BHISMA PANCAKA INTRODUCTION
“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].”
“This five day fast is difficult for those people who are not serious and who are hypocrites. 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 Krsna. 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.”
“All of one’s material and spiritual desires can be fulfilled and all of the senses can be controlled by following this five-day fast. One should follow this Kartika fast in a most auspicious place of pilgrimage. If one follows this Kartika fast, one can obtain the results attainable from fasting on the auspicious fasting days for a whole year”.
“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 with an unqualified woman (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.”
Here is the right procedure how to follow this most powerful vrata of the year.
As mentioned in Srila Rupa Gosvami’s Sri Mathura Mahatmya:
durlabho bhakti-yogo me
karttike mathurayam ca
“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 (mandala) during Karttika.”
“Following the vow of Bhisma-pancaka in Mathura is said to fulfill all desires.” [This includes the desire to attain one’s eternal raga-maya spontaneous intimate loving relationship with Radhe-Syama in the madhurya realm of Vraja, if one does the vrata with the appropriate lobha.]
Daily bathe before sunrise and at noon. Lord Krsna gave what was previously known as the Visnu-pancaka vrata to Bhisma, declaring the vrata thenceforward to be re-named as Bhisma-pancaka. Hence, after bathing, while offering water along with obeisances, Bhisma is to be honored with a prayer for successful completion of one’s vow:
“I am offering this water to Bhisma, who has Vaiyaghrapada ghotra and Sanskrit pravara. I offer respectful obeisances to Bhisma, the incarnation of Vasus, who is the son of Santanu and a life-long celibate.”
One should worship Lord Krsna along with His most beloved Radha, bathing Them daily with pancamrta, offering new clothes, excellent cooked food and cloves, and also arotrika with incense, lamp, Tulasi water in a conch shell, napkin, flowers, and camara to the best of one’s ability. One should every morning and evening offer a ghee lamp to the Deities as well as to Tulasi. One may maintain an akhanda-dipa near the Deities or near Tulasi. Light incense and lamps using a dry Tulasi stick and get ten million times the result. Tulasi Mahatmya says that there is no one more dear to Krsna than one who lights a ghee lamp with a dry Tulasi stick for His pleasure. The whole point is to become dear to Radha-Krsna! One should especially endeavor to enhance one’s Krsna consciousness by increasing one’s absorption in nama-japa, nama-sankirtana, and krsna-katha.
One must maintain strict celibacy both physically and mentally. Padma Purana states that anyone who does not give up copulation during the month of Kartika becomes a pig in every successive lifetime. One should also sleep on the floor, eat off of leaf plates, and at all costs, totally avoid sadhu-ninda and every kind of prajalpa.
DAY 1 EKADASI (November, 17):
Before sunrise (< 6:41 AM Vrindavan Time) [according to Padma Purana], eat a small amount of cow dung which has come directly from the cow (without having touched the ground). You may also drink any amount of water to make easier your nirjala fasting which will begin after sunrise and continuethroughout the day and night until after sunrise on Dvadasi morning.
Parana time is between 6:42 A.M. and 10:16 A.M. Fasting from sleep throughout the night is also prescribed for this particular ekadasi.
DAY 2 DVADASI (November, 18 Evening sandhya 5.02 PM – 5.50 PM):
Break your nirjala fasting first with maha-prasada Tulasi leaf, then water. After the parana time, anytime during the day, drink 50ml. urine from a young virgin cow. Padma Purana says that, for the remaining days, there is no bar against taking one time simple ekadasi-prasada at night after the
evening sandhya is finished. [You may take boiled potato, sweet potato, arbi, green banana, green papaya, and yellow pumpkin only among vegetables; apples, oranges, bananas, papaya, grapes, soft pear (not naspati), melons, and pomegranate only among fruits. Dry fruits and nuts are also permitted
but not coconut. Tapioca, so-called ekadasi rice, and any kind of ground so-called ekadasi flour and spices must be avoided as they invariably have some amount of grains mixed. Only fresh ginger, whole black pepper, and any kind of rock salt may be used. All kinds of oil are to be avoided. If you must cook, use pure cow ghee only. Rock candy and gur may be taken. Do not eat anything such as sweets or drinks prepared commercially.] You may drink water as much as required day and night throughout the remaining days of the vrata.
DAY 3 TRAYODASI (November, 19 Evening sandhya 5.01 PM – 5.49 PM):
Anytime after sunrise take pure cow ghee. Once prescribed prasada at night.
DAY 4 CATURDASI (November, 20 Evening sandhya 5.01 PM – 5.49 PM):
Anytime after sunrise take pure cow yogurt. Once prescribed prasada at night.
DAY 5 PURNIMA (November, 21 Evening sandhya 5.01 PM – 5.49 PM):
After sunrise take pure cow milk.
CONCLUDING THE VOW:
Starting during the abhijit period (12:04 P.M. – 12:28 P.M.), feed brahmanas with maha-prasada consisting of foods that you avoided during the vrata along with sweet rice made with pure cow milk.
Also during that time one should give charity to brahmanas (gifts, money, sesume seeds, pots of water, as well as best quality grains, ghee, ghee lamps, and mirrors, etc. to properly conclude one’s Kartika and/or Caturmasya vratas.)
After that is done, eat pancagavya mixed (cow dung, cow urine, cow ghee, cow yogurt, and cow milk).
Then happily Break your Bhisma-pancaka vrata will sweet rice.
Break all Caturmasya and Kartika vratas with foods that were then avoided. Afterwards shave and cut nails. Try to complete everything before sunset. Do not eat, shave, or cut nails during the evening sandhya. If unable to complete everything before the sandhya starts, you may shave etc. after the sandhya is complete (at night). Don’t forget to offer lamps on the evening of Kartika purnima. It is most highly praised in the Padma Purana.
The last 5 days of the month of Karttika 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.
The Padma Purana say that one pleases the Lord and makes spiritual advancement by such austerities.
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:
1. On the first day, one must offer padma (lotus) flowers to the feet of the Lord
2. On the second day, one must offer bilva (wood-apple) leaves of the thigh of the Lord
3. On the third day, one must offer gandha (scents) to the navel of the Lord
4. On the fourth day, one must offer java flower to the shoulders of the Lord
5. On the fifth day, one must offer malati flower to the head (siro-desa) of the Lord
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.
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.
Bhisma Pancaka Fasting
The fasting starts on Ekadasi Day and will continue until the, Rasa purnima Day. 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.
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 (this is what Guru Maharaja has been following):
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 Purana, Purva 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
* Fruits (Skanda Puraana, Naagara Khanda says they must be with a small seed or with few seeds only)
* Labali fruit
* Roots except ‘keaa’ (a type of grass or root)
* 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
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:
om vaiyaghra padya gotraya
samkrti pravaraya ca
arghyam dadami bhismaya
om bhismah santanavo birah
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 Purana
“The only hope now … to reestablish the pristine glory of the varnasrama system.”
Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Caitanya-siksamrta 2.3)
Om Sri Surabhyai Namah! Om Sri Gurave Namah! Jaya Srila Prabhupada!
Today marks the first day of “Bhisma Pancaka” where one takes special vows for the last five days of the Caturmasya period. We get the following brief explanation of the ancient tradition from http://old.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.”
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