A five-day worship period prescribed for the last 5 days of Kartika (Damodara) Month and it is known as “Bhishma Panchaka”. Lord Krishna becamse very pleased on Shrila Bhishma and He agreed to give His pure love to those fortunate souls who chant, sing, hear, read, worship and fast for these five days of Bhishmadeva.
The last five days of Kartika month are known as Bhisma Panchaka. Grandfather Bhishma 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. The best way to observe the Kartika-vrata is to abstain from eating grains for the whole month, and to take only milk or water for the last five days. If one eats grains during the month, he should avoid them for the last five days. Also, one should only eat once a day. This is the proper procedure [for strict adherence].
This five day fast is difficult for those people who are not serious in Bhakti. 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. Therefore, everyone should make a great endeavor to fast on these last five days of Bhismadeva.
The fast should begin by remembering Bhismadeva on the Ekadasi day and should end on Purnima [the full moon]. One should eat only vegetables or fruits and should worship Lord GaurangaKrishna. If he needs to eat, he should do so only in the evening. A woman can also observe this fast by the suggestion of a twice-born, and if a widow observes this fast, she can also attain liberation and happiness.
Srila Suta Goswami says in the Padma Purana, Uttarakhanda, ‘This liberating fast is unknown even to the demigods. If one listens to what I have said and fasts on these five days, even if he had sex his sister, daughter, mother, etc. he becomes free from that sin. Even if someone attentively listens to this narration, he also achieves happiness. I tell you the truth again and again that one should keep this fast secretively, and continue performing it unceasingly - such a person surely achieves liberation.
Suta Goswami says, “If anyone fasts and observes the Kartika-vrata according to the rules and regulations, the Yamadutas, the messengers of Yamaraja, run away from him, just as an elephant runs away by seeing a lion. This dear fast [vrata] of Lord Visnu is even better than performing one hundred great sacrifices that would take him to heaven because the person who observes the Kartika-vrata goes to the spiritual world.
Although one can easily reach Mathura [Vraja Mandala] on this earth, and although Kartika month is easily observable, and although in the month of Kartika all of the places of pilgrimage, oceans, rivers, and lakes come to the Mathura area, still, those human beings who are foolish and suffering in the ocean of material existence do not take advantage of it.” [Note: Navadvipa Mandala and Kshetra Mandala Puri are non-different from Vraja Mandala and thus great Acharyas like Shri Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada have perfomed their Kartik Vrata in Puri and Navadvipa Dhaam
Vaisnavo na sa mantavyah samprapte kartike mune
Yo na yacchati mudhatma dipam kesva sadmani
O sage, that foolish person who does not offer a lamp in Lord Keshava’s temple during Kartika is not considered a Vaisnava.
The conclusion is, as Lord Brahma tells Narada in the Skanda Purna: ‘O son Narada, the month of Kartika is very dear to Lord Keshava. If anyone acts meritoriously in this month just to please Lord Visnu, he receives unlimited results.
Relections on Bhishma Panchaka - Ekadasi Period and Fasting etc. The last 5 days of the month of Kaarttika are traditionally known as the Bhishma Panchaka or the Vishnu Panchaka. In the Hari BhaktiVilasa, it is said that if one is capable, one should observe fasting from certain foodstuffs on the Bhishma-panchaka for the pleasure of the Lord. This is optional. The Padma Purana say that one pleases the Lord and makes spiritual advancement by such austerities.
The strictest way of doing this fast is to take only the five products of the cow (pancha gavya) on each of the five days(!). . or fast by restricting the eating like during ekadasis: no grains and beans. only fruits and roots.
The fasting started today on Ekadashi and will continues until the the Rasa Poornima day. (Some years year its a 4 day period) The fasting is broken at moon rise on Purnima day. It is recommended to do full fast on Ekadasi and then the following four days fruits and roots fasting Or five day fruits and roots fasting.
One can eat products of the cow for each day:
If one can't follow type then please take take fruits and roots fruits with lots of seeds should be avoided like guava, pomegranate,cucumber etc. Boiled potatoes, raw banana and sweet potato can be taken. We can use sea salt for taste. Cashewnuts(PLAIN) raisins, dates can be taken. Milk products to be avoided.
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.
The following ingredients though part of Havishya need to be avoided in the month of Kartika:
Following flowers to be offered to the Deities DURING THE BHISHMA PANCHAKA DAYS AS PER GARUDA PURANA.
Ideally One should take bath in Ganges or the other holy rivers every day & offer tarpana 3 times for Bhismadeva by saying the following mantra:
om vaiyaghra padya gotraya
samkrti pravaraya ca
arghyam dadami bhismaya
om bhismah santanavo birah
By following these days of Bhishma Panchaka fasting one gets the benefit of all the four chaturmasya fasting if one had been unable to follow the same.