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YOGA-PITHA, THE BIRTHPLACE OF LORD CAITANYA MAHAPRABHU;
Deities of Sri Jagannath Misra, the father, and mother Sachi holding baby Nimai in the house they lived
By Chandan Bhatia
Antardwipa: “Antar” means ‘secret’ and ‘dwipa’ means ‘island’, and this island is where Lord Krishna revealed His internal secret feelings about His future appearance as Lord Caitanya.
Yoga-Pitha: Yoga-Pitha is the actual site of Lord Caitanya’s appearance. In 1893, Bhaktivinoda Thakura established this site. He personally collected funds to purchase this land and built a small temple here. This was completed in 1906 at which time he installed the Deities of Gaura-Narayana and His two wives, Laksmipriya & Visnupriya. Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s son and spiritual successor, Bhaktisiddhanta Thakura, built the present Temple in 1934. It was inaugurated on Gaura-Purnima day in 1935.
Scenario before the Appearance of Lord Caitanya
The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Caitanya, propagated the essence of all religion for the age of Kali – congregational chanting of Lord Hari’s holy name. Accompanied by His associates, He appeared in Kali-yuga simply to establish the religious practice of congregational chanting.
According to His desire, His eternal associates appeared before Him, taking birth as humans. Ananta Sesa, Siva, Brahma, the sages, and other associates of the Lord all took birth as highly elevated, pure Vaishnavas. Lord Caitanya, Krishna, knew everyone’s position and identity. Most of them took birth in Navadwipa, yet some were born in Orissa, and others in the west. All these associates appeared in different places, but everyone met in Navadwipa. The village Ekacakra is in the Radhadesa district of Bengal. The Supreme Lord Nityananda made His appearance there. Lord Nityananda is an ocean of mercy, the shelter of all Vaishnavas and the giver of devotion.
By goddess Sarasvati’s grace, residents of Navadwipa of all different ages were learned exponents of the scriptures. The people were proud of their material knowledge. Residents mostly wasted their time spending money for sense pleasures and other worldly affairs. As they grew prouder and more materialistic, people’s tastes for devotional service to the Supreme Lord decreased alarmingly, and in the beginning of Kali-yuga they exhibited the qualities of the future. They squandered large sums on the marriages of their sons and daughters, and in this way they wasted their human life.
Even the so-called learned high priests did not know the purpose of the scriptures. Nobody was engaged in explaining the imports of congregational chanting of Lord Krishna’s holy name- the religion of Kali-yuga – they spent their time simply finding faults in others. As for the superstitious so-called renunciates and hermits, not a single name of God ever escaped their mouths. Those considered most pious in society were heard repeating the Lord’s name Govinda only once at the time of daily ablution. Devotional perspectives were invariably absent in explaining transcendental literatures like Bhagavad-Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam.
The devotees of the Lord became distressed seeing the mass of people engrossed in material existence under the external energy of the Lord. How can all these living entities be liberated? They are completely mesmerized by the myth of sense pleasures. Although people were requested to chant Krishna’s holy name, they refused and instead they foolishly busied themselves acquiring fruitless material knowledge.
The elevated Vaishnavas continued their devotional activities by worshiping Krishna, and discussing Krishna conscious topics. They became moved to benedict humanity and prayed that Lord Krishna would quickly shower His mercy upon them.
Foremost of the great Vaishnavas in Navadwipa was Advaita Acarya. He was a preeminent spiritual preceptor and exponent on knowledge of the absolute science of devotion and renunciation. His delineation of Krishna conscious topics equalled Lord Siva’s. On all existing scriptures His explanations arrived at the same conclusion-the essence of everything is devotion to Lord Krishna’s lotus feet.
Advaita Acarya constantly worshiped Lord Krishna with great devotion, offering Him tulasi blossoms and Ganges water. His intense attachment for Lord Krishna made him resound in loud exaltation, and the sound penetrated the coverings of the material world. In that manner Advaita Acarya spent His days in Navadwipa, where He suffered acute pain at the sight of persons bereft of devotional service. He had a very compassionate nature, He was always thinking of how to liberate the conditioned souls.
“If My Lord descends, He can liberate everyone. I can boast of being an incarnation of Lord Maha-Visnu only if I can convince the Lord of Vaikuntha, Krishna, to appear in this world. And when that Lord of Vaikuntha descends in person, I shall sing and dance in joy and liberate all the conditional souls.” Considering matters in this way, He constantly worshiped the lotus feet of Krishna with undeviating resolve.
Each one of the magnanimous devotees executed his spiritual duties and knew nothing besides devotional service to Krishna. They were unaware of their own spiritual identities (svarupa), yet they mixed intimately as confidential friends. Wherever they looked they saw a world devoid of devotion, and their hearts were burning with sorrow. They found no one with any taste for the nectar of Lord Krishna’s pastimes, so they simply glorified the Lord amongst themselves. The devotees would gather together for several hours in Sri Advaita Acarya’s residence discussing topics of Lord Krishna, and in this manner they dispelled their grief. The devotees saw the world burning in the flames of material existence, and there was no place to discuss topics of Krishna consciousness. This caused them great sorrow.
Sri Advaita Acarya and the other Vaishnavas tried to make the people God conscious, but not a soul appreciated them.
Stricken with grief due to people’s suffering, Sri Advaita Acarya began fasting, and the Vaishnavas sighed deeply at the situation. “Why sing and dance for Krishna? What is the meaning of congregational chanting of the Lord’s holy name? Who are the Vaishnavas?” Gross materialistic people running after wealth and family do not comprehend any of these things. Indeed such atheists only taunt and laugh at the Vaishnavas.
As evening descended, Srivasa Thakura and His three brothers would loudly sing the Lord’s name in their house. The atheistic neighbours vilified Srivasa Thakura, pronouncing him mad. They declared that the entire village would be destroyed because of him. The tyrannical Muslim rulers would tear the village apart if they heard people loudly chanting God’s name. Some envious neighbours said they would break down Srivasa Thakura’s house and float it down the river in order to get rid of him.
Someone said, “Only when Srivasa Thakura leaves will the village be peaceful again. Otherwise the Muslim rulers will torture us.”
When the saintly Vaishnavas heard such threats from the atheists they simply wept and revealed their sorrow to Lord Krishna. Sri Advaita Acarya burned with rage on hearing this news, and, unconcerned with His undressed state, He addressed the Vaishnavas in these words, “Listen Srivasa, Gangadasa, and Suklambara. I shall make Lord Krishna appear before everyone’s eyes. Lord Krishna will come personally and liberate everyone. He will take you with Him, and we will all teach the atheists love of Godhead. And if I fail to keep My promise, I shall manifest My four-handed form and take up the disc. I shall sever the heads of all the atheists. Then will it be accepted that Lord Krishna is My Lord and master and I am His proper servitor.”
Sri Advaita Acarya continually spoke in this way, and He worshiped the lotus feet of Lord Krishna with a solemn vow. All the devotees also worshiped Lord Krsna’s lotus feet with great attention and continuous tears.
Sri Jagannatha Misra, the transcendental personality, resided in Navadwipa, and like Vasudeva, Lord Krishna’s father, He was always engaged in spiritual activities. He was magnanimous and possessed the best of all brahminical qualities. His dedicated wife, Srimati Sachidevi, was the embodiment of devotion to the Supreme Lord. She was the universal mother. All her eight daughters passed away, and she was left with one greatly fortunate son, Visvarupa.
Sri Visvarupa was as beautiful and charming as Cupid and the source of joy for His parents. From birth Sri Visvarupa was renounced, and in His childhood He mastered the different scriptures.
Appearance of Lord Caitanya
It was 1486 in the month of Phalguna (Feb-Mar) and Navadwipa-Mayapur vibrated with tumultuous sound of chanting of “HARI! HARI!” which penetrated the material universe and heralded the appearance of Supreme Personality of Godhead. It was lunar eclipse and everyone, even the most impious and atheists who had never chanted the name of God, found themselves going to Ganga and chanting “HARI! HARI!” as if compelled by some imperceptible force. By His own sweet will, the Supreme Lord, who incarnated as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to inaugurate Harinam Sankirtan movement, appeared in the midst of the loud chanting of His own names.
Nilambara Cakravarti, Sachimata’s father, saw 32 divine symbols on the body of his grandson. He read astrological calculations for the time of birth but became more overwhelmed the more he tried to explain the unlimited glories he saw in the chart. An elevated saintly person was present dressed as brahmana. He predicted, “This child is the Supreme Lord, Narayana Himself. He will establish the essence of all religion. He will initiate a wonderful preaching movement and deliver the whole world. Even stubborn atheists will worship His feet.”
Sachimata named her new son Nimai because He was born under a neem tree. The ladies named Him Gaurahari because of His beautiful golden complexion. And His father named Him Gauranga. When Nimai was 6 months old, Sachimata noticed divine signs on His lotus feet. Seeing this Nilambara Cakravarti immediately called all brahmanas and held a festival for Nimai’s nama-karana (name-giving) ceremony. Recalling extraordinary predictions in his grandson’s chart, he said, “In the future this child will protect and maintain the whole world. For this reason He is to be called Visvambhara.”
Sri Caitanya Caritamrta
Sri Caitanya Bhagavata by Srila Vrindavana Das Thakura
Gauradesa by Manjari devi dasi