The full moon or purnima day of the Kartika month is considered very auspicious. It has many names including Deva Diwali – Diwali of the Gods, Raas Purnima and Tripuri Purnima. This day marks the victory of Lord Shiva over the demons Tripura. The Kartik Purnima festival also coincides with the Jain light festival and Sri Guru Nanak’s birthday.
The last of Krishna’s outings is the Rasa Yatra. During autumn, when the dust in the sky has been washed away by the preceding monsoon rains, the moon shines in all its glory and beauty. The best night of all is the full moon night of the month of Kartik. This month is very dear to Sri Radha, and the month long festivities culminate on this magical night. The Srimad Bhagavatam says that even the Lord desires to dance, and that night He adorns pure white clothes which shines like the clear moonlight.
This was the night when Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu entered Vrindavan in 1515.
It is believed that annually on the day of Kartik purnima, the gods descend on earth and reside in the sacred rivers. The Ganga and other sacred rivers have elaborate ceremonies on this day. Devotees who bathe in their holy waters on these days can get rid of their toxic tendencies and receive the blessings of the saints.
To celebrate this day we can cleanse our inner selves – to immerse our mind in the spiritual waters even if we do not live near sacred rivers. Allow the spiritual light to burn away all the negativities within. It is not the show of cleaning the outer selves but to rid our mind and life of its negative habits like fear, greed, envy, anger, arrogance and replacing them with thoughts of love, compassion, generosity, kindness, and light.
Parashar Rishi related to Maitreya the tale of Kamadev’s humiliation. The purpose of recounting this tale is that common people should reflect on the selfless pure love of the Gopis for Sri Krishna – esoterically, Maharasa symbolises the union of the individual soul after countless rebirths, with the Supreme Soul in a joyful festival of transcendental love.
After defeating Lord Brahma and other gods, the ego of Kamadev, the god of love had surged to great heights. He, therefore, requested Krishna to quench his thirst for conquest. Krishna suggested to Kamadev to visit Vrindavana on the night of Kartik Purnima in the season that precedes winter, and told him that on that divine night He would enjoy the company of crores of gopis. “If I have slightest passion for any of them, you will win, otherwise you will lose.”
That night Lord Krishna added more divinity and brilliance to it with the help of Yogmaya. It was a perfect night for the purpose – flowers bloomed in Vrindavana, the full moon shone, and a gentle, cool breeze blew from the banks of river Yamuna. Amidst this stimulating ambience Lord Krishna began to play an enchanting tune on his flute. The tune attracted the gopis, their passion surged to its zenith and as if in a trance, all of them ran to meet their beloved Govinda leaving all their fear, bondage, patience and shyness behind. Some of them were intercepted by their family members and dragged back home. But only their physical bodies remained, their souls departed to unite with Krishna.
In Vrindavana on the sandy banks of the Yamuna, the gopis saw Govinda near the Kadamba tree. Yogmaya adorned all the gopis from tip to toe. In fact those gopis were not ordinary women.
Maitreya asked: “The gopis did not regard Krishna as Para Brahma. What was the basis for their passion then?”
Parashar says: When a wretched person like Shishupal, who always abused lord Krishna could attain the supreme heaven, why should not the gopis who had such a profound passion for Lord.” So the gopis arrived and gathered around Lord Krishna. To test their devotion and to enhance the honour of Kamadev, Krishna said to them: “O Gopis, how is it that you have all come here at this late hour of the night? This is not proper. Your duties must be first to your families and kin. They will be waiting for you eagerly. Go and serve them. You can gain me by hearing, reciting, seeing etc. You need not sit here. Please return to your homes.”
The gopis were stunned. When they overcame the initial shock of his words, they said: “Govind, from the outside you appear soft like butter, but inside you are harder than rock. We have come to you leaving behind all the mundane attachments of life so difficult to overcome. Now there is no going back for us. It is the greatest misfortune if someone returns to mundane affairs even after attaining your feet.” These words that reflected the pure love of the gopis pleased the Lord. Accepting their rebuke He pacified them and began to enjoy their company. But soon a feeling of pride began to creep in the minds of gopis because of the Lord’s closeness. They began to assume themselves as highly fortunate. To remove their ego, the Lord disappeared right from their midst.
On the disappearance of Hari, the gopis were heart-broken. Their hearts burned with sorrow. It was as if their souls had left their bodies. Driven by passion, the gopis began to search Lord Krishna. They asked the trees, creepers and bushes for the whereabouts of their beloved. They then spotted His footprints at one place. The footprints of Radharani were also seen there. ‘Indeed He would have carried her, that great fortunate one, on His shoulders’ they speculated. The Lord had indeed, after disappearing from amidst gopis, taken Radha to an isolated place. She had then began to think herself superior to other gopis. So at one place, she said: “O Kanha, I can’t walk any more. My feet are tired. Please carry me on your shoulders to wherever you wish.” At her request, Lord Krishna agreed to carry her on his shoulder. But as soon as she proceeded to ride, Lord disappeared from there also. Now, Radha began to cry and fainted. At the same time, the other gopis also reached there and found Radha lying unconscious on the ground. All of them including Radha then returned to the bank of Yamuna and sang the beautiful song Gopika Geet.
When the beloved gopis tearfully serenaded Him in sweet verses, Krishna’s patience gave away. His heart melted at their condition and He appeared amidst them. A sweet smile played on his beautiful face. He wore a garland of fresh Vaijayanti flowers and shining yellow silken clothes. His beauty affected even Kamadev. Seeing their beloved Kanha once again amidst them, the gopis got a new lease of life. All of them began to embrace Lord and thus quench the fire of separation that was burning their bodies.
Thereafter, along with the gopis of Braja, Lord came to the bank of Yamuna. The Lord said: “O beloved Gopis, I do not reciprocate the desire of my beloved ones for physical love. Because of this their consciousness remains always engrossed in me. Hence, I take to hiding even after meeting so that you remain completely absorbed in me.
From the words of the Lord, the gopis forgot the pain of separation. Their faces once again bloomed like lotuses. With those blessed gopis, Lord Krishna started Maharaas on the moonlit banks of the Yamuna. All the gods gathered in the sky to witness that rare divine festival. Manifesting as many forms as there were gopis, the Supreme Lord danced with each gopi making her think that He was with her alone. The gopis were even more fortunate than Sri Lakshmi. But even amidst crores of gopis, who were eager to surrender their everything to Him, Lord remained completely detached from lusty desires and feelings. Thus Lord defeated Kamadev and crushed his ego.
Maharasa purnima ki Jai!!katha vakti