Every day during this month of Keśava-vrata Śrī Keśava, śālagrāma-śilā or Gopālaji are bathed with butter, ghee, yoghurt, milk and Gaṅgā water. Every day He is given this abhiṣeka, in just the same way as in Vraja when Lalitā Devī, Rādhārānī and the gopīs give this clay pot on top of His head and break it, showering Kṛṣṇa with these auspicious ingredients. Every day during Keśava vrata a clay pot is hung above śrī-śālagrāma and Tulasī-devī and from a small hole in the bottom water drips onto them. Every morning we offer full puṣpāñjali with yoghurt, honey, ghee, sugar, milk and Gaṅgā water, and Kṛṣṇa is given so much pleasure by this; this is kṛṣṇa-pūjā.
After this at Umrāo village the gopīs made Kṛṣṇa write a contract declaring, “Life after life I will be the servant of the gopīs, especially Śrī Rādhikā, and I will never disturb any of their plants or creepers. I take shelter of Śrīmatī Rādhārānī, and I accept her as the sole supreme ruler of Vraja, the empress of Vraja.” And so Kṛṣṇa signs his name there, and becomes her servant. The gopīs do not allow Kṛṣṇa to say that Rādhārānī is the queen because then he can claim to be the king, instead he has to admit that she is the supreme ruler of Vraja.
In this way Kṛṣṇa is always trying to disturb the gopīs, therefore they caught and arrested him and made him sign his name saying, “I am the servant of Rādhārānī.” He had to offer praṇāma one hundred and eight times from all directions, and do parikramā of Rādhārānī. The gopīs made Kṛṣṇa do praṇāma from the front and from behind Rādhārānī.
The gopīs explained, “If you only offer praṇāma from the front, you will think that you must only behave when in front of Rādhārānī, but going behind you will cheat and engage in crooked business. Therefore you must offer praṇāma to Rādhārānī from all sides, and do daṇḍavat parikramā of Her, and in this way and you must promise that you are the servant of Rādhārānī, and that you will never disturb Her garden.” So Kṛṣṇa has so many playful pastimes with the gopīs like this.
The flowers will make us like sādhus, and Vraja is full of these flowers. It is not so easy to offer yourself, but when you offer a flower to Kṛṣṇa then gradually you will develop the ability to surrender and offer yourself. Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura sings in Śaraṇāgati (Ātma-nivedana, song 8):
ātma nivedana, tuyā pade kari,
hainu parama sukhī
duḥkha dūre gela, cintā nā rahila,
caudike ānanda dekhī (1)
By surrendering myself to Your lotus feet I have become supremely happy. All suffering has gone far away and I have no more worries. Now I see happiness in all directions.
tāhāte ekhona, viṣrāma labhiyā
chāḍinu bhavera bhoya (2)
Your lotus feet are reservoirs of immortal nectar where one may live free from lamentation and fear. I have found peace there now and have given up the fear of worldly existence.
When we actually take shelter and surrender at that time we will experience supreme bliss and will become free from all worries. When we offer ourselves to Śrī Kṛṣṇa and the gopīs we become fearless, but if we are not pure then who will accept our garbage as an offering? First we should become like a flower and then we can offer ourselves.
A flower has nothing bad, even when a flower becomes dry its fragrance and color will still remain. Then what can we offer? We should offer ourselves like flowers to Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa, but first we ourselves must try to become like flowers. In Dvārakā there are many big palaces, and so much opulence, but Kṛṣṇa is not happy there, for nothing is natural there. Therefore wherever we have a temple we should cultivate flowers and serve Ṭhākurji with them. We see that Śrīla Swami Prabhupāda always has gardens in his temples, in Māyāpura Śrīla Swami Prabhupāda has such beautiful gardens, and people can go there in the evening and see the fountains and walk in the parks, and in that atmosphere they develop such a sweet Kṛṣṇa conscious mood under his shelter. Śrīla Prabhupāda Sarasvatī Ṭhākura also had flower gardens in his temples; in Caitanya Maṭha he opened vraja-pattana, there was a small kuñja in the middle, and on sides there were gardens and flowers. Nowadays it seems that more emphasis is given to business and making money; people will clean the rooms ten times for guests, but they will not give water once for a plant, nor take care of the flowers. They will spray perfume on their bodies and clean their rooms, but they do not go to the garden where you naturally become uplifted and your mind can easily develop a spiritual mood, but artificial chemicals do not have this power.
So especially in this month we serve Kṛṣṇa with flowers, and just as Śrīmatī Tulasī-devī is very glorious, so these flowers are also very glorious. The eight sakhīs offer themselves to Kṛṣṇa for His service; they make vaijayantī-mālās for Kṛṣṇa using different colored flowers, and they string garlands from these flowers and offer them to Rādhā Kṛṣṇa. But who are these flowers? Jasmine, mallika, bheli, dyuti, the five types of campaka, these flowers have such a wonderful fragrance, and they are one form of the gopīs themselves. The gopīs plant these flower and take care of them, they pick them and string them together, then offer them to Kṛṣṇa, and taking the form of these flower they are able kiss Kṛṣṇa.
Lord Jagannātha and Kṛṣṇa wear earrings and nose rings made from flowers, and these flowers are all gopīs, and they are kissing them. You can see that on Jagannātha’s chest there is a flower kavaca, and His nose has a padaka, a big nose ring, that hangs and touches his lips, and in this way He is always kissing the gopīs, and so Jagannātha is always happy to be touching these flowers. Day and night in the temple of Lord Jagannātha so many garlands are offered to Him. This is the reason that Ṭhākuraji loves to wear these garlands; because in this way He can always associate with the gopīs.
Ṭhākuraji is also worshipped with Tulasī and candana, this candana is the foot dust of the gopīs, and Tulasī is Vṛndā-devī herself, the expansion of svarūpa-śakti. Some flowers are also the manifestations of sakhās, but they don’t have such a sweet fragrance; they are big flowers and they have a bright color, but Kṛṣṇa does not like these flowers so much, he prefers the small and very fragrant flowers, for these are the mañjarīs, such as beli, cameli, dyuti, mallika.
In opulence, even though there are grand displays of love and devotion, there is not so much sweetness, but where there is mādhurya, or sweetness, there will not be such outward displays of opulence, but such love is so much more pleasing to Kṛṣṇa. So in this month we offer flowers and make kuñjas for śālagrāma, every day we worship śrī śālagrāma and Tulasī, and śālagrāma is placed on top of a lotus flower. In this way, surrounded by lotus petals and other beautiful flowers, we are making a kuñja where Śrī Hari can perform his amorous pastimes with Śrīmatī Rādhārānī. When we make a kuñja like this for Śrī Hari, then a kuñja is prepared in Śrī Vraja-dhāma for us, such is Kṛṣṇa’s great mercy.
kalinda-nandinī vipula-taraṅgā (2)
– Śaraṇāgati – Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura
tāhe kuñja śata śata
prabala vidruma-maya taru-latā,
– Śrī Gītā-mālā, 5.5
These are all eternal service places.
When we offer lotus flowers to Kṛṣṇa then our own place is prepared in Goloka. Lotus flowers are generally accepted as the symbol of Lakṣmī Devī, and offering them will take one to Goloka or Vaikuṇṭha, but the five types of flowers like campaka, vraja-nigandha, gandha-rāja and other ones are especially for Vṛndāvana, therefore when you offer these a place is prepared for you in Vṛndāvana, in the kuñjas where the mañjarīs serve Śrī Rādhā Kṛṣṇa. And if you offer the special flowers that blossom at night then you will be allowed to serve Śrī Rādhā Kṛṣṇa in the rāsa-maṇḍala.
So these flowers are the greatest sādhus, but you should serve the plants, not just pick the flowers and then discard and not care for the plants. You must tend to the garden and then your heart will become like a garden. In this month we also offer the kiśalaya, the green leaves not only the flowers. We see that when śālagrāma is worshipped we use lotus, the different smaller flowers, but we also offer green leaves in the decoration. The sakhās make Kṛṣṇa crowns in the forest with green leaves, and decorate His hair with flowers and give him flower earrings, and in the summer they cover Kṛṣṇa in flowers so that He will not feel the heat of the summer sun.
In this month Śrī Keśava-deva himself went to study under the gopīs how to serve Rādhikā, He gave up Vaikuṇṭha and all His opulence and came to Vṛndāvana. In Mathurā He appeared before Devakī and Vāsudeva, but in Vraja He came and actually took birth, so that He could learn from the Vrajavāsīs how to serve. After ten years He said, “There is so much austerity here and I cannot properly serve the gopīs here, therefore I will go to Dvārakā and then I will come back once I am trained and prepared to serve properly.” Kuñja-sevā in Vṛndāvana is very difficult, and even Kṛṣṇa was not able to do it properly, and so He left, but there in Dvārakā He was also not happy and so He came back to Vṛndāvana. During this month Candana-yātrā begins, and every day Kṛṣṇa goes out on boating pastimes with the gopīs, and during this month Śrī Nṛsiṁha-deva will also appear.