Author Archives: Sevak

Amarda

Narasinghapur 

Narasinghpur (Kanpur/Kanopur) was the preaching headquarters of Shyamananda Pandit. This village is located close to Amarda railway station on Cuttack-Howrah line, which is located in the Mayurbhanj district in the state of Odisha. From here, Srila Shyamananda Pandit preached all over North Odisha and some parts of Bengal. Syamananda flooded the people of Utkala (Odisha) with premabhakti and initated common people into the Vaisnava faith. Apart from Narasinghapur, places such as Dharenda, Gopivallabhapura, Balaramapura, which were formely in Orissa but are now in the

district of Midnapura, West Bengal.These were the main preaching centers of premabhakti by Syamananda and his disciple Rasikananda.

Shymanand Pandit Samadhi:

One day, while in Narasinghapur, Shyamananda received a solemn report that his spiritual master Srila Hridoy Chaitanya had passed away in Kalna. At that moment, all of his achievements felt hollow, like empty shells, for he had pursued them merely to please his guru. He could not tolerate the sad news, and he called for his disciples to comfort him and to discuss the glories of Hridoy Chaitanya andheld a festival in his honor.Gradually Shyamananda was able to go on with his preaching activities.

Sooner word arrived that Shyamananda’s dear disciple, Damodar, had also departed this world. It is said that Shyamananda never recovered from this shock and from that day he wasin severe illness. In his illness, he stayed at the royal home of Uddanda Roy in Narasinghapur. All medical aid was administered but to no avail. Still, he received many visitors and until his last breath he vigorously preached the conclusions of Vaishnava philosophy.

He openly appointed Rasik his spiritual successor and asked all of his followers to submit to Rasik’s demands. “Those who disobey Rasik,” he said, “shall be regarded as hostile to me.” He asked Rasik to watch after his wives as well, and to increase the preaching mission. Thus in 1630,he passed away. Rasik constructed a beautiful tomb (samadhi) in Narasinghapur.Rasik conducted an elaborate ceremony in honor of his departed guru. Thousands of Vaishnava and Muslim chiefs, zamindars, kings, queens, and others attended to pay their last tribute to the exalted devotee who was responsible for the transformation of entire Orissa.

Rasik continued to spread the movement after his guru’s demise. He also managed to resolve a severe difference of opinion among Shyamananda’s widows, a difference that threatened to splinter the movement. Rasik established twelve important days of celebration for all followers of Shyamananda Vaishnavism.

The following festivals are still observed till today:

(1) The anniversary of the passing of Shyamananda;
(2) Hera Panchami;
(3) Ratha-yatra;
(4) The nativity of Mahaprabhu;
(5) The anniversary of the passing of GauridasPandit;
(6) The nativity of Shri Krishna;
(7) The nativity of ShriRadha;
(8) The UtthanaEkadashi ceremony;
(9) Rasotsava;
(10) Dolyatra;
(11) Kojagari Lakshmi-utsav; and
(12) Theanniversary of the passing of Hridoy Chaitanya.

Other Pastimes at Narasinghpur– On the order of Srila Jiva Gosvami, Syamananda Prabhu travelled from Vrindavan to Orissa to preach the message of Mahaprabhu. As he was coming into the Mayurbhanj area of northeastern Orissa, Syamananda spoke to his intimate disciple Rasikananda about a demoniac zamindar named Uddanda Ray who ruled like a small king in an area on their path. Syamananda told Rasika, “Uddanda Ray hates the vaishnavas. He has killed and robbed many saintly persons who came through his village. If a wicked person such as he can be changed then it will be marvellous. Let us both go to his place.”

They arrived at Narasinghpur in the evening. Uddanda Ray was lying on his bed but not sleeping. Suddenly he saw someone enter his room and stood before him. In a grave voice, that mysterious person told the king, “Dedicate yourself to Syamananda Ray,” and disappeared. Uddanda Ray considered the voice to be divine and began to think about when he would meet this person Syamananda. Just at that moment, Syamananda and Rasika entered the home of Uddanda Ray. Seeing Syamananda standing before him, Uddanda Ray fell at his feet and worshiped him in various ways. It is said that just by the power of SyamanandaPrabhu’spresence,Uddanda Ray became a changed man. He took shelter of the lotus feet of Syamananda, who then blessed Uddanda with devotion to the Lord. Everyone was astonished to see the king whowas transformed from a demonoic mentality to a statewhere he knows nothing but service to guru, Krishna, and the devotees.

Uddanda Ray confessed to Syamananda, “There is no limit to the terrible sins I have committed. I have killed thousands of vaishnava sadhus. After killing them I collected their asanas (cloths used by sadhus to sit on during their bhajana). Uddanda then produced seven hundred and eighteen asanas that he had collected from the devotees he had killed. They were the size of a small hill. The repentant zamindar king then showed them a well that for years he had used to dispose of the dead bodies of the devotees he had killed. Syamananda distributed those asanas to the vaishnavas, and the king also offered clothes and various other items to the devotees. Everyone in the local area was astonished to see thedemoniac king had become a gentle devotee.

From that day on, Uddanda Ray began to serve all the vaishnavas with great humility and love. Later, Syamananda brought his deities, Syama Ray, from his birth place Dharendra. With the assistance of Uddanda Ray, kept the Deities in huge festivals in Narasinghpur. Syamananda later installed Radha Krishna deities there and named Sri Sri Radha Mohanji. In the year 1630 AD, Syamananda spent four months at Uddanda Ray’s house and then left his body there.

Syamananda Prabhu’sbhajana-kutir and full samadhi are still present in the remote village of Narasinghpur in Orissa’s Mayurbhanj district. Syamananda had dug two tanks them and installed as Radha kund and Shyam kund.

The worship of Sri Sri Radha Mohanjiu was later passed on to one of Syamananda’s disciples, who became the mahant, temple manager. The local devotees tell an interesting story. The deity was maintained by some agricultural fields that the temple owned. No one was there to help with the farming, so the mahant was working in the fields and also taking care of the deities. At one point he became very sick. Another devotee was brought in to worship the deities, but there was no one to tend to the fields. It was the time to plough the land, but no one was available. Understanding the situation, the mahant cried and prayed to Krishna, “My Lord! What can I do? If the fields are not ploughed now, then the planting will not be done. Then there will be no crops, so how will we take care of You?”

The next morning when the pujari came to wake the deity, he was surprised to find that Krishna’s flute was gone. He also couldn’t understand why there was mud on the deity’s hands and feet. Then,a villager came and congratulated the pujari for ploughing the field so nicely the night before. “What are you saying?” the pujari asked, “I didn’t plow the field last night.” The villager looked at him strangely, and said, “Well, come see for yourself!” When the pujari went to look, he was astonished to find that someone had nicely ploughed the field last night. Noticing something shiny on the ground, he bent down to pick it up and found Krishna’s flute.

Bhajan kutir is next to samadhi of Shyamanand Pandit. A beautiful deity of Shyamanand Pandit and a nice life size bed occupies the Bhajan Kutir. Devotees serving there mention that Shyamanand Pandit’s presence can be still felt here today. One striking point is that the wooden slippers kept in the Bhajan Kutir has to be changed every year as it soles gets worn out indicating that Shyamananda Pandit uses them . On the disappearance day of Shyamanand Pandit, new wooden slippers are replaced.

Uddanda Ray’s samadhi is also in the same compound. After becoming a devotee, he felt humbled that he lamented many timesfor his past deeds of troubling people. So he begged from his guru Shyamanand Pandit that when he leaves his body his samadhi should become steps to the holy Radhakunda created by Shyamanand Pandit in the area. Thus eternally he will receive foot dust of all visitors to Radhakund thus he will feel that he is forgiven by all. Even today you can see the remains of these steps which is the samadhi of Uddanda Ray.

Shyamananda Pandit’s preaching in North Odisha (excerpts from Lives of Vaishnavasaints by Satyaraj das)

Prema-vilas relates an interesting episode that occurred just after Shyamananda’s return to Orissa. During this period, he began the nagara-sankirtan festival, leading his followers through the streets in ecstatic chanting and dancing. One day, Sher Khan, a militant Pathan who is an important representative of the Muslim court, attacked Shyamananda’s kirtan party. The very sight of “blissful Hindus” infuriated him beyond words. He broke into the middle of the party and stopped it, threatening the devotees and insisting that they never do it again.

Not heeding the words of the notorious Pathan, Shyamananda returned to the streets the very next day with an even larger kirtan party. Naturally, this vexed the Muslim soldier, who gathered his colleagues and again disrupted the kirtan. This time, however, the Muslim soldiers were violent, breakingmridangas and throwing kartals into the river. At that point, Shyamananda began to shout in a high-pitched mystical way, calling upon the names of Radha and Krishna. When Sher Khan and his cohorts heard this sound, they began to cough blood and found that their beards and mustaches had caught fire. Shocked at Shyamananda’s potency, everyone left that place in a stupor.

The next day, Shyamananda again led his sankirtan party, and when Sher Khan saw the devotees approaching, he fell at Shyamananda’s feet, begging for mercy. He said to Shyamananda: “My Lord, in addition to coughing blood and the scorching of my facial hairs, I had a terrible nightmare. The Supreme Lord, Allah, appeared to me and slapping my face repeatedly says that He is the same as your AhladaSwarup, or the form of God that is revealed to the Vaishnavas. He shows me His golden complexion and says that in His most confidential feature, He is none other than Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He further says that you are His favorite devotee and that I should be initiated into the chanting of the holy name by you alone.” Shyamananda was moved by the Pathan’s conversion and duly initiated him into the Gaudiya tradition. Sher Khan received the name “Chaitanya Das” after his initiation.

Shyamananda soon opened a second temple at Narasinghapur. Many hard working devotees helped him with this project by engaging in missionary activity, temple construction, worship and fund-raising. This secured him an even larger following in northern Orissa.

Travel

Air: The nearest airports are Khajuraho (175km) and Varanasi (260km). Neither is very easy to reach.

Train: The closest train station is at Chitrakoot Dhama Karvi on the Jhansi-Manikpur main line about 10km from Chitrakoot. From there you can get a train to Allahabad, Delhi, Luck­now, Mathura and Varanasi.

Bus: There are many buses going to Chitrakoot from places in the area, including Allahabad, Satna, Mahoba, and Jhansi. The bus stand for some buses going north is located next to the UP Tourist Bungalow, slightly north of town.

Story of Ganga’s descent on earth and her arrival at Varanasi

Once Koshala was a great kingdom and king Sagara was performing Ashwamedha Yagna. He lost the track of his sacrificial horse. He sent his 60 thousand sons to find the horse. They searched horse in every corner of earth & destroyed everything that came in their path. At last they reached to sage Kapila asharam and they saw the horse was tied. They made charges on the sage of stealing the horse. As a result of this offense to sage Kapila, all sixty thousand sons were burned to ashes. King Sagara waiting for his sons then sent his grandson Anshuman. Kapila said to him that only by the presence of sacred river Ganga, all sixty thousand sons will be purified and delivered.

Many kings of the dynasty performed austere penance for getting Ganga but could not bring Ganga on earth.

As time passed, their curse multiplied and it started to even destroy the Koshala kingdom. And then king Bhagirathi spur into action and did penance for 1000 years & pleased Lord Brahma to send Ganga on earth. Now the force of river was so destructive that earth will not be able to hold it. For that Brahma told Bhagirathi to pray to Lord Shiva. After a year of penance Lord Shiva appeared & told Bhagirathi that his wish would be fulfilled. When Ganga was falling from heaven, everybody was so afraid that everything would be destroyed. Ganga came forcefully. As it was going to hit the earth Lord Shiva captured her in his jata (matted hair). Ganga was helpless and was unable to come out of it. At this Bhagirathi prayed Shiva again & Lord Shiva released Ganga.

Ganga now flowed behind Bhagirathi giving liberation to all his ancestors. Before this, Bhagiratha also got her on the way to Varanasi. Varanasi is eternal abode of Shiva. So to pay the homage to the city, Ganga decided to change course and flew northward. The city is east facing and its boundaries lying between Asi & Varuna rivers. The direction of the sacred river Ganga is northward in city. In Indian culture a place where two rivers join is sacred so in Varanasi the numbers are three thus making it even more auspicious.

Story of King Divodasa and Return back of Lord Shiva to his own city

The legend of Kashi states that Lord Shiva himself lived here. This is his winter place. He lived as an ascetic in the upper regions of the Himalayas, but when he got married to a princess, compromises had to be made. And being a graceful man, he decided he would move to the plains, as Kashi was the most fabulously built city at the time.

There is a beautiful story.

Once Shiva left Kashi because of some reasons. The gods were afraid that Kashi would lose its reverberence if it was not properly managed, so they called for help of Lord Brahma.

Lord Brahma, the creator of universe, was concerned. After a long search for a solution, he found a sage of royal blood performing hard tapa in the jungle near the city of Banaras. Lord Brahma made his decision. Ripunjay was deeply submerged in tapa when he heard a voice inside his head, “Open your eyes, my child.”Ripunjay opened his eye to find the four headed God emerging from his fire. Devoted prince bowed to Lord Brahma. Brahma looked at Ripunjay kindly and said, “O man of high soul! Time has come when you should bear the crown. Take the world under your throne and save the humanity from fall. By my aid, thou shall reign over the world and reform the dharma.

Ripunjay listened calmly and fathomed the offer made by the Lord. Being strongly independent minded, Ripunjay made some decisions of his own and then spoke, “My lord, I shall happily do what you command. But on one condition, I wish to rule in peace without intervention, so I could reform the dharma without any disturbance. I wish all Gods and Godly entities to not set feet upon my land and remain in the heaven only.”

“So be it” said Brahma. Therefore, on the command of Brahma, all Gods left to the heaven.

Brahmaji also kept a condition that King should be an excellent administrator and that every person staying in his kingdom or visiting his kingdom should be treated well with proper religious pursuits. King agreed.

Ripunjay was then renamed to King Divodasa. He took the throne and worked vigorously to bring order in the decaying world. With the favours obtained from Lord Brahma, he established a rule so flawless that was never seen before. Under his reign, his subjects prospered and justice flourished.

As time passed, Lord Shiva desired to again come back to his own city. But due to Brahma’s boon to Divodasa, he was unable to set feet in Kashi. Soon Lord Shiva came to know that other gods too are unable to stay in his city. Not happy with this kind of attitude of the Divodasa, Lord Shiva decided first to cast some dents into the flawlessness of Divodasa’s rule in order to reduce his powers and to end his reign.

So he first sent messengers. They came and they just loved the city so much, they didn’t go back. He summoned sixty yoginis on the advice of his wife Goddess Parvati. He commanded the band to go to Kashi and disrupt the perfectness of Divodasa’s rule. He said, “Somehow corrupt the king. Once we find some fault in him, we can send him and I’ll come back.” When the yoginis arrived at Kashi, they were overwhelmed after seeing the perfectness. They abandoned the thought of causing any harm to it. Instead, they decided to never leave the city.

When they did not return, Lord Shiva sent Surya, the God of Sun, to Kashi.  But once he saw the city, Surya walked on the same path as the band of Yoginis. Surya Deva was so ashamed and scared that he could not fulfill Shiva’s mission because his love for the city was greater than his commitment to the mission, so he turned south and tilted to one side and settled down.

Then Shiva sent Brahma. He persuaded him to undo what he had done. Lord Brahma admitted that even he could not remove Divodasa from the throne. But he assured Shiva to do something. He took the guise of a sadhu (a holy man) and entered Kashi. Soon he had the king under his influence. And then he recommended Divodasa to arrange an Ashwamedh Yagya with ten horses. An Ashwamedh Yagya is a ritual practised by mighty kings, in which a horse is made to roam freely through all lands. Army of the king follows the horse. The land through which the horse walks through, comes into the supremacy of the yagya performing king. If someone refuses to accept the supremacy of the king, then they have to battle against the army following the horse.

Brahma suggested the mighty king to practice the yagya with ten horses, in order to make it more difficult. In this way Divodasa’s army was divided into ten parts to follow each horse. Ten armies of the king followed the ten horses in ten directions. But yet no enemy could capture any of the ten horses. To Brahma’s dismay, horses came back safely with their armies. Lord Brahma was much ashamed of the failure of his trickery and abandoned the thought of any other attempt.

Brahma himself came and loved it, and he did not go back.

Then Shiva said, “I cannot trust any of these people” and he sent two of his most trusted ganas Both of them came, but they loved the place so much and thought, “This is the only place Shiva should live, not Mount Mandara.” So they stayed there and became dwarapalakas of this city.

Lord Shiva saw few more attempts going in vain; and his desire to return to his beloved city was ever increasing. At last, he approached Lord Vishnu. Vishnu is the one who often rescues the Gods in such crisis. A strong scheme was laid out by him.

In accordance to the plan, Ganesh, son of Shiva arrived at Kashi in the disguise of an astrologer. Having a long term scheme, he established his residence near the city and began serving the citizens as astrologer. Fame of the astrologer spread in the kingdom. Touched by wind of the fame, the queen also sought his service, and was impressed by the astrologer. Once the queen was impressed, astrologer did not need very long time to reach the royal court of the king.

In the royal court, he pretended to study the palm of king attentively. Finally lord Ganesha succeeded to convince the king that having everything in Kashi still king had no mental peace. At the end, he declared that a holy and wise sadhu would come to see the king on the eighteenth day. Council of the wise man would bring wealth of enlightenment.

So Lord Vishnu went to Varanasi and first arrived at the confluence of the Varuna and Ganges Rivers where He bathed. Now there is the Adi Keshava (“original Keshava” or Vishnu) temple at that location to commemorate the incident, which is now an important tirtha or holy place.

Lord Vishnu came in disguise of saint and told the king “Undoubtedly you are the one who established law of dharma on earth again and saved it. You are the one who created every element by sheer power of dharma just to save earth. But just one deed of yours to ask Shiva to leave his beloved city is cursing your mental peace. By no means is your deed right. You need to correct it by making a Shiv Linga & worship him to come to his city-Anandavan and Lord Shiva returned to his city. The Lord as Saint said to king that on the 7th day after installation of Shiva linga, a celestial plane will appear and grant moksha to the king by carrying him to Lord Shiva’s abode. The Shivalinga installed was named after the king as Divodaseswara Shiva. This deity is still in Varanasi near Vishwa Bhuja Gauri temple at Dasaswamedha Ghat.

Thus Lord Vishnu caused the departure of King Divodasa and gave Varanasi back to Lord Shiva. Lord Vishnu and Shiva, along with other demigods and goddesses, have manifested themselves here in many ways ever since. You can find all varieties of temples dedicated to many personalities. Thus, they say that all the gods reside here. And it is said that all of the holy places of India can be found in certain portions of the town. Mathura is found in one part of the town, Ayodhya in another, as well as Badrinatha, Dwaraka, and so on. In fact, some of the ancient texts say that Varanasi is not of this earth, but is a holy place and part of the spiritual realm. Therefore, dying in this city brings salvation from future material existence. So there is a strong atmosphere of devotion here as many pilgrims come from all over to spend their last days living in this city, bathing in the sacred Ganges, visiting temples, and having darshan of the deities, all for spiritual purification.