Caitanya Mahaprabhu's Tirtha-yatra, Part 65


BY: SUN STAFF - 23.11 2021

Entrance to Alalanatha Temple

The last in a serial exploration of the holy sites visited by Lord Caitanya.


As we bring to a close our series on Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu's pada-yatra preaching tour of South India, we end at the place where this epic journey began – in the village of Brahmagiri, also known as Alalanatha. Moving northward along the Western Ghats, Lord Caitanya had arrived at Nasik, Maharashtra, where He visited the temple of Sri Trimbakeshwar. As described in the Summary of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya Lila 9, the Lord visited Nasika, Brahmagiri and Kusavarta, which are very close to one another.

Madhya Lila 9 Summary

"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. He finally returned to Jagannatha Puri by taking the same route, after visiting Vidyanagara again."

Later in Madhya Lila we find specific information about the progression of the Lord's travels in Maharashtra state:

Madhya 9.317

nasike tryambaka dekhi' gela brahmagiri
kusavarte aila yahan janmila godavari

"Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu then visited Nasika, where He saw the deity of Tryambaka [Lord Siva]. He then went to Brahma-giri and then to Kusavarta, the source of the river Godavari.

Kusavarta is located in the western ghata, at Sahyadri. It is near Nasika, a holy place, but according to some it was situated in the valley of Vindhya."

Departing from Nasika, Caitanya Mahaprabhu traveled eastward towards Orissa, back to the place from whence He began. Leaving the Brahmagiri Mountains at Nasik and Kusavarta, Lord Caitanya walked a distance of approximately 1,600 kilometers to Brahmagiri, Orissa. The village of Brahmagiri (Alalanatha) is just 22 kilometers west of Jagannath Puri.

Throughout Caitanya-caritamrta we find many references to Alalanatha, a place that features prominently in the story of Lord Caitanya's travels. The Lord's pastimes in association with Alalanatha are found in both the Madhya and Antya lilas of Caitanya-caritamrta. In Madhya lila 1 we read a summary of the Lord's South India travels, and His later pastimes at Alalanath:

Madhya 1.120

brahma-samhita, karnamrta, dui punthi pana
dui pustaka lana aila uttama janina

"Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu also found two other books -- namely, the Brahma-samhita and Krsna-karnamrta. Knowing these books to be excellent, He took them to present to His devotees.

Madhya 1.121

punarapi nilacale gamana karila
bhakta-gane meliya snana-yatra dekhila

After collecting these books, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu returned to Jagannatha Puri. At that time, the bathing ceremony of Jagannatha was taking place, and He saw it.

Madhya 1.122

anavasare jagannathera na pana darasana
virahe alalanatha karila gamana

When Jagannatha was absent from the temple, Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who could not see Him, felt separation and left Jagannatha Puri to go to a place known as Alalanatha.

Alalanatha is also known as Brahmagiri. This place is about fourteen miles from Jagannatha Puri and is also on the beach. There is a temple of Jagannatha there. At the present moment a police station and post office are situated there because so many people come to see the temple.

The word anavasara is used when Sri Jagannathaji cannot be seen in the temple. After the bathing ceremony (snana-yatra), Lord Jagannatha apparently becomes sick. He is therefore removed to His private apartment, where no one can see Him. Actually, during this period renovations are made on the body of the Jagannatha Deity. This is called nava-yauvana. During the Ratha-yatra ceremony, Lord Jagannatha once again comes before the public. Thus for fifteen days after the bathing ceremony, Lord Jagannatha is not visible to any visitors.

Madhya 1.123

bhakta-sane dina kata tahani rahila
gaudera bhakta aise, samacara paila

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu remained for some days at Alalanatha. In the meantime, He received news that all the devotees from Bengal were coming to Jagannatha Puri.

Madhya 1.124

nityananda-sarvabhauma agraha karina
nilacale aila mahaprabhuke la-ina

When the devotees from Bengal arrived at Jagannatha Puri, both Nityananda Prabhu and Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya greatly endeavored to take Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu back to Jagannatha Puri.

Madhya 1.125

virahe vihvala prabhu na jane ratri-dine
hena-kale aila gaudera bhakta-gane

When Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu finally left Alalanatha to return to Jagannatha Puri, He was overwhelmed both day and night due to separation from Jagannatha. His lamentation knew no bounds. During this time, all the devotees from different parts of Bengal, and especially from Navadvipa, arrived in Jagannatha Puri."

Lord Narayana's Temple at Alalanatha

Lord Vasudeva Narayana at Alalanatha

Following is a description of the temple of Alalanatha, and the Deity of Vasudeva Narayana who resides there. As Srila Prabhupada mentioned in his purport to Madhya 1.122, there is also a Jagannatha temple at Alalanatha.

"Approximately fourteen miles west of Jagannatha Puri-dhama lies the place known as Brahmagiri or Alarnath (spelled "Alalanath" in most Bengali books). For millions of years it has been a holy place of pilgrimage. The local tradition describes that in Satya-yuga Lord Brahma came and worshipped Lord Narayana here on top of a hill. One day he heard a voice from the sky. Lord Narayana said, "I am very pleased with your worship. Make a four-handed Narayana deity of Me with a shankha, chakra, gada, and padma, a conch shell, disk, club, and lotus. The deity should be ornamented with a kaustubha gem, a golden crown, a blue lotus flower, a gajamani-mala (garland of elephant pearls), a sacred thread, a diamond ring, yellow garments, and ankle bells. The deity should be made from one piece of black stone. Also install a deity of Garuda." Finally the Lord told him, "This place will be known as Brahmagiri (literally Brahma's hill) because you have worshipped Me here."

Sri Vasudeva Narayana, Chandan-yatra

The present temple of Lord Alarnath is said to be two hundred years older than the Jagannatha temple in Puri, which would make it about 1,100 years old. When the temple was constructed, some expert Kamma brahmanas from the Sri Sampradaya of South India were brought to perform the worship. These brahmanas were in the disciplic line of the great acaryas of the Sri Sampradaya prior to Ramanujacarya, known as the Alvars, thus this Deity of Lord Narayana became known as Alvar-natha, the Lord of the Alvars. The king of Orissa donated sufficient land to maintain all of the brahmana families."

There is a story held in the local temple legend about a faithless devotee who challenged the Deity over eating the prasadam he wished for his own family. A great tidal wave is said to have came from the ocean, destroying all of the brahmanas in Brahmagiri except for the boy who demonstrated proper faith in the Lord. The Deity is said to have marks on His body where hot prasadam fell during this episode.

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur has written:

samudra-tira diya daksina jaite puri haite chaya-krosa dure 'alalanatha' gram. tathay 'alalanatha- caturbhuja- vasudeva- vigraha. vana-madhye ekti ksudra-grame tanhar mandir; tathay ati-utkrsta paramanna-bhoga haya. pandara ekhana-o usna- paramanner daga vigrahe dekhaiya thake.

"Traveling along the coast from Puri about six krosha, fourteen miles, is a village known as Alalanath. There one will find the four-armed deity of Vasudeva known as Alalanath. The Lord's temple is within a forest in this small village. The most excellent sweet rice is offered to the deity. Even nowadays the pujaris show the mark on the deity where He was burnt by hot sweet rice."

Alalanatha Vasudeva Temple

Lord Caitanya's Pastimes at Alalanatha

In considering the importance of Alalanatha, it's also interesting to move backwards in time, as we see how the Lord's travels to South India were preceded by various pastimes associated with Alalanatha. In the Summary of Madhya Lila 7, we are reminded about the circumstances that preceded the Lord's pada-yatra tour to the south:

Madhya lila 7

"Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu accepted the renounced order of life in the month of Magha (January-February) and went to Jagannatha Puri in the month of Phalguna (February-March). He saw the Dola-yatra festival during the month of Phalguna, and in the month of Caitra He liberated Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya. During the month of Vaisakha, He began to tour South India. When He proposed to travel to South India alone, Sri Nityananda Prabhu gave Him a brahmana assistant named Krsnadasa. When Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was beginning His tour, Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya gave Him four sets of clothes and requested Him to see Ramananda Raya, who was residing at that time on the bank of the river Godavari. Along with other devotees, Nityananda Prabhu accompanied the Lord to Alalanatha, but there Lord Caitanya left them all behind and went ahead with the brahmana Krsnadasa."

Later in Madhya lila, from verses 7.54 to 7.96, we get the details of Lord Caitanya's departure from Puri Dhama, stopping at Alalanatha to engage in various confidential pastimes with His associates before departing for an extended tour of South India:

Madhya 7.54 – "After staying five days at the home of Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu personally asked his permission to depart for South India.

Madhya 7.55 – After receiving the Bhattacarya's permission, Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu went to see Lord Jagannatha in the temple. He took the Bhattacarya with Him.

Madhya 7.56 – Seeing Lord Jagannatha, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu also begged His permission. The priest then immediately delivered prasadam and a garland to Lord Caitanya.

Madhya 7.57 – Thus receiving Lord Jagannatha's permission in the form of a garland, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu offered obeisances, and then in great jubilation He prepared to depart for South India.

Madhya 7.58 – Accompanied by His personal associates and Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu circumambulated the altar of Jagannatha. The Lord then departed on His South Indian tour.

Madhya 7.59 – While the Lord was going along the path to Alalanatha, which was located on the seashore, Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya gave the following orders to Gopinatha Acarya.

Madhya 7.60 – "Bring the four sets of loincloths and outer garments I keep at home, and also some prasadam of Lord Jagannatha. You may carry these things with the help of some brahmana."

Madhya 7.61 – While Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was departing, Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya submitted the following at His lotus feet: "My Lord, I have one final request that I hope You will kindly fulfill.

Madhya 7.62 – In the town of Vidyanagara, on the bank of the Godavari, there is a responsible government officer named Ramananda Raya.

Madhya 7.63 – "Please do not neglect him, thinking he belongs to a sudra family engaged in material activities. It is my request that You meet him without fail."

Madhya 7.64 – Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya continued, "Ramananda Raya is a fit person to associate with You; no other devotee can compare with him in knowledge of the transcendental mellows.

Madhya 7.65 – "He is a most learned scholar as well as an expert in devotional mellows. Actually he is most exalted, and if You talk with him, You will see how glorious he is.

Madhya 7.66 – "I could not realize when I first spoke with Ramananda Raya that his topics and endeavors were all transcendentally uncommon. I made fun of him simply because he was a Vaisnava."

Madhya 7.67 – The Bhattacarya said, "By Your mercy I can now understand the truth about Ramananda Raya. In talking with him, You also will acknowledge his greatness."

Madhya 7.68 – Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu accepted Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya's request that He meet Ramananda Raya. Bidding Sarvabhauma farewell, the Lord embraced him.

Madhya 7.69 – Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu asked the Bhattacarya to bless Him while he engaged in the devotional service of Lord Krsna at home, so that by Sarvabhauma's mercy the Lord could return to Jagannatha Puri.

Madhya 7.70 – Saying this, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu departed on His tour, and Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya immediately fainted and fell to the ground.

Madhya 7.71 – Although Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya fainted, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu did not take notice of him. Rather, He left quickly. Who can understand the mind and intention of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu?

Madhya 7.72 – This is the nature of the mind of an uncommon personality. Sometimes it is soft like a flower, but sometimes it is as hard as a thunderbolt.

Madhya 7.73 – "The hearts of those above common behavior are sometimes harder than a thunderbolt and sometimes softer than a flower. How can one accommodate such contradictions in great personalities?"

Madhya 7.74 – Lord Nityananda Prabhu raised Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya and with the help of His men saw him to his home.

Madhya 7.75 – Immediately all the devotees came and partook of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's company. Afterwards, Gopinatha Acarya came with the garments and prasadam.

Madhya 7.76 – All the devotees followed Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to a place known as Alalanatha. There they all offered respects and various prayers.

Madhya 7.77 – In great ecstasy, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu danced and chanted for some time. Indeed, all the neighbors came to see Him.

Madhya 7.78 – All around Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who is also known as Gaurahari, people began to shout the holy name of Hari. Lord Caitanya, immersed in His usual ecstasy of love, danced in the midst of them.

Madhya 7.79 – The body of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was naturally very beautiful. It was like molten gold dressed in saffron cloth. Indeed, He was most beautiful for being ornamented with the ecstatic symptoms, which caused His bodily hair to stand on end, tears to well up in His eyes, and His body to tremble and perspire all over.

Madhya 7.80 – Everyone present was astonished to see Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's dancing and His bodily transformations. Whoever came did not want to return home.

Madhya 7.81 – Everyone -- including children, old men and women -- began to dance and to chant the holy names of Sri Krsna and Gopala. In this way they all floated in the ocean of love of Godhead.

Madhya 7.82 – Upon seeing the chanting and dancing of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Lord Nityananda predicted that later there would be dancing and chanting in every village.

Madhya 7.83 – Seeing that it was already getting late, Lord Nityananda Prabhu, the spiritual master, invented a means to disperse the crowd.

Madhya 7.84 – When Lord Nityananda Prabhu took Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu for lunch at noon, everyone came running around Them.

Madhya 7.85 – After finishing Their baths, They returned at noon to the temple. Admitting His own men, Sri Nityananda Prabhu closed the outside door.

Madhya 7.86 – Gopinatha Acarya then brought prasadam for the two Lords to eat, and after They had eaten, the remnants of the food were distributed to all the devotees.

Madhya 7.87 – Hearing about this, everyone there came to the outside door and began chanting the holy name, "Hari! Hari!" Thus there was a tumultuous sound.

Madhya 7.88 – After lunch, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu made them open the door. In this way everyone received His audience with great pleasure.

Madhya 7.89 – The people came and went until evening, and all of them became Vaisnava devotees and began to chant and dance.

Madhya 7.90 – Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu then passed the night there and discussed the pastimes of Lord Krsna with His devotees with great pleasure.

Madhya 7.91 – The next morning, after taking His bath, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu started on His South Indian tour. He bade farewell to the devotees by embracing them.

Madhya 7.92 – Although they all fell to the ground unconscious, the Lord did not turn to see them but proceeded onward.

Madhya 7.93 – In separation, the Lord became very much perturbed and walked on unhappily. His servant, Krsnadasa, who was carrying His waterpot, followed behind.

Madhya 7.94 – All the devotees remained there and fasted, and the next day they all unhappily returned to Jagannatha Puri.

Madhya 7.95 – Almost like a mad lion, Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu went on His tour filled with ecstatic love and performing sankirtana, chanting Krsna's names as follows.

Madhya 7.96 – The Lord chanted:Krsna! Krsna! Krsna! Krsna! Krsna! Krsna! Krsna! heKrsna! Krsna! Krsna! Krsna! Krsna! Krsna! Krsna! heKrsna! Krsna! Krsna! Krsna! Krsna! Krsna! raksa mamKrsna! Krsna! Krsna! Krsna! Krsna! Krsna! pahi mamThat is, "O Lord Krsna, please protect Me and maintain Me." He also chanted:Rama! Raghava! Rama! Raghava! Rama! Raghava! raksa mamKrsna! Kesava! Krsna! Kesava! Krsna! Kesava! pahi mamThat is, "O Lord Rama, descendant of King Raghu, please protect Me. O Krsna, O Kesava, killer of the Kesi demon, please maintain Me."

There are two other pastimes found in Antya lila in which the village of Alalanatha features prominently: the deliverance of Gopinatha Pattanayaka, and the chastisement of Junior Haridasa. In Antya lila Chapter 9 is the story of Gopinatha Pattanayaka, son of Bhavananda Raya, who was engaged in the service of the government. He got into difficulties for misappropriating funds from the treasury, and nearly lost his life over the affair. But due to the mercy of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, he was not only spared death and elevated to a higher position, but was personally delivered by the Lord.

Throughout the telling of Gopinatha's tale, Antya lila 9.60 through 9.110, we find that twice Lord Caitanya threatens to leave Jagannath Puri and go to Alalanatha, due to His frustration at being bothered with mundane dealings such as the drama of Gopinatha's affairs.

Antya 9.60: -- "I cannot stay here any longer," the Lord said. "I shall go to Alalanatha. There are too many disturbances here, and I cannot get any rest.

Antya 9.61: -- "All the family members of Bhavananda Raya are engaged in government service, but they spend the government's revenue in various ways.

Antya 9.62: -- "What is the fault on the part of the King? He wants the government's money. However, when they are punished for failing to pay the government its due, they come to Me to release them.

Antya 9.63: -- "When the King put Gopinatha Pattanayaka on the canga, messengers came four times to inform Me about the incident.

Antya 9.64: -- "As a beggar sannyasi, a mendicant, I wish to live alone in a solitary place, but these people come to tell Me about their unhappiness and disturb Me.

Antya 9.78: -- "Kindly stay here at Jagannatha Puri. Why should You go to Alalanatha? Henceforward, no one will approach You about material affairs."

Antya 9.79: -- Finally Kasi Misra told the Lord, "If You want to give protection to Gopinatha, then Lord Jagannatha, who protected him today, will also protect him in the future."

Antya 9.80: -- After saying this, Kasi Misra left the abode of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and returned to his own temple. At noon King Prataparudra came to Kasi Misra's home.

Antya 9.81: -- As long as King Prataparudra stayed in Purusottama, he performed one regular duty.

Antya 9.82: -- He would come daily to the house of Kasi Misra to massage his lotus feet. The King would also hear from him about how opulently Lord Jagannatha was being served.

Antya 9.83: -- When the King began pressing his lotus feet, Kasi Misra informed him about something through hints.

Antya 9.84: -- "My dear King," he said, "please hear one uncommon item of news. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu wants to leave Jagannatha Puri and go to Alalanatha."

Antya 9.85: -- When the King heard that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was going to Alalanatha, he was very unhappy and inquired about the reason. Then Kasi Misra informed him of all the details.

Antya 9.86: -- "When Gopinatha Pattanayaka was lifted onto the canga," he said, "all his servants went to inform Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.

Antya 9.87: -- "Hearing about this, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was extremely sorry at heart, and in anger He chastised Gopinatha Pattanayaka.

Antya 9.88: -- "'Because he is mad after sense gratification,' the Lord said, 'he acts as a government servant but spends the government's revenue for various sinful activities.

Antya 9.89: -- "'The revenue of the government is more sacred than the property of a brahmana. One who misappropriates the government's money and uses it to enjoy sense gratification is most sinful.

Antya 9.90: -- "'One who serves the government but misappropriates the government's revenue is liable to be punished by the king. That is the verdict of all revealed scriptures.

Antya 9.91: -- "'The King wanted his revenue paid and did not want to enforce punishment. Therefore the King is certainly very religious. But Gopinatha Pattanayaka is a great cheat.

Antya 9.92: -- "'He does not pay the revenue to the King, but he wants My help for release. This is a greatly sinful affair. I cannot tolerate it here.

Antya 9.93: -- "'Therefore I shall leave Jagannatha Puri and go to Alalanatha, where I shall live peacefully and not hear about all these affairs of materialistic people.'"

Antya 9.94: -- When King Prataparudra heard all these details, he felt great pain in his mind. "I shall give up all that is due from Gopinatha Pattanayaka," he said, "if Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu will stay here at Jagannatha Puri."

Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.

Eventually an arrangement was worked out between Kasi Misra and the King whereby the problems of Gopinatha were settled in such a way that the disturbance would end, and in this way the devotees made every effort to prevent the Lord from leaving them at Puri, and going to Alalanatha.

Similarly, in the story of the Lord's chastisement of Junior Haridasa for inappropriate dealings with a woman, found In Antya lila 2.123 to 2.147, Mahaprabhu threatened to leave Puri and go to Alalanatha to get away from the disturbance created by His associates. When Paramananda Puri appealed to the Lord to again give favor to Junior Haridasa, Mahaprabhu suggested Paramananda stay at Puri, saying:

"Please give Me permission to go to Alalanatha. I shall remain there alone; only Govinda will go with Me." (Antya 2.132)

Although Lord Caitanya was persuaded to stay at Puri, He did not allow Haridasa to resume his close association. After a year, Haridasa walked into the Triveni waters of the Ganges and Yamuna at Prayaga, giving up his life.

Due to its close proximity to Jagannatha Puri, Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu carried out many inconceivable pastimes at Alalanatha, of which the above mentioned are no doubt just a few. Who could count all the miles Lord Caitanya walked from the time He first departed Alalanatha for South India, until He returned there again from Nasik, in the West? No one can understand the details of all these comings and goings of the Lord, but we can be sure of the results, which are manifest in the preaching mission of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada, who in similar lion-like fashion has delivered the Holy Name to every town and village.

Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya Lila 7.95-96:

"Almost like a mad lion, Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu went on His tour filled with ecstatic love and performing sankirtana, chanting Krsna's names as follows.

The Lord chanted: Krsna! Krsna! Krsna! Krsna! Krsna! Krsna! Krsna! heKrsna! Krsna! Krsna! Krsna! Krsna! Krsna! Krsna! he Krsna! Krsna! Krsna! Krsna! Krsna! Krsna! raksa mam Krsna! Krsna! Krsna! Krsna! Krsna! Krsna! pahi mam That is, "O Lord Krsna, please protect Me and maintain Me." He also chanted: Rama! Raghava! Rama! Raghava! Rama! Raghava! raksa mam Krsna! Kesava! Krsna! Kesava! Krsna! Kesava! pahi mam. That is, "O Lord Rama, descendant of King Raghu, please protect Me. O Krsna, O Kesava, killer of the Kesi demon, please maintain Me."