Damodara month, also known as Kartik vrata, is a month of bonus! This bonus is different from the many ordinary bonus offers we are used to in our day-to-day life. It is offered by the Supreme Lord Himself. Padma Purana mentions that the month of Kartik is Lord Krishna’s favorite month. Devotional service performed during this holy month rewards one with multiple benefits. This encourages the devotees to perform additional devotional activities during this month. Devotees often take vows to increase their japa (chanting of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra) or to simplify their material needs for the entire month. This way they try to focus on remembering Lord Krishna.
One most popular service devotees perform is offer a ghee lamp to Lord Krishna during this month. Especially in ISKCON temples around the world devotees offer ghee lamps to Krishna either in the morning or evening while singing a special prayer called Damodarastakam with melodious music and kirtan. These beautiful verses glorify the Damodar pastime of Krishna which occurred during the Kartik month, on Diwali day.
In ISKCON temples, this month is celebrated in a special way. Every evening thousands and resident devotees and guests are given ghee lamps in an organized way. People queue up to receive the lamp and offer it to the Deities.
Srila Prabhupada says: “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.” (Nectar of Devotion, Chapter 12)
Sri Hari-bhakti-vilas (2.16.198) mentions thus: “In the month of Kartik one should worship Lord Damodar and daily recite the prayer known as Damodar-ashtakam, which has been spoken by the sage Satyavrata and which attracts Lord Damodar.”
In the Skanda Purana, it is said: “O best of the followers of religion, a person who does not follow the vow of Karttika-vrata is a sinner. He is like a person who murders. A person who gives ten million cows, all filled with milk and all the mothers of young calves, in charity to the brahmanas does not earn even one sixteenth of the pious merit earned by one who places a lamp on the roof of Lord Krishna’s temple.”
The main pastimes that Lord Krishna’s devotees mediate upon during this month is beautifully narrated in various Vaishnava scriptures. It is described how, after much endeavors, mother Yashoda was finally able to tie child Krishna with a mortar, and how Krishna liberated two celestial beings who were standing as yamalarjuna trees in Nanda maharaj’s courtyard.
We find the following statement by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur from various sources: “The observance of the Karttika-vrata is one of the most important things for the Vaisnavas. In accordance with these words, the vrata therefore begins on the waxing ekadasi that comes the day after Vijaya-dasami in the month of Asvina. And the vrata will be concluded on Utthana-ekadasi. That vrata which is observed during the month between these two dates is called niyama-seva. The rules of niyama-seva are: every day during this month, one must rise upon the last hour of the night, purify oneself and perform the mangala-arati of Sri Krsna. Then, after bathing in the morning, one should worship Lord Damodara. At night, one should light brilliant lamps filled with either ghee or sesame-seed oil, and place them in these places – in the Lord’s temple, around the base of tulasi plants, and in the sky. During the month of Kartika, one should eat only vegetarian foodstuffs and Bhagavan’s prasad remnants. One should renounce excessive eating and sleeping, plus avoid using oil, wine, and bell-metal utensils.’
“The chief aim of observing this Urjja-vrata is to please Sri Radha-Damodara. Srimati Radharani is called Urjjesvari (the Queen of the Urjja-vrata). Only because of this, in order to establish the pleasure of Sri Sri Radha-Damodara, the sage Satyavrata Muni uttered (in the eight verse of Damodarastaka) the words namo radhikayai tvadiya priyayai – “My obeisances unto Radhika, Your most beloved.” By this statement, he indicated that the sole activity to be done during the observance of Damodara-vrata is the worship of Sri Sri Radha-Damodara.”
Towards the end of Damodar month, devotees also perform a special 5-day vrata called Bhishma panchaka or Vishnu panchaka. Pitamaha Bhishma fasted during this five days while preparing to leave his body.In the Hari-bhakti Vilasa, it is recommended that one who is capable should observe fasting from certain foodstuffs during this five days, for this immensely please Lord Vishnu. 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 GaurangaKrishna. 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.” Srila Suta Goswami says in the Padma Purana, Uttarakhanda, ‘This liberating fast is unknown even to the demigods. If one listens to what I have said and fasts on these five days, even if he had sex his sister, daughter, mother, etc. he becomes free from that sin. Even if someone attentively listens to this narration, he also achieves happiness. I tell you the truth again and again that one should keep this fast secretively, and continue performing it unceasingly – such a person surely achieves liberation.” It is also said: “In the month of Kartika, which is very dear to Sri Hari, one who bathes early in the morning attains the merit of bathing in all places of pilgrimage. Anybody who offers a the Lord a ghee lamp in the month of Kartika, O brahmana, becomes free from all kinds of sins, such as killing a brahmana, and he goes to the abode of Lord Hari.” (Brahma khanda).
During this vrata, offering of certain items to the Lord are also prescribed. Devotees offer the following five items to the Deity form of the Lord during these five days respectively: padma (lotus) at the lotus feet, bilva leaves (wood-apple) to the thigh, gandha (scents) to the navel, java flower to the shoulder, and on the fifth day, malati flower to the head of the.
Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has explained that just as ekadashi is the holiest of days, Kartik is the holiest of months.
(Scriptural quotes complied from different websites. Readers are requested to make their own research)