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Honor Navadvipa Dhama
By Urmila devi dasi and Campakalata devi dasi
"How to have our students’ minds absorbed in the appearance of the Lord in His form as Caitanya Mahaprabhu?" Campakalata devi dasi, gurukula school teacher and gurukula graduate, pondered. Gaura purnima, the anniversary of the appearance of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, was approaching in six weeks. "A major artistic project that we can work on bit by bit for many weeks will certainly help them meditate on the Lord."
When Sitarani devi dasi, age 12, suggested dioramas, Campakalata decided to make nine of them—one for each of the islands that form the greater area of Lord Caitanya’s birthplace. There are wonderful stories of saints and the Lord that took place on each of these islands of Navadvipa. Students and teachers picked one main story per island and fashioned a diorama on a base shaped like lotus petals and a center, as Navadvipa’s shape resembles that of a lotus.
Each student took responsibility at least for a figure; some older students made a whole petal. The youngest children made a bed, and flower bushes. As they completed the project, the students were amazed that they were capable of making realistic figures, and appreciated how Lord Caitanya and His devotees manifested themselves through their work. When the completed sculpture was exhibited at the festival, Bir Krsna Maharaja, governing body commissioner for North Carolina, decided that the work should be on permanent display in the new temple, under Plexiglas.
Padma Academy is in Hillsborough, North Carolina. For more information, contact Mayapurcandra dasa, principal (firstname.lastname@example.org), Campakalata devi dasi, teacher (email@example.com), or Urmila devi dasi, teacher (firstname.lastname@example.org), or call 919-643-2001
The Nine Islands of Navadvipa Dhama
Navadvipa Dhama is in the shape of a lotus flower. It is composed of nine islands separated by different holy rivers. Eight of the islands form an eight- petaled lotus surrounding the island of Antaradvipa (Mayapur), the birth- place of Lord Caitanya.
This island is also called Mayapur and is the birthplace of Lord
Caitanya. At the time of Lord Caitanya’s birth, there was a lunar
eclipse. To ward off its inauspicious effects, all the people of Navadvipa
(or Nadia as it was called at that time) bathed in the holy Ganges and
chanted the names of Krsna. Lord Caitanya, who had remained in His mother’s
womb for 14 months, chose this auspicious time, while everyone was
chanting His name, to appear. Although He would later be named Visvambar
and eventually called Lord Caitanya, His mother, Saci, affectionately
called her beautiful, golden son Nimai, after the Neem tree beneath which
He was born.
The gravesite of Nadia’s Muslim ruler, the Chand Kazi, is located
here. Once, in an attempt to thwart Nimai’s sankirtana movement, Chand
Kazi stormed into a devotee’s house. He broke a mrdanga and declared
that anyone who dared chant this Hari Nama again would be converted to a
Mohammedan. The devotees became afraid of the Kazi’s declaration. But
Lord Caitanya told them not to fear. He ordered them to gather a huge
chanting party with which to storm the Kazi’s home. The Kazi became
fearful upon seeing the power of the Lord, and after first attempting to
hide, he was finally coaxed from his home. Once outside, he recounted a
dream he had in which Lord Nrsimhadeva had warned him never to again
disturb the Lord’s kirtana. The Kazi thus humbly accepted Lord Caitanya’s
chastisement, declaring that henceforth the devotees would be free to sing
the Holy Name as they pleased.
Once, the Lord was performing Sankirtana with His devotees. After
chanting and dancing for a long time they became very tired and sat down
to rest. Seeing how tired they were, the Lord took a mango seed and
planted it in the ground. The minute it was planted, the seed sprouted and
began to grow. As the astonished devotees looked on, the full-grown tree
soon hung heavy with hundreds of mangos. These mangos had no seeds inside
and no skins outside. They were so sweet and filled with so much juice,
that after eating only one each, the devotees were completely satisfied.
On this island there is a forest called Naimisaranya where, at the
beginning of Kali Yuga, thirty-three thousand sages assembled to hear the Srimad
Bhagavatam spoken by Srila Suta Goswami. Lord Siva, who was also eager
to hear this narration, mounted His bull carrier, Nandi, and left His
abode in Mount Kailash. However, He feared that the recitation would end
before His arrival because Nandi was too slow. So He abandoned Nandi and
mounted Brahma’s swift swan carrier who brought Him to Naimisaranya just
Jagannatha das Babaji’s samadhi is located here. This great acharya
in our line lived over 150 years ago. He was regarded as the chief of the
Vaishnavas. In 1893, when he was 142 years old, he went with Bhaktivinoda
Thakur to try to find the real birthplace of Lord Caitanya. He was so old
that he could not walk and his body was stooped over. His eyelids drooped
so much that if he wanted to see something, his disciples would have to
hold his eyelids open with their fingers. He was able to travel to the
holy places of Navadvipa in a basket, which his disciples carried on their
heads. Despite his condition, when he reached the spot where Lord Caitanya
was born (in Antardvipa), he jumped out of his basket twelve feet into the
air and began to dance in ecstasy.
Once Lord Nityananda, along with His associates, entered the wonderful
forests of Ritudvipa. The beauty of the forests reminded the Lord of His
intimate pastimes with Krsna as Krsna’s older brother, Balarama. In the
mood of Balarama, Lord Nityananda called out, "Quickly bring Me My
horn! My cowherd friends are far ahead of Me. Krsna is fast asleep and won’t
get up. I can’t herd these cows alone." The devotees with Him tried
to calm Him. They reminded Him who He actually was. They said, "Oh
Nityananda Prabhu, Your brother, Lord Caitanya, has gone and taken
sannyasa, leaving us here alone." Lord Nityananda became so
heartbroken at hearing this that He lost consciousness.
Near Kapila’s asrama, in this island of Jahnudvipa, a great muni
named Jahnu once had his asrama. One day while sitting in meditation, he
heard the deafening roar of the Ganges River as she followed Bhagiratha.
Afraid that Ganga would destroy the planet, Jahnu Muni swallowed her up in
one gulp. Bhagiratha was overcome with anxiety. Ganga was supposed to
liberate his ancestors. With great devotion, he began to worship Jahnu
Muni, offering beautiful prayers. Pleased with Bhagiratha’s sincerity,
Jahnu Muni allowed Ganga to emerge from his ear. Thus, Ganga is known as
Jahnavi devi, the daughter of Jahnu Muni.
There was once a devotee during Lord Caitanya’s time named Saranga
Thakur. Lord Caitanya was very pleased with Sarangadeva’s devotion and
asked him to make some disciples. Sarangadeva assured the Lord that the
next day he would initiate the first person he saw. The next morning, as
he was about to step into the Ganges to bathe, he saw a boy’s dead body
float past. Remembering his promise to Lord Caitanya, he brought the dead
boy’s body to the shore and chanted the initiating mantras into his ear.
As soon as the dead boy heard the mantra he came back to life. He offered
his obeisances to the feet of Sarangadeva and told him, "Yesterday I
was undergoing a ceremony to accept initiation but a black snake came and
bit me. I can’t remember anything after that."
In Rudradvipa there is a place named Nirdaya which means
"merciless." While His devoted wife, Visnupriya, slept, Lord
Caitanya left His home in Antaradwip to take sannyasa. He traveled to the
west and crossed the Ganges River to this village in Rudradvipa. Though
His purpose in taking sannyasa was to deliver all the fallen souls, the
act appeared merciless, hence the name "Nirdaya."
Sachi and baby Nimai were made by Danista, age 10.
The Kazi was made by Kunda, age 14
Angry Lord Caitanya was made by Sitarani, age 11.
Mango Lord Caitanya was made by me.
Mango Devotee was made by Jahnu and me.
Siva and Swan were made by Ananda.
Jagannatha Das Babaji and "Catching" devotee were made by Sachi, age 15.
Covering mouth devotee was made by Parijata, age 15.
Unconscious Nityananda was made by Kundalata.
Open mouth devotee was made by Danista.
Sad, frowning devotee was made by me.
Jahnu Muni and Bhagiratha were made by Sitarani.
Ganga was made by me.
Saranga Thakur and dead boy were made by Cintamani, age 16.
Sleeping Vishnu Priya was made by Radhika, age 16.
Sannyasa Lord Caitanya was made by Balarama (age 7) and me.
Padma, Jahnu and Bala made the flower clusters.
Jahnu and Bala made Vishnu Priya's bed (with Radhika adding the frills).
© CHAKRA 20 July 2002
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