The Holy Month of Bhadra
Sri Chaitanya-charitamrita, Madhya-lila, chapter twenty, presents Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s teachings to Srila Sanatana Gosvami. Among the topics they discussed were the various forms of Lord Narayana in the Vaikuntha planets. In that context we learn that a particular Vaikuntha Deity presides over each of the twelve months of the year. BTG’s Vaishnava calendar in each issue uses the Deity’s name as the name of the month. For example, this year September 1 is the first day of the month of Hrishikesha. There’s an alternative way to name the months, and by that method September 1 this year marks the beginning of the month of Bhadra.
I’m clarifying this point because you might have come across mentions of the month of Bhadra in Vaishnava literature and wondered why you’ve never seen it on BTG’s calendar.
If you look at the calendar in this issue, you’ll see that the month of Hrishikesha (Bhadra) is especially auspicious. It begins with the anniversary of Srila Prabhupada’s departure to the United States and ends with the anniversary of his acceptance of sannyasa. These milestones in his life turned out to have worldwide significance. By accepting the renounced order of life, Srila Prabhupada confirmed his commitment to fully dedicate himself to fulfilling the mission given to him by his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. That mission was to carry the teachings of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu to the English-speaking world.
When Srila Prabhupada, alone and without the support of any patron or institution, boarded a cargo ship bound for America, any observer would have doubted that he had any chance of success. But he succeeded in ways beyond anyone’s imagination. One of the many examples of his success is that Janmashtami, the anniversary of Lord Krishna’s appearance in this world fifty centuries ago during the month of Bhadra, is now celebrated in America and around the world by speakers of English and numerous other languages. Millions of people honoring Lord Krishna on this holiest of days are doing so only because Srila Prabhupada endured thirty-seven days at sea in his seventieth year to deliver Krishna consciousness to a foreign shore.
It is fitting, then, that the anniversary of Srila Prabhupada’s appearance in Calcutta in 1896 falls the day after Janmashtami and people everywhere assemble to honor Lord Krishna and His empowered modern representative during a two-day festival.
Another important event in the month of Bhadra is Sri Radhashtami, the appearance anniversary of Srimati Radharani, Lord Krishna’s eternal consort. While on board the Jaladuta on his way to America, Srila Prabhupada wrote a Bengali poem in which He prayed to Lord Krishna for the “pious act” of assuring the success of his preaching in America. The poem’s refrain gives us a glimpse of Srila Prabhupada’s intimate relationship with Krishna, as well as of Krishna’s sweet, confidential relationship with Srimati Radharani: “O brother, Krishna, I emphatically say to You that when You perform this pious act Srimati Radharani will surely be pleased with You and You will achieve great piety.”
When Srila Prabhupada traveled to America, he brought with him a trunkful of copies of the three-volume Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto 1, with his translation and commentary. A verse in the Bhagavatam (12.12.13) says that one who gives the Bhagavatam as a gift on the full-moon day of the month of Bhadra achieves the supreme destination. Taking advantage of this offer is surely an auspicious way to honor this sacred month.
– Nagaraja Dasa