Navadvipa – February 22-28, 2010
by Jayasri dasi
jaya jaya navadvipa sarva-dhama-sara
se dhamera tattva varne sadhya ache ka’ra
[“All glories, all glories to Sri Navadvipa, the essence of all holy abodes! Who would possibly be able to describe the real nature of this dhama.” (Sri Navadvipa-dhama-mahatmya, 2.1)
From February 22nd to 28th, over 15,000 devotees gathered for this year’s auspicious Gaura Purnima Navadvipa-dhama Parikrama. I arrived a few days early, and was amazed to see the space so quickly filled at Sri Kesavaji Gaudiya Matha in Koladvipa. Thousands of Bengalis gathered inside and outside of the temple, sleeping on the marble floors in the temple or on the grounds around the temple. Their austerities were matchless; even in old age they were coming for parikrama. Their service was an inspiration.
This brings to mind the incredible organizational proficiency of the prasada distribution. It was always a beautiful sight to see so many people together in one place honoring maha-prasada. All glories to the brilliance of those on prasada seva.
The morning before our official parikrama began, we all walked to Panchaveni Ghat to make our sankalpa (vows for the parikrama) – a most important beginning to our intensive week. I was so happy to see in Sri Navadvipa-dhama-mahatmya, a verse on this transcendental place where the holy rivers meet. Fortunately, it had been translated into English just in time for this year’s parikrama:
ganga-yamunadi tatha sada vidyamana
sapta-puri prayagadi ache sthane sthana
[“To such a person, it is revealed that Ganga, Yamuna, Sarasvati, Godavari and other holy rivers perpetually flow together here, and that Prayaga and the other seven holy cities are present at various important places.” (2.19 Sri-Navadvipa-dhama-mahatmya)]
Before the sankalpa, Srila Gurudeva met us as we arrived at Sri Devananda Gaudiya Matha. There, after offering arati to his Gurudeva, Srila Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Gosvami Maharaja, and to his dear god-brother, Srila Bhaktivedanta Vamana Gosvami Maharaja, he shared with us some sweet pastimes of our Parama-gurudeva (grand-spiritual master).
Sripad Madhava Maharaja translated into English Srila Gurudeva’s short Bengali discourse:
“We are very fortunate today, because it is the beginning of our Navadvipa Parikrama, and we are visiting Sri Devananda Gaudiya Matha. This matha was established by our beloved Gurudeva, nitya-lila pravista om visnupada Srila Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Gosvami Maharaja. Due to certain circumstances, Srila Gurudeva left Sri Caitanya Gaudiya Matha in Mayapura with many of his god-brothers, and established Sri Devananda Gaudiya Matha here.
“At the time of Srila Bhaktididdhana Sarasvati Thakura, many smarta (caste) brahmanas and residents of Navadvipa were against pure bhakti, and they even tried to murder Srila Sarasvati Thakura. Gurudeva loved Srila Prabhupada so much, that he boldly decided, ‘I must establish a Matha here, to teach them the process of pure bhakti.’
“From here, our beloved Gurudeva preached on both sides of the Ganges. At that time Pujyapada Parijataka Maharaja, Sannyasi Maharaja, Visnu Maharaja, Visnu-daivata Maharaja, Vaisnava dasa Babaji Maharaja, and so many other sannyasis were here. Later, as well, when I would come here every year, Parijataka Maharaja and the others were here to welcome me. Due to some circumstances they are not here today, so I am sorry that we are not seeing any of them. On the other hand, I am very happy to see my god-brothers Sripad Madhusudhana Maharaja, Sadhu Maharaja, Giri Maharaja, Mukunda prabhu, and others who are present here.
“I will tell the history of why this matha was so named. Devananda Pandita was considered a great teacher of Srimad-Bhagavatam. He taught many students in his home in Kuliya-nagara. Once, the maha-bhagavata Srivasa Pandita passed by Devananda Pandita’s house and heard Srimad-Bhagavatam being recited. He went in and sat down to listen. As Devananda Pandita described Krsna’s pastimes, Srivasa Pandita was unable to remain calm. He wept bitterly and rolled on the ground. However, Devananda Pandita’s students, being devoid of bhakti, could not understand Srivasa Pandita’s asta-sattvika bhavas.
“Thinking him a disturbance to their studies, they threw him out of the house. Devananda Pandita remained silent. When news of this incident came to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu He angrily said, ‘Devananda does not understand a single syllable of the Bhagavatam, which is Krsna personified and completely transcendental, so what can he teach?! Srimad-Bhagavatam cannot even remain near him. He is an offender of both Vaisnavas and the Bhagavatam. I will tear up his false Bhagavatam and throw it away.’”
“Some time later, Devananda Pandita met Sri Pundarika Vidyanidhi, one of Sriman Mahaprabhu’s associates. Pundarika Vidyanidhi mercifully instructed him about the truths regarding devotees, Bhagavatam, and the Supreme Lord. He also taught Devananda Pandita many confidential truths about Mahaprabhu and Srivasa Pandita.”
“Thus, recalling his previous behavior, Devananda Pandita became filled with remorse. When Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu came to Kuliya after accepting sannyasa, Devananda Pandita came before Him. With great humility, he begged forgiveness for his offence. Sriman Mahaprabhu told him to beg pardon from Srivasa Pandita directly. Devananda approached Srivasa Pandita, who mercifully forgave all his offences. Srivasa Pandit also requested Mahaprabhu to show Devananda Pandit mercy. This He did, here at this place, which is called aparadha bhanjana-sthali, the place where offences are forgiven. Mahaprabhu thus made him qualified to attain love of God.”
“My Gurudeva received the full mercy of Srila Gaura-kisora dasa Babaji Maharaja.
“In order to avoid the association of materialistic sense enjoyers, Srila Gaura-kisora dasa Babaji Maharaja resided for some time in an abandoned latrine built by the municipality of Navadvipa. He did not open the door for anyone, not even for the District Judge and Police Superintendent who came to see him. But he did open it for our most worshipful spiritual master Srila Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Gosvami Maharaja, who was known at that time as Sri Vinoda-bihari Brahmacari.”
“Once, Gurudeva, his aunt, Saroja-vasini devi, and some of his god-brothers came to meet Babaji Maharaja, who, as usual, refused to come out. However, when Gurudeva revealed that he was a disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada, Srila Babaji Maharaja opened the door. Recognizing him as a recipient of the mercy of Srila Sarasvati Thakura, he opened the door with great affection, gave his darsana and instructed him in the performance of pure bhajana. He immediately gave Guru Maharaja his blessings, saying that he would take upon his own head all the miseries and troubles that might come to him.
“Whenever Guru Maharaja tells this story, he begins to weep.”
The next day we began the official parikrama. Leaving just after mangala arati, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu looking extremely opulent on His palanquin, headed the jubilant devotees for Mayapura. As it literally followed in the footsteps of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the kirtana party was ecstatically leading everyone else. There’s no question of performing Navadvipa parikrama without kirtana. When Sri Caityana Mahaprabhu appeared in Mayapura 524 years ago, it was this ecstatic mood of sankirtana which he distributed all over Navadvipa dhama mandala.
On this first day of parikrama, I was determined to stay in the front, with Mahaprabhu. I had to work for it, but then being next to the kirtana was like being with the heart and soul of the parikrama. Before I knew it, I had run all the way to the Mayapura ghata from our Matha. I realized that somehow Gurudeva empowers us in these moments to forget all of our physical concerns and to be absorbed in what he is offering. I found that anytime I was feeling weak or tired, if I just made my way to a kirtana party, the party kept my feet moving and my mind focused on the goal. The euphoric vibrations of the mrdangas and kartalas in the hands of the jubilant kirtaniyas certainly spread triumph to all ears and hearts they touch.
We had the opportunity to see the bhajana kutir of Srila Gaura-kisora dasa Babaji Maharaja, which was situated next to the samadhi of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura at Svananda-sukhada-kunja on the bank of the Sarasvati River in Godruma. It was here that one night Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura saw a transcendental light shinning from a distance across the river. The following day he saw the same light while also witnessing sankirtana being performed by Sri Gaura-Nityananda in the same location. He later went to investigate, found the area covered by tulasi plants, and through further inquiry confirmed it to be the birthplace of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Srila Gurudeva came to meet us on parikrama, at Yogapitha. We had darsana of this transcendental place, and he told some of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s divine boyhood pastimes.
Sri Gaurasundara appeared on the full-moon day, in the evening, during the lunar eclipse, when thousands of people were chanting “Hari Bol!” Such was the providential setting for the appearance of the Lord in His golden complexion, having come to taste the moods of Srimati Radharani and to distribute unnatojjvala-rasa:
aparpita-carim cirat karunayavatirnah kalau
samarpayitum unnatojjvala-rasam sva-bhakti-sriyam
harih purata-sundara-dyuti-kadamba sandipitah
sada hrdaya-kandare sphuratu vah saci-nandanah
[“May that Lord, who is known as the son of Srimati Sacidevi, be transcendentally situated in the innermost chambers of your heart. Resplendent with the radiance of molten gold He had appeared in the age of Kali by His causeless mercy to bestow what has not been given in a very long time; manjari-bhava, the service of Srimati Radhika as her confidential maidservant. (Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila 1.4)]
One evening after parikrama, Srila Gurudeva gave hari-katha on the pastime of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s taking sannyasa, and Sripad Damodara Maharaja translated his Bengali class into English:
“Today we had the good fortune of visiting Koladvipa. During the parikrama we had darsana of Sri Jagannatha dasa Babaji Maharaja, and there we heard his glories.”
“We then went to the Nirdaya ghata, which is where Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu jumped in the Ganges and swam to Katwa to take sannyasa.
“Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu had two marriages. The first was to Laksmi-priya devi. When He went to Bangladesh, she could not tolerate being separated from Him, and in her grief of separation she disappeared from this world. His second wife was Visnu-priya devi.
“On the day of His taking sannyasa, Kolaveca Sridhara gave Nimai Pandita a lauki. Nimai Pandita (a name of Mahaprabhu in His household life) brought it home and asked His mother, ‘Oh mother, please make me lakalaki-kir (lauki cooked in milk with sugar) from this. Mother Saci made that sweet preparation and offered it to Thakurji, and everyone was astonished by its taste.
“That night, Nimai Pandita spent some time with Visnupriya for the first time in a long while. He affectionately laughed and spoke sweetly to her, and also decorated her. Visnupriya became apprehensive. On the previous day, as she was going towards the Ganga, she hit her toe against a rock and some blood came out. Considering this very inauspicious, she thought, ‘I don’t know what will happen to me today.’ Also, while she was taking bath, her nose-ring, which she had received at the time of her marriage, got lost in the Ganga. She had searched for it for a long time, but could not find it. She went to mother Saci weeping and said, ‘I do not know what misfortune will come to me.’
“As she remembered the incident, she trembled and her fear increased. Nimai Pandita had never given her so much external affection, what to speak of intimately associating with her. On this last night, He was decorating her with His own hands – but she was disturbed. She thought, ‘After so long He is giving His affection to me. I think He must want to leave me and take sannyasa.’
“She therefore made a vow that she would not sleep, but Sri Gaurasundara (another name of Mahaprabhu in His household life) called His Yogamaya, and Visnupriya-devi fell asleep against her will. He did parikrama of her one time, and then, apparently hard-hearted and merciless, He took one last look at her and left the house forever.
“Sri Saci-devi stood at the door like a wooden statue, almost inert in her feeling of imminent separation from Him. She did not even have the strength to weep. Sri Gaurasundara offered obeisances to His mother, who gazed in silence, unable to speak, and left His home. On that wintry night He jumped in to the turbulent waters of the Ganga at this ghata, crossed the river and went to Kantaka-nagari (Katava) where He accepted the renounced order from Sri Kesava Bharati. Then, via Santipura, He went to Sri Jagannatha Puri. Seemingly cruel-hearted (nirdaya) He left His widowed mother and His wife, and crossed the Ganga at this ghata. Therefore, from that time on, this ghata became known as Nirdaya-ghata.
“At the ashram of Sri Kesava Bharati, the barber performed the haircutting of Nimai, whose hair was very attractive. The barber did not want to cut His hair, but by the desire of Yogamaya, he was forced to do so.
“When Kesavi Bharati came to give the sannyasa mantra to Nimai Pandita, Nimai enquired, ‘Is this the mantra?’ and chanted the mantra in His ‘guru’s’ ear. In this way the Lord actually initiated him, and then Kesava Bharati gave the same mantra back. The Lord then took the sannyasa name ‘Sri Krsna Caitanya.’
“Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu desired to go to Vrndavana, but Nityananda Prabhu diverted Him. There were some small cowherd boys on the path, and Nityananda Prabu told them, ‘A sannyasi will come by here. When He asks where Vrndavana is, point Him towards Santipura.’
“When Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu arrived there, He said, ‘I have come to Vrndavana already?’ The boys replied, ‘Yes, yes, this is Vrndavana and this is the Yamuna River.’ Sri Advaita Acarya was there and said, ‘Nityananda Prabhu can never tell a lie. This side is the Yamuna and that side is the Ganga. Therefore, You have really come to Vrndavana.’
“Nityananda Prabhu knew that Mahaprabhu had come to Santipura, so He went to Mayapura to bring Mother Saci and all the devotees of Mayapura. Mother Saci asked the benediction from Advaita Acarya that, ‘Only I will cook for Him while He is here.’ Mahaprabhu told her, ‘I have made a mistake by taking sannyasa. I should not have done so. If you order Me, I will return to the household asrama.’
“Mother Saci said, ‘No. One who has taken sannyasa can never return, but please stay in Jagannatha Puri.’ Externally, Mahaprabhu did not reside in Vrndavana because Mother Saci was worried that if He would live there, so far away, she could never have news of Him. However, the actual reason He did not want to stay there is because He would be absorbed in His mood of Krsna, and the mood of Gaura-lila would disappear. From Santipura, Mahaprabhu went to Jagannatha Puri.”
Srila Gurudeva gave darsana every afternoon, and mercifully held two initiation ceremonies during the course of the week, wherein over 350 devotees received either first or second initiation. One morning, the brahmacaris brought in a newly born calf to his room.
How fortunate we were to be able to have darsana of the pastime places of Sri Bhagavan Himself, under the guidance of our beloved Srila Gurudeva. It is only by great mercy that we will be able to understand Sri Navadvipa dhama, the nine islands of the Gaura mandala where Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, known there as Sri Gaurasundara and Nimai Pandita, along with His closest associates, are eternally performing their pastimes in the most magnanimous mood and freely giving transcendental Love of God to all.
In this same mood, our most worshipable Gurudeva is annually leading us on parikrama of this holy dhama. We pray to him and to Sri Nityananda Prabhu for the loving service of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and for the qualification to truly see the dhama.
nityananda-krpa ja-ra prati kabhu haya
se dekhe ananda-dhama sarvatra cinmaya
“Whoever gets the mercy of Sri Nityananda Prabhu will perceive the spiritual nature of the blissful dhama.”
I pray that, by their mercy, I will be able to make it every year for Sri Navadvipa-dhama Parikrama, and to bring new devotees to taste the glories of Mahaprabhu’s sankirtana movement.