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In this article "Puruṣottama Māsa Māhātmya (The Glories of Puruṣottama Māsa)", Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda describes the glories of the holy month of Puruṣottama according to the śāstras, how to observe it and the true goal in following it.

(translated by Gaudiya Vedanta Publications)

Two divisions of śāstra—smārta and paramārtha

The Vedic āryaśāstras are divided into two sections—smārta (literature based on smṛti) and paramārtha (transcendental literature based on śruti). Those who are eligible (adhikārī) for the smārta section do not have any natural inclination or taste for the paramārthaśāstras. The thoughts, principles, activities, and life goal of every human is constituted according to his respective ruci (inclination). Generally, smārtas accept those scriptures which are in accordance with their respective ruci. Having greater adhikāra for smārtaśāstra, they do not demonstrate much regard for paramārthikaśāstra. Providence is the agent behind the creation of these two divisions. Therefore, undoubtedly the maintainer of the world must have a hidden purpose in having made such an arrangement.

As far as I understand, the purpose is that the jīvas sequentially make progress in their level of consciousness by remaining steadfast in their respective adhikāra. By deviating from one’s adhikāra, one falls down. According to one’s activities, a person attains two types of adhikārakarma-adhikāra and bhakti-adhikāra. As long as one maintains his karmaadhikāra, he derives benefit from the path shown by the smārta section. When he enters bhaktiadhikāra, by transgressing the karma-adhikāra, then he develops a natural ruci (inclination) for the paramārthika, or transcendental path.

Therefore, providence has made these two divisions of śāstra: smārta and paramārtha.

The rules and regulations of smārta-śāstra are committed to karma

The smārta-śāstra has made various types of rules and regulations in order to help one attain niṣṭhā, steadfastness, in karma-adhikāra. In many instances, it even demonstrates indifference towards paramārtha-śāstra to make people attain specific niṣṭhā in such rules and regulations.

In reality, although śāstra is one, it manifests in two ways for the people. If the jīva gives up adhikāraniṣṭhā, he can never attain auspiciousness. For this reason, the śāstras have been divided into two: smārta and paramārtha.

Adhi-māsa (extra month), also called mala-māsa (impure month), is devoid of all auspicious activities

By dividing the whole year in twelve parts, the smārta-śāstras have ascertained the auspicious, or religious, activities for these twelve months. All the karma, religious activities which are part of the varṇāśrama system when allotted to the twelve months, leave the extra month (adhi-māsa) devoid of any such activity. There is no religious performance in adhi-māsa. In order to keep lunar months and solar months in tally, one month has to be excluded every 32 months. The name of that month is adhi-māsa (extra month).* Smārtas have discarded this extra month, considering it abominable. They gave it names such as mala-māsa (impure month), cora-māsa (thieving month), and so on.

* It is stated in Śrī Sūrya Siddhānta that in one mahā-yuga there are 1,593,336 extra months and 51,840,000 solar months. Therefore, there is one extra month after every 32 months, 16 days and 4 hours of the solar calendar.

From the perspective of paramārtha-śāstra, adhi-māsa is superior and advantageous for hari-bhajana

On the other hand, the most worshipable paramārtha-śāstra acclaims adhi-māsa as the most outstanding month for transcendental activities. Since life in this world is temporary, it is not proper to spend any part of one’s life meaninglessly. It is imperative for the jīva to remain continuously engaged in hari-bhajana at every moment. Thus, the adhi-māsa, which comes every third year, may also become useful for hari-bhajana. This is indeed the deep meaning of paramārthaśāstras. Even though karmīs perceive this month to be devoid of all auspicious activities, for the deliverance of all the jīvas, paramārtha-śāstra, on the other hand, has ascertained that period as the most conducive for hari-bhajana. Paramārtha-śāstra says, “O jīva! During this adhi-māsa why should you remain lazy in hari-bhajana? Śrī Golokanātha Himself has ascertained that this month is the best of all. It is superior even to the greatly pious months of Kārtika, Māgh and Vaiśākha. In this month, you should perform arcana of Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa with special rules, or moods, for bhajana. You will thereby attain all types of perfection.”

The history and glories of adhi-māsa and how it received the name Puruṣottama

The glories of adhi-māsa are mentioned in the thirty-first chapter of the Nāradīya Purāṇa. Adhimāsa considered the sovereignty of the twelve months and saw that he was being slighted. He went to Vaikuṇṭha and related his dilemma to Śrī Nārāyaṇa. Out of compassion, Vaikuṇṭha-pati took Adhi-māsa with Him and appeared before Śrī Kṛṣṇa in Goloka. After hearing about the distress of mala-māsa (the impure month), Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s heart melted and He spoke thus:

aham etair yathā loke prathitaḥ puruṣottamaḥ
tathāyam api lokeṣu prathitaḥ puruṣottamaḥ
asmai samarpitāḥ sarve ye guṇamayi saṁsthitāḥ
mat-sādṛśyam-upāgamya māsānāmadhipo bhavet
jagat-pūjyo jagat-vandyo māso ’yaṁ tu bhaviṣyati
sarve māsāḥ sakāmāś ca niṣkāmo ’yaṁ mayāḥ krtaḥ
akāmaḥ sarvakāmo vā yo ’dhimāsaṁ prapūjayet
karmāṇi bhasmasāt krtvā mām evaiṣyaty asaṁśayam

kadācin-mama bhaktanām aparādheti gaṇyate
puruṣottama-bhaktānāṁ nāparādhaḥ kadācana
ya etasmin-mahā mūḍhā japa-dānādi-varjitāḥ
sat-karma-snāna-rahitā deva-tīrtha-dvija-dviṣaḥ
jāyante durbhagā duṣṭāḥ para-bhāgyopajīvanaḥ
na kadācit sukhaṁ teṣāṁ svapne ’pi śaśa-śṛṅgavat
yenāham arccito bhaktyā māse ’smin puruṣottame
dhana-putra-sukhaṁ bhuṅktvā paścād-goloka-vāsabhāk

“O Ramā-pati! Just as I am celebrated in this world by the name Puruṣottama, similarly, this Adhi-māsa too will be renowned in the world by the name Puruṣottama. Now I offer all My qualities to this month. Becoming like Me, from today onwards, this Adhi-māsa is the monarch of all the other months, and is the most worshipable and most adored in the world. All other months are sakāma, that is, they will grant worldly desires. This month, however, is niṣkāma. Those who worship this month, either without any desires (akāma) or with all types of desires, will have all their karmas burnt. Then they will achieve Me. My bhaktas sometimes commit offenses, but in this Puruṣottama month, they will be protected from committing any offense. In this Adhi-māsa, those greatly foolish persons who neglect to perform auspicious activities, such as japa, giving in charity, visiting and bathing at the holy places, and who are envious of the dvijas (brāhmaṇas) are deemed wicked, unfortunate and living at the cost of others. Thus, they will not attain a scent of happiness, even in their dreams. Conversely, those who are filled with bhakti will take advantage of this Puruṣottama month to perform arcana to Me. After enjoying worldly happiness, such as wealth, sons and so on, they will eventually attain residence in Goloka.”

The glories of Puruṣottama month in the context of Draupadī’s history

Many episodes from the Purāṇas are narrated in the context of the glories of Puruṣottama month. One such example is Draupadī. In her previous life, she was the daughter of Medhā Ṛṣi. Even after hearing of the glories of Puruṣottama month from Durvāsā Ṛṣi, she neglected to observe that month. As a result, she attained many sufferings in that life and became the wife of five husbands in her birth as Draupadī. During their exile, the Pāṇḍavas followed Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s instructions to observe puruṣottama-māsa-vrata and thus crossed over all their sufferings. As it is said:

evaṁ sarveṣu tīrtheṣu bhramantaḥ pāṇḍunandanāḥ
puruṣottama-māsādya-vrataṁ cerur vidhānataḥ
tadante rājyam atulam avāpur gata-kaṇṭakam
pūrṇe caturdaśe varṣe śrī kṛṣṇa-kṛpayā mune

“O Muni! During the period of their exile, the Pāṇḍavas travelled throughout all the holy places, and by the mercy of Śrī Kṛṣṇa they observed Śrī Puruṣottama-vrata with all rules and regulations. As a result of this they completed their fourteen years of exile without any obstacles and at the end attained an unparalleled kingdom.”

The account of King Dṛḍhadhanvā as spoken by Vālmikī regarding Puruṣottama-vrata

Puruṣottama-māsa is glorified in the account of King Dṛḍhadhanvā’s previous birth. At Badrikāśrama, Nārada heard the procedure of the vrata from Nārāyaṇa Ṛṣi, which Vālmikī Muni then related to King Dṛḍhadhanvā in answer to the king’s questions. Just as the rules of ahanika (gāyatri mantras) for brāhmaṇas are ascertained in dharma-śāstras, similarly, the obligatory activities for one observing Puruṣottama-vrata are also delineated, beginning from the brahma-muhūrta hour.

Rules for bathing in the month of Sri Puruṣottama

Regarding the rules for bathing during Puruṣottama month, it is said:

samudragā nadī-snānam-uttamaṁ parikīrtitam
vāpī-kūpa-taḍāgeṣu madhyamaṁ kathitaṁ budhaiḥ
gṛhe snānaṁ tu sāmānyaṁ gṛhasthasya prakīrtitam

“There are three types of baths as declared by the wise. A bath in the rivers which meet the ocean is the topmost. A bath in lakes, ponds and wells is the second best, and a bath in one’s home is an ordinary bath.”

For one who is observing Śrī Puruṣottama-vrata, after taking bath he should observe the following:

sapavitreṇa hastena kuryād ācamana-kriyām
ācamya tilakaṁ kūryād-gopī-candana-mṛt-snayā
ūrddhva-puṇḍra mṛjuṁ saumyaṁ daṇḍākāraṁ prakalpayet
śankha-cakrādikaṁ dhāryaṁ gopī-candana-mṛt-snayā

“After bathing one should perform ācamana with clean hands. One should then make a paste of gopī-candana clay and wear simple, beautiful, straight ūrddhva-puṇḍra tilaka on his forehead and the marks of conch, disc and so on, on his body.”

The exclusive worship of Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa is obligatory in Puruṣottama month

The worship of Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the obligatory activity of Puruṣottama month.

puruṣottama-māsasya daivataṁ puruṣottamaḥ
tasmāt sampūjayed bhaktyā śraddhayā puruṣottamam

Vālmikī said, “O Dṛḍhadhanvā! Puruṣottama Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the presiding deity of the Puruṣottama month. Therefore, being filled with bhaktiśraddhā, you should worship Puruṣottama Śrī Kṛṣṇa with sixteen types of paraphernalia every day of this month. As it is said: ṣoḍaśopacāraiś ca pūjayet puruṣottamam -“The worship of the divine couple Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa is indeed obligatory in Puruṣottama-māsa.”

āgaccha deva deveśa śrī kṛṣṇa puruṣottama
rādhayā sahitaś cātra gṛhāṇa pūjanaṁ mama

What constitutes haviṣyānna

haviṣyānnaṁ ca bhuñjīta prayataḥ puruṣottame
godhūmāḥ śālyāḥ sarvāḥ sitā mudgā yavāstilaḥ
kalāya-kaṅgunī-vārā vāstukaṁ hilmocikā
ādrakaṁ kāla-śākañ ca mūlaṁ kañdañca karkaṭīṁ
rambhā saiñdhava-sāmudre lavaṇe dadhi-sarpiṣī
payo ‘nudhṛt-sārañ ca panasāmra-haritakī
pippalī-jīrkañcaiva nāgaraṁ caiva tintiḍī
kramukaṁ lavalī-dhātrī phalānya guḍa maikṣavaṁ
ataila-pakvaṁ munyo haviṣāṁ pravadanti ca
haviṣya-bhojanaṁ nṛṇām upavāsa-saṁ viduḥ

Foods and conduct that one should abstain from

All types of fish, meat, āmiṣa, honey, kulakarkita fruit, mustard seeds, and all kinds of intoxicants are to be given up. Foods considered impure and not fit for consumption are dvidāl – like split Bengal gram (chanā dāhl) and the likes, sesame oil, rice/grains containing stones and particles of sand and other impurities, wealth/materials which are bhāva duṣta, kriyā duṣta and śabdaduṣta *are prohibited.* Mushrooms, carrots, bottle gourd (lauki), narica, a root called ‘kemuka’.

*Bhāva duṣṭa– any wealth or material offered with an ulterior motive (e.g. let me feed some devotees with a feast so that I stop incurring losses in my business). Kriyā duṣṭa – any fault incurred in the standard procedure/process (e.g. Bhoga offered to the Lord prepared using high quality ingredients but cooked in an unclean state). Śabda duṣṭa– any fault arising by the medium of words (e.g. some donation is offered but the donor also claims that he has done a great favour by offering that donation).

All the items that one abstained from during Puruṣottama-māsa, can be consumed only after first offering them to a qualified brāhmaṇa at the end of Puruṣottama-māsa.

After rising early in the morning, and completing all pre-noon activities, one must follow all these regulations by remembering Śrī Kṛṣṇa with devotion within one’s heart.

A vrata is of three types–

  1. upavāsa
  2. nakta (eating haviṣyānna at night)
  3. eating once

Fruit of listening to Śrīmad Bhāgavatam and observing the vrata

In Puruṣottama-māsa, one should listen to Śrīmad Bhāgavatam with devotion.

Devotees should worship śāligrāma-śilā. This vrata is more glorious than one hundred fire sacrifices because by performing a hundred fire sacrifices one attains heavenly planets.

However, all the holy places of pilgrimage and all demigods reside in the body of the one who observes this Puruṣottama vrata.

Offering of a lamp and its fruit

One should consider it one’s duty to offer dīpa-dāna (offering of a lamp) for the pleasure of Puruṣottama Śrī Kṛṣṇa in this month. If wealthy and eligible, one should offer pure ghee lamps.

O Manigriva! Where will you obtain ghee or sesame oil while in exile (in the forest)? Hence you can offer dīpa-dāna using inguli oil.

Namaskāra mantra:

vande navaghana-śyāmaṁ dvibhujaṁ muralī dharaṁ
pītāmbara dharaṁ devaṁ sa rādhaṁ puruṣottamaṁ

Ārati, dhyāna and puṣpāñjalī mantra

Afterwards, offer sesame in the fire sacrifice (til homa) and offer ārati

nirājayāmi deveśa mindīvara-dala cchaviṁ
rādhika-ramaṇa premṇā koṭi-kandarpa-sundaraṁ

Then dhyāna mantra

antarjyotir ananta-ratna-racite simhāsane saṅsthitaṁ
vamśīnāda-vimohita-vrajavadhu vṛndāvane sundaraṁ
dhyāyed rādhikayā sa kaustubha maṇi-pradyotitora sthalaṁ
rājadratna-kirīṭa-kuṇḍala dharaṁ pratyagra-pītāmbaraṁ
naumi navaghana-śyāmaṁ pītavāsa samacyutaṁ
śrīvatsa-bhāsito raskaṁ rādhikā-sahitaṁ hariṁ

Afterwards, offer charity of ‘pūrṇapātra’ to a devotee brāhmaṇa along with dakṣiṇā and then give donations. At this time it is stipulated to give Śrīmad Bhāgavatam in charity to a Vaiṣṇava brāhmaṇa. Give a set of compact bell-metal containers to a brāhmaṇa, and serve prasādam of sweet rice mixed with ghee, and at the end relinquish all the vows you had accepted specifically for this vrata.

Activities forbidden in the month of Puruṣottama

All the rules and regulations regarding Śrī Puruṣottama-vrata, which we have presented above from these śāstras, should be followed by religiously devoted persons of all the varṇas (castes). The Nāradīya Purāṇa concludes by saying that in the holy place of Naimiṣāraṇya, Śrī Sūta Gosvāmī spoke to the assembled devotees as follows:

bhārate janurāsādya puruṣottam-uttamam
na sevante na śṛṇvanti gṛhāsaktā narādhamāḥ
gatāgataṁ bhajante ’tra durbhāgā janma-janmani
putra-mitra-kalatrāpta-viyogād duhkha bhāginaḥ

asmin māse dvija śreṣṭhā nāsacchāstrāny udāharet
na svapet para-śayyāyāṁ nālapet vitathaṁ kvacit
parāpavādān na bruyān na kathancit kadācana
parānnanca na bhunjīta na kurvīta parakriyām

“Even after taking birth in India, those who are the lowest of mankind remain attached to household life and never hear the glories of Śrī Puruṣottama-vrata; nor do they observe it. Such unfortunate persons undergo the suffering of repeated birth and death and the distress inflicted by the separation from sons, friends, wife and other relatives.

“O best of the dvijas! In this Puruṣottama month, one should not uselessly discuss worldly literature or mundane poetry. One should not sleep on the bed of others nor indulge in discussions of worldly sense enjoyment. One should not criticize others, eat foodstuffs cooked by others, or perform activities prescribed for others.”

The obligatory activities in the Puruṣottama month

vittaśāṭhyam akurvāṇo dānaṁ dadhyād dvijātaye
vidyamāne dhane śāṭhyam kurvāṇo rauravaṁ vrajet

dine dine dvijendrāya dattvā bhojanam-uttamam
divasasyāṣṭame bhāge vratī bhojanam ācaret

indradyumnaḥ śatadyumno yauvanāśvo bhagīrathaḥ
puruṣottamam ārādhya yayur bhagavadantikam

tasmāt sarva prayatnena saṁsevyaḥ puruṣottamaḥ
sarva sādhanataḥ śreṣṭhaḥ sarvārtha phala-dāyakaḥ

govardhana-dharaṁ vande gopālaṁ gopa-rūpiṇam
gokulotsavam-īśānaṁ govindaṁ gopikā-priyam*

* “I worship the lifter of Govardhana, Gopāla, who has the form of a gopa. He is the festival of Gokula (gokula-utsava), the Supreme Controller of all (Īśvara), and He is Govinda the beloved of the gopīs (gopikā-priyaṁ).”

kauṇḍinyena purā proktam imaṁ mantraṁ punaḥ punaḥ
japan-māsaṁ nayed bhaktyā puruṣottamam-āpnuyāt

dhyāyen-navaghana-śyāmaṁ dvibhujaṁ muralīdharam
lasat pīta-paṭaṁ ramyaṁ sa-rādhaṁ puroṣottamam

dhyāyam dhyāyam nayen-māsaṁ pūjayan puruṣottamam
evaṁ yaḥ kurute bhaktyā svābhiṣṭaṁ sarvam āpnuyāt

“Giving up miserliness, one should give in charity to the brāhmaṇas. If a person remains miserly even though he has wealth, his miserliness will be the cause of his going to Raurava (one type of hell). Every day one should feed the Vaiṣṇavas and brāhmaṇas with the best foodstuffs. A person who is following the vows should take his food in the eighth part of the day. Indradyumna, Satadyumna, Yauvanāśva and Bhagīratha attained sāmīpya, (close association of Bhagavān) by worshiping the Puruṣottama month. One should perform service to Puruṣottama with all of one’s endeavours. Such service to Puruṣottama is superior to all types of sādhana and fulfils all varieties of desires. In a previous age, Kauṇḍilya Muni repeatedly chanted the mantra ‘govardhana-dharaṁ vande’. By chanting this mantra with devotion during Śrī Puruṣottama month, one will attain Śrī Puruṣottama Himself. One should devote Puruṣottama month to constantly meditating upon nava-ghana dvibhuja muralīdhara pītāmbara Śrī Kṛṣṇa with Śrī Rādhā. Those who do this with devotion will have all their cherished desires fulfilled.”

The observance for transcendentalists – svaniṣṭha, paraniṣṭhita and nirapekṣa

There are three types of transcendentalists: svaniṣṭha — those who are steadfast in their personal vows; paraniṣṭhita — those who are steadfast in following the vows set forth by their respective ācāryas; and nirapekṣa — those who are indifferent to the above two types of steadfastness.*

* Svaniṣṭha and paraniṣṭhita bhaktas are generally householders and nirapekṣa bhaktas are renunciates. The svaniṣṭhita sādhaka performs all his activities in accordance with the rules and prohibitions laid down for the service and attendance of Bhagavān. The pariniṣṭhita sādhaka completely discards the rules and prohibitions prescribed within varṇāśrama and endeavours incessantly simply to please Bhagavān Śrī Hari. The nirapekṣa sādhaka is a renunciate.

All the activities mentioned above for Puruṣottama month are prescribed for svaniṣṭha transcendentalists. Paraniṣṭhita bhaktas are eligible to observe Puruṣottama-vrata according to the rules and instructions of Kārtika vrata prescribed by their respective ācāryas. Nirapekṣa bhaktas respect this sacred month by daily honouring śrī bhāgavat-prasāda with one-pointed attention, following some routine for śravaṇa and kīrtana of śrī hari-nāma according to their capacity.

The following statement from Viṣṇu-rahasya, which is the topmost instruction of Śrī Hari-bhakti-vilāsa, recommends:

indriyārtheṣv-asaktānāṁ sadaiva vimalā matiḥ
paritoṣayate viṣṇuṁ nopavāso jitātmanaḥ

“Those whose intelligence has been purified by bhakti are detached from the inclination for sense enjoyment. The intelligence of such persons is naturally pure; therefore, they are jitātmā, they have conquered their minds. It is by their innate bhakti, rather than by upavāsa (fasting) and other such activities, that they have purified their minds and are thus able to please Śrī Kṛṣṇa at all times.”

The innate ruci (inclination) and obligatory activities of ekāntika bhaktas

Therefore, Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī has concluded his book Śrī Hari-bhakti-vilāsa by presenting the following statements for one-pointed devotees:

evam ekāntināṁ prāyaḥ kīrtanaṁ smaraṇaṁ prabhoḥ
kurvatāṁ param-prītyā kṛtyam-anyan na rocate

bhāvena kenacit preṣṭhah śrī murter-anghri sevane
syād icchyaiṣāṁ svatantreṇa sva-rasanaiva tad-vidhiḥ

vihiteṣv eva nityeṣu pravartante svayaṁ hite
ityādy ekāntināṁ bhāti māhātmyaṁ likhitaṁ hi tat

Ekāntika bhaktas (one-pointed devotees) of Śrī Kṛṣṇa consider śrī kṛṣṇa smaraṇa and śrī kṛṣṇakīrtana alone to be the most fulfilling and valued activities. Generally, they do not engage in any other aṅgas of bhakti besides these two, which they cultivate with great love and affection. Their eagerness for these aṅgas is so strong that no other activity can captivate their taste. They develop an intense desire to serve the lotus feet of Śrī Kṛṣṇa in a specific mood. Therefore, they render service to the lotus feet of Śrī Kṛṣṇa with moods which are favourable to their own rasa, along with some independence (to give up the injunctions which are unfavourable to their cultivation). This alone is their vidhi. The ekāntika bhaktas are not bound to follow all the rules and regulations which have been prescribed by the ṛṣis. The moods of the ekāntika bhakta’s inborn, natural disposition generally remains prominent. This is their glory.”

Adhi-māsa is dear to bhaktas as there is no disturbance from the karma-kāṇḍa in this month.

The bhaktas observe Śrī Puruṣottama month according to their respective adhikāra; this means according to the distinctions of the moods of svaniṣṭha, paraniṣṭhita and ekāntika bhaktas. Bhagavān Vrajanātha Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the sovereign of this month; therefore, adhi-māsa is dear to every bhakta. This is because, incidentally, in this month no disturbance from the karma-kāṇḍa can come to obstruct the performance of one’s bhakti.

Endnote 2:

The svaniṣṭhita sādhaka performs all his activities in accordance with the rules and prohibitions laid down for the service and attendance of Bhagavān. The pariniṣṭhita sādhaka completely discards the rules and prohibitions prescribed within varṇāśrama and endeavours incessantly simply to please Bhagavān Śrī Hari. The nirapekṣa sādhaka is a renunciate.

(‘Puruṣottama Māsa Māhātmya – The Glories of Puruṣottama Māsa’ by Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda was translated from the original Bengali by Gaudiya Vedanta Publications)
Prema-Bhakti and Śrī GaurāṅgadevaPrema-Bhakti and Śrī Gaurāṅgadeva
Śrī Gaurāṅga Samāja (The Society of Śrī Gaurāṅga)The Society of Śrī Gaurāṅga (Śrī Gaurāṅga Samāja)

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