Dear devotees and friends,
Please accept my best wishes. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
I’m sorry to take so long to get back to you, but I’ve been extremely busy since Mayapur.
Now I would like to describe the Navadvipa Dhama Parikrama to you. It’s a wonderful programme, and I took part in about the first 10 of them, up until about the time of Srila Prabhupada’s Centenary in 1996, or thereabouts. Since then I’ve been too busy to do it, but this year I made up my mind to take part, partly because we wanted to video it to make a DVD set about Mayapur.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura says about Navadvipa: “As Sri Gauracandra appeared in Navadvipa, it is therefore the crest jewel of all holy places. Offenders are the object of punishment at other holy pilgrimage places, but in Navadvipa dhama they are purified. The example is the two brothers Jagai and Madhai, who committed great offenses yet still received Nitai and Gaura. What to speak of other places, at Vrndavana the offenders are punished. But a person who has committed hundreds of offenses can easily receive the mercy of Nityananda Prabhu and overcome those offenses in Navadvipa dhama. For this reason, sages endlessly praise Navadvipa of Gaura mandala.”
He continues: “He who lives in Navadvipa dhama is very fortunate, for he achieves attraction for Krsna. He who happens to go there becomes freed from all offenses. What one attains by travelling to all the holy places is attained just by remembering Navadvipa. In this way the scriptures sing. He who sees Navadvipa dhama gets ecstatic love of Krsna birth after birth. Even one who goes to Navadvipa desiring to gain material comforts through pious activities will not take another birth. The sastras say that one who walks around Navadvipa attains the fruit of millions of asvamedha yajsas at every step. And one who lives in Navadvipa and chants mantras obtains the sound of Caitanya as his mantra and easily gets free from maya. What yogis obtain after ten years at other tirthas is obtained in three nights at Navadvipa.”
We were due to start on February 28th, but the day before was something called the Adhivas, a special programme for invoking auspiciousness for the upcoming parikrama. Hundreds of us went to Lord Caitanya’s birthplace and there we had classes about the dhama, about the parikrama and how to make
the most of it. Jayapataka Maharaja came for some of the Adhivas and promised to come on the parikrama for at least two days.
On the 28th we began at about 6am from outside Srila Prabhupada’s bhajan kutir near the front gate of our ISKCON property. Our international group had about 1700 devotees, and there was also a group of about 2000 Bengali Nama Hatta devotees who would be taking a different route from us.
We walked down to the Prabhupada Ghata and took boats down the Ganges and then took a left turn down the Jalangi, which is also a branch of the Ganges and then headed east for about an hour. It was so beautiful sitting on the deck of o ur boat, Nitai Pada Kamala 2, named after the original boat which used to take devotees up and down the Ganges from one village to another, preaching. Navadvipa Dhama has a special peacefulness to it that is not there so much in Sri Vrindavana Dhama, and this morning was particularly
nice. The waters of the Jalangi were glassy smooth and there were just a few birds here and there, but otherwise we were alone with Lord Caitanya in His sacred abode.
We eventually got off the boats and started walking towards Pancanan Tala, a huge banyan tree by the side of the main road to Krishnanagar. It is a place of Lord Siva. He is present here as a devotee, giving his protection to devotees doing parirkrama. We spoke there and also took breakfast, and then we were off to Nrsingapalli.
After Lord Nrsingadeva killed Hiranyakasipu He came here to Navadvipa Dhama to cool off after that dramatic pastime. His hands were still covered with Hiranyakasipu’s blood, and He washed them off in the waters of the Mandakini, another branch of the Ganga which used to flow in this area. Now it is not a flowing river, but there is still a nice lake here, where we took bath. Hiranyakasipu’s blood is still mixed with that water, of course, but now it is purified through contact with the Lord’s claws, and there it is beneficial to take bath there.
I told a story of Krishna as a child being told a bedtime story by Mother Yasoda. Every night she would tell Him a story about one of His own avataras, and Krishna would relish it. Srila Rupa Goswami describes:
Mother Yasoda said:”O my rising dark moon, my child, You are not asleep?”
“No. Sleep has not yet come to Me.”
“Listen, my son. I will tell You a bedtime story that will make You fall asleep.”
“What is this story I have never heard? Please tell it.”
Mother Yasoda then told the story of Lord Nrsingadeva. When she came to the sentences, “Then Lord Nrsimha appeared from the pillar. Lord Nrsimha was very eager to rip the demon to shreds”, a smile suddenly arose on child Krishna’s lips.
Jayapataka Maharaja came to visit us while we were there at Nrsingapalli, despite his extremely bad health. Somehow, despite everything, he has an unbreakable desire to encourage devotees in Srila Prabhupada’s mission.
We then moved on to Harihara Ksetra, where there’s a Deity which is half Lord Visnu and half Lord Siva. There it is half black and half white, and two hands on one side carry the cakra and club of Visnu, and the two hands on the left side carry the trident and something else of Siva. The Deity was stolen for some time, and after that was kept in the local police station for four years. During that time the police case docket was attached to the finger which normally held the cakra! But now He is back in the temple.
In the 10th canto of Srimad Bhagavatam there is a description of how Krishna killed the king of Kazi, immediately after killing Paundraka. Kaziraja’s son prayed to Lord Siva to create a demon who could kill Krishna, and somehow Siva became confused and helped him do that. But the demon could not kill
the Lord, and came running back to Kazi, and Lord Siva realized he had committed a great offence. To be forgiven he came here to Navadvipa Dhama, and took shelter of Lord Caitanya here at Harihara Ksetra.
The devotees stayed overnight there, but I went with other devotees back to our ISKCON temple for the night and came out the next morning to join the parikrama again as the second day began.
We began at Am Ghata, just near Harihara. Caitanya-caritamrita describes:
“One day the Lord performed sankirtana with all His devotees, and when they were greatly fatigued they sat down. The Lord then sowed a mango seed in the yard, and immediately the seed fructified into a tree and began to grow. As people looked on, the tree became fully grown, with fruits that fully ripened. Thus everyone was struck with wonder. The Lord immediately picked about two hundred fruits, and after washing them He offered them to Krsna to eat. The fruits were all red and yellow, with no seed inside and no skin
outside, and eating one fruit would immediately fill a man’s belly.”
From there we walked to Suvarna Bihar, the place of King Suvarna Sena from Satya Yuga, who appeared in Lord Caitanya’s pastimes as Buddhimanta Khan. Jayapataka Maharaja joined us again here and spoke strongly about how Lord Caitanya is still doing harinama around Navadvipa. Lokanatha Maharaja, who
was leading the parikrama in Maharaja’s absence, made him promise to come on the whole parikrama next year.
We then walked on to Gauradaha, where Lord Caitanya delivered a demigod who had taken the form of a crocodile. From there we continued on to Svananda Sukhada Kunja, the house of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura in Navadvipa. He lived here for some time, and Srila Gaura Kishor das Babaji would visit him here, and also Srila Jagannatha das Babaji. It was here that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, the son of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura met his spiritual master, Srila Gaura Kishor das Babaji. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta
Sarasvati said about his guru:
“The most merciful Lord Gaurasundara gave permission to His two dearest devotees (Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Srila Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji) to grant their blessings to me. Because I was always intoxicated with worldly false ego, wanting to be lauded again and again, I was depriving myself of my own true benefit. But due to the influence of pious activities enacted in previous births, I came in contact with Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, my spiritual well-wisher. My prabhu, Srila Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji, would often visit Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and stayed with him. Out of compassion for others, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura pointed out my prabhu, Srila Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji, upon seeing whom the extent of my worldly
false ego diminished. I knew that all living entities who have taken the human form of life were fallen and low like myself. But by gradually observing the spiritual fiber of my master, I realized that only a Vaisnava
could reside on this mortal plane and be of exemplary character. My gurudeva mercifully told me, ‘Reject your knowledge, purity, and aristocracy and come close to me. Don’t go anywhere else. Whatever you require-as many rooms, houses, palaces, and mansions, as much scholarship, skills, self-control, and renunciation-you will get. Simply come close to me. Let there be a house, let there be an entrance, let there be learning-do not be enamored by this type of thinking. Do not consider as necessities that which ordinary
people accept as such.'”
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura continued: “I was a fearsome debater. But with great kindness my gurudeva kicked out my pride in debating. Even in unlimited millions of lifetimes I will not be able to find
the limit of his compassion, nor will anyone else be able to do so. Although I am unfit, he recognized me as his servant, thus fulfilling my cherished desire, by which I may live forever.”
We then moved on to Surabhi Kunja, where Lord Indra came after the Govardhana Lila to get further forgiveness for his offences to Krishna. He had already apologized during the abhiseka at the end of the pastime, as described in Srimad Bhagavatam 10th Canto, but he was still feeling very bad for what he had done, and could not get it out of his mind. Then the Surabhi cow told him “come with me. I know a place where is great mercy.”
They went to Navadvipa and then came to Surabhi Kunja. There was a great Surabhi cow there, standing under a transcendental banyan tree, and she instructed Lord Indra to chant “Gauranga! Gauranga! Gauranga!” He did that, and then Lord Caitanya appeared to him and gave him His mercy.
Because this place is so intimately connected with great mercy, Lord Nityananda made it the headquarters for his Nama Hatta movement, and then later Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura did also. It is a very special place.
I will write more tomorrow or the next day.
Hoping this meets you well.
Bhakti Caitanya Swami