CharanamritaDecember 8, 2023
What is Charanamrita?
Charanamrita means ‘the nectar of God’s feet’. ‘Charan means feet, and amrit means the divine nectar that bestows immortality. The word refers to the water that priests use to bathe the deity in the temple. The water that flows down the body of the deity and through the deity’s feet is gathered and sometimes mixed with yogurt and a bit of sugar and offered to the devotees who visit the temple. The water supposedly has great spiritual power as it touched the body of the deity. The priest gives the devotees three drops in the palm of their right hand, which is supported by their left, and they sip it from their palm.
Charanamrita is usually kept on a special table near the deities in a copper vessel. Copper supposedly has many curative qualities, as per Ayurveda and homoeopathy. It can cure spasmodic pains. People believe that drinking water stored in a copper vessel improves intellect, memory, and wisdom.
Why Charanmrita is Powerful?
The deity in the Garbagriha or sanctum sanctorum is no mere statue. The deities were brought to life through the Prana Prathishta ceremony and consecrated with the chanting of powerful Mantras. They reverberate with divine energy which permeates the entire temple. This divine energy touches all those who enter the temple. For this reason, people feel calm and peaceful when they are in a temple. Many rituals and Poojas take place in the temple. During the Poojas, the priests perform Abishekam for the deity with various substances like water, honey, ghee, curd, etc. Whatever comes into contact with the deity also acquires the qualities of the deity and its powers. Hence, the water used to bathe the deity is called Amrit.
What Sacred Texts Say
According to the Padma Purana, even if one has not done any pious activities, one will be eligible to enter Vaikuntha if one has accepted the Charanamrita of the deity. In the Ramayana (Ayodhya Kand, Doha 101), Tulsidas says that when Kewat washed Rama’s feet and accepted the water as Charanamrita, he not only attained salvation, but even his forefathers attained it.
The Ranvir Bhaktiratanakara Brahma says that Charanamrita is the medicine that can absolve sins and get rid of disease. The addition of Tulsi leaves enhances its qualities. The Ranvir Bhaktisagar claims that Charanamrita can protect a person from untimely death. It destroys diseases and breaks the chain of death and rebirth.
Charanamrita benefits a person physically, emotionally, and spiritually. One should always accept Charanamrita with grace and humility.
Charanamrita is obtained in the morning when the deity is washed before dressing. The water is scented with perfumes and flowers. It is collected and mixed with yogurt. As the Padma Purana says, even those who have never given to charity, performed a great sacrifice, studied the Vedas, worshipped the Lord, etc., can enter heaven by drinking the Charanamrita kept in the temple.
One should not take Charanamrita with Prasadam (as it is not a food). Only the priest or pujari in the temple should serve it.
Hindus believe that even the water of the Ganges river has its origins in the lotus feet of Vishnu. For this reason, people believe that bathing in the Ganges frees us from all sins and helps us attain Moksha or liberation.
A Story from the Padma Purana
Saunaka asked Suta Gosvami about the person who had previously drunk the Charanamrita and what happened to him. During the Treta-yuga, there was a sinful brahmana called Sudarsana. He would eat on the day of Ekadasi (sacred for Vishnu) and criticize all the scriptures daily, as well as those who observed fast on Ekadasi day. He only cared to fill his belly. One morning, he passed away. The Yamadutas arrived to transport him to Yamaloka. On seeing him, Yamaraja asked his assistant, Chitragupta, to narrate what kinds of sins and merits Sudarsana had accumulated. He also observed that the person looked very sinful.
Chitragupta replied that he had not done anything good and had acquired only sins. He had eaten on Ekadasi day and Janmashtami, the birthday of Krishna. He described him as the lowest of all mankind because he ate on Krishna’s birthday and said that he should go to the most hellish planet for millions of years and take birth as a worm in stool.
So, the messengers of Yamaraja took Sudarsana to the worst hell to suffer for one hundred Manus. (In one day of Brahma, there are 14 Manus so he had to suffer for the period of 100 Manus). After that, he took birth as a pig in a village, and daily he would eat stools. After this life, he became a crow who ate mucus. One day, the crow went to the house of a Brahmin, where a pot of Charanamrita stood outside the door. He drank some of it and became free of all sins instantly. On the same day, he fell into a hunter’s net and was killed. Finally, he reached the abode of Vishnu, carried on a palanquin by two swan-like devotees of Vishnu. Suta Gosvami concluded the story by saying that this was the great merit obtained by drinking the water from washing the lotus feet of Vishnu. He added that even those who listened to this story would become free from all sins.
Srila Prabhupada and Charanamrita
Srila Prabhupada is well known as the founder of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness). His life’s mission was to acquaint the Western world with the teachings of Krishna. When he fell sick, Srila Prabhupada often drank Charanamrita instead of medicines, which he distrusted. His sister Bhavatarini devi dasi would also take Charanamrita whenever she was sick. She also gave it to her son Madana, and he was cured of cholera due to her faith.