The Holy Places of Jaiva Dharma: Saptagrama

BY: SUN STAFF - 27.2 2020

Sri Nityananda Prabhu and Narottama dasa Thakur

A serial presentation of the holy places mentioned in the Jaiva Dharma of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur - Part 136.

There are numerous references in Vaisnava literature to the associates of Lord Chaitanya and their connections to Saptagrama. The Bhakti Ratnakara of Srila Narahari Cakravarti Thakur mentions Sri Virachandra Prabhu, who travelled with his followers to Vrindavan, stopping on the way in Saptagrama:

"After receiving permission from his mother, Virachandra and some of his followers started for Vrndavana on an auspicious day. Along the way they stopped at Saptagrama for two days, where they stayed in the house of a fortunate Vanika and spent their time absorbed in sankirtana. Through the association of Virachandra prabhu, many of the residents of Saptagrama were relieved from all miseries of life. The party then traveled on to Santipura. There Virachandra met Krsna Misra, the son of Advaita Acarya, and they enjoyed performing sankirtana together."

(Bhakti Ratnakara, Chapter 13)

There is another excellent passage in Bhakti Ratnakara about Saptagrama, this one describing the pastimes of both Srila Narottama dasa Thakur and Nityananda Prabhu:

"Narottama visited all the villages where favorite followers of Mahaprabhu lived. He was thrilled to observe the beauty of Saptagram and offered his respects to that village from a distant place. Saptagrama is a place of high religious importance as it was the sadhana Kshetra of seven great ascetics and also the meeting place of three great rivers, namely Sri Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati. It was the Vihara Ksretra of Prabhu Nityananda.

Now I will describe Prabhu Nityananda's intention in choosing Saptagram for his pastimes. On the order of Sri Caitanya deva who was then in Nilacala, Nityananda had to go to Gauradesh. He arrived in Gauradesh from Utkala and glorified the place by giving it the title of the crown ornament of all other holy places. In Sri Caitanya Candradaya Natika the importance of Gaura has been noted. Gaura was the head ornament of all other holy places, situated in Sri Navadvipa where the incarnation of Sri Gauranga appeared, and in whom the deity of devotion was born in a human feature, i.e. Nityananda Prabhu.

Nityananda wanted to visit many places of religious importance and his pilgrimage has been described in Sri Caitanya Bhagavata. He visited places on both banks of the Ganges, the holiest of all the holy places, but he cherished the hope of visiting Nadia to meet Sri Saci mata. When he reached the village of Panihati with Ramadasa, Gadadhara and other companions, he first visited the house of Ragava Pandita where he started san kirtana with great pleasure. The great devotee Ragava took birth in this village it was also an important holy place. According to Sri Caitanya Bhagavata the particular place where Bhagavata had appeared could guarantee salvation to any person living within one lakh Yojana distance from it. Hearing news of Nityananda in Panihati, many people came to offer their respects to him. According to Sri Caitanya Bhagavata that place became a highly holy place where many Vaisnavas came to live. Prabhu Nityananda displayed many miraculous pastimes of divine character to his devotees in Panihati. I am unable to describe the type of activities which Prabhu showed in the house of Dasa Gadadhara.

In Kharadaha, the son of Padmavati danced madly in san kirtana and while worshipping the place of Purandara Pandita, Prabhu showed qualities of devotional love which Lord Brahma is unable to possess. After relieving the miseries of many people in many villages, Prabhu Nityananda went to Saptagram. It was here that Prabhu Nityananda captivated the mind of Uddharan Datta.

According to Sri Caitanya Bhagavata Prabhu spent some days in the house of Uddharan Datta which was situated on the bank of the river Tribeni. Uddharan Datta unflatteringly and sincerely worshipped the feet of Nityananda. Uddharan was considered very fortunate as he gained the right to care for Nityananda and he remained the servant of Prabhu Nityananda throughout that life and his following life. From Uddharan's service the entire merchant class of Saptagram gained emancipation.

Nityananda was born as an incarnation (avatara) to enamcipate the merchant class and give them the right to worship in loving devotion. Nityananda visited and performed harinama in each and every house of the merchants and the entire merchant class engaged itself in worshipping the feet of Nityananda. The sincerity with which they worshipped Lord Krishna enchanted the world.

Glory to Nityananda Mahaprabhu the emancipator of the banias, the wretched and ignorant persons. In Saptagram Nityananda performed sankirtana lila with Mahamalla Rai and his other followers. The sankirtana bihara of Nityananda in Saptagram is beyond description. Saptagram was filled with the same ecstasy of joy which had been experienced in Nadia.

Thakura Vrndavana has described the satisfied and happy life of the merchant class. Uddharana Datta gladly and sincerely engaged in the service of Prabhu Nityananda and Saptagram on the bank of the Tribeni river, it became a great place of religious importance. All other places which were visited and captivated by Nityananda also became important in the religious shpere. Uddharan Datta travelled with Prabhu Nityananda to all the holy places. In Santipura Prabhu Nityananda met Shri Advaita Prabhu. From there Nityananda went to Navadvipa.

At that time Prabhu Nityananda was very beautiful and attractively decorated with many ornaments. The sweet sound of his leg ornaments on his gracious feet was sweet beyond description. In the book Shesakhanda-Sutra written by the son of Narayani, a description of the triumph of Shri Nityananda can be found. According to Shri Chaitanya Bhagavata realisation of the lila of Prabhu Nityananda was beyond anyone's capabilities. With ornaments on his gracious feet Nityannda promanaded through Navadvipa as though in Mathura for to him Mathura and Navadvipa were the same. According to Shri Chaitanya Bhagavata Nityananda Prabhu and his followers visited each house in Navadvipa singing Harinama and kirtana. In Navadvipa Nityananda gave much pleasure to Shri Saci mata, and he travelled the whole world of Nadia with his companions. Narottama delightfully visited the village of Saptagrama of Shri Uddharan Thakur, the great devotee of Nityananda. He asked the villagers about the exact location of Uddharan Datta's house, they cheerfully showed him the direction but informed that being unable to bear the separation from Prabhu Nityananda, Uddharan Datta had died a few days before. Upon the disappearance of Nityananda Prabhu Saptagram had sunk into utter darkness. Narottama lost himself in despondency and with a restless mind he met the followers who were favorite of Prabhu Nityananda."

(Bhakti Ratnakara, Chapter 8)