~ By Shantharam Kalipatnapu
The following story is narrated in Skanda Puranam – Vaishnava Khandam – Kartika Masa Mahatmyam and PadmaPuranam – Uttara Khandam.
Once Satyabhama asked Lord Krishna:
O Deva, formerly in my previous existence which gift did I give, which vow did I observe, or which penance did I practise, that I, a mortal, have become like Parvati in this mortal world, and that I always occupy half (the portion) of your body, always ride Garuda, and went with you to the abode of deities like Indra? Therefore, I desire to ask you, what auspicious act I did in my previous existence, what kind of character I had, and whose daughter I was.
Sri Krishna said:
O dear one, listen attentively. I shall tell you all about the auspicious vow you observed in your former existence. At the end of the Kruta Yuga in Mayapuri (Haridwar) there was an excellent brahmana of Atreya gotra, Devasarma by name, who had mastered the Vedas and the Vedangas. He was hospitable. He attended the (sacred) fire. He was greatly devoted to the vow in honor of the Sūrya. Actually being like another Sun, he everyday propitiated Sūrya. The old man had a daughter, Gunavati by name.
Being sonless, he gave his daughter to his disciple named Chandra. Devasarma looked upon him as his own son, and he who had controlled his passions looked upon him as his father. The two, desiring to collect kuśas and fuel, once went to a forest. The two then roamed in the forest at the foot of the Himalaya mountains. Then they saw a fierce demon coming (to them). With their entire body overcome by fear, and unable to run (away), they were killed by the demon with Death-like form.
My attendants, moving with me, took them to Vaikuntha-abode due to the efficacy of the region and their religiousness. I was indeed very much pleased with them by virtue of just that act of them, viz. they, as long as they were alive, worshiped the Sun etc. As the rainwater goes to the ocean, the followers of Siva, the Surya, Ganesa, Vishnu, so also the worshippers of Shakti come to me only. I am one, born in five ways. Then the two lived in Vaikuntha, had the brilliance of the Sun, resembled me in form were near me.
Then Gunavati, after hearing that the two were killed by a demon, being overcome by grief for her father and husband, lamented piteously. Thus having very much lamented like a much-afflicted osprey she, being dispirited, fell on the ground like a plantain tree struck by a (stormy) wind. Having revived after a long time and lamenting on the ground very piteously, she plunged into the ocean of grief and was overcome by it. She, doing auspicious acts, sold all domestic articles and performed the rites beneficial to the two in the next world.
She, highly devoted to Vishnu, calm, truthful, pure and with her senses controlled, lived in that city only and sustained her life. From birth till death she properly observed two vows: the vow of Ekadasi and the vow of (i.e. relating to) Kartika. O dear one, this couple of vows is very dear to me. It properly brings about pleasures and salvation, and sons and wealth. Those, even being great sinners, who, in the month of Kartika, when the Sun is in Libra, bathe every day in the morning, are released. Those men who sweep their house and present (the auspicious sign of) svastika etc. to Visnu and worship Visnu, are liberated while alive. Those men who bathe, keep awake, offer lights, resort to the Tulasi-grove in Kartika are the forms of Visnu. Those who do like this even for three days in Kartika, are venerable even to gods. What to say of them who have done it from birth!
In this way, Gunavati, always devoted to Visnu’s followers and having fixed her mind on him, passed every year. O dear one, once she who was emaciated due to old age and was tormented by fever, slowly, somehow, went to Ganga to bathe. When, after she got into the water, she trembled and was oppressed by cold and frightened, she saw an airplane that came from the sky. From the sky, it approached with (beings) having Visnu’s form, having conches, discus and maces in their hands and properly marked with banners having (the pictures of) eagles. She got into the aeroplane served by them. The attendants took her to Vaikuntha. Then she, like the flame of a blazing fire, who was in the aeroplane, obtained my proximity due to the religious merit of the Kartika vow. Then all the attendants went with me coming to the earth by the request of the deities like Brahma.
O beautiful young lady, all these Yadavas are my attendants only. Your father became (i.e. was born as) this king Satrajit. He who was Chandra became Akrura, and you are that Gunavati, O auspicious one. Due to the merit of the Kartika vow, you very much enhance my love. At my door, you had formerly made this Tulasi grove. From that this desire-yielding Kalpa tree has come up in your courtyard, O auspicious one. Since formerly in Kartika you made illumination, therefore, this Laksmi living in your house has become steady. Since you offered all that vow etc. to Visnu of the form of your husband, therefore, you have become my wife. Due to that vow only which you formerly (i.e. in the former existence) observed in Kartika, from birth till death, you will never be separated from me. Thus, those men who are highly engrossed in the Kartika vow, also come near me, as you, causing delight to me have come.