Dedicated father and pujari Ragunath Das Zaldivar is currently celebrating an incredible 14 consecutive years of Kartik festivals at his and his wife Yamuna Devi’s home in Alachua, Florida.
A second-generation devotee and disciple of Radha-Govinda Swami, Ragunath began holding Kartik for his home Deities Sri-Sri Radha-Madan-Mohan in 2003, the same year he began worshipping Them.
He has not missed a single year since. And during Kartik – running from October 15th to November 13th this year – he doesn’t miss a day apart from Sundays.
“I do it as a vow, or vrata for my Lords,” he says. “It’s a major commitment for a family. The kids might make a mess, but you have to make sure the house is clean for an entire month! And no matter what event is happening, or what household responsibility you have, you have to be back home at the same time every day, and your door has to be open for everybody to come.”
Sure enough, at 6:15pm every day, devotees – mostly second-generation with their young families – crowd into Ragu’s home temple room.
Averaging around a dozen, but rising to as many as forty-five during busier periods, they offer dipas, or ghee wicks, to Radha-Madan Mohan and Lord Damodar. Some make the event one of their own Kartik vows, attending every one.
A different devotee sings the Damodarastakam prayers every evening, with the children sometimes taking turns too. The kids also help by handing out the wicks and purifying each worshipper’s hand with achaman water.
Everyone then reads out the translation of the prayers together. Afterwards, some stay for homegrown lemongrass tea, or, on special days, prasadam. The forty-five-minute program is finished by 7pm, so that it is sustainable throughout the month.
Ragunath's son Purusottama and his friend Vayu light the wicks to offer for Kartik
“People like it because of the personal, family-like environment,” Ragu says. “It’s especially nice for the kids, who can get really involved. Not everyone has home Deities, but they want to see their kids engaged in service to the Lord. And when they come here, they can. The children help out, chant, and see their friends offering wicks to the Deities.”
For Ragu, setting a good example in Deity worship for his own children -- Chandramukhi, 12, Vanamali, 9, and Purushottama, 3 – goes beyond Kartik too.
His beloved Radha-Madan-Mohan have Their own dedicated temple room in his house, along with Their own full pujari room complete with private refrigerator, sink, and closet. Every morning before work, Ragu offers puja to Them, and every evening he puts Them to sleep.
“Kids get very attached to Deity worship, and if parents set the right example with it, it can really help in their spiritual development,” he says.
Kartik is a major part of that. And it makes an impression. As ISKCON News chats with Ragu over the phone, we hear his children singing Damodarastakam at the top of their voices in the background, unbidden.
“It brings a lot to your life, that’s for sure,” Ragu says. “There are so many spiritual benefits from taking on any kind of vow like this during Kartik.”[ alachua ] [ damodara ] [ florida ] [ kartik ]