Śrīla Gurudeva speaks on Kātyāyanī-vrata

Vraja maṇḍala parikramā, Cīra ghāṭa, 9th November 1993
Śrīla Gurudeva, Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja, leading a group of faithful devotees and pilgrims throughout the land of Vraja maṇḍala arrives at the bank of the Yamunā, Cīra ghāṭa, where the vraja-gopīs performed kātyāyanī-vrata, worship of Yogamāyā Devī for the pleasure of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. He explains many secret truths about this vrata and then in great happiness engages himself and all the devotees in worship of Kātyāyanī Devī. Below is an English translation from the Hindi that Śrīla Gurudeva spoke at this place. (For the pleasure of all the Hindi speaking devotees we have included the original sound file as well).
Śrīla Gurudeva: This is not a new place. This Vraja-dhāma is from time immemorial. By hearing and witnessing these pastimes, a greed to attain Kṛṣṇa awakens in the heart of new sādhakas. The śrutis also developed this greed, as well as the 60 thousand ṛṣis of Daṇḍakāraṇya forest. They thought, “Just as the gopīs stayed with Kṛṣṇa and worshiped Him, we will also serve Him in that way. They performed rāsa and by that they satisfied Kṛṣṇa, so we also want to be able to do this.”
There were not only one, or two gopīs, but groups and groups of them. Even at present times a sādhaka may develop this greed in his heart upon hearing the pastimes of Kṛṣṇa, “I want to serve Kṛṣṇa like the gopīs. I want to serve Rādhāji.” Therefore, Yogamāyā arranged for those who were qualified, those who had been worshiping for a long time, like one, two or even ten kalpas (a day of Brahmā), to take birth here from the womb of a gopī.

They are the princesses (rāja kumarīs) of Janaka Purī, the Rṣis of Daṇḍākāraṇya forest, and they came as a group (yūtha), or alone (ayutha). Those who had been worshipping in this mood for tens of millions of years by chanting the kāma-gāyatrī, and gopāla-mantra, they all took birth here as gopīs.

When they are very young – this is the custom or tradition everywhere in Vraja – If it does not rain .… Audio cut.…. we can still see them passing our Maṭha in Mathurā singing songs. They don’t know what marriage means. What is vivāha (Hindi word for marriage) they have no understanding. .…Not only here but in all of India (bhārata-varṣa) we find this custom.
These young girls they don’t know what marriage is. All of them from childhood approach Śankara, Durgā, Kātyāyanī, Umā in search of a good husband. From the time when she was young Rukmiṇī worshiped Umā. Sīta Devī also did this from childhood. In this way, this pūjā was a custom from ancient times. So those (ṛṣīcarī, rājakumari etc.) gopīs who took birth from the womb of the gopīs had their previous life impressions (samskāras) from birth, and in this birth they saw the nitya-siddha, eternally perfected gopīs, worshipping Kātyāyanīji from childhood.

Kātyāyanīji resides at this place. From neighboring villages and from this village (Sehara) all small kumarī girls – some the age of two, three, four, five, six, eight – until they are not married, up to the age of twelve, come here. After twelve they would get married and that marriage would be strong. However, nowadays, marriages that take place even at the age of thirty are weak. Nowadays, one is not forced to get married, therefore girls arrange for their own marriages. Sometimes a court marriage, or in whichever way they want. Then they leave them and go for a second, third, and so on. This is for both boys and girls. Before, at the age of twelve, the verbal agreement made by the parents would last, what to speak of one life, ten lives. That’s how strong these agreements were. That’s how their saṁskāras were made.
So these small girls would come here from their villages and for one month bathe in the Yamunā. There is a tree at that place and the Yamunā as well. Sometimes Yamunā is here and sometimes there. Now she is somewhat closer. One time when we came it was flooding and she was here nearby. Other times we have seen her over there. But anyhow she remains here. Especially she refuses to leave Tapovana, always staying right nearby.

Here the gopīs did worship (arādhana) for one month by bathing every day, becoming clean and changing their clothes and by taking dhūpa, incense, dīpa, ghee-lamp, conch shell, water, and so on. In this way they would perform worship with sixteen ingredients, such as bhoga-rāga, naivedya etc. Now there is a stone deity but before they would make her out of sand and place it under the tree and would worship it as Kātyāyanī. What would they say?

kātyāyani mahā-māye
mahā-yoginy adhīśvari
nanda-gopa-sutaṁ devī
patiṁ me kuru te namaḥ
Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 10.22.4

They did not know what the meaning of ‘pati’ (husband) is, or the meaning of marriage. But they used to do this since childhood. If they had known or had the association of the gopīs they would not have used the word ‘pati’ but would have used a different word instead like ‘priyatam’ beloved, or any other word.

Therefore, when twenty-nine days had passed, on the thirtieth day all the small girls invited all the married girls whom had not given birth yet and who were like kumarīs like Lalitā, Viśākhā, Citrā, Śrīmatī Rādhikā, Campakalatā, Indulekhā and so on, as well as the vipakṣa-gopīs like Padmā, Candrāvalī, Śaibyā, and Bhadrā, Kuṇḍalatā, all of them. Those who had married within the last year but had not yet given birth were also accepted as kumarīs.

They invited them all and thought if they come our pūjā will become successful. Therefore, on the last day of full moon, Pūrṇimā, they invited all the gopīs mentioned earlier – Lalitā, Viśākhā, Rādhikā, and they came here to this place. They were here at this ghāṭa on the bank of Yamunā.
In the mood of a child they all took off their clothes and went to take bath in the Yamunā. It was four a.m. during brahma–muhūrta. They started to take bath and it was quite cold at that time. They were shivering, but with a strong desire they still took their bath. At that time Kṛṣṇa, playing, arrived on the scene along with Subala, Śrīdāma and other young boys of two and a half years to three years of age. With the boys He collected all the clothes and climbed up into the tree, and put the clothes on the branches. The gopīs where bathing and when Kṛṣṇa saw that He had not gotten their attention He began making a lot of noise and commotion by laughing and clapping.

At that time the gopīs looked and exclaimed, “Oh! Where have our clothes gone and who is that in the tree?” They looked and saw it was Kanhaiyā with some other boys. It struck them then, “Our clothes are not here anymore. Where are they?” They saw all their clothes – red, blue, yellow, green and so on, hanging from above. “It seems that today maybe He will not leave us so easily,” they thought. The gopīs folded their hands and began to pray but Kṛṣṇa would not give their clothes. They began shivering.

Kṛṣṇa said, “You have committed offense to the Jala-devatā, the presiding deity of the water here. No one should bathe naked, especially in the dark. You have committed an offense, therefore folding your hands you should beg for forgiveness from the presiding deity of the water. In the end the gopīs saw that He whom they were doing this vrata for had now come, and whatever He is saying is only like a child’s play, therefore they relented and said, “Okay, okay, we will do whatever You say.”

In the end Kṛṣṇa told the gopīs to come out and sent Śrīdāma and Subala to go bring the gopīs out from the water. When they got down from the tree then all the gopīs together threatened them by shouting, “Grab those naughty boys,” and the sākhas out of fear quickly ran away. They threatened them in such a way that they ran up the tree out of fear.

After some time they came out of the water as Kṛṣṇa requested and with folded hands offered Him praṇāmas, took their clothes and left.

They worshipped Kātyāyanīji but who came? Who gave them blessings? Kṛṣṇa did. Therefore, in my understanding this was not worship of Kātyāyanī but rather of Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa came as the devatā, worshipful God, and said, I will fulfill all your hearts’ desires in the upcoming autumn full moon, śarada–pūrṇimā.
In this way, why did they call all the sakhīs on the last day? Not because the vrata had ended but in order to get the association of the nitya–siddha gopīs. Without their association it would never be possible themselves to become eternally perfected, nitya–siddha. When Kṛṣṇa played His flute during the time of rāsa, those gopīs who remained, who already had children and had pūrva–anurāga, were unable to come. They were stopped by their husbands. At that time, in intense pain of separation, they took Kṛṣṇa into their hearts and embraced Him. In this way, becoming completely purified, leaving all other moods aside, they then arrived first at Kṛṣṇa’s rāsa.

Therefore, this place is the place of perfection for the gopīs (siddhi ka sthāna). Now we will go over there to the bank of the Yamunā and whoever can take bath will take bath and then returning from there we will go to the temple of Kātyāyanī and there we will do Her ārati with incense (dhūpa) and ghee lamp (dīpa) and we will chant this mantra (kātyāyanī mahā-māye…) and please her and Kṛṣṇa by offering flowers. We will pray, “Just like you fulfilled the inner desires of the gopīs, in the same way fulfill our hearts’ desires as well.” Gaura Premānande Hari Hari Bol!

Śrīla Gurudeva and devotees in unison loudly chant again and again:

kātyāyani mahā-māye / mahā-yoginy adhīśvari
nanda-gopa-sutaṁ devī / patiṁ me kuru te namaḥ
Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 10.22.4
Gurudeva: priyatama me kuru te namaḥ 
All devotees: priyatama me kuru te namaḥ

Audio cuts…

Śrīla Gurudeva and devotees singing stutis:
naumīḍya te ’bhra-vapuṣe taḍid-ambarāya
vanya-sraje kavala-vetra-viṣāṇa-veṇu-
lakṣma-śriye mṛdu-pade paśupāṅgajāya
Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 10.14.1
O master, in the entire universe, only You are worthy of being praised. O Vrajendra-nandana, son of the king of Vraja, Your body, appearing like a fresh rain-cloud, is adorned with a yellow cloth that glistens like lightening and appears amazingly brilliant. Because You are wearing makara-shaped earrings and a peacock feather on Your head, Your lotus face radiates an uncommon splendour. Around Your neck is a garland made of innumerable kinds of forest flowers and leaves. Tucked under Your arm are a cane and a buffalo horn. Your flute, which is tied by Your waist-belt, looks very beautiful. In Your lovely, soft hands is a morsel of yoghurt and rice. Even You are attracted by this cowherd boy attire of Yours. I simply fall to the ground like a stick again and again at Your feet, which are softer than lotuses, and which are marked with all the auspicious signs.
athāpi te deva padāmbuja-dvaya-
prasāda-leśānugṛhīta eva hi
jānāti tattvaṁ bhagavān-mahimno
na cānya eko ’pi ciraṁ vicinvan
Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 10.14.29
O Bhagavān, You are unfathomable. Who in the three worlds can understand where, why, when and how You perform Your līlā? Still, O Bhagavān, You manifest Yourself in the hearts of Your bhaktas, who have received even a slight trace of the mercy of Your lotus feet. Thus they become blessed and are the only ones who can understand the tattva of the glory of Your sac-cid-ānanda svarūpa. Even after long-term enthusiastic endeavour, in sādhanas such as jñāna and vairāgya a person can never actually know Your glories.
jñāne prayāsam udapāsya namanta eva
jīvanti san-mukharitāṁ bhavadīya-vārtām
sthāne sthitāḥ śruti-gatāṁ tanu-vāṅ-manobhir
ye prāyaśo ’jita jito ’py asi tais tri-lokyām
Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 10.14.3

Those who, even while remaining situated in their established social positions, throw away the process of speculative knowledge and with their body, words and mind offer all respects to descriptions of Your personality and activities, dedicating their lives to these narrations, which are vibrated by You personally and by Your pure devotees, certainly conquer Your Lordship, although You are otherwise unconquerable by anyone within the three worlds.

tad bhūri-bhāgyam iha janma kim apy aṭavyāṁ
yad gokule ’pi katamāṅghri-rajo-’bhiṣekam
yaj-jīvitaṁ tu nikhilaṁ Bhagavān mukundas
tv adyāpi yat-pada-rajaḥ śruti-mṛgyam eva
Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 10.14.34
Aho! It would be my great fortune to take birth as a blade of grass, a shrub or any other species which may be anointed with the dust falling from the lotus feet of any of the Brajabāsīs of Vṛndāvana. Even the śrutis, who have been searching for so long, have not yet received the dust of the lotus feet of Bhagavān Mukunda, who is the life and soul of these Brajabāsīs. If it is impossible for me to take birth in any species in Vṛndāvana, then let me take birth even as a rock on the border of Nanda-Gokula. The ladies who sweep the streets will then rub their feet on this rock to clean them, and by this I will receive the good fortune of touching the dust of their feet (or as a rocky hill – Brahma-parvata – so that I may witness and serve Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa’s sweet līlās).
jānanta eva jānantu
kiṁ bahūktyā na me prabho
manaso vapuṣo vāco
vaibhavaṁ tava go-caraḥ
Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 10.14.38
There are people who say, “I know everything about Kṛṣṇa.” Let them think that way. As far as I am concerned, I do not wish to speak very much about this matter. O my Lord, let me say this much: As far as Your opulences are concerned, they are all beyond the reach of my mind, body and words.
tad astu me nātha sa bhūri-bhāgo
bhave ‘tra vānyatra tu vā tiraścām
yenāham eko ‘pi bhavaj-janānāṁ
bhūtvā niṣeve tava pāda-pallavam
Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 10.14.30

My dear Lord, I therefore pray to be so fortunate that in this life as Lord Brahmā or in another life, wherever I take my birth, I may be counted as one of Your devotees. I pray that wherever I may be, even among the animal species, I can engage in devotional service to Your lotus feet.
Stutis continue.… Recording breaks.…