The Holy Places of Jaiva Dharma: Ambika-Kalna


BY: SUN STAFF - 13.6 2019

Krishna Chandraji Temple, Ambika Kalna

A serial presentation of the holy places mentioned in the Jaiva Dharma of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur - Part 9.

The town of Kalna, 50 kms. from Bardhaman, is one of the Shaktipiths, or holy dhams of the Shakti worshippers. The town is named for Devi Ambika, an expansion of Durga, who is worshipped at the Siddheshwari Temple. Aside from numerous Shiva temples there are a number of important Vaisnava temples here, including the Krishna Chandra mandir (pictured above), famous for its 25 steeples, the Anantavasudev temple, and a Jagannatha temple. Much of the temple architecture in Kalna is constructed in the terracotta style for which Bengal is famous.

In Bhakti-Ratnakara we find an interesting reference to a Kalna pastime in which Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu reminded Gauridasa Pandit of his identity during Vrindavan-lila.

"How can I describe the activities of Gauridasa Pandita who was always engaged in serving the two Lords.

Out of love Nitai and Caitanya once told Gauridasa smilingly, who can know your activities when you even do not know that you are always absorbed in love and devotion?

"O Suvala, my friend, can you remember your first life? Can you remember the great fun we had when we took the cows to the bank of the Jamuna?"

Saying this the deities turned themselves into Krsna and Balarama with black and fair complexions.

In that form they held the singa (horn), flute, cane, peacock feathers and ornaments. How beautiful they looked in the dress of cowherd boys.

Beholding their beauty, Gauridasa was overwhelmed with ecstatic joy.

Only by the will of the Lord could he regain his consciousness and therefore he stared steadily at the deities on the throne.

When the two Lords displayed their pastimes in this way Gauridasa experienced ecstatic love." 

(Bhakti-Ratnakara Chapter 7, Texts 358 to 366)

Of course, the friend Suvala that Mahaprabhu is referring to is none other than Subala sakha, the cowherd boy friend of Sri Krsna in Vraja:

subalo yah priya-shreshthah sa gauridasa-panditah

"In Vraja, Gauri Das Pandit was Subala, one of the twelve Gopals. He is one of Nityananda Prabhu's dearest associates." 
(Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika 128)

Caitanya Mahaprabhu's Footprints at Kalna

During Caitanya-lila, Gauri Das's first residence was in the village known as Shaligram, not far from Muragacha. Later he moved to Ambika Kalna in Burdwan district, where his Sripat is extremely well known. His father's name was Kamsari Mishra and his mother was Kamala Devi. Kamsari Mishra belonged to the Vatsa gotra, and their family name was Ghoshal.

Gauri Das was the fourth of six sons. His three older brothers were named Damodar, Jagannath and Surya Das. Surya Das had the title sarakhela (military title, "commander," also used for estate managers) and gave his two daughters, Vasudha and Jahnava in marriage to Nityananda Prabhu. Gauri Das Pandit's younger brothers were named Krishna Das Sarkhel and Nrisingha Chaitanya.

"Sarkhel Surya Das Pandit was a very magnanimous person. His younger brother was named Gauri Das. Gauri Das Pandit took permission from his older brother before moving from Shaligram to Ambika." 
(Bhakti-ratnakara 7.330-1)

The Shrine housing Mahaprabhu's Footprints

The story is told in Caitanya-caritamrta about Mahaprabhu and Gauridas Pandita in Ambika Kalna. On the day that Mahaprabhu paddled across the Ganges to come to visit Gauridas, he sat under the tamarind tree. Gauridas asked for Mahaprabhu to stay permanently there in Ambika. In order to fulfill his devotee's desire, Mahaprabhu revealed that His form and that of Nityananda Prabhu were in a nearby neem tree. It is also said that when these Deities were being carved, Nityananda was physically present. Conquered by Gauridas's love for them, the Deities would physically eat everything that he offered to them.

When Mahaprabhu and Nityananda Prabhu were about to leave, Gauridas did everything in his power to hold them back. Mahaprabhu calmed him by saying, "Nityananda and I are directly present in these Forms. You can tell either the Deities to go, or we can leave. You choose." Naturally, Gauri Das chose the real Gaura-Nitai to stay and said that the Deities could leave. So this is what happened, demonstrating the truth of the Caitanya-caritamrita's statement:

nama vigraha Svarupa, ei tina eka-rupa 
tine bheda nahi tina cidananda-rupa

"These three, the name, the deity form and the original form of the Lord, are all one. No distinction should be made between them, for all three are of transcendental, spiritual substance." 
( Caitanya-caritamrita 17.131)

The tree that Lord Caitanya took rest beneath is still residing in Kalna. Known as Tentultala, or Amlitala, it is located at the Mahaprabhu Para, where the Lotus Footprints of Sri Caitanya are also found.

Left: Tentultala – Lord Caitanya's Tamarind tree Kalna 
Right: the Plum tree under which Nityananda Prabhu married Jahnavi and Basudha devis 

Lord Balaram's wives Varuni and Revati became Vasudha and Jahnavi, the two wives of Nityananda Prabhu in Chaitanya-lila. Vasudha and Jahnavai's father Suryadas Pandit was the brother of Gauridas Pandit. The Plum tree the wedding was held beneath still resides in Kalna.