The Holy Places of Jaiva Dharma: Bhagirathi


BY: SUN STAFF - 15.7 2019

A serial presentation of the holy places mentioned in the Jaiva Dharma of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur - Part 24.

In Vaisnava literature we find many references to the holy Bhagirathi River. Some of these are found in famous descriptions of the Nine Islands of Navadvipa, most notably those given in the Navadvipa-dhama-mahatmya and Sri Sri Navadvip Bhava Taranga by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur.

Navadvipa-dhama-mahatmya is a description of the land of Navadvipa, as traversed by Lord Nityananda. In it, the Thakur mentions Urdhvamnaya Tantra, which sings the glories of Lord Gauranga and Navadvipa dhama:

"Urdhvamnaya Tantra states:

(Navadvipa-dhama-mahatmya 1.46)

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 the Parikrama-khanda, fourth chapter of Navadvipa-dhama-mahatmya we also find the Bhagirathi mentioned, in a glorification of Navadvipa spoken by Lord Shiva to Parvati in the Urddhvamnaya Maha-tantra:

"O Parvati, [the places of] Naimisaranya present within this eternal Navadvipa-dhama are Ayodhya, Mathura, Maya (Haridvara ), Kasi, Kanci, Avanti (Ujjain), Dvaraka, Kuruksetra, Puskara, and Naimisaranya. The four streams of the Ganges - Bhagirathi, Alakananda, Mandakini, and Bhogavati - enclose the thirty-two mile circumference of Navadvipa. All the holy places in the heavenly, earthly, and lower planets are present in Navadvipa."

One of the Navadvipa tirthas described by Srila Bhaktivinoda is the holy site of Ucchahatta. Also known as Hatta Danga, this is the place where the demigods assemble and loudly chant the names of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. While the exact location of Ucchahatta is not known (to us), it is described as having the Saraswati River on one side, and the Drisavati River on another side. It is also said to be close to Pancaveni, known as the Maha Prayag. This is the point of confluence of the Ganges, Alakananda, Mandakini and Saraswati Rivers. The Saraswati is currently in her hidden form.

"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 Bhogavati. 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, written in Bengali, 1890 by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur)

The hidden glories of Sridham Mayapur are discussed in "The Prediction of Thakura Vrndavana Dasa", and there are some very interesting mentions of the Bhagirathi:

"Thakura Vrndavana Dasa is the writer of 'Sri Caitanya-Bhagavata' in which book he has predicted that sages, who transcend the plane of three dimensions, will on a future date make Navadvipa-dhama or Svetadvipa-dhama known to the world. Only those persons whose inner eyes have been opened by the grace of Godhead can see this Holy Dhama and none else. Of these venerable sages of the prediction of Thakura Vrndavana Dasa, the first to appear was Srila Jagannatha Dasa Babaji held in esteem to all over Gauda Mandala, Ksetra Mandala, and Vraja Mandala, and the second is Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura who as the archetype of Bhagiratha brought down to the earth the Ganges of pure devotion. [ ]

As soon as we are thus enabled to identify the Site of the 'House of God' to quote the language of Bhakti-ratnakara, we can follow and identify the details of the route of circumambulation given in that work of Sridhama Navadvipa by Srinivasa Acarya in the company of Isana Thakura who was in charge of the household of the Lord shortly after His disappearance. The places visited were Atopura adjoining Mayapura which, said Thakura Isana, formerly bore the name of Antardvipa. The place bearing locally the designation of Atopura did not disappear in the bed of the Bhagirathi till quite recently. It adjoined the identified Site of Mayapura. On leaving the 'House of God' Isana Thakura pointed out to his companion the ancient site of Suvarnabihar which could be seen in the distance from the neighborhood of the 'House of God,' This agrees perfectly with the position the site as identified. It may be noted in this connection that the ancient 'mound of Suvarnabihar is a prominent object as seen from a place adjoining the 'House of God' and even the most casual observer was not likely to miss the sight. The almost dramatic suddenness with which the historic mound burst on the view of the observer as he left the 'House of God' could not fail to excite curiosity in those days when the magnificent old ruins were still intact. The Kholobhanga- danga i.e. the mound where the khol of the first chanters of kirtana was broken is easily identifiable from the narrative, of the Caitanya-bhagavata with the yard of Srinivasa. [ ]

The Kayastha-koustubha quotes from the Urddhamnaya-tantra a passage regarding the Appearance of Mahaprabhu son of Saci at Mayapur (p.98). The book was published eighty-six years ago by Raja Rajendra Nath Mitra of Andul. The same work also quoted from Ananta-samhita that the Supreme Lord will be born from the womb of Saci at Navadvipa (p. 124, 130). On page 123 the writer takes the trouble to explain that Mayapura was another name of Navadvipa where Laksmana Sena had built his capital. The tradition recorded by Hunter in his Statistical Account (1880) is that "It (Nadia) was on the East of the Bhagirathi and on the West of the Jalangi" (p. 142). The changes in the course of the Bhagirathi may be studied in the History of Nadia Rivers, the Map of Suba Bangla, Renell's Map and Blochmann's Map. They throw some light on the obscure point how the name Navadvipa was gradually shifted by the pressure of the changing river to the present town of Navadvipa on the West side of the Bhagirathi.

Now, the hearts desire of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura is being exhaustively fulfilled by Gaura-sakti Om Visnupada Sri Srimad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, and this is obvious to all that can see. Everyone can observe with their own eyes what kind of splendorous progress is increasing day by day in the service of Sridhama Mayapura.

("The Prediction of Thakura Vrndavana Dasa" from 'The Full Moon of the Advent of Lord Gauranga', published in The Harmonist, Vol. 15, March 31, 1935)

Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu had various pastimes along the banks of the holy Bhagirathi, such as his travels to Cuttack, described by Srila Bhaktivinoda in his Life of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu:

"He traveled along the side of the Bhagirathi as far as Chhatrabhog situated now in Thana Mathurapur Diamond Harbour, 24 Parganas. There He took a boat and went as far as Prayag Ghat in the Midnapore District. Thence He walked through Balasore and Cuttack to Puri, seeing the temple of Bhubaneswar on His way. Upon His arrival at Puri He saw Lord Jagannath in the temple and put up with Sarvabhauma at the request of the latter."

In biographical narratives of the Lord's associates we find further mention of the Bhagirathi. For example, it is stated in the Gaudiya Vaishnava Abhidhana that Sri Shyamananda Pandit once lived in Gauda (the part of Bengal which lies on the banks of the Bhagirathi River. Sri Gadadhar das also lived on the banks of the Bhagirathi, in the village of Eriyadaha, 8 miles north of Calcutta. He moved to Katwa from Nabadwip after Mahaprabhu's disappearance, and then later to Eriyadaha.

Srila Hari Das Thakur joined Mahaprabhu's sankirtan party along the banks of the Bhagirathi: "Then Hari Das, the ocean of Krishna-rasa, on Mahaprabhu's order, danced beautifully." (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.23.204) Sri Advaita Acarya was also a member of this party:

"The lord danced along the banks of the Bhagirathi while all around him all the people sang the names of Hari. Advaita Acharya preceded him, dancing ecstatically with a small group of devotees."

(Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.23.202-3)

There is yet another fascinating description of the Bhagirati in a narrative on the identity of Sri Advaita, from Advaita Prakasha, which we will offer in our final segment of Bhagirathi nectar, tomorrow.