The Bhisma Pancaka Fasting starts on Ekadasi Day which is 31st October (Tuesday) and will continue until the 4th November (last day of caturmasya, last day of kartik first day of Hati procession). 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 days fruits and roots fasting. Or one can do all the days with 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.
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 ccow mixed (Pancha-gavya)
If one can’t follow level 1, one can take fruits 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.
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 as mentioned in Sri Hari-bhakti-vilasa (13.10-13)
The following are ingredients that can be taken during Bhisma pancaka. Havishya is usually made with rice and mung dal. For those following caturmasa from ekadasi to ekadasi, technically their Kartika masa is over by ekadasi, so they can take mung dal in their havishya. However, most devotees follow caturmasa from purnima to purnima, so mung dal would not be allowed in the havishya for Bhisma Pancaka. No oil is allowed.
* Rice which is unparboiled – raw or polished, unpre-cooked.
* Ghee from cow
* ‘Saindhava’ salt (mineral salt)
* Ripe banana
These ingredients are also allowed to be taken:
* Fruits (Skanda Puraana, Naagara Khanda says they must be with a small seed or with few seeds only)
* Labali fruit
* Roots except ‘keaa’ (a type of grass or root)
* Ikshu-dravya or sugarcane derivatives (other than gur or mollasses)
* Whole milk with cream from a cow.
The following ingredients are normally part of Havishya but have to be
avoided in the month of Kaartika:
* Mung dal
* Til oil
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:
(Tarpana is when the Brahmin thread is put backwards (if applicable) and water is taken in both hands. The mantra is chanted and then the water is offered with tilting both hands to the right and downwards so that the water flows down the right thumb. This is a way of offering oblations to the forefathers. You do that for Bhisma on Bhisma Pancaka.)
om vaiyaghra padya gotraya
samkrti pravaraya ca
arghyam dadami bhismaya
om bhismah santanavo birah
** If you do not have any holy rivers nearby:
Those who chant “Ganga, Ganga, Ganga” get the benefit of bathing in the holy river which can be done from anywhere. Devotees can bathe in any river, lake or the ocean.
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 an overlap of days (tithis), then the flowers for the overlap days can be offered on the same day.
** If you do not have the flowers, then mentally offer the specified flower to the specified place of the Lord.
Reference: Garuda Puraana