While addressing a group of Munis, Sage Sutha narrated that Lord Brahma asked Bhagavan Narayana about the significance of Margasirsha Month and the reply was that in His earlier incarnation as Krishna, He advised thousands of Gopikas and Gopas to observe austerities during that month by performing ‘Snaans’, ‘Pujas’, fastings and total dedication to Him to attain Salvation. Thus Gopikas and Gopas adopted a daily routine of waking up early; taking bath with Tulasi roots of earth on head by reciting the Mula Mantra of ‘Om Namo Narayanaya’ and Gayatri Mantra; praying to Ganga saying
‘Vishnupaada prasuthaasi Vaishnavi Vishnu devatha,
Thrahi naha thvam aghaatthasmaat aajanma maranaanthikat’
(Hey Gangey, You were materialised from Vishnu’s feet, thus known as Vaishnavi, Vishnu is your Devata, please save me of my sins from birth to death); and applying mritthika (earth) on the body by reciting
‘Ashvakraanthey Rathakraanthey Vishnu kraanthey Vasundharey,
Mrittikey hara mey Paapam yanmayaa dushkrutam krutam/
Uddhrutasi Varaahena Krishnena Shata baahunaa,
Namasthey Sarva bhutaanam prabhavarani Suvrathey’
(Hey Vasundharey, Bhagavan Vishnu rides horses and chariots over your physique, I request your Mrittika to wash off my sins like the fire from the pit, you are the creator and tolerator of all beings and the Supreme Lord Varaha lifted you with His thousand hands from deep waters, I salute you!). After the former bath and wearing clean clothes, the routine continues with applying ‘Vibhudi’ (ash of homa or of cow dung), perform ‘Sandhya Vandan’/ Gayatri Japa followed by Vishnu Puja with ‘Ghantanaad’ (ringing bell), Chandana, Pushpa, Tulasidal, dhoop, deepa and other ‘Shodasopacharas’, ‘Stutipaath’ (Extolling hymns) of Vishnu Sahasranaam, Bhishmastavaraj, Gajendra Moksha, Anusmriti and Bhagavad Gita, Mantrajap viz. ‘Om Namo Damodaraya Namah’ and ‘Saashtanga Pranaam’ (prostration or lying on the ground by putting both the hands, both the feet, both the knees together, as also chest, forehead, heart, mouth, and vision) and finally recite the Mantra:
Mantra heenam, Kriya heenam, Bhakti heenam Janaardana,
Yat pujitam maya Deva Paripurnam tha dasthu the/
Anaya Dhyaanaa vaahanaadi Shodasopachaaraaya Bhagavaan Sarvaatmakah-
Supreeta Suparasanno varado bhavatu-
Devataa Prasaadam Sirasa grihnnami,
ye that phalam Parameswar-arpanamasthu.
(Hey Janaardana, my worship to You is without Mantras, without rituals, and without devotion; kindly accept my worship without these qualities; also without meditation, ‘Vahanas’ or Carriers, and such other Sixteen Services, I am concluding my worship; kindly be pleased with my worship and ignore all my limitations).
In Kampilya Nagar in the past, there was a King Virabahu who was righteous and devoted and his wife Kantimati too was devout. He was visited by Sage Bharadvaj and was pleased by their high merit and good qualities. The Sage told the King that he was a cruel and sinful Shudra in his previous birth who never believed in Narayana, but his present wife was his previous wife too and was a dutiful and devout woman. While in a forest hunting once, the Shudra found an aged Muni named Devasharma who lost his way into the forest and was pitifully exhausted unable to move. The cruel hunter somehow felt pity on the old person and carried him into his abode and offered him fruits and water. Asked about him, the Shudra confessed to the Muni that he was a cruel hunter, was irreligious and unpardonable; meanwhile his wife gave some fruits and water which the Muni aceepted.As the hunter expressed sincere remorse for his earlier actions and showed keen desire to pray to Vishnu. Muni Devasharma opined that the sincerity shown by the hunter in rescuing an old and tired Sanyasi like him and providing timely assistance and service to him was itself an indication of the innumerable sins committed by him in the past. The Sage having narrated the story of the hunter gave ‘Upadesh’ (teaching) to the King about the significance of the month of Margasirsha and of the worship of Narayana by performing the ‘Akhanda Ekadashi Vrata’ commencing from Dashami through Dwadashi. On the evening of Dashami when Sun becomes less severe, one has to observe ‘Nakta Vratha’ or light meal; on Ekadashi day, one should avoid frequent drinking of water, violence, impurity, speaking lies, consumption of betel leaves, cleaning of teeth more than once, sleeping during the day, mating, gambling, non-observance of Jaagaran and conversation with sinners.On Ekadashi day, one should observe strict fasting which means avioding comfort. On the following Dwadashi day, one should observe the avoidables of Ekadashi as also keep away from other’s food, honey, and use of oils on the body as also consume the same. But the fast could be terminated to the ‘Karta’ (the devotee) on Dwadashi, only after providing Bhojan to Brahmanas. After observing the Akhanda Vrata for one full year till the last Dwadashi, ‘Udyapan’ or conclusion is executed on the Margasirsha Shukla Ekadashi by engaging twelve Brahmanas and one ‘Acharya’ (Chief) and his wife. First of all, the Acharya and the Brahmanas should be invited with Arghya, Padya, Vastra and Dakshina. The Acharya would then supervise the preparation of ‘Chakra Kamala Mandala’ based on a white cloth, sub-divided into five segments each having five copper ‘Kalashas’ (vessels) duly garlanded around and on top of the Kalasas are set with the Idols of Lakshmi Narayana and the Shankha and Chakra. To the northern side there should be ‘Havan Kund’ where ‘homas’ are performed with Veda Mantras. The Idols are worshipped with Dhupa, Deepa, Naivedya, Arathi and other services, besides Yaksha Kardama Puja (comprising Camphor, Agaru, Kasturi, and Anga lepa) and Parikrama / Pradakshina. Later on, there should be recitals of Pavamana Sukta, Mantras viz. ‘Madhuvaata ruthaayatey’, ‘Tejosi’etc. Sukranja etc. Vaachyam Brahma (Samam), ‘Pavitravantam Suryasya’,’ Vishnormahasi’ etc. followed by Samidha homa, Charu homa, Tila homa and so on. Finally, charities should take place including Kalasha (Vessel) Daan, Vastra (Clothing) Daan, Suvarna (Gold) Daan and Artha (Cash) Daan as per the devotee’s capacity and convenience.