Bhishma Panchaka Fasting - ISKCON Congregational Development Ministry

Bhishma Panchaka Fasting

The fasting austerities for the last 5 days of Kartika (Damodara) Month are known as “Bhisma Pancaka Vrata”. Grandfather Bhisma fasted for these five days, preparing to give up his life. However one observes Kartika-vrata, he should intensify it for the last five days. If someone observes this fast, he is considered to have observed all other fasts, because it is greatly meritorious and frees one from great sins.

arabhyaikadasim panca dinani vratamicaret;

bhagavatpritaye bhismapancakam yadi saknuyat.

“yadi saknuyatditi kamyatvamiti dik” – Srila Sanatana Goswami

“If one is capable the Bhisma-panchaka vow will be observed for the sake of love of God for the five days from the eleventh day (of the bright lunar fortnight in Kartika) up till the fullmoon day.


“The fast should begin by remembering Bhismadeva on the Ekadasi day and should end on Purnima [the full moon]. One should worship Lord Krsna on all days. The significance of this Vrata is given in Vrata-Khanda-Kartika Mahatmya of the Padma Purana, Hari-Bhakti vilas, the Skanda Purana, the Visnu-rahasya and Garuda purana.

Lord Siva said that the Supreme Lord Himself has given these five days to Bhisma and it is therefore called the five days of Bhisma or Bhisma Pancaka. This fast on these last five days of the light part of Kartik was previously performed by Vasistha, Brghu, Garga, etc., in Satyayuga. Ambarisha Maharaja performed this fast and gave up all of his royal happiness in Tretayuga.


Celebrated brahmanas perform this fast with chanting of japa and performance of sacrifices, according to the scriptural rules and regulations. So do ksatriyas and vaisyas who are following truthfulness and cleanliness. This five day fast is difficult for those who are hypocrites and not serious.

The fasting starts on Ekadasi Day which is 4th (Tomorrow) and will continue until the 19 Rasa purnima Day (last day of Caturmasya, last day of Kartik. The fasting is broken at sunset (or at moon rise) on Rasa Purnima day. Generally it is recommended to do full fast on Ekadasi and then the following four days fruits and roots fasting. Or one can do five day fruits and roots fasting.

Levels of fasting:


Devotees can choose whichever level of fasting as is convenient to them. It should not disturb their normal devotional service(s) and daily sadhana.

Level 1:

One can consume products of the cow (pancha-gavya) each for each day:

First day: Cow dung (Gomaya)

Second day: Cow urine (Go-muutra)

Third day: Cow milk (Kshiira)

Fourth day: Cow yoghurt (Dadhi)

Fifth day: All products of the cow mixed (Pancha-gavya)

Level 2:

If one can’t follow level 1, one can take fruits (with one seeds) and roots. Fruits with many seeds should be avoided like guava, pomegranate, papaya, cucumber etc. Boiled potatoes, raw banana and sweet potato can be taken boiled or baked. We can use sea salt for taste. Cashewnuts, raisins, dates can be taken. We shouldn’t take milk and milk products in this level of fasting. Coconut water and grated coconut can be taken.

Level 3:

If one can’t follow level 2, one can take “Havishya.”

References: Padma Puraana, Brahma-khanda, Chapter 23; Skanda Puraana, Vishnu Khanda, Kaartika Maahaatmya section, Chapter 32; Garuda Puraana, Puurva Khanda, Chapter 123.

Ingredients for Havishya as mentioned in Sri Hari-bhakti-vilasa (13.10-13)


The following are ingredients that can be used in making Havishya, which is like a khichari made with these items.

* Aatap rice

* Ghee from cow

* ‘Saindhava’ salt (salt from ocean)

* Milk from cow

* Milk with cream

* Ripe banana

* Kaala-shaaka

* Wheat

* Fruits (Skanda Puraana, Naagara Khanda says they must be with a small seed or with few seeds only)

* Mango

* Jackfruit

* Labali fruit

* Roots except ‘keaa’ (a type of grass or root)

* Pippalii

* Haritakii

* Naagaranga

* Ikshu-dravya or sugarcane derivatives (other than gur or mollasses)

* No oil

The following ingredients are normally part of Havishya but have to be avoided in the month of Kaartika:

* Mung dal

* Til oil

* Beta-shaaka

* Shashtikaa-shaaka

* Radish

* Jeeraa

* Tamarind

One should take bath in Ganges or a holy river every day and should offer tarpana 3 times for Bhismadeva by saying the following mantra:


om vaiyaghra padya gotraya

samkrti pravaraya ca

aputraya dadamyetat

salilam bhismavarmane


vasunamavataraya santanoratmajaya ca

arghyam dadami bhismaya

ajanma brahmacarine


om bhismah santanavo birah

satyavadi jitendriyah


putrapautrocitam kriyam

Offerings to the Lord:


Devotees may offer the following flowers to the Deity:

On the first day, one must offer padma (lotus) flowers to the feet of the Lord.

On the second day, one must offer bilva (wood-apple) leaves of the thigh of the Lord.

On the third day, one must offer gandha (scents) to the navel of the Lord.

On the fourth day, one must offer java flower to the shoulders of the Lord.

On the fifth day, one must offer malati flower to the head (siro-desa) of the Lord.

When there is a overlap of days then the flowers for both days can be offered in the same day.

Reference: Garuda Puraana (op cit.)

*Ras Purnima*

The Full Moon Night of the month of Karthik is known as the Sharad Purnima or Ras Purnima.The festival is also referred as Kaumudi Festival, Kaumudi meaning moonlight. The dazzling night is associated with the divine love filled Raas Lila (Expression of love by graceful dance) of Lord Krsna with Radha and Gopis.This is the night when Krsna would play the Ras Leela the entire night. The day is dedicated to this aspect of Lord Krsna.

The Bhagvad Gita, is recited throughout the night, and the devotees observing a fast keep awake through the night. Young women may undertake the fast considering Krsna as their consort.

The day brings together two major aspects in the lives of farmers – prosperity promised by good harvests, and spiritual blessings from a divine power which oversees all human achievement and endeavour. It is also said that the moon is close to the earth on the day and due to this the rays of the moon has several curative property.

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