Kartika begins
15 October 2008

October 14 2008

I came to Chowpatti temple early in the morning and will be spending the next week or so here. If Juhu beach temple is Heaven on Earth this place is Vaikuntha. Although small in comparison to the opulent Juhu beach temple, it is like a precious jewelbox, filled with gems and gold.

 gorgeous temple

The Deities of Sri Sri Radha Gopinatha, Gaura Nitai and Nathaji are beautifully decorated and lovingly cared for. They attract many thousands of people every week. On Sundays an attendance of several thousand is standard.


Chowpatti is famous for its Vaisnava culture and etiquette. The devotees are humble, enthusiastic and elevated, following in the footsteps of their leader, HH Radhanatha Swami. Chowpatti has a resident population of over 100 brahmacaris, and many thousands of regular congregational members as well as hundreds of initated householders.

Maharaja is here and today begins the observance of Kartika. After greeting the Deities and gurupuja we sat down to sing the glories of Lord Damodara. Maharaja led us in the chanting of the Damodarastaka, one of my favorite bhajanas.

Radhanatha Maharaja and chanters 

Throughout the month devotees offer lighted ghee lamps to the Lord and by doing so gain benedictions beyond our scope of appreciation:

ghee lamp

 Sri Hari-bhakti-vilasa
Sixteenth Vilasa, Volume One
Text 99-168

Please hear the glories of offering a lamp during the month of Karttika, an
offering that is very pleasing to Lord Kesava. O king of brahmanas, a person
who offers a lamp in this way will not take birth again in this world.

By offering a lamp during the month of Karttika one attains a pious result
ten million times greater than the result obtained by bathing at Kuruksetra
during a solar a eclipse or by bathing in the river Narmada during a lunar

O tiger of sages, for a person who thus offers a lamp burning with ghee or
sesame oil, what is the use of performing an asvasmedha-yajna?
Even if there are no mantras, no pious deeds, and no purity, everything
becomes perfect when a person offers a lamp during the month of Karttika.
A person who during the month of Karttika offers a lamp to Lord Kesava has
already performed all yajnas and bathing in all holy rivers.

It is purnima and this evening I had a clear view of a brilliant full moon from the roof of the guest house rising above the jungle of buildings that is Mumbai.

full moon over Mumbai 

Chowpatti is a great place to begin Kartika vrata.  It is one of their main festivals and celebrated in gorgeous fashion. For the evening session the devotees redecorated the altar very elaborately to resemble the banks of the Yamuna. Trees, flowing water, gopis carrying water pots, deer, cows and grassy meadows were all created to transport the devotees to the holy precincts of Vrndavana-dhama. It was a sublime experience to sit before the altar and feel oneself to be in the pastures of Krsna’s favorite village.

Kartika begins in Vrndavana

But the best feature was the chanting. I went in at 7.00 PM because I heard Radhanatha Maharaja was going to give a class. But he was content to sit and allow the devotees to chant the maha-mantra.

They had begun around 6.00 PM, and they were still going strong when I left at 9.45 PM. One devotee after another took turns in leading for 20-30 mins. each singing beautiful melodies and surcharging the hundreds of devotees who packed the temple room to full capacity with devotional fervor. Its been quite a while since I had such an uplifting experience.

packed temple

If you are ever in Mumbai, a visit to Chowpatti is a must. If any temple comes even near to what Srila Prabhupada envisioned for his Krsna conscious communities, its this place.

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