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Introduction to Damodarastakam
tabe tara disha sphure mo-nicera hridaya
ishvara tumi, ye karaha, sei siddha haya
“If You would please manifest Yourself within my heart and personally direct me in writing this book, then, although I am so mean, I may hope to be able to write it. You can do this because You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead Yourself, and whatever You direct is perfect.” (Cc Madhya, 24.327)
With these words Shri Sanatana Gosvami sought the blessings and the inspiration of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, complying with the Lord’s order to compose Hari-bhakti-vilasa1. Despite the existence of other smriti-shastras such as Manu-smriti, Yajnavalkya-smriti, and so on, a specificVaishnava-smriti was wanting2. Therefore the Lord asked Sanatana:
vrindavane krishna-seva, vaishnava-acara
bhakti-smriti-shastra kari kariha pracara
“Establish devotional service to Lord Krishna and Radharani in Vrindavana. You should also compile bhakti scripture and preach the bhakti cult from Vrindavana.” (Cc Madhya 23.104)
Conforming to the Lord’s order, Sanatana Gosvami, assisted by
Gopala Bhatta Gosvami, wrote Hari-bhakti-vilasa, which contains instructions on
routine activities, descriptions of rituals and festivities, scriptural
evidences for theological and philosophical Vaishnava tenets, and much more.
The book is filled with authoritative quotations from hundreds of scriptures.
Some of its chapters describe the various lunar months, including a calendar of the various festivities and ceremonies, and one full chapter, the sixteenth, is devoted to the month of Kartika, which is particularly dear to the Lord and to His devotees.
The present book is an attempt to concisely render this chapter in
English language. It is arranged in two parts: the first is a detailed
translation of the Damodarashtaka verses accompanied by the respective
commentary, and the second is a digest of the whole chapter, which unfolds in
three subdivisions, namely Cogency of Kartika vratas, Greatness of Kartika, and
Although there are already some English versions of Damodarashtaka
available, the necessity of a new translation was dictated by the presence of
the commentary which accompanies it. The commentary, in fact, gives shades of
meanings which were not referred to in previous translations, and in order to
give full justice and maximum clarity to the commentary I was forced to
translate the verses afresh; the same is true for the Bhagavatam verses quoted
by the author in his commentary. In Sanskrit poetry, words have the power to
express several different meanings, just like the sound of a bell (dhvani)
reverberates and expands in many echoing waves. Therefore I certainly do not
intend to undermine other translations and I plead those readers who are accustomed
to read them regularly to bear with me. The work of those translators was
certainly encomiable and it would be foolish not to acknowledge its value,
nevertheless I believe it does not fully represent the original. Perhaps to
respect it more than the original may even culminate in a sin of false piety.
Damodarashtaka is quoted in Hari-bhakti-vilasa as an extract from Padma Purana3, where it is ascribed to Sage Satyavrata.4 Sanatana Gosvami introduces it, with these verses from Padma Purana, as part of the worship to Shri Shri Radha-Damodara, the presiding Deities of the month,:
tatah priyatama vishno radhika gopikasu ca
kartike pujaniya ca shri-damodara-sannidhau
“Shri Radhika is Lord Hari’s favorite among the Gopis. Therefore during Kartika She should be worshipped, next to Shri-Damodara.”
dvijam damodaram krtva tat-patnim radhikam tatha
kartike pujaniyau tau vaso’lankara-bhojanaih.
radhika-pratimam viprah pujayet kartike tu yah
tasya tushyati tat-prityai shriman damodaro harih.
“During Kartika, one should worship a brahmana as Shri Damodara and his wife as Shri Radha, offering them garments, ornaments and eatables. O brahmanas! Shri Damodara, Lord Hari, is very pleased with the devotee who seeks Shri Radhika’s satisfaction by worshipping her murti during the month of Kartika.”
damodarashtakam nama stotram damodararcanam
nityam damodarakarshi pathet satyavratoditam.
“One should recite regularly the hymn sung by Satyavrata Rishi called Damodarashtaka, because this worship attracts Shri Damodara.” (HBV 16.195-198)
Sanatana Gosvami himself compiled a commentary on
Hari-bhakti-vilasa called Dig-darshini-tika. Dig-darshini means «which gives
the orientation» and tika means commentary. In Sanskrit literature it is quite
common to find an author commenting on his own work, so the reader ought not to
The commentary is enriched by frequent citations from
Shrimad-Bhagavatam. Sanatana Gosvami is renowned as a true rasika and a great
expert in the subtle meanings of Shrila Vyasadeva’s masterpiece. His
elucidations emphasize the proper attitude in praying to the Lord, display the
true teaching behind the Lord’s lila, and disclose some hidden truths about
I chose to add to the translation of the commentary its transliteration. I’m a Sanskrit lover and I felt it my duty to encourage the reader to learn more about this extraordinary language. I also did it for the benefit of scholarly readers who may like to verify the translation with the original.
As for the second part, I did not include Devanagari script and transliteration of the verses to keep the size of the book within reasonable limits. I tried to clarify obscure topics with extensive footnotes, many of which are extracts from Dig-darshini-tika.
At first I thought of retaining the Sanskrit for technical words such as bhakti, prema, bhava, etc., which are widely employed in the text and in the commentary. Later on I tried to smoothen the prose by using English equivalents. In the last drafts, however, I opted for a compromise between the two approaches.
For example I believe that «devotion» does not convey the full meaning of bhakti, which is a much more dynamic concept6 . Similarly, «loving devotion» is not fully satisfactory as an equivalent for prema, especially due to the implications of the word «love» in the present use. Again, neither «feeling» nor «sentiment» do cover the full import of bhava in the context of bhakti. The word «pathos» may be more accurate, due to the specific usage in the field of aesthetics, but it is not very intelligible for the occasional reader, and its connotations are somewhat misguiding when superimposed on Indian aesthetics.
A more exhaustive analysis of these and other words would be necessary to give the original work full justice, were it not for the fear of trespassing the borders of this book. After all, this had always been a dilemma – any work of translation is bound to incompleteness — and I am aware of being distant from a final solution. The core of the problem lies in the difference in culture, habits and language. These incompatibilities are even more marked between ancient and modern civilizations, owing to the lapse of time. Moreover, philosophical works are particularly liable to translation incongruities7.
As for philosophical conclusions, Sanatana Gosvami’s work is surely flawless, having been written with accomplished scholarship and full realization. In the event of discrepancies I claim full responsability, hope for the clemency of the reader, and beg the author for forgiveness.