We are currently observing Keśava-vrata. We have been listening to Keśavadeva’s glories. We have also been listening to the glories of Candana-yātrā. How can we have the desire to continuously follow bhakti? How is Keśava-vrata continuously helpful for all the sādhakas? The sādhaka is always thinking, “How can I always progress in my devotion? How can I serve continuously?”

Once, Brahmā called Atri Ṛṣi. Atri Ṛṣi would do bhajana alone. Brahmā told him, “I will send Anusuya for your protection. She is never envious of anyone. If you are alone, Indra will send many celestial damsels to disturb you. Indra is always envious. He doesn’t want anyone to go to Goloka-Vaikuṇṭha. If anybody tries doing bhajana, Indra will disturb that person in many ways. He will try to have him enjoy name, fame, and popularity. He will give that person many friends, and disciples. He will also give much wealth.

If you reject all his presentations, he will try disturbing you with some ‘responsibilities.’ Bharata Mahārāja was given the responsibility of an infant deer. Similarly, Indra will also give you many responsibilities. Indra sent many damsels to Śiva Ṭhākura, Nārada Ṛṣi, Viśvāmitra, and the others. Therefore, it will not be possible to protect yourself. Your mind will become restless and disturbed. Your bhajana will then be finished. So, I will give you Anusuya. She is a very pure soul. She help you in your sādhana.”

Atri Ṛṣi replied, “You are my guardian. So, I will accept your help.”

Brahmā then sent Anusuya to Atri Ṛṣi. When Atri Ṛṣi would meditate or perform fire-sacrifices, she would faithfully serve him. She was very chaste and honest. One day, she asked, “How can I please God? You are doing sādhana; but I am not doing anything. Can you tell me how to please God?”

Atri Ṛṣi said, “You always help me in my services. Therefore, you have already availed yourself of half of the fruits of these services. You shouldn’t be worried.”

Anusuya Devī then asked, “How can I always protect my sādhana? How will my life be successful? I want to be appointed in my service. I don’t want to lose my heart.”

“When the disciples faithfully and honestly serve their Guru Mahārāja, they will obtain everything. Guru-śakti will enter their heart. When a son respectfully serves his parents, their love and mercy will shower on him. Friends will not lose their strength if they love each other and never desire to cheat each other. A king takes care of everyone. By respecting the king and by honestly giving him taxes, the subjects will be empowered.

Honesty is the best policy. God is happy by your chastity. You should never lose your honesty and chastity,” replied Atri Ṛṣi.

Anusuya would serve Atri Ṛṣi and sincerely do her sādhana. She saw how everything became dry during this month of Vaiśākha. The hills became dry and the trees shed all their leaves. There was no water anywhere.

She thought, “Water is necessary for doing ācamana. Everyone needs water quench their thirst and bathe. It never rains here.”

Earlier, Atri Ṛṣi had told her, “God fulfills all the desires of honest and chaste people. But, He will not fulfill the desires of those who are selfish.”

Anusuya saw how the birds and animals were withering away in thirst. She prayed on behalf of everyone. Gaṅgā Devī answered her prayers and appeared as the Mandākinī from the top of a hill in Citrakūṭa. She took this water and went to the sacrificial arena (yajña-bhūmi).

She told him, “You should offer this water to Śrī Hari. I will then give His remnants to everyone.”

Atri Ṛṣi told her, “Did Mandākinī appear when you prayed out of your selfishness?”

“No.”

“Then for whom did you pray?”

“I prayed for all the living entities.”

“All right. Mandākinī will continuously be present here as long as you don’t go the wrong way. Her waters will never recede. God and many of His incarnations will descend here. They will bathe and drink this water. Any sādhaka who bathes and drinks this water will become pure. This Mandākinī will always be helpful. The Mandākinī is as pure as your heart. You have no feelings of enviousness, or competition. You never challenge anyone; you serve everyone. Similarly, this Mandākinī will also serve everyone. She will be your eternal friend,” Atri Ṛṣi told Anusuya.

After some time, the forest became green. The trees bore many fruits. Atri Ṛṣi’s āśrama was also effulgent like the forest. Many Ṛṣis-Maharṣis would come to his āśrama. Śrī Rāmacandra, Sītā, and Lakṣmaṇa also came to his āśrama. Anusuya gave Sītā Devī many presentations.

Giving a cloth to Sītā, Anusuya said, “By wearing this cloth, you will never be dirty. Your beauty will never be lost. You will never be hungry or thirsty. Your mind will never be restless. Nobody will be able to disturb you.”

She also tied a red colored thread on Sītā’s wrists. She gave some roots to her and said, “You will never be hungry be eating these roots. By bathing in the water of the Mandākinī, your heart will be very clean. You will never accept anything bad that someone may offer.”

Rāmacandra said, “Mother Anusuya, you gave Sītā Devī many gifts. Will you not give Me any gifts?”

“You are the Lord Himself. What can I possibly give You? I only seek Your blessings and mercy.”

“No. You should give me something.”

“All right. You should always come and bathe in the Mandākinī on the full moon (Caitra Pūrṇimā) of this month. You should make Mandākinī happy. She will remain pure by Your touch.”

Rāmacandra replied, “I promise to bathe every year in her water on the day of Caitra Pūrṇimā. I will always be present in your āśrama. Although I will remain here for some time and leave—yet, I will always come here every year.”

Sītā Devī and Lakṣmaṇa were also very happy there. After some time, Bharata came to the āśrama with Vaśiṣṭha, Viśvāmitra, Śatrughna, Janaka Ṛṣi, and all the residents of Ayodhyā. The entire army came as well. They walked from Ayodhyā while the elderly were carried on palanquins and elephants.

Standing on top of a hill, Lakṣmaṇa saw Bharata and all the re­sidents of Ayodhyā. He remarked, “Bharata has come to attack us with His army. My dear brother Rāma, if You order Me, I will kill everyone.”

Rāmacandra said, “You mustn’t speak such words My brother. Haven’t You bathed or drank the water of the Mandākinī? Haven’t you spoken to Anusuya or Atri Ṛṣi? Nobody fosters any feelings of enviousness here. By coming here, the envious will also become immaculately clean. So, how can You think that Bharata has come to attack Me?”

“Then why has He come with the entire army?”

“No. Just see! He is wearing a white cloth. My mothers are also accompanying Him. Why would He come with our mothers if He intended to attack Me with the army? Guru Vaśiṣṭha, Viśvāmitra, and Janaka Ṛṣi are also accompanying Him.”

Rāmacandra then descended from the top and offered His prostrated obeisance to guru Vaśiṣṭha. He also offered His obeisance to Kaikeyī. And then, He offered His obeisance to Sumitra and Kauśalya as well. He met everyone who had come to the Citrakūṭa āśrama. All the residents of Ayodhyā bathed in the water of the Mandākinī. Everyone then rested amidst the serene Citrakūṭa forest. A big meeting was then held.

Bharata bitterly wept and repeatedly asked for forgiveness. All the Ṛṣis-Maharṣis blessed Bharata to be an able representative of Rāmacandra.

After Bharata returned, Rāmacandra thought, “The Citrakūṭa forest is near Ayodhyā. So, the Ṛṣis-Maharṣis will be disturbed when anyone from Ayodhyā comes to see Me. I should not stay here; I should leave.”

So, Anusuya has been glorified for her chastity and honesty. When Sarasvatī, Lakṣmī and Umā heard of her chastity, they decided to test her. They told Brahmā, Viṣṇu, and Śiva respectively, “You should determine how chaste Anusuya is.”

By virtue of her chastity, Anusuya was a very strong lady. When Atri Ṛṣi went outside to perform his sādhana, Anusuya was alone in the āśrama. She would make all the necessary arrangements for the fire-sacrifice. When she was engaged in her services, three beggars appeared and said, “Bhikṣam dehī! Bhikṣam dehī!”

She thought, “Who are these three powerful beggars?”

She brought three leaf plates of fruits, dry fruits, and roots. Ṛṣis-Maharṣis would have fruits and roots dried. When there was nothing to eat, they would boil and eat these fruits and roots. There was no need of salt or any sweets. They would only subsist on such simple food for their sādhana. When there was no food, they would only drink water.

When Anusuya approached the three beggars with the leaf plates, they told her, “We will not take anything from your hand.”

“Why not?”

“You are contaminated.”

“How am I contaminated?”

“You should become clean and then give us these offerings. Your cloth is dirty; it is making you impure. You should remove these clothes and then, you will be clean.”

“All right. I will ask before I give you my answer.”

Anusuya went to Atri Ṛṣi and told him what happened. Atri Ṛṣi had already seen everything in his samādhi.

He told Anusuya, “You should follow the words of the ‘beggars.’”

Anusuya told the beggars, “All right. I will give you bhikṣā; but on one condition. The three of you should become newborn babies—then I will give bhikṣā.”

By her honesty and chastity, Anusuya turned Brahmā, Viṣṇu, and Maheśa into babies. These babies grew up to become Candramā, Dattātreya, and Durvāsā Ṛṣi respectively. Anusuya took these babies on her lap and breast fed them. She had no babies of her own—but she had three babies now. She gently swung them and played with them. When Atri Ṛṣi returned, he saw how these three babies were none other than Brahmā, Viṣṇu, and Maheśa.

He thought, “Although they came to test Anusuya, they were defeated by her.”

Anusuya cared for the babies in every way. She would bathe them in the Mandākinī everyday and gently lull them to sleep. She would breastfeed them. She would also feed them honey. She told the babies, “I will give you bhikṣā for the rest of my life. You will only eat what I have to offer.”

So, Brahmā, Viṣṇu, and Maheśa were arrested now. Anusuya would look for sandalwood trees in the forest. She would paste the sandalwood and smear it on her babies’ bodies. She would also give them honey and water. She would continuously serve them. Nārada Ṛṣi saw how Anusuya served the babies. When Nārada Ṛṣi went to Brahma-loka, Vaikuṇṭha-loka, and Śiva-loka, he saw that Brahmā, Viṣṇu, and Śiva were not present in their respective abodes.

He asked Sarasvatī, Lakṣmī, and Umā, “Where are your husbands?”

“We don’t know.”

“The three of you have lost your husbands.”

“How have we lost them?”

“They are no longer your husbands because they have become Anusuya’s babies now. They only drink her breast milk. They don’t take anything else.”

Sarasvatī, Lakṣmī, and Umā then performed many austerities near Atri Ṛṣi’s āśrama. They hid in a cave near Gupta-Godavari and thought of how they could have their husbands returned to them.

So, Anusuya and Atri Ṛṣi served the babies in this month of Vaiśākha. They would smear candana on the babies and bathe them in the Mandākinī everyday. After they had bathed the babies and put them in their cradles, Sarasvatī, Lakṣmī, and Umā Devī appeared at their doorstep.

They said, “Anusuya Devī, ask for any boon. So may you, Atri Ṛṣi. But, please give our husbands back.”

Anusuya replied, “I don’t know anything. Atri Ṛṣi knows everything.”

“We have no power to go near Atri Ṛṣi. We have surrendered to you, Anusuya Devī. We sent our husbands to test you. Now we have realized that you are true to your name. You are most pure and chaste. Please forgive us,” said Sarasvatī, Lakṣmī, and Umā.

Brahmā, Viṣṇu, and Maheśa returned to their consorts. But, they also remained in another form as the babies of Anusuya. Honesty will make you strong and powerful. Conversely, you will lose everything by fostering doubts. By serving Atri Ṛṣi, Anusuya received God’s service eternally. Dattātreya had twenty four gurus. Durvāsā is a powerful ascetic. To glorify the Lord’s devotees, he arranged for many pastimes. And, Candramā is giving nectar to everyone everyday.

So, Sarasvatī, Lakṣmī, and Umā performed austerities in a cave during this month of Vaiśākha near Gupta-Godavari. After a month of austerities, they bathed in the Mandākinī. The flow of bhakti is always running on the banks of the Mandākinī and Gupta-Godavari. Many festivals are held there during this month. All the Ṛṣis-Maharṣis are always performing austerities in Citrakūṭa, Badrī-nārāyaṇa, Jagannātha Purī, and Naimiṣāraṇya.

ayodhyā mathurā māyā kāśi kāñcī avantikā

purī dvāravatī caiva saptaitā mokṣa-dāyikāḥ

Śrī Laghu-bhāgavatāmṛta 1.5.504

Ayodhyā, Mathurā, Māyā (Haridvāra), Kāśī (Vārāṇasī), Kāñcī, Avantikā (Ujjain), and Dvārakā Purī—all these seven cities bestow liberation.

But Citrakūṭa and Naimiṣāraṇya are above all the tīrthas because they bestow bhakti. They are very special places. Although the seven cities bestow liberation—it hasn’t been stated if they bestow bhakti. Therefore, everyone goes to these two places during this month of Vaiśākha. Mahārāja Rāmacandra stayed continuously for one month there. And, Sītā Devī was under the guidance of Anusuya in Atri Ṛṣi’s āśrama.

Sītā Devī had told her, “I will return and serve all the Ṛṣis-Maharṣis.”

Sītā had made this promise.

raghu-kula rīti sadā chale ai

prāṇa jay par vacana na jai

Tulasīdāsji

Rāmacandra told Sītā, “You had promised to return to the forest after our fourteen years of exile. You desired to give much wealth and cloth in charity to the Ṛṣis-Maharṣis. You wanted to serve and help them. But, why are you not going now? Have you forgotten your promise? You should go and serve everybody.”

Many people say, “Rāmacandra rejected Sītā because of a washerman.”

So, did Rāmacandra have faith in the words of a washerman? Did He not have any faith in Sītā Devī? Rāmacandra is God Himself; how can He have any doubt in Sītā Devī? Why is Rāmacandra blamed like this? Isn’t He the Supersoul present in everyone’s hearts? Does He not have any power? This has never been written in Vālmīki-Rāmāyaṇa or ĀdhyātmikaRāmāyaṇa. I have never heard Śrīla Gurudeva say this.

Śrīla Gurudeva had said that Sītā Devī had made a promise to return to the āśramas of the Ṛṣis-Maharṣis. Also, Nārada Ṛṣi had cursed Lord Viṣṇu.

When Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa were born, Viśvāmitra told Daśaratha Mahārāja, “You should give me your two sons—Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa.”

Daśaratha Mahārāja didn’t want to give his sons away; he loved them so much. But Viśvāmitra anyhow took Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa away.

Rāmacandra thought, “A son will be born to us soon. Nobody wants to give their sons away to the Ṛṣis-Maharṣis because the parents have so much love and affection for them. But the children will not learn anything if they don’t go to the residences of the Ṛṣis-Maharṣis. Also, Sītā Devī has promised to return and serve all the Ṛṣis-Maharṣis.”

Therefore, on the pretext of sending Sītā to the forest, Rāmacandra told her, “You should go and serve the Ṛṣis-Maharṣis as much as you wish.”

Although Sītā promised to return—Rāmacandra didn’t. Thus, Sītā Devī resided in Vālmīki’s āśrama. Lava and kuśa were born to her. Lava and kuśa learnt everything from Vālmīki. It is said by some that Rāmacandra was separated from Sītā Devī for 11, 000 years. Lava and kuśa came to Ayodhyā when they were young boys. They sang Sītā Devī’s glories in the royal assembly. Rāmacandra then tried to have Sītā return. They were separated from each other for a few years. Rāmacandra stayed alone for a long time after Sītā Devī’s disappearance. But Sītā Devī didn’t stay for a long time in Vālmīki’s āśrama; she disappeared after some time.

You should seriously follow bhakti. Also, you should very seriously and carefully glorify God and the Guru-varga. You will have good intelligence by following this month of Vaiśākha. You can easily practice bhakti-yoga in this month.

Mahāprabhu said: ‘yāre dekha, tāre kaha ‘kṛṣṇa’-upadeśa’, You should speak Kṛṣṇa’s and Śrī Guru’s instructions to everyone. Don’t speak anything else. Bhakti will be finished if doubt appears in your heart. Then you will not progress because you no longer have a relation with Kṛṣṇa. You will have no help. Therefore, be very careful. Brahmā, Viṣṇu, and Maheśa came to test Anusuya—but she was very strong. She didn’t lose her faith.

Therefore, we pray everyday:

gaṅge ca yamune caiva godāvari sarasvati

narmade sindho kāveri jale ‘smin sannidhiṁ kuru

Arcana-dīpikā

In this water, I invoke the presence of holy waters from the rivers Gaṅgā, Yamunā, Godāvarī, Sarasvatī, Narmada, Sindhu and Kaveri.

These holy rivers will always help you. But, Mandākinī’s name is not mentioned here. During this month, Mandākinī, Citrakūṭa, and Naimiṣāraṇya are especially worshiped and visited. Once, Śrīla Gurudeva took many devotees from Mathurā to Citrakūṭa. He didn’t take me along.

He told me, “I am going if you are staying in Mathurā. I

After he returned, Śrīla Gurudeva told me, “When we reached Citrakūṭa, I looked for some āśrama that could provide arrangements for cooking and staying. Meanwhile, some sādhus came from an āśrama and told me, ‘Mahārāja, please come to our āśrama.’ The other sādhus said, ‘Mahārāja, you should come to our āśrama.’ Everyone invited me. I thought, ‘Where would we stay?’ But now, everyone was inviting us to their āśramas.

We then went to a big āśrama. We were given a huge wok and four containers of pure ghee. We were also given dhal, vegetables, and wheat flour. We decided to make pūrīs, sabjī, and kṣīra. We offered everything to Ṭhākura and distributed His prasāda to so many people.”

The brahmacārīs were very happy to cook. They made many pūrīs; they also made huge amounts of kṣīra and halavā.

The sādhus told Śrīla Gurudeva, “Mahārāja, you should stay here with your group. You can stay for even one year—no harm. Mandākinī’s and Raja Rāmacandra’s mercy is present here. There are no problems here.”

Śrīla Gurudeva stayed for a couple of nights. Śrīla Gurudeva would speak hari-kathā and then, take all the devotees for darśana. Everyone would then bathe in the Mandākinī and in the Gupta-Godavari. When Śrīla Gurudeva returned, he told me, “You must go there as well.”

I replied, “I don’t know the way. How can I go?”

“You must go!”

“I don’t know anything. I have never been out of Mathurā.”

Some brahmacārīs and me then went to Citrakūṭa. We went during the winter. By Śrīla Gurudeva’s mercy, we had the darśana of the Mandākinī and the ṛṣisāśramas. Although it was winter, the water was warm. Citrakūṭa is exactly like Naimiṣāraṇya. There are many places of bhajana-sādhana and austerities in India. And many are found in Uttar Pradesh. Many Ṛṣis-Maharṣis visit Atri Ṛṣi’s āśrama during this month of Vaiśākha and bathe in the Mandākinī. They reside there from Caitra Pūrṇimā until Vaiśākha Pūrṇimā. But now, the vrata is observed from saṅkrānti to saṅkrānti. It is not observed during the time between the appearance of two full moons. Candana-yātrā and Tulasī-sevā will stop during this time. Therefore, the vrata is observed from saṅkrānti to saṅkrānti.

 Srila Gurudeva ki Jaya! (excerpted from Sri Kesava-Vrata, available from: dasrasikmohan@gmail.com )