Month Magnanimous: The Undisputed Glory of Maha-Kartika

City Lights: Culture

In Padma Puran, Lord Vishnu says, “Of all plants, the sacred Tulsi (Holy Basil) is my favorite, of all places of pilgrimage, I adore my abode Dwarika the most, Ekadasi is my most dear among all days and Kartika of all months.” The month begins with the setting moon of Kumar Purnima and ends when the moon of Rasa Purnima retires for the day. According to lunar calendar, when the planet Sun enters the sign of Tula, then begins the auspicious month of Kartika. Although the month has come to an end, we at My City Links bring you all interesting traditions and customs associated with Kartika, which in the rich Odia culture is considered the noblest among all months.

THE BELIEFS

Aruabhata and habishadalmaakashadipa and chaurapuja, bada-baduadaka and kadalipatukaboats, one month and a thousand emotions… Even in the rich Odia culture, no month is considered nobler than the month of Kartika. Otherwise known as Damodar month, it brings us Deepabali and Dangabhasa, occasions to cherish our splendid present and remembering the days of our glorious past. This month ignites in us the urge to adopt a vegetarian diet for a moon’s cycle, brings us the seven-vegetable curry of Garvana Sankranti, the lost ritual of Kua-chikkan, the still-struggling Naguli-chaturthibrata in the smart gadgets day and many more. Indeed, each morning of this mysterious month carries with it a magnificent tale, some of lost traditions and forgotten customs and others of rituals that we observe without knowing its true significance.

For every Odia, Aa-Ka-Ma-Bai is much more than just words. In our culture, four among the twelve months are considered most sacred i.e. Ashadha, Kartika, Magha and Baishakha. They signify the change of seasons and the Ekadashis coming under the bright half (SuklaPaksha) of these four months are observed with utmost devoutness, Kartika Ekadashi, called Debotthana Ekadasi (or Deba Prabodhini) indicates the end of Chaturmashya and all the auspicious actions like marriages and Grih Prabesh resume after that.

Octogenarian Pandit Debarchana Nanda says, “Lord Brahma told Debarshi Narad in Skanda Puran that there is no other era like Satyayuga, no other religious scripture like the Vedas, no place of pilgrimage as the mother Ganga and no month like Kartik. By following the vow of Kartika brat, one can attain the ultimate goal of mortal life i.e. Purusartha.”

He further explains the Purusartha has four components that include Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. By observing the Kartika brata, one can obtain salvation, as all the prayers, worship and charities are said to be millionth time more effective when done in this pious month. “People wake up early in the dark hours before the dawn and take a bath while the stars still shine in the sky (Brahma Muhurta). They visit nearby temples; ladies help in cleaning the temple premises and participate in the morning aarti. They offer ghee lamps and chant the Damodar-astakam, which is said to please Lord Vishnu the best.” He describes the importance of the month.

“The name Kartika is derived from Krutika, a lunar mansion (Naxatra). It is the month when Satya yuga began and also when the Mahabharat war commenced. Lord Vishnu killed the demon Jalandhar in this month. From the Sukla Dashami starts the SaratRasa of Lord Krishna. On the sacred day of Kartika Purnima, Lord Vishnu appeared in his first incarnation as a Rohu Fish (Matsya Avatar). And also on this day, Lord Kartikeya was born. The world has come into existence in this month and it is foretold that it will also end in the same,” he proclaims.

For widowed ladies, especially those of the Brahmin cast, this time is of utmost significance. Observing the brata of Ekadashi and Kartika are primal among all the religious practices they do after losing their husbands. The women also don’t take any leafy vegetables except the leaves of the plant Sesbania Grandiflora, popularly known as agasti (agasti saga) and taro (saru saga). 

THE CUSTOMS

Ashalata Tripathy, 68, a resident of V.S.S. Nagar, Bhubaneswar explains the rules of Kartika Habisha. “It starts with a solemn vow. On the very first day, we make this promise to practice the brata with devotion. We promise to worship Devi Tulsi daily along with Lord Vishnu. We promise not to take any of the prohibited items such as onion and garlic. We also promise to listen to Kartika Mahatmya daily, stay away from all temptations and live a pure, simple and dedicated life. Both the ekadashis of this month are the most virtuous and we do fasting on those days. The navami (9th day) of the bright half is Anla Navami when we worship the Aanla (Indian Gooseberry) tree. The last five days called panchakaare vital. In these days, even the heron bird is said to avoid non-veg, and hence comes the name baka-panchaka.On the full moon day, we make offerings to the Brahmin who recites Kartika Mahatmya to us for the whole month. It’s called a Chhancha and includes the raw ingredients required to make habisha food and a reasonable amount of money called Dakshina. The very next day, Chhadakhai, we take chakulipitha, mudhi and onion, garlic. Again, the Brahmin is given another Chhancha including boiled (usuna) rice, vegetables, lentils and spices. Then with the chhadakhai celebration, ends our Kartika Habisha.”

Apart from the spiritual significance, there also lies some scientific reasons behind these practices. Niranjan Mishra, retired employee of Utkal University says, “Kartika Month is special for every Odia. It is the time when the environmental conditions are perfect for sea-voyage, that’s why the legendary Sadhabas chose this time for overseas trade. Apart from Dangabhasa, we also celebrate Boita Bandana. The ladies of the house draw a sketch of boat on the floor, decorate it with trade goods and place some valuable items like grains, jewellery and utensils right there. Then they perform the ritual of Boita Bandana. Some households observe this ritual till today. And another one is Garvana Sankranti, which usually falls during this month. It’s the time when rice fields start to blossom. Perhaps this is the reason behind the ban on non-vegetarian food.” To explain his point, he further adds, “Chiefly, the non-veg platter of Odias consists of various kinds of fish. In this season, however, fishes eat those ample amounts of rice blossoms and get sick.  It’s not healthy to eat them after that. Some others say it’s the season of reproduction for fishes. So, ban on non-veg is simply a measure to save them from getting endangered.”

Keeping in view the impact of reducing daylight, we get the healthy Habishanna diet instead, to help aid our digestion. He explains about the vegetable curry of Garvana Sankranti, in which seven different vegetables are used and which is usually served with khichdi. “Any of the available vegetables will do, apart from cauliflower, cabbage, potato and tomato-vegetables that are still regarded as foreign in temple cooking.” He describes it as a variation of the famous Ghanta of Dutia Osha, without sprouts and grated coconuts.