The Holy Places of Jaiva Dharma: Alakananda


BY: SUN STAFF - 4.6 2019

Kedernath Datta (Bhaktivinode)'s concept of Naba Dwipa (1894?) 
as modified K.N. Mukherjee on the basis of 1922 Survey of India Map 
(Diagnostic Survey of Deltaic West Bengal, Calcutta (1978)


Jun 2, 2019 — CANADA (SUN) — A serial presentation of the holy places mentioned in the Jaiva Dharma of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur - Part 4.

The holy Alakananda River is mentioned in many famous descriptions of the Nine Islands of Navadvipa, most notably the Navadvipa-dhama-mahatmya by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur, as well as his Sri Sri Navadvip Bhava Taranga. The Alakananda is particularly noted as being one of four rivers who join together at Ucchahatta tirtha. In this place the confluence of the Ganges, Alakananda, Mandakini and (hidden) Saraswati Rivers is known as the Pancaveni or Maha Prayag.

Ucchahatta, also known as Hatta Danga, is the place where the demigods would assemble and loudly chant the names of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Ucchahatta is derived from the word uccha, which means 'loud', and hatta, which means 'assembly'. Hatta also translates to 'marketplace', i.e., the marketplace of the Holy Name of Gauranga, much like nearby Campakahatta is the marketplace where campaka flowers are sold.

Sastra describes Sri Ucchahatta as being non-different from Kuruksetra, and whatever tirthas exist in Kurukshetra are also present here in Ucchahatta. The pious credits that are gained by living in Kuruksetra for one hundred years are obtained by staying for just one night here at Hatta Danga, which is an ocean of prema.

The Navadvipa-dhama-mahatmya of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur (Bengali, 1890) comprises eighteen chapters describing a complete tour of the land of Navadvipa, as traversed by Lord Nityananda. In the following narration of Nityananda Prabhu's instructions, we find that the Yamuna is the fifth river that joins the Alakananda to form the Panca (five) -veni Maha Prayag:

"Nityananda spoke, "Listen everyone! This is Pancaveni, where five rivers join the Ganges. The Bhagirathi mixes with the Mandakini and Alakananda, and the Sarasvati flows here hidden from view. From the west, the Yamuna flows along with the Bhagavati. The Manasa-ganga also quickly flows there. This place is called Maha-Prayaga by the rishis, who performed millions of sacrifices here along with Lord Brahma. The glories of this place are incomparable. If one takes bath here, he will not take another birth. Who can describe the glories of this place? All other tirthas become like dried up rivers in comparison. One who leaves his body here on the earth, in the air, or in the water will attain Sri Goloka Vrindavana."

(Navadvipa-dhama-mahatmya, Parikrama-khanda, Chapter Eleven)

Elsewhere in Navadvipa-dhama-mahatmya we find this detailed description of the Alakananda, and how it is situated in relation to other sacred rivers:

"Lord Nityananda continued on with the devotees while chanting, "Hari, Hari!" Because of ecstatic love, Nityananda Prabhu tottered as He walked and mumbled as he talked. Tears streamed down His face, and in agitation He cried out "Gaura, Gaura!" All His ornaments glittered and His divine form illuminated the ten directions. Srivasa, along with Jiva, repeatedly wept and danced. And the other devotees all danced along.

As they approached Alakananda, Lord Nityananda, immersed in bliss, said, "Starting to the west of Bilvapaksha village (Belpukura), the Mandakini River comes and surrounds Nadia. At Suvarnavihara, the Alakananda River leaves the Mandakini. On the eastern bank of the Alakananda River, near the Gandaki River, is Harihara-kshetra. A beautiful Deity will be discovered there in the future, amidst a lovely forest.

"To the west of the Alakananda River see Kasi, where the followers of Siva and his consort endeavor for liberation. This Navadvipa Kasi, however, is superior to the other Kasi. Here, Siva is always dancing and chanting the name of Gaura, begging his followers to accept Gaura-bhakti. The sannyasis who live for a thousand years in Kasi may attain liberation through the cultivation of jshana, but here the devotees kick away that liberation as they dance and chant the name of Gauranga. While leaving the body here, living entities are delivered by Lord Siva, who chants the name of Gauranga in their ears. This dhama is thus called Maha-Varanasi, for here there is no fear of death."

(Navadvipa-dhama-mahatmya, Parikrama-khanda, Chapter 8 - 'Sri Harihara-kshetra, Maha-Varanasi, and Godruma')

In his Sri Sri Navadvip Bhava Taranga Srila Bhaktivinoda describes the transcendental abode of Godruma, the city of Nanda, residence of the gopas and place where Gauranga performed many pastimes at the confluence of the Alakananda and its associate rivers:

"Near Uccahatta is Pancaveni, the holy place where the demigods come to relax. At this place the three streams of the Ganga (Bhagarathi, Bhogavati and Alakananda) and the Yamuna and Sarasvati all come together, desiring to perform service to Gauranga. Here Gauranga and His men, by taking bath, purified the tirtha of the sins of the people of Kali-yuga. Vyasadeva and the rishis recognise that in all the fourteen worlds, there is nothing to compare with Pancaveni. When, by bathing in the waters of the Pancaveni, will I be able to remember the lotus feet of Sri Gauranga? Filling my hands with water from the feet of Gauranga and drinking my fill, drunken with the association of Gauranga--when will I be so blessed?"

The Alakananda is also described in the Urdhvamnaya Tantra, a treatise on the holy sites of Navadvipa and the glories of Lord Gauranga. Srila Bhaktivinoda refers to this text in his Navadvipa Mahatmya (1.46).

"Urdhvamnaya Tantra states:

bhagirathy-alakananda mandakini tathapara 
bhogavatiti gangaya asti dhara-catushtayam
navadvipasya paridhis catvari yojanani ca

'Bhagirathi, Alakananda, Mandakini, and Bhogavati are the four streams of the Ganges that surround Navadvipa's circumference of four yojanas (thirty-two miles)."

In another transcendental work of Srila Bhaktivinoda's, the Sri Prithu-carite, we find this description of the Alakananda River:

Text 3

bhu-gola-varnane tathaivalakananda dakshinena brahma-sadanad bahuni giri-kutany atikramya hemakutad dhaimakutany ati-rabhasatara- ramhasa luthayanti bharatam abhivarsham dakshinasyam disijaladhim abhipravisati yasyam snanartham cagacchatah pumsah pade pade 'svamedha-rajasuyadinam phalam na durlabham iti.

In the description of the earth it is said (5.17.9):

Similarly, the branch of the Ganges known as Alakananda flows from the southern side of Brahmapuri [Brahma-sadana]. Passing over the tops of mountains in various lands, it falls down with fierce force upon the peaks of the mountains Memakuta and Himakuta. After inundating the tops of those mountains, the Ganges falls down onto the tract of land known as Bharata-varsha, which she also inundates. Then the Ganges flows into the ocean of salt water in the south. Persons who come to bathe in this river are fortunate. It is not very difficult for them to achieve with every step the results of performing great sacrifices like the Rajasuya and Asvamedha yajnas."

In a passage on the glories of Purusottama Month from Padma Purana, we read about a pastime in which Sri Narada Muni arrived at Badrika Ashram, the residence of Sri Narayana Rishi. There, the river Alakananda was flowing down from His lotus feet. There are many references to the Alakananda specifically in relation to its journey down from Badrinath, one of the Char-dhams, to be covered in our next segment.