The Holy Places of Jaiva Dharma: Bharata-varsa


BY: SUN STAFF - 18.7 2019

Mother Bhumi 
South Indian Bronze

A serial presentation of the holy places mentioned in the Jaiva Dharma of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur - Part 26.

In Jaiva Dharma, the next holy place listed in Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur's 'Glossary of Places' is Bharata-varsa:

"Bharata-varsa - one of nine tracts of land which form the divisions of Jambudvipa. It is named after King Bharata, the son of Rsabhadeva. India is now known as Bharata, although in the ancient histories this appellation referred to the entire earth plant."

As we read in the segments on the Bhagirati, Srila Bhaktivinoda describes the Ganga's descent over the Himalayas and onto the land of Bharata-varsha. In his Sri Prithu-carite, the Thakur writes:

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."

Bharata-varsha is described countless places in Vedic literature, and is mentioned in glorifications of various dhams the lie within the region of Bharata. For example, in Sri Sanatkumara-samhita we read:

Text 78 

trailokye prithivi dhanya 
jambudvipo yatah param
tatrapi bharatam varsham
tatrapi mathura puri

In the three worlds the most fortunate place is the earthly planets. The best of them is Jambudvipa. In Jambudvipa the best place is Bharata-varsha. In Bharata-varsha the best place is Mathura-puri.

Likewise, in the first of three mentions of Bharata-varsa in Jaiva Dharma, Srila Bhaktivinoda describes the glories of Gauda-desa in relationship to Bharata-varsa:

Jiver Nitya O Naimittik Dharma - The Soul's Eternal and Temporary Natures

"Of all earthly realms, Jambudvipa is the best. O fall places in Jambudvipa, Bharata-varsa is the best. Of all places in Bharata-varsa, Gauda-desa is the best. Of all places in Gauda-desa, Sri Navadvipa-mandala is the best. In one part of Sri Navadvipa-mandala, on the Ganga shore, the beautiful village of Sri Godruma is splendidly manifested eternally. In ancient times many bhajananandi devotees made their homes in the gardens of Sri Godruma."

Chapter one of Jaiva Dharma also mentions Bharata-varsha, in the story of Sri Prema-dasa Babaji, an initiated disciple of Pradyumna Brahmacari. While absorbed in reading sastra, the babaji was approached one day by a sannyasi, who made this declaration of attraction to Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu:

"It is twelve years now since I accepted a sannyasi danda from Srila Saccidananda Sarasvatipada. After I accepted the danda I spent my time always travelling to all the holy places. Wherever I went in Bharata-varsa I always associated with the sannyasi followers of Sankaracarya. Passing through the stages of kuticaka, bahudaka and hamsa, after a few days I attained the stage of paramahamsa. Then I stayed always at Varanasi.

Observing a vow of silence, I took shelter of the sayings 'aham brahmasi' (I am Brahman), 'prajnanam brahma' (Brahman is consciousness), and 'tat tvam asi' (You are that), which Sankara declares are the maha-vakyas (most important statements of the scriptures).

Then one day a saintly Vaisnava singing songs about Lord Hari's pastimes came before me. Opening my eyes wide, I gazed at him. He was bathed by the tears flowing from his eyes, and the hairs of his body stood erect in ecstasy. In a choked voice he chanted "Sri Krsna Caitanya! Prabhu Nityananda!' Again and again he danced with faltering steps. Sometimes he fell to the ground.

As I gazed at him and heard his song, my heart became filled with love, a love I have no power to describe. Even though I became filled with love, I followed the rules of paramahamsa life and I did not speak a word to him.

I am pathetic, my rules of paramahamsa life are pathetic, and my so-called good fortune is also pathetic. Why did I not speak to him?

Since that day my heart has been irresistibly drawn to the feet of Sri Caitanya."

The last mention of Bharat-varsa in Jaiva Dharma is found in the tenth chapter:

Nitya-dharma O Itihasa - Eternal Religion and History

"The Vedic histories have only recorded the names of some of the most famous. There is no saying how many hundreds of other great Vaisnavas there were at the time of Prahlada and Dhruva. Dhruva, Manu's sons, and Prahlada are all grandsons of Prajapati Kasyapa. Therefore they lived at the very beginning of the universe. Of this there is no doubt. In the Vedic histories it is seen that the Vaisnava religion was present at the very beginning of time. The kings of the Candra-vamsa and Surya-vamsa, as well as the great munis and rsis, were all sincerely devoted to Lord Visnu. These things are written in the descriptions of the three yugas: Satya, Treta and Dvapara. In the Kali-yuga Sri Ramanuja, Sri Madhvacarya and Sri Visnu Svami in the south and Sri Nimbarka Svami in the west brought many thousands to the pure Vaisnava religion. By their mercy perhaps half the people of Bharata-varsa crossed the ocean of maya and found shelter at the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord."


(Bharata-varsha to be continued…)