Caitanya Mahaprabhu's Tirtha-yatra, Part 61


BY: SUN STAFF - 15.11 2021

Pilgrims bathing at Tapi River

 A serial exploration of the holy sites visited by Lord Caitanya.

Tapi River

Today we visit another of the stops along Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu's pada-yatra path that is described as one of His bathing places along a holy river. In this case, the theertham is the Tapi River, which is mentioned in the Summary of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya lila 9:

Madhya Lila 9 Summary

"At Sri Rangapuri the Lord received news of Sankararanya's disappearance. He then went to the banks of the Krsnavenva River, where He collected from among the Vaisnava brahmanas a book written by Bilvamangala, Krsna-karnamrta. The Lord then visited Tapti, Mahismati-pura, Narmada-tira and Rsyamuka-parvata. He entered Dandakaranya and liberated the seven palm trees. From there He visited a place known as Pampa-sarovara and visited Pancavati, Nasika, Brahmagiri and also the source of the Godavari River, Kusavarta. Thus the Lord visited almost all the holy places in South India."

Later in Madhya Lila we get some additional information about the Tapi:

Madhya 9.310

tapi snana kari' aila mahismati-pure
nana tirtha dekhi tahan narmadara tire

"Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu next arrived at the banks of the river Tapi. After bathing there, He went to Mahismati-pura. While there, He saw many holy places on the banks of the river Narmada.

The river Tapi is also known as Tapti. The river's source is a mountain called Multai, and the river flows westward through the state of Saurastra and into the Arabian Sea.

Mahismati-pura (Maheshwar) is mentioned in Mahabharata in connection with Sahadeva's victory. Sahadeva, the youngest brother of the Pandavas, conquered that part of the country. As stated in the Mahabharata:

tato ratnany upadaya purim mahismatim yayau
tatra nilena rajna sa cakre yuddham nararsabhah

"After acquiring jewels, Sahadeva went to the city of Mahismati, where he fought with a king called Nila.'"

The Tapi River at Surat, Gujarat

The Tapi River is also mentioned in Srimad Bhagavatam as one of a number of great holy rivers in India:

Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.19.17-18

"Two of the rivers -- the Brahmaputra and the Sona -- are called nadas, or main rivers. These are other great rivers that are very prominent: Candravasa, Tamraparni, Avatoda, Krtamala, Vaihayasi, Kaveri, Veni, Payasvini, Sarkaravarta, Tungabhadra, Krsnavenya, Bhimarathi, Godavari, Nirvindhya, Payosni, Tapi, Reva, Surasa, Narmada, Carmanvati, Mahanadi, Vedasmrti, Rsikulya, Trisama, Kausiki, Mandakini, Yamuna, Sarasvati, Drsadvati, Gomati, Sarayu, Rodhasvati, Saptavati, Susoma, Satadru, Candrabhaga, Marudvrdha, Vitasta, Asikni and Visva. The inhabitants of Bharata-varsa are purified because they always remember these rivers. Sometimes they chant the names of these rivers as mantras, and sometimes they go directly to the rivers to touch them and bathe in them. Thus the inhabitants of Bharata-varsa become purified."

In the Tenth Canto of Srimad Bhagavatam, which describes the travels of Lord Balarama just before the start of the Battle of Kurukshetra, we find that He also visited the Tapi:

Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.79.20-21

"The Supreme Lord then traveled through the kingdoms of Kerala and Trigarta, visiting Lord Siva's sacred city of Gokarna, where Lord Dhurjati [Siva] directly manifests himself. After also visiting Goddess Parvati, who dwells on an island, Lord Balarama went to the holy district of Surparaka and bathed in the Tapi, Payosni and Nirvindhya rivers. He next entered the Dandaka forest and went to the river Reva, along which the city of Mahismati is found. Then He bathed at Manu-tirtha and finally returned to Prabhasa."

The source of the River Tapi is at a mountain called Multai, which is approximately 750 kilometers from Hajira Gujarat, where the Tapi flows into the Arabian Sea. Flowing westward from its source, the Tapi flows through Madhya Pradesh, into Maharashtra, then into Gujarat. The Sanskrit name of Multai is mulatapi, meaning origin of Tapi Mata, or the Tapi River. Multai is about 125 kilometers northwest of Nagpur.

Course of the Tapi River

In this purport to Madhya 9.310, Srila Prabhupada mentions that the Tapi flows through Saurastra into the sea. Saurastra is another name for the peninsula of Gujarat, also called Kathiawar. The northern part of the peninsula is the Kachchh region, and the southern portion is the Saurastra, or Sorath region.

Madhya 9.310 also states that after visiting Tapi, Lord Caitanya went to Mahismati-pura, which is in the Khargone district of Madhya Pradesh. Mahismati is situated on the banks of the sacred Narmada River. The Tapi River runs parallel to the Narmada, the Tapi being to the south. The great Yawal Forest lies between the two rivers.

The Tapi and Narmada rivers also form the boundaries between North and South India. The Western Ghats start just south of the Tapi, near the border of Gujarat and Maharashtra.

Although we do not know exactly where Lord Caitanya stopped to bathe in the Tapi, we can see that the two rivers run fairly close together, ranging from a distance of 50 to 175 kilometers apart in most places. The major towns along the Tapi River include Multai (at its source), Betul and Burhanpur in Madhya Pradesh, Bhusawal in Maharashtra, and Surat in Gujarat.