The Holy Places of Jaiva Dharma: Baragachi


BY: SUN STAFF - 1.7 2019

Damodar River mixing with the Hoogly at Garchumuk, Baragachi 

A serial presentation of the holy places mentioned in the Jaiva Dharma of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur - Part 16.

In Jaiva Dharma's 'Glossary of Places', Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur next mentions the village of Baragachi:

"Baragachi - also known as Bahiragachi. It is situated two miles from the Muragacha railway station, which is about 20 km north of Krsnanagara on the east side of the Ganga.

According to Caitanyabhagavata (Antya 5.710-711), this place is famous for its connection with Sri Nityananda Prabhu: visese sukrti ati badagachi-grama nityananda-svarupera viharera sthana, badagachi gramera janeka bhagyodaya taha kabhu kahite na pari samuccaya – "The village of Baragachi is especially virtuous because Nityananda Prabhu performed many pastimes there. It is simply impossible to describe the great fortune of this village."

Known as Bahirgachi, the ancient village of Baragachi in Nadia district of West Bengal is recognizable today by the railway stop (halt), which is a connection point for Kolkata's suburban rail system to Gede, Ranaghat and Sealdah.

The references in Jaiva Dharma to Baragachi are primarily in the context of conversations between characters in the transcendental novel. In Chapter Eight there is a lengthy narrative of questions and answers between the Vaisnavas from Baragachi, primarily the devotee Nityananda dasa and the learned Vaisnavas, Hari dasa and Vaisnava dasa:

"One afternoon, after honouring prasada, the Vaisnavas of Sri Godruma gathered in a secluded forest grove on the Northeast side of Sri Gaura Lake. There Lahiri Mahasaya sang a song that awakened in them the ecstatic love of Vraja. He sang:

"How many pastimes did Lord Caitanya enjoy here with Advaita and the other devotees? Here He chanted the names of Lord Krsna and danced. As Lord Krsna rescued Kaliya, here our Lord rescued a crocodile."

When the song was ended the Vaisnavas discussed the similar natures of Lord Krsna and Lord Caitanya's pastimes. Then two or four Vaisnavas from Baragachi came there. They offered dandavat obeisances, first to Gaura lake and then to the Vaisnavas. The Vaisnavas honoured them and offered sitting places. In that secluded grove was an old banyan tree. Around its roots the Vaisnavas had built a stone platform. They all informed the visitors from Baragachi that the tree was honoured with the name Nitai-bata (Lord Nityananda's banyan tree), for Lord Nityananda liked to sit under it.

Sitting under Lord Nityananda's banyan tree, the Vaisnavas talked about spiritual life. Among the Vaisnavas from Baragachi was a youth who wanted to ask a question. He suddenly said, "I want to ask a question. Someone please answer it and make me happy."

In that secluded grove lived Hari dasa Babaji, who was a very learned scholar. He almost never left that place. He was almost a hundred years old. On some rare occasions he would go to Pradyumna-kunja and meet with the paramahamsa babaji. He had personally seen Lord Nityananda sitting under that banyan tree. He had one desire. He wished that when he left his body it would be at that place. He said, "Son, now that the paramahamsa babaji's associates have assembled here, why should you worry about the answer to your question?"

Then the Vaisnava from Baragachi asked his question. "The Vaisnava religion is the eternal religion. How should a person who has taken shelter of the Vaisnava religion act in relation to others. I wish to understand this very thoroughly."

Glancing for a moment at saintly Vaisnava dasa Babaji, Hari dasa Babaji said, "O Vaisnava dasa, nowadays no one in Bengal is learned and devoted like you. You should answer this question. You had the association of Srila Sarasvati Gosvami and you were personally taught by the paramahamsa babaji. You are thus very fortunate. You have certainly attained the mercy of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu."

(Jaiva Dharma, Chapter Eight, Nitya-dharma O Vyavahar - Eternal Religion and Ordinary Activities)

In a later passage from Chapter Eight, Nityananda dasa describes his Vaisnava neighbors in Baragachi, who he looked to as examples when deciding to accept the renounced order of life:

"Then the visitor from Baragachi said, "May I ask a question?" Hari dasa Babaji replied, "As you like".

Young Nityananda dasa asked, "Saintly babaji, what kind of Vaisnava am I? Am I a neophyte Vaisnava or an intermediate Vaisnava? An advanced Vaisnava I certainly am not."

Saintly Hari dasa Babaji smiled and said, "Can a person who accepts the name Nityananda dasa not be an advanced Vaisnava? Our Nityananda is very merciful. Even when He is beaten, He gives love in return. How can words properly glorify a person who chants Lord Nityananda's name and becomes His servant.

Nityananda dasa: I would like to know truthfully what my position is.

Hari dasa: Son, tell me all about yourself. If Lord Nityananda gives me the power to say, I will tell you.

Nityananda dasa: I was born in a lowly family in a village on the bank of the Padmavati. I was married at a young age. I did not learn how to be wicked. When my wife died, thoughts of renunciation came to my mind. In Baragachi I saw many Vaisnavas who had renounced family life. Everyone was respectful to them. Desiring to be honoured like that, and inspired by the temporary feeling of renunciation my wife's death brought, I accepted the garments of a Vaisnava renunciant. After some days wickedness came into my mind. My Vaisnava friend was a very good person. Now he stays in Vraja. He gave me good advice, protected me with his good association, and kept my mind pure. Now my mind no longer wants to leave the right path. It likes to chant a hundred thousand holy names every day. I understand that the Supreme Personality of Godhead and His holy name are not different. Both are perfectly spiritual. I observe ekadasi according to the scriptures and I water tulasi. When the Vaisnavas sing the holy names together, I join in the singing. I drink the nectar water that has washed the Vaisnava's feet. I read Sri Caitanya-mangala. I do not desire opulent food and clothing. I do not like to hear gossip. When I see how the Vaisnavas are filled with ecstatic love, I also become ecstatic and I roll in the dust that has touched their feet. In spite of all this, to a certain extent I still desire fame. Now please tell me: To what class of Vaisnava do I belong? How should I behave?

Showing a little smile, Hari dasa Babaji said to Vaisnava dasa, "You say. To what class of Vaisnava does Nityananda dasa belong?"

Vaisnava dasa: From what I have heard he has left the neophyte stage and become an intermediate devotee.

Hari dasa: I also think that.

Nityananda dasa: Good. From the mouth of a great soul I now know my true position. Please give your mercy to me so I may gradually become an advanced devotee."

(Jaiva Dharma, Chapter Eight, Nitya-dharma O Vyavahar - Eternal Religion and Ordinary Activities)

Station Board on Railway platform at Bahirgachi (Baragachi), Nadi District 

In another interesting passage from this chapter, Nityananda dasa explains to Hari dasa the customs engaged in by some of the residents of Baragachi, who are inappropriately giving honours to neophytes, treating them as advanced devotees simply on the basis of family line:

"Nityananda dasa: In my home place of Baragachi it is customary to honour the descendants of great Vaisnavas. Householders who are neophyte devotees invite them to honour prasadam. Is this proper?

Hari dasa: Are these descendants of great Vaisnavas pure devotees?

Nityananda dasa: I don't see pure devotion in all of them. They say they are Vaisnavas. Some wear the kaupina of a sannyasi.

Hari dasa: How this custom started I cannot say. It is not right. This happens because a neophyte devotee does not have the power to understand who is truly an advanced Vaisnava.

Nityananda dasa: Is it right to give special honour to the descendant of a great Vaisnava?

Hari dasa: A Vaisnava should be honoured. If the descendant of a great Vaisnava is himself a pure Vaisnava then certainly he should be honoured according to the level of his own advancement in devotional service.

Nityananda dasa: And if the descendant of a great Vaisnava is himself only an ordinary man?

Hari dasa: Then he should be counted among the ordinary men. He should not be honoured or counted among the Vaisnavas. Still, one should always remember Sri Mahaprabhu's teaching (Siksastaka 3):

"One who thinks himself lower than the grass, who is more tolerant than a tree, and who does not expect personal honour but is always prepared to give all respects to others, can very easily always chant the holy name of the Lord.'"

(Jaiva Dharma, Chapter Eight, Nitya-dharma O Vyavahar - Eternal Religion and Ordinary Activities)

And finally, in Chapter Ten of Jaiva Dharma is a description of how the Vaisnavas of Navadvipa dham overcame the local brahmanas and their preaching:

"Navadvipa was as good in the past as it is bad in the present. Nowadays a few Vaisnavas who live at Baragachi in Navadvipa see the ideas of the entire world as foolish. Some two or three scholars amongst them have turned the whole country upside-down. the ideas that castes are rigidly fixed, that the whole world is an illusion, and that one should worship Goddess Durga have all been crushed by them. Look. Nowadays there are not even many sraddha ceremonies. What will happen to the professional brahmanas?

Then Harihara said, "O Bhattacarya Mahasaya, is there no remedy? In Mayapura there are still five or six big, big brahmana scholars. Then on the other side of the Ganges there are many scholars of Smrti and Nyaya. Why do they not join forces and attack Gadigacha?

Nyayaratna said, "Yes! If they band together, the brahmana scholars can do it! Of course the brahmana scholars tend to fight among themselves. They like to fight and they pretend that fighting among themselves is part of the job of being a scholar. I heard that some followers of Krsna-cudamani went to Gadigacha for a debate and came back defeated. Now they won't even come out of their classrooms. Some have said that.'"

(Jaiva Dharma, Chapter Ten, Nitya-dharma O Itihasa - Eternal Religion and History)

Finally, there is a brief mention of Baragachi in Caitanya-caritamrtaAdi lila, in the chapter listing the branches and subbranches of Sri Nityananda Prabhu's line:

Caitanya Caritamrta Adi 11.50:

Vasanta was the fifty-first, Navani Hoda the fifty-second, Gopala the fifty-third, Sanatana the fifty-fourth, Visnai the fifty-fifth, Krsnananda the fifty-sixth and Sulocana the fifty-seventh.


Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura writes in his Anubhasya, "Navani Hoda appears to have been the same person as Hoda Krsnadasa, the son of the King of Badagachi. His father's name was Hari Hoda. One can visit Badagachi by taking the Lalagola-ghata railway line. Formerly the Ganges flowed by Badagachi, but now it has become a canal known as the Kalsira Khala. Near the Mudagacha station is a village known as Saligrama in which King Krsnadasa arranged for the marriage of Sri Nityananda Prabhu, as described in the Bhakti-ratnakara (Twelfth Wave). It is sometimes said that Navani Hoda was the son of Raja Krsnadasa. His descendants still live in Rukunapura, a village near Bahiragachi. They belong to the daksina-radhiya-kayastha community, but, having been reformed as brahmanas, they still initiate all classes of men."

vasanta, navani hoda, gopala, sanatana
visnai hajara, krsnananda, sulocana