Srimad Bhagavata is Krishna’s very own representative-” Krishno Bhagavata svayam”. It is stated in the first skandha of Bhagavatam- “Now that Krishna has returned to His own abode, along with dharma and knowledge, etc ... this Purana has risen like the sun for those bereft of guidance in this Kaliyuga. Even after manifesting the eighteen Puranas, and composing the Brahmasutras and Mahabharata, Veda Vyasa was still not content. He wanted to composed a book which would serve as a natural commentary on his own Brahmasutra, the essence of Upanishads, revealed to him in Samadhi. Vyasa was advised by Narada the celestial sage to compose a Purana describing the marvellous exploits of Lord Sri Krishna to dispel mental depression. Thus was born Srimad Bhagavata in which all that is needed to be known from the Upanishads is revealed in a manner which alone illustrates the common significance of all the scriptures. It is seen as an elaboration of the Gayatri mantra, the mantra, characterized as a concise statement of the significance of all the Vedas. Its true nature has thus been described in the Matsya Purana: “That is to known as the Bhagavata, which, basing itself and elaborating on the Gayatri, describes dharma in all its fullness” speaks volumes for the greatness of the Srimad Bhagavata.
The Supreme goal of life according to Vedas is attainment of the knowledge of the Supreme Truth. That the Absolute Truth is also the essence of this Purana can be inferred from the fact that Vyasa, first offers his respectful obeisance unto the param satyam (Absolute Truth). The term is used to refer to that Supreme Godhead who is beyond all the measures of adjuncts and is the ultimate source of all energies. It is a ‘navanita’ or butter secured by churning the milky ocean of the Vedas and rendering it fit to be relished by the likes of scholars as well the laymen alike. Further, the Srimad Bhagavata is regarded as the repositary of Bhakti (devotion) Doctrine with all its varieties and manifestations. Hence it is rightly called as the Bhakti Bhashya.
The greatness of this text is explained by various other Puranas and texts. In the Padma Purana, there is an instruction by Gautama to Ambarisha about the greatness of the Vyanjuli Dvadashi vow in which context he says-”One should remain awake throughout the night (of the ‘Vyanjuli Mahadvadasi) and listen to compositions concerning Vishnu- The Bhagavad-gita, the Thousand Names of Vishnu, and the Purana narrated by Shuka i.e., the Bhagavata. These acts please Hari.”
He continues- “O Ambarisha! One who wishes to put an end to the cycle of birth and death, should recite or listen daily to the Bhagavata.”
The Dvarakamahatmya of the Prahlada Samhita of the Skanda Purana says- “He who remains awake on Ekadashi and recites the Bhagavata with devotion, in the presence of Hari, shall attain the abode of Vishnu, with his entire family.”
Srimad Bhagavata itself contains the following statement on its greatness- “The Bhagavata represents the essence of all Vedanta. One who is appeased by its nectar-like juice, has no taste for anything else”.
Another importance of Bhagavata lies in the greatness of the person who revealed it and the audience in whose august presence it was brought forth. To listen to Shuka, there came with their disciples great ascetics and sages like Atri, Vasishtha, Chyavana, Sharadvat, Arishthanemi, Bhrugu, Angirasa, Parashara, Vishvamitra, Parashurama, Utathya, Indrapramada, Idhmavaha, Medhatithi, Devala, Arishtisena, Bharadvaja, Gautama, Pippalada, Maitreya, Aurva, Kavasa, Agastya, Vyasa himself, the venerable Narada, as well as other devarishis, brahmarishis and others.
The ritualistic recital (Bhagavata Saptaha) follows certain disciplines found within the Bhagavat itself. The elaborate rules laid down in the Bhagavata Mahatmya states the rules to be followed by a person who recites or arranges for the recital of Bhagavata. They can be summed up as:
1. Firstly, one should call a person who knows about astronomical calculations and find out the appropriate time to start the discourse. The money equivalent to that required for a marriage should be accumulated for conducting the same.
2. For starting the discourse the months like Proshthapada,Ashwina, Karttika, Margashirsha, Ashadha and Shravana - these six months - are more appropriate for getting the required benefit of Mukti to the listeners.
3. The information as to the fact that at such and such place there is going to be a discourse of Srimad Bhagavata is to be notified publicly at all places in the village/town requesting each and every one, along with families, to come and attend and participate in the discourse.
4. The method in which the invitation is to be written is as follows: -” There is going to be a assembly of devotees lasting for seven days at this place. This type of opportunity is not easily available ordinarily. The discourse is going to be the most pleasurable aiming at reaching great spiritual heights. You ought to really seek the experience of such spiritual heights and thus pleas do reach with the inclination of pure love without delay for the purpose of drinking the nectar of the discourse of Srimad Bhagavata Mahapurana. In case you are not able to take time off totally for seven days, you must, somehow or the other, attend at least for one day or two. Because even if a single moment is missed in this discourse, the same may not be available again.
5. The discourse can be held on the bank of any sacred river, in temples, in gardens, or eve in one’s own home. Whichever place is vast, and free from materialistic disturbance, such a place should be selected for the discourse. A beautiful stage for the purpose of delivering the discourse should be erected duly adorned with the positioning of plantain trees tied with the pillars of the stage.
6. On that stage, with the imagination of having seven worlds over there, only seven broad rows of seating have to be set. The seating of persons on these seven rows should be set in advance in such a way suiting their respective eligibility as to their own occupations. Thereafter, the raised special platform for the main discourse deliverer should be properly set.
7. If the main discourse deliverer is seated facing the north direction, the other listeners on the stage should be made to seat facing the east. If the discourse deliverer is facing the east, the listeners should face the north.
8. He should finish his daily ablutions and worship Lord Ganesha with the purpose of ensuring the discourse without any hindrance. Thereafter he should pay obeisance to ancestors, offer repentance prayers for eradication of all his sins. Thereafter he should invoke Lord Krishna and position Him over a flower which has eight petals.
9. He should worship the Lord according to the prescribed methods of “Shodasha Upachara’ (sixteen acts of homage).
1O. Thereafter, he should worship the book of Srimad Bhagavata appropriately with satisfaction and interest.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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