stem. When the in-laws tried throwing Tulasi Devi away again, a black snake appeared and bit the two of them. Both of them immediately died.

When the husband returned, he told his wife, “You killed my parents. Now everyone is crying because of you. Why aren’t you crying as well?”

“Why should I cry?”

“My parents are dead. You are very wretched. Now all my relatives will cut you into many pieces.”

“No problem.”

“Why are you laughing?”

“They kicked Tulasi Devi; yet, when they left their body, a plane came and took them to Vaikunthaloka. They were always against the worship of Tulasi Devi. They tried disturbing in so many ways. But by touching the body of Vrnda Devi, they have gone to Vaikuntha.”

The husband’s anger only grew. He told the devotee, “All right. I will kill you and you should also go to Vaikuntha!”

When the husband’s relatives tried killing the devotee, they were unable to. They saw a celestial plane taking her away to Vaikunthaloka. A storm then appeared and blinded everyone. Everyone were then burnt alive.

So, the people of Kali Yuga are very strange. They will create many problems when someone worships Tulasi Devi or salagrama-sila.

My Guru Maharaja spoke of an incident:

A brahmana father told his son, “I am going to officiate a fire sacrifice. I will return after some days, so you should worship the salagrama instead.”

“All right. But how should I worship?”

“Offer Tulasi leaves, sandalwood paste, and the water of the Ganga. Nothing else is needed.”

A tree stood near the temple that bore many juicy berries. It was the summer and these berries looked very ripe and juicy.

On looking at them, the son thought, “These berries look so succulent and sweet. But how can I collect them?”

The boy then took the salagrama and threw the salagrama at the tree. Many berries then fell to the ground. The boy threw the salagrama at the tree many times and collected as many berries as he could.

The boy exclaimed, “This salagrama is very good. My father told me to worship the salagrama; but the salagrama is so useful this way. The salagrama is my good friend! I can eat so many berries now.”

The boy then threw the salagrama at the tree again; but to his dismay, he couldn’t find the salagrama. The boy grew anxious and thought, “My father will beat me if he doesn’t see the salagrama. What should I do?”

The book took a black berry and put it on the altar. He smeared sandalwood paste on it and offered Tulasi leaves to it. The father then came the next day and asked his son, “Where is the salagrama?”

“It is right here father.”

“But this salagrama is rotten!”

“The salagrama is rotten? What can I do father?”

“What happened?”

“The salagrama is rotten because I would diligently offer sandalwood paste and water to it. This is not my fault.”

The father then had a closer look and realized that the salagrama was a black berry.

Similarly, Srila Gurudeva spoke of another instance:

Once, a Guru called his priest and said, “Oh pujari, why was there a sound coming from the deity room? What were you doing inside?”

“Gurudeva, I wasn’t doing anything.”

“What were you doing behind closed doors?”

What was the priest doing? He was using two salagrama-silas to break almond shells. He would place one almond on top of one salagrama and he would break the shell by using another salagrama.

The Guru again asked, “What are you doing?”

“I am not eating almonds,” the priest replied.

Srila Prabhupada mentions this instance. This is the business of the people of Kali Yuga. Baba! You should never do like this. The salagrama is not a piece of stone; the salagrama is God Himself.

Tomorrow, we will listen to the meaning of the word, ‘salagrama.’ You should seriously and carefully worship salagrama. You will then realize how truthful this worship is in this very life. You will have this realization. You should worship salagrama with respect. You must never think that the salagrama is a piece of a stone. Similarly, you must never think that Tulasi is an ordinary plant.

There are two forms of Tulasi—Krsna Tulasi and Radha Tulasi. God Himself has appeared in this world in this form to help all the souls have a permanent relationship with Him.

[CC-by-NDNC Bhakta Bandhav]

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