Sri Bhismadeva - Bhisma Ashtami - Bhisma Panchaka
last updated 24th November 201

Relections on Bhishma Panchaka - Ekadasi Period and Fasting etc.
Bhismadeva's birth - Bhisma Ashtami:
The Passing away of Bhismadev:
Kartik vrata and Bhisma panchakam
Explanation of Bhisma-panchaka
Bhisma Panchaka levels of fasting

Rasa Purnima breakfast

More about Kaarttika

How and when to break the fast....


Relections on Bhishma Panchaka - Ekadasi Period and Fasting etc.

The last 5 days of the month of Kaarttika are traditionally known as the Bhishma Panchaka or the Vishnu Panchaka. In the Hari Bhakti Vilasa, it is said that if one is capable, one should observe fasting from certain foodstuffs on the Bhishma-panchaka for the pleasure of the Lord. This is optional. The Padma Purana say that one pleases the Lord and makes spiritual advancement by such austerities.

This year's Bhishma Panchaka was for four days since the day of ekadasi this year was a maha-dvadasi. So it got shortened to four days. (note: this is not every year)

Some devotees in Mayapur (Brahmacaris, Grhasthas alike) fast from grains during these 5 days. The strictest way of doing this fast is to take only the five products of the cow (pancha gavya) on each of the five days(!). I didn't hear of anyone doing this. But usually those who do this fast restrict their eating like during ekadasis: no grains and beans.

As an example and observation, HH Jayapataka Swami was drinking only fruit juices and taking his medicines as his Bhishma-panchaka vrata! Still HH Jayapataka Swami was going on with his work and meeting with devotees, management, early morning programs, late resting, and everything as he does normally.

HH Jayapataka Swami wanted to break the fast after the four days in the shastric way. Actually that was really interesting because we were not sure whether the fast-breaking should be done on the last day of the Bhishma-panchaka or the next day. There were different opinions and some devotees were quoting some other devotees who were referring to someone else and so on. It was not so clear what to do. And HH Jayapataka Swami wanted evidence from the shastra or some shastric authority on how to break the fast.

Kurma Caitanya Prabhu and Ram Gopal Prabhu (both were austere souls fasting for Bhishma-panchaka from grains) then started to research and came up with a quote from the Padma Purana which said that on the fifth day of the Bhishma Panchaka in the night one can break the fast by taking fruits, roots or 'havishya'. So we showed this to HH Jayapataka Swami. I had thought that havishya was khitchri since the unmarried gopis took havishya when they prayed to Goddess Katyayani and I vaguely remembered that havishya was translated as khitchri in the Bhagavatam. So when we showed the quote (in sanskrit) to HH Jayapataka Swami, he said that he would take havishya that night to break the fast. He also mentioned that havishya was *unspiced* khitchri(!). By this time, I cursed myself for having shown this quote to my Guru Maharaja. After all, I thought this is not the most pleasant way to break a four-day juice fast! Guru Maharaja also said that we should find out what havishya can be made of from the scriptures.

Then more research and we found out. It was to be made with rice, mung dal, optionally certain varieties of saks (green leafy vegetables like spanach), etc. Salt was okay but no spices and some fruits were mentioned.

Meanwhile my Guru Maharaja's cook Topi Krsna Prabhu was pulling out his hairs when he heard that HH Jayapataka Swami is going to take this 'havishya'. He wasn't happy with me at all about the tasteless 'havishya' arrangement. I said that this is what HH Jayapataka Swami wants and so this is what we should prepare and give to our Guru Maharaja. But he said that after a four-day fast this is *not* what is best for him. He chastised me for introducing the topic of havishya to our Guru Maharaja. I quoted the shastra and showed him Hari Bhakti Vilasa, but he said the health of the spiritual master is more important. Now I was splitting and pulling at hairs!

...And then by Krsna's arrangement, Gauranga Prema Prabhu, one of HH Jayapataka Swami's seniormost disciples, arrived. Both of us spoke to him and he told us that if this is what our Guru Maharaja wants, we should do it. He, in his childhood, had taken 'havishya' and explained to Topi how to cook havishya.

But Topi Krsna prabhu had already previously arranged with Rasesvari Mataji (Ganga Prabhu's wife) that she would make some soup and pasta for our Guru Maharaja and by 8:30 PM, she was already upstairs (in the Lotus Building Roof, Guru Maharaja's quarters) with the pasta prasadam. Anyway, Topi quickly cooked havishya.

When HH Jayapataka Swami came upstairs, he was visibly quite tired. HH Jayapataka Swami asked what was cooked for him and I showed him the Hari Bhakti Vilasa's explanation of 'havishya'. Gauranga Prema Prabhu was also there and they discussed. The glorious havishya then came and was ready for HH Jayapataka Swami to take. While HH Jayapataka Swami was eating havishya, he said that it was like Pongal (a South Indian prep). He joked with Bhagavat-krpa prabhu that this was a feast for him since he was on juice for the last few days. He then drank milk with tumeric (tumeric is from a root which is allowed for breaking the fast).

We bought the soup and pasta anyway and showed HH Jayapataka Swami but he refused both. He said that pasta was made out of wheat (which was not mentioned in Hari Bhakti Vilasa's list of ingredients for havishya). I think the soup had oregano and as a spice/herb, that was also not mentioned in the Hari Bhakti Vilasa for sure. Besides this, the soup had things which were not in the recipe list anyway. HH Jayapataka Swami mildly admonished us that when the spiritual master wants water we should not give him milk. Now we learnt the lesson.

The next day, our Guru Maharaja took some pasta (finally!) prasadam and left to Calcutta for his Western tour...

For me, the whole episode demonstrated how austere HH Jayapataka Swami was and is. And he is always like this. Sometimes we don't understand how much of austerity he takes to please Srila Prabhupada and Krsna.

This episode also showed how very renounced devotees need to be, the following supports this from shastra:

 mahaprabhura bhakta-ganera vairagya pradhana
 yaha dekhi' prita hana gaura-bhagavan

 Renunciation is the basic principle sustaining the lives of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's devotees. Seeing this renunciation, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is extremely satisfied.

 PURPORT
 Anyone, whether an ordinary materialistic person or a pure devotee, can understand the behavior of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's devotees if he studies it minutely. One will thus find that the devotees of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu are not at all attached to any kind of material enjoyment. They have completely given up sense enjoyment to engage fully in the service of Lord Sri Krsna and dedicate their lives and souls to serving Krsna without material desires. Because their devotional service is free from material desires, it is unimpeded by material circumstances. Although ordinary men have great difficulty understanding this attitude of the devotees, it is greatly appreciated by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. (Caitanya Caritamrta Antya 6.220 Verse and Purport by Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.)

 (c) 1991 by Bhaktivedanta Book Trust

Written by Vidvan Gauranga dasa, Mayapur, India.


Bhishma Panchaka
This kind of 5 day fast is also prescribed for the last 5 days of Kartika (Damodara) Month and it is known as "Bhisma Pancaka".  During that vrata puja offerings to the Lord are also prescribed.  I am listing them below. There are also mantras that go with these offerings.  However,  I didn't find any specific mention about this for Purusottama month.  In the Padma Purana it only stated that in addition to ekadasee one can observe a "pancaratrika" fast until amavasya.  Here are offerings prescribed for Bhisma Pancaka.

---------------------

Devotees may offer the following to the Deity form of the Lord:

On the first day, one must offer padma (lotus) flowers to the feet of the Lord
On the second day, one must offer bilva (wood-apple) leaves of the thigh of the Lord
On the third day, one must offer gandha (scents) to the navel of the Lord
On the fourth day, one must offer java flower to the shoulders of the Lord
On the fifth day, one must offer malati flower to the head (siro-desa) of the Lord

Reference: Garuda Puraana (op cit.)

complied by Tusti Mohan Krsna das jps



Bhisma Pancaka
http://mayapur.com/node/190

Bhisma-pancaka refers to a special vow (vrata) that can be taken up by Vaisnavas during the last five days of the Damodara month. The vow is to eat only fruits and roots, abstaining from any type of grain. Some devotees during Bhisma-pancaka consume only panca-gavya or the five cow products — cow dung, cow urine, cow milk, ghee and yogurt.

Due to many circumstances, it may not be possible to fast during all the four months of caturmasya, so by following Bhisma-pancaka, one receives the benefit of fasting throughout the whole caturmasya.

Some devotees gather at Mayapur to observe this vow in the holy dhama in the association of the devotees. They take bath in the holy Ganga and offer oblations to Bhismadeva on all the days of the vow.



Bhisma Panchaka levels of fasting

The fasting austerities for the last 5 days of Kartika (Damodara) Month are known as "Bhisma Pancaka Vrata". Grandfather Bhisma fasted for these five days, preparing to give up his life. However one observes Kartika-vrata, he should intensify it for the last five days. If someone observes this fast, he is considered to have observed all other fasts, because it is greatly meritorious and frees one from great sins.
 
arabhyaikadasim panca dinani vratamicaret;
bhagavatpritaye bhismapancakam yadi saknuyat.
"yadi saknuyatditi kamyatvamiti dik" - Srila Sanatana Goswami
 
“If one is capable the Bhisma-panchaka vow will be observed for the sake of love of God for the five days from the eleventh day (of the bright lunar fortnight in Kartika) up till the fullmoon day.
"The fast should begin by remembering Bhismadeva on the Ekadasi day and should end on Purnima [the full moon]. One should worship Lord Krishna on all days. The significance of this Vrata is given in Vrata-Khanda-Kartika Mahatmya of the Padma Purana, Hari-Bhakti vilas, the Skanda Purana, the Visnu-rahasya  and Garuda purana.
 
Lord Siva said that the Supreme Lord Himself has given these five days to Bhisma and it is therefore called the five days of Bhisma or Bhisma Pancaka. This fast on these last five days of the light part of Kartik was previously performed by Vasistha, Brghu, Garga, etc., in Satyayuga. Ambarisha Maharaja performed this fast and gave up all of his royal happiness in Tretayuga.
 Celebrated brahmanas perform this fast with chanting of japa and performance of sacrifices, according to the scriptural rules and regulations. So do ksatriyas and vaisyas who are following truthfulness and cleanliness. This five day fast is difficult for those who are hypocrites and not serious.
 
The fasting starts on Ekadasi Day which is 24th (this saturday) and will continue until the 28 Rasa purnima Day (last day of caturmasya, last day of kartik first day of Hati procession). The fasting is broken at sunset (or at moon rise) on Rasa Purnima day. Generally it is recommended to do full fast on Ekadasi and then the following four days fruits and roots fasting. Or one can do five day fruits and roots fasting.
 
Levels of fasting:
-----------------
 
Devotees can choose whichever level of fasting as is convenient to them. It should not disturb their normal devotional service(s) and daily sadhana.
 
Level 1:
 
One can consume products of the cow (pancha-gavya) each for each day:
 
First day: Cow dung (Gomaya)
Second day: Cow urine (Go-muutra)
Third day: Cow milk (Kshiira)
Fourth day: Cow yoghurt (Dadhi)
Fifth day: All products of the ccow mixed (Pancha-gavya)
 
Level 2:
 
If one can't follow level 1, one can take fruits and roots fruits with many seeds should be avoided like guava, pomegranate, papaya, cucumber etc. Boiled potatoes, raw banana and sweet potato can be taken boiled or baked. We can use sea salt for taste. Cashewnuts, raisins, dates can be taken. We shouldn't take milk and milk products in this level of fasting. Coconut water and grated coconut can be taken.
 
Level 3:
 
If one can't follow level 2, one can take "Havishya."
 References: Padma Puraana, Brahma-khanda, Chapter 23; Skanda Puraana, Vishnu Khanda, Kaartika Maahaatmya section, Chapter 32; Garuda Puraana, Puurva Khanda, Chapter 123.
 Ingredients for Havishya as mentioned in Sri Hari-bhakti-vilasa (13.10-13)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
The following are ingredients that can be used in making Havishya, which is like a khichari made with these items.
 * Aatap rice
* Ghee from cow
* 'Saindhava' salt (salt from ocean)
* Milk from cow
* Milk with cream
* Ripe banana
* Kaala-shaaka
* Wheat
* Fruits (Skanda Puraana, Naagara Khanda says they must be with a small seed or with few seeds only)
* Mango
* Jackfruit
* Labali fruit
* Roots except 'keaa' (a type of grass or root)
* Pippalii
* Haritakii
* Naagaranga
* Ikshu-dravya or sugarcane derivatives (other than gur or mollasses)
* No oil
 
The following ingredients are normally part of Havishya but have to be avoided in the month of Kaartika:
 * Mung dal
* Til oil
* Beta-shaaka
* Shashtikaa-shaaka
* Radish
* Jeeraa
* Tamarind
 
One should take bath in Ganges or a holy river every day and should offer tarpana 3 times for Bhismadeva by saying the following mantra:
 
Tarpana
 
om vaiyaghra padya gotraya
samkrti pravaraya ca
aputraya dadamyetat
salilam bhismavarmane
 
Arghya
 
vasunamavataraya
santanoratmajaya ca
arghyam dadami bhismaya
ajanma brahmacarine
 
Pranam
 
om bhismah santanavo birah
satyavadi jitendriyah
abhiradbhiravapnatu
putrapautrocitam kriyam

 
Offerings to the Lord:
---------------------
 Devotees may offer the following flowers to the Deity:
 
On the first day, one must offer padma (lotus) flowers to the feet of the Lord.
On the second day, one must offer bilva (wood-apple) leaves of the thigh of the Lord.
On the third day, one must offer gandha (scents) to the navel of the Lord.
On the fourth day, one must offer java flower to the shoulders of the Lord.
On the fifth day, one must offer malati flower to the head (siro-desa) of the Lord.
 
When there is a overlap of days then the flowers for both days can be offered in the same day.
 
Reference: Garuda Puraana (op cit.)

Ras Purnima

The Full Moon Night of the month of Karthik is known as the Sharad Purnima or Ras Purnima.The festival is also referred as Kaumudi Festival, Kaumudi meaning moonlight. The dazzling night is associated with the divine love filled Raas Lila (Expression of love by graceful dance) of Lord Krishna with Radha and Gopis.This is the night when Krishna would play the Ras Leela the entire night. The day is dedicated to this aspect of Lord Krishna.
The Bhagvad Gita, is recited throughout the night, and the devotees observing a fast keep awake through the night. Young women may undertake the fast considering Krishna as their consort.
The day brings together two major aspects in the lives of farmers – prosperity promised by good harvests, and spiritual blessings from a divine power which oversees all human achievement and endeavour. It is also said that the moon is close to the earth on the day and due to this the rays of the moon has several curative properties.
 



The Glories of Kartika
(rules and regulations for observing Kartik plus additional explanation of Damodarastakam Prayer which should be sung and deeply meditated upon everyday during Radhika's holy month).
Submitted by Krpa Moya Gouranga Das

"One should surrender to Krsna in all respects. One should observe particular vows like kartika-vrata. These are some of the sixty-four important items of devotional service.
(Sri Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya 22.128)

Performing Devotional Service in Karttika:

"One of the most important of these ceremonial functions is called Urja-vrata. Urja-vrata is observed in the month of Karttika (October-November); especially in Vrndavana, there is a specific program for temple worship of the Lord in His Damodara form. "Damodara" refers to Krsna's being bound with rope by His mother, Yasoda. It is said that just as Lord Damodara is very dear to His devotees, so the month known as Damodara or Karttika is also very dear to them.

"The execution of devotional service during Urja-vrata in the month of Karttika is especially recommended to be performed at Mathura. This system is still followed by many devotees. They go to Mathura or Vrndavana and stay there during the month of Karttika specifically to perform devotional services during this period. In the Padma Purana it is said, "The Lord may offer liberation or material happiness to a devotee, but after some devotional service has been executed, particularly in Mathura during the month of Karttika, the devotees want only to attain pure devotional service unto the Lord." The purport is that the Lord does not award devotional service to ordinary persons who are not serious about it. But even such unserious persons who execute devotional service according to the regulative principles during the month of Karttika, and within the jurisdiction of Mathura in India, are very easily awarded the Lord's personal service." (Srila Prabhupada in NOD chap. 12)

Quotes from Mathura Mahatyam by Srila Rupa Gosvami:

Residing in Mathura During the Month of Karttika

In the Karttika-mahatmya, Narada says: By bathing in sacred places and giving charity during the month of Karttika, a person in any country attains piety equal to an agnihotra-yajna.

Text 168
In Mathura bathing and worship during the month of Karttika places one on the same planet as Lord Krsna. No other holy place is equal to Mathura.

Text 169
The month of Karttika, when Lord Hari enjoyed His Damodara-pastime in Mathura, delights Lord Vaikuntha. The month of Karttika spent in Mathura brings the supreme destination.

Text 170
As Prayaga should be served in the month of Magha, and the Ganges in the month of Vaisakha, so Mathura should be served in the month of Karttika. Nothing is better than that service.

Text 171
They who, after properly bathing, worship Lord Damodara in Mathura during Karttika, attain forms like that of Lord Krsna. Of this there is no doubt.

Text 172
O brahmanas, residence in Mathura during Karttika is a rare attainment for humans. To they who worship Him there and then the Lord gives their original spiritual forms.

Text 173
When He is worshiped in any other place, Lord Hari gives only liberation or sense-gratification to His servants. He does not give them pure devotional service, for that service brings Him under their dominion.

Text 174
By once serving Lord Damodara in Mathura during Karttika, the people can easily attain pure devotional service to Lord Hari.

Text 175
They who, even without proper mantras and offerings, and without properly following the rules, worship Him in Mathura during Karttika, the Lord considers His true devotees.

Text 176
The perfect atonement to purify the sins of a lifetime is: worship Lord Damodara in Mathura during Karttika.

Text 177
Although Mathura is easy to visit in this world, and although Karttika comes every year, the fools still swim in the ocean of repeated birth and death.

Text 179
All holy places and all holy rivers, streams, and lakes reside in the circle of Mathura during Karttika.

Text 180
They who as a joke serve Lord Hari during Karttika in Mathura will attain pure devotional service, what to speak of they who serve the Lord with faith and devotion.

Text 181
Therefore, O prince, nothing is better than to serve Lord Damodara in Mathura during Karttika.

Residing in Mathura During Dvadasi in Karttika Month

In the Visnu Purana it is said:
A person who during the Sukla-dvadasi in the month of Karttika bathes in the Yamuna and sees the Deity of Lord Hari in Mathura attains the supreme destination.

Text 189
Residing in Mathura During Bhisma-pancaka (goes from Utthana Ekadasi til Purnima)

In the Padma Purana, Sri Krsna says to Bhisma:

O Gangeya, this vow you have followed will henceforth be known as Bhisma-pancaka. They who follow this great vow in My birthplace, Mathura, find pure devotional service resting in their hand.

Text 191
Pure devotional service to Me which, because it places Me under My devotee's dominion, is very difficult to attain, is easily attained by following this vow in Mathura during Karttika.



Bhishma Panchak Vrat
http://www.hariomgroup.org/bhishma-panchak

From Hari Prabodhini Ekadashi to Kaartik Poornima

(29th Oct'09 to 2nd Nov'09)

This kind of 5 day fast is prescribed for the last 5 days of Kartika (Damodara) Month and it is known as "Bhisma Pancaka". During that vrata puja offerings to the Lord are also prescribed. For Bhisma Pancaka, devotees may offer the following to the Deity form of the Lord:

"The last five days of Kartika month are known as Bhisma-Panacaka. Grandfather Bhisma fasted for these five days, preparing to give up his life. However one observes Kartika-vrata, he should intensify it for the last five days. The best way to observe the Kartika-vrata is to abstain from eating grains for the whole month, and to take only milk or water for the last five days. If one eats grains during the month, he should avoid them for the last five days. Also, one should only eat once a day. This is the proper procedure [for strict adherence]."

If someone observes this fast, he is considered to have observed all other fasts, because it is greatly meritorious and frees one from great sins. Therefore, everyone should make a great endeavor to fast on these last five days of Bhismadeva.

"The fast should begin by remembering Bhismadeva on the Ekadasi day and should end on Purnima [the full moon]. One should eat only vegetables or fruits and should worship Lord Krishna. If he needs to eat, he should do so only in the evening. A woman can also observe this fast by the suggestion of a twice-born, and if a widow observes this fast, she can also attain liberation and happiness."
 
 

The exact details about the mahatmaya and the procedure to do the BhishmaPanchak Vrat can be heard in Divine Voice of Pujya GuruDev in the Video CD Ekadashi Mahatmya

To brief :
1. One should get up before Sun rise and take bath with water remembering the Holy Rivers and if possible mixing Til (Sesam).

2. After Bath, give Argya to Bheeshmaji, if possible by mixing Chanda and Til in the water, and saying "Gangaji ke Su-putra, Aajivan Bramhcharya Palan Karnewale Pitamaha Bhishma ko yeah Argya Arpan hain, Hame Bramhacharya mein Sahayta Karna" .

Mahatmya :

Pujya GuruDev says that "Who ever take early bath before sunrise during Kartik month's trayodashi to Poornima (last 3 days), he/she will get punya of taking Karthik Maas bath of whole month. Those who want to get rid of Swapna Dosh/Dream falls disease should give Arghya to Bhishmaji on these 5 days.

"Bhishmaji ko Argya Dene se PutraHeen ko Putra Prapt hota hai"....Jisko Swapna Dosh ya Bramhacharya Sambandi gandi aadatein ya takleefein hain, wah in Paanch Dinon mein Bhishmaji ko Argya Dene se, Brahmacharya mein Su-Drudh banta hain. Hum Sabhi Sadhakon ko in Panch Dino mein Bhishmaji ko Argya Jaroor Dena Chahiye, aur Brahmcharya Raksha ke liye prayatna karna chahiye.
 



Explanation of Bhisma-pancaka

arabhyaikadasim panca dinani vratamicaret;
bhagavatpritaye bhismapancakam yadi saknuyat.
"yadi saknuyatditi kamyatvamiti dik" - Srila Sanatana Goswami

“If one is capable the Bhisma-panchaka vow will be observed for the sake of love of God for the five days from the eleventh day (of the bright lunar fortnight in Kartika) up till the fullmoon day. The prescriptions for this have been given in the Vrata-Khanda-Kartika Mahatmya of the Padma-purana, in the Skanda Purana and in the Visnu-rahasya.”

After observing the fast of Prabhodhini Ekadasi in the month of Kartik, one should fast for the last five days of Kartik which are called Bhisma Pancaka. Lord Siva said that the Supreme Lord Himself has given these five days to Bhisma and it is therefore called the five days of Bhisma or Bhisma Pancaka. This fast on these last five days of the light part of Kartik were previously performed by Vasistha, Brghu, Garga, etc., in Satyayuga. Ambarisha Maharaja performed this fast and gave up all of his royal happiness in Tretayuga.

Celebrated brahmanas perform this fast with chanting of japa and performance of sacrifices, according to the scriptural rules and regulations. So do ksatriyas and vaisyas who are following truthfulness and cleanliness. This five day fast is difficult for those who are hypocrites and not serious. If someone observes this fast, he has observed all kinds of fasts, because it is greatly meritorious and frees one from great sins. Therefore, everyone should make a great endeavor to fast on these last five days of Bhismadeva.



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