Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Guru Nanak, Part 5

BY: SUN STAFF - 13.3 2019

The last in a serial presentation on Guru Nanak's role in the Bhakti Movement, and his Caitanya-lila pastimes.

In an article for the Orissa Review written in 2003, author Gitarani Praharaj describes the pastimes of Guru Nanak and Lord Chaitanya in Jagannatha Puri. Praharaj, a Curator of Archaeology for the Orissa State Museum in Bhubaneswar, offers many of the same comments given by H.H. Srila Bhakti Sravan Tirtha Goswami, which were included in our last segment. In fact, some of the content in Praharaj's article appears to have been taken directly from H.H. Bhakti Sravan Tirtha Maharaja's narration, to which Praharaj adds some details about this historical pastime, including a rather peculiar remark about Lord Caitanya.

Describing some of the local evidence of Guru Nanak's visit to Puri Dhama, Gitarani Praharaja writes the following:

"As regards the name 'Kaliaboda' it can be stated that one Kalia Pandit took the care of the place and so it has been named as 'Kaliaboda'. Again it can be stated in different connection. Kaliabedi was the father of Nanak and he was a Hindu. It was therefore possible that in order to show respect to the father of Nanak the place might have been named as such. There is no evidence to corroborate the above presumption. It is a subject for future research. Kaliaboda, nevertheless is an important place of pilgrimage for the Sikhs.

There is also clear evidence in Bhadrak District that Nanak came to Orissa. In Bhadrak there is a village called 'Sangat' which means mass prayer of Sikhs and Langar means community dining. In this village Nanak stayed and held mass prayer. There is a recorded plot here called 'Nanak Diha'. Most probably Nanak stayed in this village and held his mass prayer. It will be relevant to mention here that in Sangat village, poet Bansi Ballabh Goswami was born in the 18th century and composed poetry and drama in Oriya, Bengali, Hindi and Persian. In some of his poems he has given some indications regarding the village Sangat, Nanak and Mahadev and Deity of the village. In 1930, Raj Ballabh Mohanty in his 'Bhadra Kali Janana' composed in Oriya has referred to village 'Sangat' and 'Nanak'. Besides that a few manuscripts containing some verses from the famous Japji of Guru Nanak were also discovered at Sangat in Bhadrak."

Narrating the events of Guru Nanak's party stopping along the River Mahanadi at Kaliaboda, Prahraj describes the scene in this way:

"Tradition says that after walking a long distance, he rested on the bank of river Mahanadi at Kaliaboda. Many people went to Nanak to pay their homage. This made Chaitanya Bharati envious who beat Nanak with a twig of Sahada tree. But at the very sight of Nanak the twig automatically dropped out of his hand and he implored his mercy. Nanak took the Sahada twig for brushing his teeth and planted the same on the spot. In course of time it grew into a beautiful tree which stood there for years. This is a sacred place of the Sikhs. As Nanak brushed his teeth here (danta) it is called 'Danton Saheeb'. But this legend has no historical basis."

It is quite unfortunate that Praharaj should have included this unsubstantiated anecdote in his article. Given the absence of any proper explanation, what to speak of the fact that he acknowledges there is no historical basis for the story, he has succeeded in casting a questionable light on the Lord Himself by suggesting that Mahaprabhu could become "envious" of Nanak, beating him with a twig because he was getting too much attention. This is obviously a ludicrous thing to suggest. If one were to include with such a story the transcendental details of the event, explaining exactly what Lord Caitanya was demonstrating by the pastime, it would be a different matter. Sadly, that's not the case.

In H.H. Bhakti Sravan Tirtha Swami's narration, you will recall this passage:

"A popular legend is told of how Guru Nanak was entering the temple of Lord Jagannath, he met Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu who was coming out. Both offered pranams to each other. Then Nanak turned and started to leave the temple. Mahaprabhu asked him why he was not going inside to have darshan. Guru Nanak replied 'I have already seen the Lord'."

The article by Praharaja, like many other renditions of this pastime told by adherents to Sikhism, is obviously skewed in favor of making Nanak Acarya appear to be superior to Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Of course, the Gaudiya Vaisnavas will recognize such storytelling for just what it is. In fact, if the historical events described above by Bhakti Sravan Tirtha Swami are accurate, we see that Guru Nanak did not even recognize the Lord, believing that he had already gotten His darshan upon visiting Lord Jagannatha, when in fact the Supreme Personality of Godhead was right beside him, in the Form of Sri Caitanya, passing Nanak at the temple entrance.

In both Bhakti Sravan Tirtha Swami's article and in Guru Nanak in Oriya Sources by Raghubir Singh Tak, which describes the Oriyan palm leaf manuscript narrating Lord Caitanya and Guru Nanak's visit to Puri, we find references to the statements made in Chaitanya Bhagavata by Ishwar Das. Gitarani Praharaj mentions this reference, as well.

Bhakti Sravan Tirtha Swami describes Ishvar Das as being a close associate of Mahaprabhu's in Puri, and he is thought to have been the only biographer to write about the event. So it's not surprising that these Bhagavata references should be frequently mentioned in narrations about Lord Caitanya and Nanak Dev in Puri. However, some Gaudiya Vaisnavas believe Ishvar Das to be in an apasampradaya, and his Chaitanya Bhagavata to be unbonafide literature. This is evidenced by the fact that his Oriyan Bhagavata states that Lord Caitanya is an incarnation of the Buddha.

We have featured many articles in the Sun about the Orissan amalgamation of Buddha/Jagannath worship, which attempted to codify Buddhism by associating it with Lord Visnu and His Dasavatar incarnations. While it is interesting to read narrations by the Orissan Vaisnavas as to the great historical events surrounding Lord Caitanya's visit to Jagannatha Puri, and Guru Nanak's simultaneous visit there, the reader should proceed with caution in accepting such narrations as fact.