The Holy Places of Jaiva Dharma: Santipura

BY: SUN STAFF - 12.2 2020

Shyamchand Radha-Krsna Temple, Santipur

A serial presentation of the holy places mentioned in the Jaiva Dharma of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur - Part 129.

In chapter seven of Jaiva Dharma is a story featuring Santipura, which was mentioned in our previous segment on Ambika-kalna. This part of Srila Bhaktivinoda's book relates the pastimes of Candi das and his wife Damayanti. They had saved up their wealth to give to their eldest son, but their greedy offspring could not wait, and plotted a way to steal it from their parents. News of the theft reached them while they travelled around Nadia.

"Candi dasa consulted with his wife, Damayanti. She was very happy. The two talked. "Your words the other day brought our sons to their senses. We are not so weak that we cannot walk. Passing through Kalna and Santipura, let us go to Sridhama Navadvipa."

Noting an auspicious day, the two began their pilgrimage. Walking and walking, on the next day they came to Ambika. Staying there at a merchant's place, they cooked and ate their meal. A man from Saptagrama came there and told them, "Your sons broke into your room and took all your belongings. They will not allow you to return home. They have taken all your hidden wealth."

Hearing this, Candi dasa and his wife lamented greatly. On that day they would not eat. They wept and wept. The Vaisnava lady accompanying them said, "Don't be attached to your home. Continue travelling. Renounce the world. Meet the Vaisnavas. They for whom you have done so much have now become your enemies. Now you cannot return home. Continue travelling. You can stay in Navadvipa. By begging you can eat. All will be well."

Hearing of what their sons and daughters-in-law had done, Candi dasa and his wife said again and again, "We will not return home. It is better that we give up our lives. That would be best."

After that they stayed at the home of a Vaisnava in Ambika-grama. After two or four days they went to see Santipura and then they went to Navadvipa. There they stayed in Mayapura, in the home of a relative who was a merchant. They stayed for two or four days and then went to see the seven village of Navadvipa, and, on the other side of the ganga, the seven villages of Kuliya-grama. After a few days love for their sons and daughters-in-law again arose in their hearts."

The last two references in Jaiva Dharma to Santipura involve the character Lahiri Mahasaya, who in our last segment was visiting with Vaisnava dasa at Santipura. The first mention is in chapter five, and this can be considered the most significant passage about the state of affairs in Santipura around the time of Gaura-lila:

"Lahiri Mahasaya had a large family in his home in Santipura. His two sons were famous scholars. One was named Candranatha, who was 35 years old. He was a landowner (zamindar) and he looked after all the household affairs. He was learned in the medical texts. He did trouble himself much with religion. Still, he was honoured in brahmana society. He took care of the servants, maids, doorkeepers, and others, and he looked after the household affairs. The second son was named Devidasa. From childhood he eagerly studied the Nyaya-sastra and Smrti-sastra. He had his own school with ten or fifteen students. He bore the title Vidyaratna (the jewel of knowledge).

One day in Santipura there was a rumour that Kalidasa Lahiri had become a Vaisnava ascetic. The rumour was everywhere: at the bathing ghatas, in the marketplace, and on the streets. Some said that he was now a senile old man. Indeed, on that day the general opinion was that he had become senile. Some said, "Perhaps he was struck with some disease. He is a brahmana by birth. His sons and wife and family obey him. What suffering led him to renounce the world?" Some said, "Such is the sad end of they who run here and there advertising their love for religion." Some educated persons said, "Kalidasa Lahiri is a very pious man. Although everything this world has to offer is in his possession, in his old age he has become attracted to the holy names of Lord Hari." In these ways they talked. Hearing all these rumours, someone repeated them to Devidasa Vidyaratna Mahasaya.

Rapt in thought, Vidyaratna approached his elder brother and said, "Brother, I think our father is in great trouble. His body is in good health. He is staying at Godruma in Nadiya. But he has fallen into bad association. We cannot be blind to the rumours in the village."

Candranatha replied, "O brother, I have also heard some of these rumours. The fame of our house is very great. Still, when I hear these rumours about father, I can no longer hold my head high. We have always held the family of Advaita Prabhu in low esteem. But what has no happened in our own house? Let us go home, consult with our saintly mother, and do what we can."

The story continues with Devidasa and his maternal cousin, Sambhunatha, traveling to Godruma to see Lahiri Mahasaya, hopeing to encourage him to come back home to live in Santipura. The story picks-up upon their arrival at Godruma:

"The next day, after they had finished their meal, Devi and Sambhu entered Lahiri Mahasaya's cottage. After offering dandavat obeisances, Devidasa Vidyaratna placed the following request before Lahiri Mahasaya: "This is my request: Please reside in Santipura. In this place there are many troubles and inconveniences. All of us will happily serve you at home. If you order, we will arrange a solitary room for you to stay there."

Lahiri Mahasaya replied, "It is not a bad idea. Still, in Santipura I will not be able to associate with devotees as I do here. Devi, you know that the people of Santipura are atheists and delight in criticising others. It is not a happy place for anyone to live. True, there are many brahmanas there, but their intelligence is warped by association with weavers. The three characteristics of Santipura's people are fine garments, pompous words, and blasphemy of Vaisnavas. That is why the descendants of Advaita Prabhu suffer there. By bad association even many of them have also turned against Lord Mahaprabhu. Therefore please arrange that I may stay here in Godruma. That is my desire."

Devidasa said, "Father, what you say is true. Still, why need you have any contact with Santipura's people? In your own private room you can chant Gayatri and perform your other religious duties. In this way you may pass your days. A brahmana has eternal duties and eternal religions rituals. Great souls like yourself should always be absorbed in these duties."

Lahiri Mahasaya said, "Son, those days are no more. Now that I have stayed for some months with the devotees and heard the teachings of my spiritual master, my view of life is completely changed. What you call eternal duties I call temporary duties. Devotional service to Lord Hari is the soul's only eternal duty. Chanting Gayatri and other like duties are all temporary."

Finally, in chapter nine of Jaiva Dharma there is another scene featuring Lahiri Mahasaya, in discussion with his spiritual master:

"Lahiri Mahasaya replied, "You are my parama-guru. Whatever you wish, that will be done."

The saintly babaji said, "You come from Santipura, therefore I will call you Advaita dasa."

Offering dandavat obeisances, Lahiri Mahasaya accepted the merciful gift of his new name. From that day forward, everyone called him Advaita dasa, and the cottage where he performed devotional service they called Advaita-kutira."

Later in this section there is a passage about Sri Advaita dasa receiving a visit from his childhood friend, Digambara Cattopadhyaya, a smrta brahmana who Advaita recognized as very bad association, which he quickly liberated himself from.