In the Blog World:
Season of Mists And Mellow Pilgrimage

by The Royal Scribe,

Posted October 10, 2006

In the West, the season of autumn inspires poetry, with it's delicate morning mists and dew-spangled spiders-webs; golden sunshine and the smell of bonfires and autumn leaves. In Celtic lore, this was a time of year when the veil between this world and the other was supposed to be thinner than normal, culminating in the festival of Samhain or Halloween.

For Vaishnavas, the charms of autumn are enhanced by the season of Karttika, the lunar month which falls across October and November. This month is described as especially dear to Krishna and traditionally Vaishnavas keep it sacred to acts of devotion and vows of austerity aimed at increasing their spiritual strength and drawing closer to Krishna. Devotees may vow to rise earlier; to chant more rounds on their beads, daily; to spend more time reading scripture; to eat less or more simply; the hardier ones even take their showers cold. And everyone observes the daily offering of a lighted candle or ghee-lamp to Krishna, while singing the Damodarastaka song, which particularly belongs to this month.

Several of the more sublime, or confidential festivals fall in this period; the celebration of Krishna's rasa-lila, and the appearance-day of Sri Radha-kunda, for example, as well as Govardhana-puja, so that Karttika is a mixture of austerity and sweetness, as devotees try to lessen their bodily needs, while correspondingly spending more time with Krishna.

To this end, many Vaishnavas from all over the world set off on pilgrimage to Vrindavana land of Krishna, at this time. At ISKCON's Krishna-Balarama temple in Vrindavana, guest-houses and living-quarters strain at the seams, as throngs of devotees arrive for Karttika. Leaving their ordinary lives behind for a few weeks, the pilgrims visit the sacred sites of Krsna's pastimes and take part in the lively kirtan parties, at the temple.

It's worth it to come all this way just to chant and dance in such huge numbers, and families in particular find this a good time to be together in a spiritual atmosphere, away from school and jobs. Children enjoy the kirtans and the offering of lights which is beautiful when seen in mass like this.

So whether the old Celtic beliefs are true or not, Vaishnavas try to spend this time diminishing the veils between them and Krishna!

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