nityotsavam na tatrpur drsibhih pibantyo
naryo naras ca muditah kupita nimes ca
â€œKrsnaâ€™s face is decorated with ornaments, such as earrings resembling sharks. His ears are beautiful, His cheeks brilliant, and His smiling attractive to everyone. Whoever sees Lord Krsna sees a festival. His face and body are fully satisfying for everyone to see, but the devotees are angry at the creator for the disturbance caused by the momentary blinking of their eyes.â€
Once, soon after we arrived in India, we accompanied Srila Prabhupada to an aristocratic gentlemanâ€™s home for a program. There, some of the respectable Hindus told us it was a holy day. As we had never heard of the holy day and were somewhat doubtful, we asked Srila Prabhupada, â€œIs today really a holiday?â€ Srila Prabhupada replied, â€œFor us, every day is a holidayâ€”we are Krsnaâ€™s servants.â€
In his purport to the verse above, Srila Prabhupada wrote, â€œSeeing Krsna is described here as nitya-utsava, a daily festival.â€ Nitya also means â€œeternal.â€
Krsna consciousness is an eternal festival celebrating Krsnaâ€”His name, form, qualities, pastimes, and paraphernalia. In Sri Krsnaâ€™s association, every moment is a festival. If, for example, the wind happens to blow Krsnaâ€™s dhoti, His cowherd friends will immediately converse amongst themselves. â€œOh, did you see how the wind blew Krsnaâ€™s dhoti? Did you see . . . ?â€ And so they will glorify Krsnaâ€™s form, pastimes, and paraphernalia in a joyous celebration.
gayanti sma maha-raja
â€œThe cowherd boys would sing enchanting songs appropriate to the occasion, and their hearts would melt out of love for the Lord.â€ (SB 10.15.19) Tad-anurupani, â€œsuitable for the occasion,â€ means that they would glorify Krsna for His beauty or according to His pastime. And every moment would bring some new manifestation of Krsnaâ€™s glories worth worshiping and celebrating.
Still, our acaryas (predecessor spiritual masters) and scriptures have specified certain holy days to be celebrated, and they have given us directions how to observe them. In this volumeâ€”and in our daily livesâ€”we follow these authorities and their directions.
In Lord Caitanyaâ€™s talks with Sanatana Gosvami, He directed him to compile a book (later known as Hari-bhakti-vilasa) that would describe Vaisnava characteristics and behavior. He specifically instructed him:
dina-krtya, paksa-krtya, ekadasy-adi-vivarana
ekadasi, janmastami, vamana-dvadasi
sri-rama-navami, ara nrsimha-caturdasi
â€œYou should describe the ritualistic duties to be performed every day and fortnightlyâ€”especially Ekadasi. You should also describe the duties to be observed every month, and you should especially describe the observance of ceremonies like Janmastami. Ekadasi, Janmastami, Vamana-dvadasi, Rama-navami, and Nrsimha-caturdasiâ€”all these should be described.â€ (Cc Madhya 24.340â€“342)
The observance of holy days is one of the practices in devotional service. In Sri Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, which Srila Prabhupada called â€œthe complete science of bhakti-yoga,â€ Srila Rupa Gosvami enumerates the different items of devotional service, and several pertain to the observance of holy days.
One such item is seeing festivals (utsava-darsanam). Srila Rupa Gosvami cites two references from sastra that describe the benefit of simply witnessing such worship:
ratha-stam ye niriksante
devatanam ganah sarve
â€œDog-eaters and other low persons who joyfully see Kesava on His chariot all become associates of the Lord.â€ (Bhavisya Purana, Brs 1.2.168)
va yah pasyed bhaktito harim
sraddhaya modamanas tu
so â€™pi yoga-phalam labhet
â€œHe who sees the Lord with devotion, faith, and joy, after He is worshiped or while He is being worshiped, attains eternal service to the Lord.â€ (Agni Purana, Brs 1.2.169)
Another item is celebrating festivals according to oneâ€™s means (yatha vaibhava-mahotsava):
yah karoti mahipala
harer gehe mahotsavam
tasyapi bhavati nityam
â€œO king, he who performs a festival for the temple of the Lord experiences for eternity a festival in the planet of the Lord.â€ (Padma Purana, Brs 1.2.220)
Others items include rising when the Deity approaches, following the Lordâ€™s procession, and observing Urja-vrata, or Damodara-vrata (Brs 1.2.130, 131, and 221), as well as celebrating the Lordâ€™s appearance day (sri-janma-dina-yatra) (Brs 1.2.224):
yasmin dine prasuteyam
devaki tvam janardana
tad-dinam bruhi vaikunÃ¶ha
kurmas te tatra cotsavam
prasadam kuru kesavah
Srila Prabhupada explains this verse in his summary study of Sri Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, The Nectar of Devotion (Chapter 12): â€œIn the Bhavisya Purana there is a statement about observing different ceremonies celebrating the Lordâ€™s appearance (birthday) and other transcendental activities. It is said, â€˜My Lord Janardana [KÃ¥sna], please let us know the date when Your mother Devaki-devi gave birth to You. If You kindly inform us about this, then we shall observe a great celebration on this date. O killer of Kesi, we are souls one hundred percent surrendered unto Your lotus feet, and we wish only to please You with our ceremonies.â€™ This statement of the Bhavisya Purana gives evidence that by observing different functions in relationship with the Lord one is sure to become pleasing to the Lord.â€
The great acarya Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, in Saranagati, sings, madhava-tithi, bhakti-janani, jetane palana kori: â€œWith great care I observe holy days like Ekadasi and Janmastami, for they are the mother of devotion.â€
Why are holy days the mother of devotion?
Srila Rupa Gosvami has enumerated the five most potent practices in devotional service: sadhu-sanga, nama-kirtana, bhagavata-sravana, mathura-vasa, and sri-murtira sraddhaya sevana. All of these practices are invoked in the observance of holy days. At festive gatherings, one associates with devotees, in particular more advanced devotees (sadhu-sanga). One chants the holy name of the Lord (nama-kirtana), hears the Lordâ€™s pastimes from scriptures such as Srimad-Bhagavatam (bhagavata-svaranam), and worships the Deity with faith and veneration (sri-murtira sraddhaya sevana). And one often observes such festivals in holy places (mathura-vasa) or in temples where the Deity has been installed, which are said to be as good as the holiest of all holy places; and the observance of holy days itself is often counted as part of Deity worship.
Of these five practices, the chanting of the holy name is most important. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu further instructed Srila Sanatana Gosvami:
tara madhye sarva-srestha nama-sankirtana
niraparadhe nama laile paya prema-dhana
â€œOf the nine processes of devotional service, the most important is to always chant the holy name of the Lord. If one does so, avoiding the ten kinds of offenses, one very easily obtains the most valuable love of Godhead.â€ (Cc Antya 4.71)
In fact, the main theme of the entire Srimad-Bhagavatam is the chanting of the holy names of the Lord. In the very beginning of Sukadeva Gosvamiâ€™s instructions we find:
yoginam nrpa nirnitam
â€œO King, constant chanting of the holy name of the Lord after the ways of the great authorities is the doubtless and fearless way of success for all, including those who are free from all material desires, those who are desirous of all material enjoyment, and also those who are self-satisfied by dint of transcendental knowledge.â€ (SB 2.1.11) We find glorification of the holy name throughout the Bhagavatam, and in the very last verse:
tam namami harim param
â€œI offer my respectful obeisances unto the Supreme Lord, Hari, the congregational chanting of whose holy names destroys all sinful reactions, and the offering of obeisances unto whom relieves all material suffering.â€ (SB 12.13.23)
Holy days in particular afford devotees a chance to chant the holy names together in kirtana and individually in japa. In his Hari-nama-cintamani, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura says that one can gain, or regain, or increase oneâ€™s taste for chantingâ€”and chant attentively, without offense (niraparadhe)â€”by enthusiastically and without diversion observing holy days such as Ekadasi, Janmastami, and Radhastami. On such occasions, he tells us, one should pass the entire day and night in the association of pure devotees, ideally in a holy dhama or temple, absorbed in chanting and singing the glories of the Lord and reading and discussing sastras like the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam. If one participates in these festivals without anxiety or hesitation, the festivals will gradually â€œrekindle the dying spark of spiritual tasteâ€ and awaken oneâ€™s genuine attraction to the pastimes of the Supreme Lord.
Relishing the higher taste of pure Krsna consciousness, one will naturally give up oneâ€™s inferior, material attachments and be â€œenraptured by the sweet songs about the Supreme Lord sung by the devotees.â€ Oneâ€™s ears will be filled with nectar, and oneâ€™s mind â€œwill become dislodged from matter and fixed in the pastimes and holy names of the Lord.â€ Then, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura concludes, â€œone can chant eternally in a peaceful and joyous mood.â€
We hope the readers of this book will take pleasure in reading it, observing the various holy days, and entering deeply into the teachings and practices of Krsna consciousness. Our ultimate goal is the eternal festival in Krsnaâ€™s association, in Krsnaâ€™s abode, in Krsnaâ€™s loving service.
 See, for example, SB 1.1.14; 1.6.26; 2.7.15; 3.33.6â€“7; 4.7.47; 4.10.30; 4.30.36; 5.25.11; 6.2.7â€“16; 6.3.22â€“24, 26, 31â€“32; 8.23.16; 10.34.17; 11.2.40; 11.5.32, 36â€“37; and 12.3.51â€“52, among others.