Caranamrita is obtained in the morning while the Lord is being washed before dressing. Scented with perfumes and flowers, the water comes gliding down through His lotus feet and is collected and mixed with yogurt. In this way this caranamrita not only becomes very tastefully flavored, but also has tremendous spiritual value.
As described in Padma Purana, even a person who has never been able to give in charity, who has never been able to perform a great sacrifice, who has never been able to study the Vedas, who has never been able to worship the Lord – or, in other words, even one who has never done any pious activities – will become eligible to enter into the kingdom of God if he simply drinks the caranamrita which is kept in the temple.
In the temple it is the custom that caranamrita be kept in a big pot. The devotees who come to visit and offer respects to the Deity take three drops of caranamrita very submissively and feel themselves happy in transcendental bliss. (The Nectar of Devotion, chapter 9)
Caranamrita should not be taken together with prasadam (as it is not a food); ideally it is served by pujari in the temple.
“By the inclination to serve the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, suffering humanity can immediately cleanse the dirt which has accumulated in their minds during innumerable births. Like the Ganges water, which emanates from the toes of the lotus feet of the Lord, such a process immediately cleanses the mind, and thus spiritual or Krishna consciousness gradually increases.”
“In India, one can actually see that a person who takes a bath in the Ganges waters daily is almost free from all kinds of diseases. A very respectable brahmana in Calcutta never took a doctor’s medicine. Even though he sometimes felt sick, he would not accept medicine from the physician but would simply drink Ganges water, and he was always cured within a very short time. The glories of Ganges water are known to Indians and to ourselves also. The River Ganges flows by Calcutta. Sometimes within the water there are many stools and other dirty things which are washed away from neighboring mills and factories, but still thousands of men take baths in the Ganges water, and they are very healthy as well as spiritually inclined. That is the effect of Ganges water. The Ganges is glorified because it emanates from the toes of the lotus feet of the Lord.”
visnoh padodakam pitva
sirasa dharayamy aham
(Hari-bhakti-vilasa 3.290, from Gautamiya Tantra)
This caranamrita removes untimely death and frees one from all kinds of diseases. I therefore accept this caranamrita emanating from washing the lotus feet of Lord Vishnu and having sipped it I place it on my head.
sankha sthitantu yat toyam bhramitam kesavopari
vandate sirasa nityam ganga snane tasya kim
(Hari-bhakti-vilasa 9.4, from Skanda Purana, conversation between Brahma and Narada Muni)
The water which is within the conchshell, which is circled around the head of Lord Sri Kesava, if anyone puts such water on his head, what is the need for him to go take bath in the Ganges?
na daho na klamo nartir naraka agni bhayam na hi
yasya sankha udakam murdhni krsna drstya avalokitam
na graha na ca kusmandah pisaca uraga-raksasah
drstva sankhodakam murdhni vidravani diso dasa
(Hari-bhakti-vilasa 9.5,6, from Skanda Purana about the glories of the conchshell)
If the water within the conchshell is seen by the Supreme Lord Krishna and if it is touched to one’s head, one becomes free from the fear of punishment, distress, degradation and fire, bad planets, black magic, snakes, devils. They run away in ten directions when they find that he has a drop of water on his head from the conchshell which is offered to Lord Sri Krishna.
tirthadhikam yajna satanca pavanam
jalam sada kesava drsti samsthitam
chinatti papam tulasi vimisritam
visesatas cakra sila vinirmitam
(Hari-bhakti-vilasa 9.12, from Brhad Visnu Purana)
The water which is seen by the Supreme Lord Keshava and the water which has washed the salagram sila are always more purifying than any water from the places of pilgrimage. It is more purifying than one hundred sacrifices and they remove all kinds of sins from a person.
ye pivanti nara nityam salagrama sila jalam
panca gavya sahasrais tu sevitaih kim prayojanam
(Hari-bhakti-vilasa 9.20, from Padma Purana)
Any person who has drank the water which has bathed salagram sila, what is the need for them to drink thousand and thousands of times pancagavya? (Pancagavya is made from five auspicious products of a cow offered to the Lord.)
salagrama sila toyam yah pivet vinduna samam
matuh stanyam punar naiva sapivet bhakti bhang narah
(Hari-bhakti-vilasa 9.22, from Padma Purana)
Any person who has taken even one drop of water which has washed salagram sila will not have to suck a mother’s breast again in the future.
tribhih sarasvatam toyam saptahena tu narmadam
sadyah punati gangeyam dasanad eva yamunam
punanti etani toyani snana darsana kirtanaih
punati smaranad eva kalau padodakam hareh
arcitai kotibhir lingair nityam yat kriyate phalam
tat phalam sata sahasram pite padodake hareh
asuci va duracaro maha pataka samyutah
sprstva padodakam visnoh sada sudhyati manavah
(Hari-bhakti-vilasa 9.27-30, from Padma Purana, conversation between Pulastya and Bhagiratha)
Water from the Narmada purifies after one week, but Ganges water immediately purifies. Just by taking darsan of the Yamuna, one becomes purified. These rivers all purify one by seeing them, bathing in them or by chanting their names, but in Kali-yuga, one becomes purified just by remembering the water which has washed the lotus feet of Lord Sri Hari. Therefore, if someone drinks the water which has washed the lotus feet of Lord Hari, he gets more than 100,000 times more merit than by worshiping ten million Siva lingas. If a person is impure, has unlimited bad habits, or is implicated with previous sins, simply by touching the water which comes from the lotus feet of Lord Vishnu, he becomes purified. If somebody at the time of death touches to their head or other parts of the body the water which has washed the lotus feet of Lord Hari, even if he is implicated with millions of sins, he does not go to the hellish planets, the abode of Yamaraja.
hitva padodakam visnor ‘nyatithani gacchati
anargham ratnam utsrjya lostram vancati durmata
(Hari-bhakti-vilasa 9.38, from Padma Purana, conversation between Pulastya and Bhagiratha)
If a person gives up the water emanated from the lotus feet of Lord Sri Vishnu (caranamrita from the bathing of the Lord) and goes to other places of pilgrimage, he is like a person who gives up unlimited valuable jewels, desirous of obtaining a lump of mud.
na rogasya bhayancaiva nasti vighna krtam bhayam
na dusta naiva ghoraksah svapadottha bhayam na hi
grahah pidam na kurvanti caura nasyanti darunah
kim tasya tirtha gamane devarsinam ca darsane
yasya padodakam murdhni salagrama silodbhavam
prito bhavati martandah prito bhavati kesavah
brahma bhavati su pritah prito bhavati sankarah
(Hari-bhakti-vilasa 9.42-44, from Padma Purana, conversation between Pulastya and Bhagiratha)
One who drinks caranamrita (water emanated from washing the body of the Lord) he becomes free from all kinds of diseases, and all kinds of obstacles and the fear of ferocious cobras and ferocious beasts. He does not have the eyes of bad planets upon him. He becomes free from the fear of theft. What is the need for him to go to the places of pilgrimage, seeing the demigods and great sages (if he has taken the water which has washed the body of the Supreme Lord)? If he has the water which has washed the salagram sila above his head, the sun, Keshava, Lord Brahma, Shankara (Lord Siva) become greatly happy with him.
prayascittam yadi praptam krcchram va tu aghamarsanam
so’pi padodakam pitva suddhim prapnoti tat ksanat
(Hari-bhakti-vilasa 9.46, from Brahmanda Purana, conversation between Lord Brahma and Narada Muni)
If somebody has to go through unavoidable abominations, or if it is necessary for him to chant strong hymns as japa (silent chanting), even to that person, if he takes the water which has washed the lotus feet of the Lord, he becomes immediately purified.
apavitra yadannam syat paniyan capi papinam
bhuktva pitva visuddhah syat pitva padodakam hareh
(Hari-bhakti-vilasa 9.50, from Brahmanda Purana, conversation between Lord Brahma and Narada Muni)
If someone has eaten impure foods from someone or has drank water left from a great sinner, the sins which are derived from such eating and drinking, can become nullified just by drinking the water which has emanated from the lotus feet of Lord Sri Hari.
sadyah phala pradam punyam sarva papa vinasanam
sarva mangala mangalyam sarva duhkha vinasanam
duhsvapna nasanam punyam visnu padodakam subham
sarvopadrava-hantaram sarva vyadhi-vinasanam
(Hari-bhakti-vilasa 9.57,58, from Visnu Dharmottara)
Water which has emanated from the lotus feet of Lord Sri Vishnu immediately gives purification, removes all kinds of sins, it is more auspicious than the most auspicious ingredients, it removes all kinds of miseries and bad dreams, it helps one become meritorious, it is all auspicious, it removes all obstacles, and it removes all kinds of diseases from a person.
padodakasya mahatmyam devo janati sankara
visnu pada cyuto ganga sirasa yena dharita
snanam naivasti papasya dehinam deha madhyatah
(Hari-bhakti-vilasa 9.63, from Skanda Purana)
Lord Siva, who holds on his head the Ganges emanated from the lotus feet of Lord Sri Visnu, knows the glories and importance of the water which has emanated from His feet. Among all kinds of living entities with gross bodies in this world, only Lord Siva’s body does not have a place for sins.
vilayam yanti papani pite padodake hareh
kim punar visnu padodam salagrama silacyutam
visesena haret papam brahma hatyadikam priye
pite padodake visnor yadi pranair vimucyate
hatva yama bhatan sarvan vaisnavam lokam apnuyat
(Hari-bhakti-vilasa 9.68,69, from Skanda Purana, conversation between Siva and Uma)
Whoever drinks the water emanated from the Deity of Lord Sri Hari, all of his sins are removed. I say, oh dear wife, what more can I say about the water emanated from the bathing of salagram sila which actually cuts the sin acquired by killing a brahmana? If anybody quits his body while drinking the water which has emanated from the lotus feet of Lord Hari, the messengers of Yamaraja run away from him and he attains the abode of Lord Sri Visnu.
sa brahmacari sa vrtti asrami ca sadasuci
visnu padodakam yasya mukhe sirasi vigrahe
janma prabhrti papanam prayascittam yadicchai
salagrama silavari papahari nisevyatam
Anybody who has caranamrita on his head, in his mouth or on his body, he is called the real brahmacari, the real fasting person, and one especially situated in the spiritual order. If someone wants to perform some kind of atonement to remove all of his sins, he should certainly drink some water which has been used to bath salagram sila.
sri visnor vaisnavananca pavanam caranodakam
sarva tirtha mayam pitva kuryad acamanam na hi
(Hari-bhakti-vilasa 9.91, from Agastya Samhita)
The water which has washed the feet of Lord Vishnu and Vaishnavas (real devotees) is equal to all the places of pilgrimage together. After drinking such water, one does not have to take any acamana or to wash his hands or mouth.
visnoh padodakam pitva pascad asuci sankaya
acamati ca yo mohad brahmaha sa nigadyate
(Hari-bhakti-vilasa 9.92, from Skanda Purana, spoken by Lord Siva)
Lord Siva says, “Any person who due to bewilderment after drinking water emanated from Lord Vishnu thinks that he has become unclean and thus washes his mouth, becomes the killer of a brahmana.”
bhagavan pavitram bhagavat padau pavitram, bhagavat
padodakam pavitram, na tat pana acamaniyam. yathahi soma iti
(Hari-bhakti-vilasa 9.93, from sruti sastra)
The Supreme Personality of Godhead is all pure. His two lotus feet are all pure and water emanated from them is all pure, therefore, after drinking that water emanated from Him, one should not take any acamana because it is as best as a soma.
visnu padodakam pitva bhakta padodakam tatha
ya acamati sammohad brahmaha sa nigadyate
(Hari-bhakti-vilasa 9.94, from Sauparna Samhita)
If due to bewilderment somebody washes his hands after drinking water which has emanated from the lotus feet of Lord Visnu or of His devotee, he becomes the killer of a brahmana.
arcye visnau sila-dhir
visnor va vaisnavanam
sri-visnor namni mantre
yasya va naraki sahh
“One who thinks the Deity in the temple to be made of wood or stone, who thinks of the spiritual master in the disciplic succession as an ordinary man, who thinks the Vaishnava in the Acyuta-gotra to belong to a certain caste or creed or who thinks of caranamrita or Ganges water as ordinary water is taken to be a resident of hell.” (Padma Purana)
From Padma Purana:
Sri Saunaka asked Suta Gosvami about who had previously drunk this caranamrita, the water which washed the two lotus feet of Lord Visnu, and what happened to him. Previously, in Treta-yuga, there was a sinful brahmana named Sudarsana. He would eat on the day of Lord Hari (Ekadashi) and he would criticize all of the scriptures daily as well as all the people who would fast on the Ekadashi day. He would only think of how to fill his belly. One day in the morning, he died. The Yamadutas came to take him away to Yamaloka. When Yamaraja saw him he asked his secretary to narrate what kinds of sins and merits this person, who had been brought by his messengers, had accumulated. He also said that this person looks like a grievously sinful person.
The secretary, Citragupta, replied, “O Lord (Yamaraja), he has not done any merits, but has only acquired sins. He even ate on the day of Lord Sri Hari (the Ekadasi day). He even ate on the appearance day of the husband of the goddess of fortune (Janmastami). He is the lowest of all mankind because he ate on the birthday of Lord Sri Krsna, Janmastami, therefore he should be put in the greatest hellish planet for millions of years and at last, he should take birth as a worm in stool.”
Suta Gosvami then said, “Hearing this, the great messengers of Yamaraja took him to the greatest ferocious hell to suffer for the duration of one hundred Manus. (In one day of Lord Brahma there are fourteen Manus so he was put there to suffer for the period of one hundred Manus) After that he was liberated and he was made as a pig in a village and daily he would eat sufficient stool because he had previously eaten on the day of Lord Sri Hari. After that life, he became a crow who would eat mucus. One day, that crow went to the house of a brahmana where a pot of caranamrita was left outside the door and he drank some and became free from all sins. On the same day, he fell in a hunter’s net and was killed, and at last he went to the abode of Lord Sri Hari, carried on a palanquin by two swan-like devotees of the Lord. This is the great merit derived from drinking the water which has emanated from washing the two lotus feet of Lord Sri Visnu, which removes all sins. Whoever even listens to this narration about caranamrita, also becomes free from all sins.”
Srila Prabhupada and caranamrita
When sick, Srila Prabhupada himself often used to rely upon caranamrita rather than various medicines, which he generally distrusted and never took very seriously. He said his sister Bhavatarini devi dasi, whom we used to call Pisi Ma (auntie), would always simply depend upon the Lord’s caranamrita whenever she was sick. Pisi Ma gave her son Madana caranamrita and the boy was cured of cholera as a result of her firm sraddha (faith). Srila Prabhupada praised this faithful practice of hers. Pisi Ma thought much of the holy Ganga.
Pisi Ma was like an ocean of humility. She always used to carry a small phial of Ganga-jala with her. Bhaktibhrnga Govinda Maharaja said that one morning she was sitting on steps of the Krsna-Balarama Guest House in Vrndavana. At that time he was busy attending to other services, so he could not pay much attention to her. Some time later, he saw her getting up, as if ready to leave. She then took out her phial of Ganga water and began sprinkling it all over the steps. B.B. Govinda Maharaja thought this was a rather curious act, so he approached her cautiously and respectfully asked her why she had done this. She looked up at him with a very grave expression and explained in a voice full of humility, “I have to do this everywhere I go, because I am so, so sinful – I cannot bear the responsibility of my presence contaminating the places I go, so I at least try purify them when I leave with the holy water of Mother Ganges.”