The Holy Places of Jaiva Dharma: Santipura

BY: SUN STAFF - 12.2 2020

Lord Caitanya's Sankirtan Party
Early Bengal School

A serial presentation of the holy places mentioned in the Jaiva Dharma of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur - Part 128.

The next holy place included by Srila Bhaktivinoda on his 'Glossary of Places' is Santipura, about which the following details are given:

"Santipura - the city where Advaita Acarya, Sri Harsa, and Gopalacarya lived. It is situated on the east side of the Ganga about 20 kilometers south of Krsna-nagara, which is about 12 kilometers due east of the present town of Navadvipa.

Directly across the Ganga from Santipura is Kalna. After taking sannyasa, Sriman Mahaprabhu went to the house of Advaita Acarya in Santipura, after being misled by Nityananda Prabhu into thinking that He had arrived in Vrndavana."

There are numerous mentions of Santipura in Jaiva Dharma, and this holy place figures into the storyline as part of a number of unique, albeit relatively unconnected narratives. Two of the connecting threads, however, are related to key personalities in the story: Vaisnava dasa and Lahiri Mahasaya. First, the three references that are connected to our Jaiva Dharma, Vaisnava dasa.

In chapter three, our saintly sannyasi accepted the name Vaisnava dasa, surrendering to his spiritual master, the great Prema-dasa Babaji:

"Saintly Vaisnava dasa thus stayed among the devotees as they humbly offered obeisances to each other and conversed about devotional service. He looked splendid and glorious as in his hands he held new beads for chanting the holy names of Lord Hari.

That day a fortunate person came to that group of Vaisnavas. Since childhood he was able to read and write the language of the Yavanas. He imitated the activities of the Mohammedan kings and in their country he counted himself one amongst them. His home was in Santipura. He was born in a brahmana family. He associated with many wealthy men. For many days he enjoyed all worldly pleasures, but they did not make him happy. At the end he turned to religion and began chanting the holy names of Lord Hari. When he was a child he had studied ragas and raginis from a Delhi classical music teacher. He would employ this knowledge in melodiously singing the holy names of Lord Hari. Gradually he became famous as a singer and musician in Vaisnava circles, and his sweet singing was in great demand. After some days he began to understand the pleasures that reside in the Lord's holy names with the Vaisnavas there. He stayed at a Vaisnava's asrama. Accompanied by this Vaisnava, he came to the cottage of malati and madhavi vines in Pradyumna-kunja. Hearing from Vaisnava dasa of the Vaisnavas' saintliness and humbleness, some doubts still remained in his mind. With boldness and eloquence he placed a question before the assembled Vaisnavas."

As the story continues, the paramahamsa babaji offered obeisances to the inquiring brahmana, saying:

"O saintly devotees, if you wish, the Sri Vaisnava dasa, the best of devotees, will give the proper answer." Everyone was happy with this proposal."

Later in chapter three there is another scene involving both Vaisnava dasa and Santipura. This time, it is the story of a wife whose husband has left grihasta life, but she refuses to leave him in peace. Lahiri Mahasaya awakes to a sound in the courtyard:

"Coming outside, in the courtyard he saw Madhava dasa talking with the woman. Seeing him, the woman disappeared. Embarrassed before Lahiri Mahasaya, Madhava dasa stood motionless.

Lahiri Mahasaya said, "Babaji, what's wrong?"

Tears in his eyes, Madhava dasa replied, "O my misfortune! What more can I say? What was I in the past? What am I now? How much faith the saintly paramahamsa babaji had in me! Now I am ashamed even to come near him."

Lahiri Mahasaya said, "If you tell me clearly, I can understand."

Madhava dasa said, "The woman you saw was my married wife in my former asrama. A few days after I accepted a life of renunciation, she came to Sri Santipura and lived in a cottage she built by the Ganga's shore. Many days passed in that way. Walking by the Ganga's shore at Sri Santipura, I saw her and said, 'Why did you leave your home?' She told me, 'Material life is not good. Now that I am robbed of your feet, I will stay at a holy place and beg alms.' Not saying anything more, I slowly returned to Sri Godruma. At Sri Godruma I eventually stayed at a Sad-gopa's house. Every day, at some place or other, I would see her. The more I tried to avoid her, the more she tried to come near me. Now she stays at an asrama. She comes late at night and tries to ruin me. Now I am infamous everywhere. Because I now associate with her, my devotional service has become dwarfed. I am a cinder that blackens the family of Sri Krsna Caitanya's servants. Since the time of Chota Haridasa's punishment, I am the deserving of punishment. Being merciful, the babaji of Sri Godruma have not yet punished me, but they do not trust me.

Hearing these words, Lahiri Mahasaya said, "Take care, O Madhava dasa Babaji". After speaking these words, he entered the house. The babaji sat on his own seat.

Lahiri Mahasaya could not sleep. Again and again he thought, "Madhava dasa Babaji has fallen down. He is like one who eats his own vomit. I should not stay in this house. Why not? Even if I do not fall down by associating with him, I will be criticised by others. Not trusting me, the pure Vaisnavas will not teach me.

At sunrise he went to Pradyumna-kunja, properly greeted Sri Vaisnava dasa and asked for a place to stay. When Vaisnava dasa informed the saintly paramahamsa babaji of this request, the babaji said he could stay in a cottage on one side of the forest. Lahiri Mahasaya stayed in that cottage and arranged to get prasadam at the home of a nearby brahmana."

In chapter four we find the last reference, again to both Santipura and the saintly Vaisnava dasa, who has come to visit Lahiri Mahasaya in his new kutir at Santipura:

"It was shortly after dusk. Sitting on a leaf-seat in his cottage, Sri Vaisnava dasa chanted the holy names of Lord Hari. It was the dark fortnight. The night was gradually becoming dark. A flickering lamp burned in Lahiri Mahasaya's cottage. Seeing a snake at his doorway, Lahiri Mahasaya quickly trimmed the lamp and took up a stick to kill the snake, but when he came outside with his lamp he did not see the snake. Then Lahiri Mahasaya said to Vaisnava dasa, "Take care. A snake has entered your cottage." Vaisnava dasa replied, "Why do you worry about a snake? Come. Enter my cottage without fear." Lahiri Mahasaya entered the cottage and sat on the leaf seat. Still, his mind was agitated about the snake. He said "O noble-hearted one, Santipura is very good in this way. It is a city and there is no fear of snakes or other dangers. In Nadiya there is always fear of snakes. Especially Godruma and the other forest places. It is hard for a gentleman to live in those places.

Sri Vaisnava dasa babaji replied, "O Lahiri Mahasaya, It is foolish to let the mind be agitated over these things. You must have heard the story of Maharaja Pariksit in the Srimad Bhagavatam. Giving up all fear of snakes, with an unagitated mind he heard nectar descriptions of Lord Hari from the mouth of Srila Sukadeva Gosvami. In this way he attained transcendental bliss. No snake can kill a man's spiritual body."