The Holy Places of Jaiva Dharma: Bhagirathi

BY: SUN STAFF - 3.7 2019

Sri Ganga Ma on Makara-vahana
Thanjavur, c. 1814 
British Museum Collection

A serial presentation of the holy places mentioned in the Jaiva Dharma of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur - Part 17.

The next tirtha mentioned on Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur's 'Glossary of Places' in Jaiva Dharma's is the Bhagirathi River:

"Bhagirathi - another name for the Ganga River. The river Ganga is a celestial river. Because this river was brought to the earth by the austerities and prayers of King Bhagiratha, she is also known as Bhagirathi. Initially, where the Ganga starts near Gangotri, she is known as the Bhagirathi. When the Bhagirathi meets the Alakananda, she becomes known as the Ganga. In West Bengal, the Ganga divides into the Padma River and the Bhagirathi. The Bhagirathi flows south through Navadvipa and on to the Bay of Bengal. Some distance south of Santipura, the Bhagirathi becomes known as the Hugli."

In a previous segment, we found this river mentioned in a listing from Jaiva Dharma's 'Glossary of Places':

"Alakananda - one of the four great branches of the river Ganga (the others are the Bhagirathi, Mandakini, and Bhogavati). When the Alakananda meets the Bhagirathi in northern Uttara Pradesh, the river becomes known as the Ganga."

Among the countless transcendental qualities of the holy Bhagirathi is its association with the birthplace of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. This is predicted in the Padma-Purana, where the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself states:

kaleh prathama-sandhyayam
gaurangotham mahi-tale
bhagirathi-tate ramye
bhavisyami saci-sutah (58)

"I shall appear on this earth [mahi-tale] in the first part of Kali-Yuga [kaleh prathama sandhyayam] in a beautiful place on the bank of the Bhagirathi [bhagirathi-tate ramye]. I shall have a golden form [gaurangah], and I shall take birth as the son of Saci [bhavisyami saci-sutah]."

And in the Brahma Purana, Sri Krsna declares:

Text 35 


kaleh prathama-sandhyayam
gaurango 'ham mahi-tale
bhagirathi-tate bhumni
bhavishyami sanatanah

"In the first sandhya of the Kali-yuga I will reveal My eternal golden form by the Bhagirathi's shore on the earth."

There are a great many references throughout sastra to this most sacred of rivers, therefore we will dedicate quite a number of segments to the Bhagirathi in this series.

First, let us consider the direct references to the Bhagirathi in Jaiva Dharma itself. There are five notable mentions:

Chapter One - The Eternal & Temporary Dharmas of the Jiva:

"Within this world, the island of Jambudvipa is most excellent. In Jambudvipa, the land of Bharata-varsa is eminent and within Bharata-varsa, the topmost place is Gauda-bhumi. Within Gauda-bhumi, the nine-island region of Sri Navadvipa mandala is most distinguished, and in one area of Sri Navadvipa mandala, on the eastern bank of the Bhagirathi river, a beautiful settlement named Sri Godruma is eternally situated.

In ancient times, many stalwart practitioners of bhajana lived in the various places of Sri Godruma. It was here that Sri Surabhi, a cow of divine origin, previously worshiped the Supreme Lord Bhagavan Sri Gauracandra in her own kunja, a grove shaded with fragrant flowering creepers. At a little distance from this kunja is Pradyumna-kunja. Here, Sri Premadasa Paramahamsa Babaji, a siksa disciple of Pradyumna Brahmacari, the best among the associates of Sri Gauracandra, now lived in a kutira (hut) covered with vines and dense foliage, and spent his time constantly immersed in the divine rapture of bhajana."

The Bhagirathi is mentioned again in Chapter Seven, regarding the many erudite Vaisnavas living on its eastern bank, in Sri Godruma:

Chapter Seven - Nitya-dharma & Material Existence:

"Yadava dasa said, "Many learned Vaisnavas live on the eastern bank of the Bhagirathi in Sri Godrumadvipa. Come, let us go there and inquire from them. I also go there from time to time and receive many instructions. At present, the Vaisnava scholars of Sri Godruma are more expert than the brahmana scholars in the conclusions of the sastras. Some days ago, Sri Vaisnava dasa Babaji defeated the brahmana-panditas of the area in a debate. A deep question like yours can be resolved most satisfactorily there."

In Chapter Eleven, the opposite bank of the Bhagirathi is mentioned:

Chapter 11 - Nitya-Dharma & Idolatry:

"On the western bank of the Bhagirathi, in the Koladvipa district of Navadvipa, there is a famous village named Kuliya Paharpura. At the time of Sriman Mahaprabhu, a highly respected and influential Vaisnava named Sri Madhava dasa Cattopadhyaya (also known as Chakauri Cattopadhyaya) lived in that village. Chakauri Cattopadhyaya had a son named Srila Vamsi-vadanananda Thakura. By the mercy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Sri Vamsivadanananda had tremendous power and authority. Everyone addressed him as Vamsi-vadanananda Prabhu, because they regarded him as an incarnation of Krsna's flute. He was renowned as a special recipient of Sri Visnupriya's mercy."

In Chapter Twelve the meditations of the devotee Vrajanatha are mentioned, as he sat on the bank of the Bhagirathi.

Chapter 12 - Nitya-Dharma, Sadhana & Sadhya:

"Vrajanatha's heart would begin to dance when he heard the sound of mrdanga and karatalas, and he would offer pranama within his mind whenever he saw pure devotees. He displayed great devotion toward Sri Navadvipa, respecting it as the birthplace of Sri Gaurangadeva. When rival panditas saw that Nyaya-pancanana had become soft-hearted, they were very pleased at his condition. Now they could openly step out of their houses without fear. Naiyayika Pandita thought that his worshipable Deity had rendered Vrajanatha inactive and there was no longer any need to be afraid.

One day, while Vrajanatha was sitting in a secluded place on the bank of the Bhagirathi, he thought to himself, "If such a profound scholar of the nyaya-sastra as Nimai could renounce logic, and adopt the path of bhakti, what fault would there be if I should do the same? While I was obsessed with nyaya, I could not apply myself to the cultivation of bhakti, nor could I bear to hear the name of Nimai. In those days, I was so immersed in the nyaya-sastra that I could not even find time to eat, drink, or sleep. Now I see things in quite the opposite way."

And finally, in Chapter Twenty-three there is mention of the divine embodiment of this river, the goddess Bhagavati Bhagirathi:

Chapter 23 - Prameya: Sri-Nama-Tattva:

"Bilva-puskarini is a charming village where Bhagavati Bhagirathi flows in both the northern and western directions. In one corner of the village, there is a beautiful lake surrounded by bael trees. On the shore of the lake is the Bilva-paksa Mahadeva Temple, and Bhavatarana is splendidly situated a little distant from this temple. The village of Simuliya is between Bilva-puskarini and Brahmana-puskarini, and all three villages are within the town of Navadvipa."

In our next segment we will begin diving into the deep pool of sastric commentary on the holy Bhagirathi.