(Retired head of the Dept. of Geography, City College, Calcutta, retired lecturer of the Dept. of Geography, University of Calcutta, Secretary of ILEE and Director of the Research Cell of Sri Caitanya Research Institute, Calcutta)
For about 300 years from late 12th Century there was acute degeneration in the administrative and cultural atmosphere of Bengal. The advent of Sri Caitanya in the late 15th Century instilled a deep sense of self-respect and moral value in the mind of the people. His 500th year of advent will be celebrated all over the country and abroad in 1985-86. But there is uncertainty about the location of his birthplace, resulting in a lot of bickering in between different Vaisnavite groups. No non-Vaisnavite impartial scientific study has yet been taken up. Here, the author makes an honest attempt to set at rest this continuing controversy.
Navadvipa is the place of play and performance (Lila-Ksetra) of Sri Caitanyadeva and it was his emergence that totally changed the moral and physical attitude when the Turk Muslim invaders drove away the king of Bengal, Laksmana Sena, from his capital Navadvipa, a complete chaos came down upon the social life of Bengal. The Turk rulers were busy plundering the wealth of Bengal desecrating the big landlords, who were not disturbed by the new rulers, as long as they accepted the sovereignty of the Turks and paid them taxes and handsome presents. These big feudal landlords (known as zamindars) on the other hand exacted ruthlessly from the ordinary people not only the legal dues (taxes, rents etc.), but also as much as they could get by torture and mayhem. During these years of chaotic administration they never cared for the welfare of the people, rather were overtly busy in the pursuit of baser instrincts and hilarious perverted enjoyments. In those days scholars and poets had to depend entirely on the patronage of the zamindars and rulers, since they had no way of earning independently. As it happened, the zamindars practically starved the 'unnecessary' scholars, and the poets were patronized only when they composed praising the rulers or the zamindars, or when they presented sexy-perverted-cheap-hilarious compositions. If they composed something serious, something serene and aesthetic, the patronage would instantly dry up. Many very powerful composers of the period succumbed to this pressure and created masterpieces with very dirty overtones at many places. Even superb Vaisnava literatures painted Krsna-lila in such silly obnoxious ways, that even non-Vaisnavitescould not stand them. Peoples' agony knew no bounds, nobody cared for the down-troddens.
For about three centuries this despotic and despairing conditions prevailed and people lost all hope of redress or relief from their suffering. There was complete lack of moral values in any faith thee people pursued. The formal pursuing of faiths (Vidhi-Bhakti) were there, but frustration killed respect in one's own self and love (prema) for others. Feeling for a fellow human being became a quality forgotten. True devotion (Suddha bhakti) was ridiculed, became subdued and scarce.
In this long period of very dark days the refreshing pleasant rays of hope came down at the end of 15th Century in the boldest but sweetest personality of Mahaprabhu (the Great Lord) Sri Caitanyadeva. Dejected callous people hearing the clarion call of love, looked up, straightened their back and became surcharged with a new vision of hope, self-respect and courage. His love was the love for humanity and knew no boundary of religion, caste or creed. His love was the love for the Supreme (the God)--Sri Krsna. It was so intense, pure and electrifying that he was even immune to the feeling of physical violence from the adversaries. His opponents were appalled at his sincerity and bowed down to his honesty. Gradually, thee whole period-atmosphere changed and the people began breathing moral value continued developing in the mind of the people following the ideal Mahaprabhu. Through the love of Mahaprabhu they began deeply loving Sri Krsna. Collective pressure of new moral sense started even influencing the benevolent. The poorest of poor and the lowest cast in the society got the most fervent embrace of Mahaprabhu and for the first time other people looked at them as fellow human beings.
The most invigorating effect was witnessed in thee literary genre of the period. They, after a long time, got rid of their begging complex and started taking their creed as a sacred obligation to the God and the people. New savour (rasa) was tasted in their compositions in the Post-Caitanya era. Even Krsna-lila was narrated to the people with a new found meaning. Sri Radha was considered as the cit-rupa (spiritual form) of the will of Sri Krsna and the whole being of Radhika was for the eternal enjoyment of spiritual bliss by Krsna. Literary genius of the non-vaisnavite schools also vowed to Sri Caitanyadeva.
THE BASIC PROBLEM
There are two distinct schools of Vaisnavites pleading for two different present villages to be declared as the 'true' birthplace of Sri Caitanya. Each of these groups has advanced emotional and pseudo-scientific arguments (even supported by crude sketches passed as maps) in support of their respective favourite places. The arguments (passed evidences) are so thin and desperate, that the inner urge to channelize the expected stream of devotees to their true' birthplaces to ultimately butter their breads is quite obvious.
It may be mentioned here that although both the groups are claiming that Mayapura area old Navadvipa-dhama was the birthplace of Sri Caitanya, there was no reference to Mayapura of Nava (nine) Dvipas (islands) either in any contemporary (15th-16th Century) literature or in any of the Puranas (old Sanskrit tales). Only Narahari Cakravarti in his poetical work Bhakti-ratnakara in early 18th Century named and described for the first time the Nava Dvipas and mentioned Mayapura in Antardvipa as the birthplaces of Sri Caitanya (Das 1973, Banerjee 1966).
Around 1887 the first group that initiated the search for the birthplace was led by Sri Kedarnath Datta, at the time Deputy Magistrate and Deputy Collector of Krishnanagar Sub-Division of Nadia District (Vidyaratna 1976). He was a well accepted scholar in Bengali, English, Hindi, Oriya and Sanskrit, and had working knowledge of Persian and Urdu. He was already a recognized author in history, ethics and Vaisnava literature. He was a member of Royal Asiatic Society of London. Highly complimentary references were made of him and his works, in their own works by such eminent personalities as Dr. William Hunter (Imperial Gazetteer, Orissa) and, Bengali novelist and essayist Bankimchandra Chatterjee (Srimad Bhagavad-gita). Kedarnath made painstaking search for Sri Caitanya's birthplace collector and Deputy Registrar of Assurance, while working as Deputy Magistrate in about 21 Sub-Divisions during 1866-94. Sri Datta established many Bhakti-mandapas (bhakti - devotion, mandapa - covered platform / place of gathering), Nama-hattas, lectures, so much so, that he was given the title of Bhaktivinoda by the Society of Scholars at Baghnapara of Kalna in Bardhaman Dt. (vinoda -- pleasure) i.e. he retired from service and took up an ascetic life, he became well-known as Bhaktivinoda Thakura (thakura - venerable person) as he is referred to in Vaisnava circles today. He introduced blank-verse in Bengali poetry in 1857 (Bharadwaj, 1989).
Kedarnath was instrumental in the establishment of Sri Navadvipa-dhama Pracarini Sabha in 1883, a registered society, and as Karyapati or executive head, he gradually acquired some land in the Bamunpukur and Ballaldighi mauzas (J.L Nos. 9 and 14, mauza - smallest rural revenue unit having one or more villages) and named it as Sri Mayapura of Antardvipa. On the Holy Festival day of 1894, Sri Datta erected here a temple of Sri Gauranga (Sri Caitanyadeva). This temple (totally renovated now) is named as Yogapitha, the place of advent of Sri Caitanya.
There are two other sets of temples (under practically the same management) in Mayapura, viz. the Srivasa-Angana i.e. the house of Panditas Srivasa, Advaita and Gadhadara where Sri Caitanya passed long hours daily in religious discussions and kirtana (loud singing in praise of God); and Sri Caitanya Matha at the house of Sri Caitanya's maternal aunt where Lord Krsna's main temple (Govinda Mandira) is located (Fig. 4&8).
The impact of establishment of Mayapura has become so great that under subsequent managements of different groups (foreign and local) belonging to this same school, the entire Mayapura has now turned into a village of Vaisnava temples covering an area of about 3 sq. km. Millions of devotees and tourists every year visit these temples. There are good guesthouses.
After the departure of Sri Caitanya, gradually through centuries the strict ascetic discipline and suddha bhakti, gave place to permissiveness and vidhi bhakti. The Vaisnava society degenerated so much that all decent people became totally disgusted and refrained from getting associated with the Vaisnava cult even indirectly. Old Navadvipa city has partially been eaten away by the changing course of the Bhagirathi (Ganga) and during 18th-20th Centuries under the British rule the present Navadvipa city has been built anew on the western bank of the changed course of the Ganga. 'Sahajiya' cults (easy living like the 'flower child' of today) developed in the new Vaisnava akharas (cohabiting religious group --residence with temple) in the new city, where gangsterism and eternal profession swelled to immeasurable proportion.
When being disgusted with the situation Kedarnath founded Mayapura to instil moral discipline and suddha-bhakti, as initiated by Sri Caitanya and his associates. He was hailed and was joined increasingly by larger numbers of elites and simple rural folks alike. The respect and popular support for this new group led later by the ascetic scholar Sri Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami, increased so vastly in the 20s and 30s of the present century that the Mahantas (Akhra leaders) of the New Navadvipa town became apprehensive of losing their own popularity and income. In the meanwhile, a number of individual real Vaisnava ascetics became disgusted with the Sahajiyas and started staying separately making small temples in distinct groups of Vaisnavites of day, viz. (1) highly cultured, educated family men with traditional Vaisnava faith, (2) individual Vaisnava ascetics, and (3) Mahantas with their clan in the Akhrahas. It is the third group which ruled for long over the Vaisnava cult in Bengal, very powerful in money and manpower, and controlled most of the larger temples there. Some groups in the past have gradually migrated with their traditional deities and belongings from the old dying city on the other side of the Ganga to the growing new Navadvipa town on this side.
The second group consisted of some virakta Vaisnavas, a few of them having cultured and educated background. The first venture to counter the increasing popularity of Mayapura was initiated by one of the second group, Sri Vraja-mohana Dasa (Babaji), who was a retired overseer. He was living a devotional life at Vrndavana in North India and came to live at Navadvipa around 1916 (Das 1973). Gradually, he felt that the true birthplace of Sri Caitanya is not located at Mayapura and started collecting opinions and 'evidence' in favour of a place now known as Ramchandrapur village located by north of present Navadvipa. By queer coincidence he was later supported in his venture by some powerful, as well as resourceful Mahantas, while of course, some others expressaedly opposed his ideas, as that will lessen the glory of their temples located at the heart of the town.
Vraja-mohana Dasa declared in 1931 with his supporters that Ramchandrapur (Kankrhar Math or crab field) is the 'real' birth place of Mahaprabhu, naming it as Prachin (old) Mayapur', and called Sri Mayapura of Kedarnath Datta (and followers) as fake. Since then Vraja-mohana and his followers have erected a number of temples at Ramchandrapur's 'real' birthplace. Although the popularity of Sri Mayapura has increased tremendously since then, the controversy is still raging quite strong, particularly tending to reach a feverish pitch during the 500th year (1985 86) of Mahaprabhu's advent.
NEED FOR AN HISTORICAL GEOGRAPHICAL STUDY
No systematic scientific study has yet been taken up to ascertain the real birthplace of Sri Caitanya, at least the approximate locality. This study must be made by impartial scholars not belonging to either of the Vaisnavite groups.
The present author, a senior geoprapher, took up this investigation individually while studying the fluvial evolution morphology and water pollution of the area a few years back (1976-82) (bagchi and Mukherjee 1978 ; Mukherjee et al 1982). In his attempt to set at rest this controversy and finalize the location of the birth-place, he was used all writings of contemporary biographers and Vaisnava scholars, all surveyed maps, air photographs, travellers accounts with sketches, land use surveys, statistical accounts and records, archaeological and historical relics, iconology and field observations (including drainage conditions, ground slope, soil patterns etc.). As elsewhere, the author has applied cartographical tools to solve and inter-disciplinary problem here (Mukherjee 1984)
There are two main biographical volumes, viz. Sri Caitanya-bhagavata (1548?) by Vrndavana Dasa and Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (1595?) by Krsnadasa Kaviraja, the contents being more or less complimentary with only minor variations in the narration of events of Sri Caitanya's life. Both the contending groups accept the contents of these volumes. There is also no dispute about the writings of the six Goswamis (venerated Vaisnavas)--Rupa, Sanatana, Gopal Bhatta, Raghunatha Bhatta, Raghunatha dasa and Jiva, who were contemporary of or lived immediately after Sri Caitanya. So, references in these writings may form the base to start with. Rupa Goswami, although a disciple of Sri Caitanya, was older than him and was a man of the locality who saw contemporary Navadvipa from close quarters. The very first couplet of his Navadvipastakam (eight Sanskrit couplets describing the glory of Navadvipa/1541?) is quite significant (Goswami 1959). He wrote:
sri gaudadese suradirghikayastire
airamye iha punyamasya lasantam
anandabharen nityam tam
sri navadvipamaham smarami
"In Gauda Kingdom (Bengal) on the side of the heavenly dirghika, this sacred pond is always full of bliss and pleasure, Navadvipa, I meditate on that. (dirghika - long excavated tank).
And in the 4th couplet:
srisvarnadi yatra viharita ca
sri navadvipamaham smarami
"Whereby the river (Bhagirathi or Ganga) flows with musical sounds, which has its banks bound with golden stairs and in the waters of which Gaura used to bathe, I meditate on that Navadvipa." (Gaura - very fair complexion--the other name of Sri Caitanya).
Then in the 7th couplet he confirms:
nivasah sri gaurajanmadika lilayadhyastam
sri navadvipamaham smarami
"Wherein the only house which has ever blissful belonging to Misra 'Purandara' was located, and which was the place of birth and other 'lila' of Sri Gaura, I meditate on that Navadvipa." (Misra Purandara - Jagannatha Misra, father of Sri Caitanya. Purandara is a title; lila - the activities of a heavenly being).
He ends the couplets by saying:
iti srimad rupa gosvamina viracitam
sriman navadvipastakam sampurnam
"Thus ends the complete eight Navadvipa couplets by Srimad Rupa Goswami."
So, it is clear from the above couplets that Navadvipa town was the birthplace of Sri Caitanya, that the town was located on the side of dirghika or dighi, and that the Ganga also flowed by the town. In other words the town extended from the dighi to the Ganga (Fig. 8). The Sena dynasty (12th Century) had their capital at Navadvipa and the massive, about a kilometre long tank they got excavated here, is still there on the eastern side of the present course of the Ganga (Bhagirathi), known for centuries as Ballal dighi. Since there is only one Ballal Dighi or, for that matter only one dighi in the entire area this must be the dirghika mentioned by Rupa Goswami. Although this dighi is now practically filled up, the massive partly breached embankments (about 10 metres high and 10 metres wide) are still to be witnessed there.
There is also a very large mound, in the Bamunpukur mauza at a straight distance of about a kilometre to the north-east from Ballal Dighi, which is popularly known from long time past as Ballal Dhipi (dhipi - large mound) (Figs. 5 and 7). The Archaeological Survey of India has recently partly excavated Ballal Dhipi and huge structures with massive walls have been exposed. Initially, there is a suggestion that the structure may partly be a Buddhist stupa of Pala dynasty, which may have been subsequently captured and modified by the Hindu Sena kings. Anyway, the royal link of the old Navadvipa town has been firmly established.
During pre-sanyas living in Navadvipa (1486-1510) Sri Caitanya was known as Nimai or Nimai Pandita (pandita - Sanskrit scholar cum teacher). At around that time Maulana Serajuddin or Chand was the Kazi or Governor of thee Bagwan Pargana and his seat was at Kazipara (para - locality) of Navadvipa city, which is even now known as such (Figs. 7 & 8). The Kazi's tomb is lying near present Bamunpukur Bazar on which a massive swinging Krishna Champa or pagoda (Michelia Champaka) flower tree has grown. The unusual massiveness of the tree with thick roots penetrating the tomb easily impresses anyone of its very old age (botanical experts have estimated the age to be more than 400 years now). Incidentally, none of the contending groups question the location of Kazipara or the authenticity of Chand Kazi's tomb (Das 1973).
Now that the Kazi's place is determined, an episode in between Nimai Pandita (Sri Caitanya) and Chand Kazi, as vividly narrated in Caitanya-bhagavata may be considered for tracing the location of the birthplace of Sri Caitanya, as well as the course of the Ganga at the time. The episode mentions that adjoining Nimai's house was the Srivasa Angana, where many Vaisnavas assembled daily and did kirtana in chorus with drums and symbols for long hours, even late in the night. The Turk kings were avowedly anti-Hindu. They not only desecrated Hindu temples, but also destroyed many, and their policy towards the Hindus was 'to grind them down and reduce them to poverty' (Smith 1962). The Kazi was equally intolerant. Being disturbed by the loud kirtana he sent his attendants to the Srivasa house who broke the drums and warned the Vaisnavas of dire consequence if they did the kirtana again (see Appendix). Since that time, the Srivasa Angana is known to the Vaisnavas as 'Khol Bhangar Danga' i.e. the place where the drums were broken. Hearing of the incident Nimai became so enraged that he took out a large procession of Vaisnavas doing loud kirtana with many drums and cymbals. He led the procession from near his house along the road by the bank of the Ganga and proceeded towards the Kazipara.
The most significant part of the description is the path followed by Nimai and the reference to the bathing ghatas in continued sequence. Vrndavana Dasa narrated:
gangatire path achhe nadiaya
age sei pathe nachi jay gaura-raya
apanar ghate age bahu nritya kari
tabe madhaier ghate gela gaurahari
barokona ghate nagaria ghate giya
ganganagar diya gela simulia
nadiar ekante nagar simulia
nacite nacite prabhu uttarila gia
"Gaura (Nimai) went dancing (with kirtana) along the road by the Ganga in Nadia (Navadvipa). He first went to his own bathing ghat (near his house), danced there a lot, and then went to Madhai ghata, Barokona ghata and Nagaria ghata. At last he went (leading the procession) through Ganganagar (nagara-town, locality of a city) to Simulia. Simulianagar was in the extreme end of Nadia where the Prabhu (Lord) arrived dancing all the way." (Kazipara was in the Simulia area of Nadia City) (Fig 8).
Vrndavana Dasa ended his description by saying:
sarva navadvipe nace tribhuvana raya
gadigachha pardanga adi diya jaya
"The Lord of the three worlds (Gaura) thus went on dancing through the entire Navadvipa ending his journey via Gadigachha, Pardanga and other localities of the city." (It may be noted here that there was no mention of his ever crossing the river in this journey) (Figs, 5 and 8).
It must be remembered that Navadvipa City at that time was commonly known as Nadia. Eminent historians also referred to the capital of King Laksmana Sena as Neddia, Nuddheah, Navadipa (Smith 1962). There was no other Nadia at that time. The sprawling city had different localities called 'para' or 'nagar', as in Calcutta there are even now Kansaripara, Sahanagar, Gopalnagar etc. After Nadia city gradually decayed, initially by the ravage and neglect of the Turk rulers, and later by the change of course of the Ganga through centuries, the new Navadvipa town gradually grew up on the other side of the river during British period. Some surviving para or nagar of the old city degenerated into small villages. A few of these villages are still retaining their old names, e.g. Rudrapara Nidaya, Ganganagar (now merged with Bharuidanga), Mollapara etc., but most of the others are either not in existance any more, or are now known by new names. While Simulia (Kazipara and adjoining section) is now partly lying with Bamunpukur and partly eaten away by the Ganga, Ballaldighi is retaining its old name (Fig. 7).
During Kazi's rule Navadvipa and environ were part of Bagwan Pargana (Fig. 5). In the early British period Governor Warren Hastings constituted around 1772 the new large district of Nadia, extending from the Bhagirathi to the Padma. The new Navadvipa town area on the western bank of the Ganga was at the time part of Kalna Police Station (P.S.) of Bardhaman District and originally a part of the Satsikka Pargana. But later in Smythe's Pargana Map (1855 the area was shown separately as Khus Nuddheah (Khas Navadvipa) Pargana, when the town had grown considerably in area and population. The new town was turned into a municipality around 1869 and a part of Nadia district.
Now, the above narration of Vrndavana Dasa should be read with the following portion from poet Premdasa (Purusottama Misra)'s Vamsi Siksa (1706)_ or (Sri Caitanya's) Sermons to Vamsi (Vamsivadana Chatto) (vide Das 1973, Banerjee 1966) :
o're devi niradaya haiya jeman, nimaye karili par sannyas karan
tei tor e ghater nam aji hotey, niradaya ghat haila janiha nischite (4th Ullas)
"Oh goddess (Ganga)! Being heartless, as you have allowed Nimai to cross over forever for sannyasa, you know for certain that this ghat of yours will remain defamed from this date as Nidaya Ghat" (nidaya or niradaya-heartless, merciless).
First of all, referring to the drum breaking episode mentioned earlier, if we take Ramchandrapur (by the north of present Navadvipa/Fig.7) to be the place of birth of Sri Caitanya, it is too far away (more than 6km) for even the loudest kirtana in the dead of night to have disturbed the muslims in the Kazipara and Mollapara area (Fig. 8) But from Mayapura Srivasa Angana, only about 1 km away by air, loud kirtana with drums and cymbals might have irritated the Muslims in the night (See Appendix).
The path taken up by Nimai's procession to Kazipara, from his own house at Ramchandrapur, should have mentioned on the way the ghata (Nidaya) he used much later for crossing over to go to Kantaknagar (present Katwa) for his sanyas (Fig. 7 & 8). But, if one considers Nimai's own house was at Jogapith in Mayapur, it appears reasonable when he moved further west to Nidaya ghat to cross over and continue north-westward to Kantaknagar.
Another vaishnav poet, chronicler and philosophical interpreter Narahari Cakravarti (Ghanasyama Dasa) was universally accepted and respected by all sections of Vaisnavas, and acclaimed by literary critics (Banerjee 1966). It was he who first conceived the concept of Nava (nine) dvipas (islands) to form Navadvipa-dhama (city of Navadvipa and environ). He wrote in his famous Bhakti-ratnakara in the early 18th Century (vide Das 1973):
navadvipa nama sravane sakala duhkha ksaya
gangara purva pascima tirete dvipa naya
purve antardvipa simantadvipa haya
godrumadvipa madhyadvipa catustaya
koladvipa rtu jahnu modadruma ara
rudradvipa ei panca pascime pracara
"All sorrow will go with hearing the name of Navadvipa (dhama). The nine islands are on the east and west bank of the Ganga. Antardvipa, Simantadvipa, Godrumadvipa and Madhyadvipa are the four islands on the east. Koladvipa, Rtudvipa, Jahnudvipa, Modrumadvipa and Rtudvipa are the five ones well-known to be in the west."
Poet Cakravarti conceived and described vividly what he saw in the early 18th Century. By that time old Navadvipa city has virtually been destroyed and a new Nadia town has grown up on the west side of the Ganga in the Kulia daha (marsh) area referred to above as Koladvipa. The location of Teghari village to the SW of Nadia by the Teghari's Kol in Figs. 5& 7 is significant. Both the contending Vaisnava groups have accepted Rudrapara mauza (of which Ramachandrapura is a part) as the Rudradvipa described above. But as Rudradvipa should be located by the west of Antardvipa on the other side of the Ganga, Ramachandrapur cannot be in Antardvipa. Rudrapara (Rudradvipa) on the other hand being on the other side of the Ganga and to the west of Mayapura (described to be at the heart of Antardvipa) fully tallies with the above description (Fig.7)
It is well known that an idol of Adhoksaja Visnu was worshipped as family Deity in Jagannatha Misra's house. Although the general understanding is adhoksaja means atindriya i.e. beyond the perception of the five sense organs (eye, ear, nose, tongue and skin), the Tri-lingual Dictionary (1966) published by the Sanskrit College, Calcutta has given the derivation as adhas aksa jan o i.e. He who has the aksa or cakra or disc weapon downwards. Lord Visnu is descriebd to have four hands (caturbhuja) and the cakra is usually held in one of the two raised hands. But in the Siddhartha-samhita vide. Krsnadasa's Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Madhya.10 223-36) and Gopala Bhatta's Hari Bhakti-vilasa (5,176-77), Lord Krsna's divinity has been described in 24 forms, of which Adhoksaja Visnu is the 23rd one. The items in the four hands have been described in the order -- etasca murtayo'gneya daksinadhah karakramat (i.e. in all the forms to start from lower right hand / clockwise) padma-gada sankha cakra (i.e. lotus, club, conch and disc). A small (20cm) black stone image of Visnu (Fig. 1) was found at a shallow depth while digging for plinth construction of the massive tall Yogapitha temple at Mayapura in 1934. The priests there have kept this idol in that temple and worship it as Adhoksaja or Atindriya Visnu.
Now the vital point is when Nimai went away for sannyasa. His mother and wife were prostrate with grief and were taken away to other place by relatives and neighbors. Poet Vrndavana Dasa and others narrated vividly these sorrowful scenes. The mother Saci Devi refused to take anything with themselves and asked the devotees to take away everything, but they left the things as they were. In course of time the deserted earthen house must have crumbled down and the small idol must have been buried beneath the heaps of earth. If Ramachandrapur was the place where Sri Caitanya's family lived, then this small idol could never have been accidentally dug out after 400 years at Mayapura, several kilometres away. According to the archeological experts, who are now excavating at the Ballal Dhipi (mentioned earlier), the idol is not a fraudulent one, It is extremely rare and is more than 500 years old. The author has made searching enquiries in many villages in the area, but could not find a second one. None of the well-known historical volumes too, recorded any such idol as yet. The slightly Mongolian eyes and square jaw indicate that the idol may have been made in the Sylhet area of old Assam from where the Misra family came to Navadvipa-dhama. Iconologically, the upward tapering back frame (cala-citra) also indicates the idol to be of 15th Century.
Explorers sketch, surveyed maps, records etc.
Van den Brouck (1660): Even a hundred years after Sri Caitanya, the sketch map of Van den Brouck showed Neddia near the confluence of the Ganges (Ganga) and the Galganse (Jalangi), but to the east of the Ganga and north of the Jalangi (Fig.2). As it is not a surveyed map, the distances and river forms (meanders) are not reliable. Yet the fact remains that the saw Nadia by the east of the Ganga and plotted it as such is acceptable.
Rennell (1760): First systematic surveyed maps of Bengal were published by J.Rennell (1778-80). The Nuddeah area in Map No. 42/XI (Fig.3) gives clearly the layout of the rivers in late 18th Centiry and, the location of a few villages, road and Kishenagur (Krishnanagar) town as the headquarters of the newly constituted (1772) District of Neddia (Nadia). Most significant is the location of the small nucleus of the new Nuddeah (Navadvipa) town on the west bank of the heavily meandering Hoogly (Ganga) river. The location of some of the villages, present even now, is given e.g. Jahanagore, Summutgur (Samudragarh), Belpukaya, Bharadanga (i.e. the land created by the filling up of the Ganga, now known as Bharuidanga), Dubbalya (Dhubalia) etc. Old Janhunagar (the place of Saint Jahnu from which the Ganga was also named as Jahnavi) was Muslimized during the Muslim rule. Even new Navadvipa city was variously named as Kasimpur, Osmanpur etc. but these names did not stick to the city as the traditional name had great popularity. But afterwards when the old city decayed totally, some of its localities retained their pur or nagar names, even though turned into villages (as mentioned earlier). Of course, some such later villages, where Muslims (converted and/ or migrants) predominated, either retained the Muslimized names if given, or took new Muslim names. Gradually these names started appearing in Brtitish survey maps. Leaned old Ganga courses are also shown in Rennells map. The main flow of the river has been named south of Nuddeah as Hoogly afetr the Portuguese town Oegly on its bank further south.
Ganga-govinda Singh (1785?): It is recorded that during the governorship of Warren Hastings (1772-85), Dewan (finance secretary) Ganga-govinda Singh got a map of newly formed Nadia District prepared, which was kept in the Collectorate at Krishnanagar till late in the British Period. The most significant feature of the map was the location of Mayapura by the NE of the confluence point of the Ganga and the Jalangi. Kedarnath Datta (Bhaktivinoda) as Deputy Magistrate and Collector of Krishnanagar Sub-division came across this map in 1887 and decided to search out the exact location of the place (Chatterjee 1915). Before Ganga-govinda got this map prepared, Narahari Cakravarti's Navadvipas and Mayapura referred to in Bhakti-ratnakara gained wide fame and popularity. Kedarnath used this map and the desription in Bhakti-ratnakara to prepare a map of the Nava-dvipas a few years later, which had a transitional layout of rivers in between Rennell's map (Fig. 3) and Smythe's map (Fig. 5). As far as the dvipas are concerned, this map is nothing but a conjecture, but the rivers and place layouts are more or less correct and it is cartographically sound. Dhubulia, Bamanpukur, Ballaldighi, Mayapur, Ganganagar, Rudrapara, Ramachandrapur etc. have been shown. Kedarnath's map has been modified by the present author (Mukherjee 1981) and is presented here with an inset guide map (Fig.4) to give an idea of Kedarnath's Navadvipa-dhama.
Hunter (1875) / Smythe (1855): Dr. William W. Hunter's Statistical Account of Bengal, Vol.1 (1870-73) is a vast record of authentic information. Colonel H. I. Thueiller's map (1 inch =16 miles) given in Hunter's volume is a generalized one based primarily on the much more detailed maps (1855) of Major R. Smythe's Revenue Survey of 1851-55 (Fig. 5).
Although Smythe's maps gave all the place and river names in acute anglicized form, Hunter gave throughout his report all local terms in correct spelling with dictions for proper pronunciation. By his care and judgement Hunter blazed a new trail in historical cartographical noting and mapping, which unfortunately was not followed fully by quite a few conservative Briish and anglicized indian officers of the Survey of India and the railways.
Dr. H. Blochmann's geographical and historical notes at the end of the above account included a complete list of Sarkars and Mahals of Todar. Mall's rent-roll Asl-i-Jama Tumar (1552) as given in Ain-i-Akbari. Historically, Todar Mall's rent-roll were subsequently modified by Shah Suja, whose own rent-roll retained largely the previous Sarkars and Mahals, but the number increased mainly through the extension of jurisdiction. Later in 1772 Jaffar Ali Khan (Murshid Kuli Khan) recast the rent-roll as Jama-i-Kamil Tumar in which he redemarcated some Sarkars and divided into Chaklas and introduced the term Pargana meaning practically the same as Mahal. But in some cases a Mahal was subdivided into smaller parganas (Hunter 1875).
In the case of old Navadvipa area, Blochmann listed five Mahals, three in sarkar Satgaon and two in sakar Sulaimanabad, viz. No.4 Ukhra (from the Bhagirathi to the Jamuna and by the south of the Jalangi), No. 17 Bagwan (from the Bhagirathi to the north and west of the Jalangi), No. 47 Nadia (in Bardwan District to the west of the Bhagirathi and east of the Mori Ganga or Tegharir Kol), No. 20 Sultanpur (east of Krishnanagar between Icchamati and Kabatak), and No.29 Baira (large, mainly in Hugi Dt. Also partly in Nadia Dt), Smythe's Pargana Revenue Map (1855) gives four parganas in the area (Fig.5) viz. Bugwan (same as above), Ookrah (same), Khus Nuddeah (same) and Muhutpour (by the NE of Krishnanagar and east of Jellinghee). Smythe presented the area in great detail in his mauza maps at 4 inches =1 mile (Village Plans and Traverses, Nuddiah Dt. Book No. 18 Vol.2). The following are some of the rivers and places in Smythe's map (Hunter's spelling is mentioned within brackets for the places and rivers he has mentioned in his account): Dewangunj, Teghury (Teghari) Bullaldeeghee (284/14), Bamunpokhooreah (285/9), Shonepookhooreah (Sandanga), Bhaugiruttee R. (Bhagirathi R.) etc. The figures within brackets are Smythe's and present jurisdiction list numbers (J.L. No.) of mauzas.
In Smythe's map the loop in the Bhagirathi (Ganga) by the Belpukur village is still having the main flow, while the old course of the Ganga (Mori Ganga or Tegharir Kol) has become leaner than in Rennell's map, although still maintaining a trickling link with the main channels on both the ends. Three most significant locations in Smythe's map are Ballal Sena's Digi in Ballaldighi mauza as referred to in literatures mentioned before. There are clear indications of old Ganga channels in between Bharuidanga (Bharadanga in Rennell) (287/6) / Ganganagar (286/6) and Rudrapara (183/5) mauzas. The Jalangi has left behind well-defined ox-bow lakes in between Bahadurpur and Dhubulia. Hunter in his report clearly mentioned Mayapura (with correct spelling and diction) as Blochmann noted, "The little town of Mayapura (near Bardwan boundary), where I am told the tomb exists of one Maulana Serajuddin who is said to have been the teacher of Hosain Shah, king of Bengal (1494-1552)." It is well known that Serajuddin was Chand kazi and Blochmann's Mayapura was extending from the Ganga (Bardwan boundary) covering on the other side the entire Bamunpukur village i.e. it was the same as old Navadvipa city. Ramachandrapur was not yet shown anywhere. Moreover, Kedarnath Datta was not in the picture at all at that time. Blochmann's observation might have given him the idea later.
Survey of India map of 1922: This map based on Topographical Sheet no. 79A/7 and surveyed in 1914-17 shows that both new Navadvipa town and Krishnanagar town have grown considerably as also extended southward, and both are now in Nadia Dt. But the Nadia name of Navadvipa town is still retained (Fig.6), The old Ganga course in the west (Mori Ganga), still trickling in Smythe's map, is now fully detached and forming the western limit of the Nadia Dt. A number of deserted remnants of the course of the Ganga in the east, west and Ballaldighi-Belpukur area are well marked as bils (elongated ponds) and ox-bow lakes. In this map anglicized spelling for some names are still evident. Bharuidanga has been noted here as Baraidanga, Subarnabihar as Sukunobihar Krishnanagar as Krishnagar, Hugli R. as Hooghly R. Mayapura as Meyapur and Pratapnagar as Pratabpur. Bamunpukur, Ballaldighi, Rudrapara, Shrinathpur (Senathpur) and Swarupganj are also shown in this map.
Survey of India map of 1958: Of all Survey of India maps, this is the most accurate one (Fig.7) as it was based on fully covered air photographs, supplemented by thorough ground survey (as noted in the foot-note of the map). The rivers, other water bodies, places etc, were named through detailed field enquiries. Navadvipa town still retained its Nadia name and Krishnagar has become Krishnanagar, Mayapura has regained its original name being separately noted from Ballaldighi, and the neighboring locality of Muslim community is noted by the name of Mollapara as before. A village Ramchandrapur (though still included in the Rudrapara Mauza) has been noted to the north west of present Navadvipa town in between the deserted course (Chharh Ganga) and the present course of the Ganga. Char (bank) Nidaya and 'Prachin (old) Mayapur" are noted (within Rudrapara mauza) over the vast island in between the bifurcated channels to the NE of Ramchandrapur. Deserted old courses of the Ganga are shown by the west of Navadvipa as Mori Ganga (or Teghorir Kol) and by the north of Bamanpukur-Mayapura as Mora Ganga is continuing in its trend of changing the course layout. As a matter of fact, the segment of the Ganga by the east and north of Char Nidaya, which dried up totally by 1982 allowing the main flow along the SW channel (by the side of Ramchandrapur), is now considerably revived along with gradual drying up of the westerly one in 1984.
The author being a non-Vaisnavite has no sentimental bias for any of the groups and has squarely rejected from consideration all sorts of emotional imaginary sayings like divine light showing the true place to someone or the appearance of Sri Caitanya in person to another in the late 19th Century. The points detailed above may be summarized as follows:
1. From Rupa Goswami's 8 couplets on the glory of Navadvipa it appears that Navadvipa the place of birth and play of Sri Caitanya, was extended from the beautiful large tank (Dighi) to the Ganga. The maps and records refer to the only dighi in the area and that is the Ballal Dighi in Mayapura (Fig. 8).
2. There is no reference to Mayapura or Nava Dvipas in any contemporary literature or Purana. Navadvipa and Nadia (or Nuddeah or Neddia) were one and the same place, the capital of Bengal of the Sena Kings. At the time of Sri Caitanya it was a forsaken, plundered, desecrated and decaying city. The palace of the Sena Kings (may be belonged earlier to the Buddhist Pala Kings also) is still lying in ruins as Ballal Dhipi near the Dighi (Figs. 4 &7 and Appendix).
3. The tyrant Chand Kazi resided at Kazipara of Simulianagar (in present bamunpukur) of the old Navadvipa City. Through Chand Kazi's tomb there is a massive very old champak flower tree grown, proving the grave to be very old.
4. Muslims in the Kazipara and Mollapara being disturbed by loud kirtana even in the night from Ramchandrapur, more than 6 km away, is absurd, but it could be possible from Mayapura only 1 km away (Figs. 7 & 8).
5. The vivid description of Nimai's (Sri Caitanya) protest kirtana procession from near his residence along the bank of the Ganga to Kazipara, referring to all the bathing ghatas on the way, did not mention Nidaya ghata (opposite Char Nidaya). Nidaya ghata should have been mentioned if the procession started from Ramchandrapur area. But no mention was needed if it started from about the Yogapitha temple in Mayapura, when Nidaya ghata would remain in the opposite direction of Kazipara (Figs. 7 & 8).
6. When Nimai left his house to go to Kantaknagar (Katwa) for his sannyasa, he crossed the Ganga at Nidaya ghata, which is far to the NE of Ramchandrapur in opposite direction of Katwa; Nimai could very well cross over from the ghata near his house at Ramchandrapur (much nearer to Katwa). On the other hand from Yogapitha in Mayapura it was more convenient for Nimai to move westward to Nidaya to go to Katwa (Figs 7 & 8).
7. Even when the first concept of Mayapura and Nava Dvipas were propounded in early 18th Century by Narahari Cakravarti, he vividly described Antardvipa to be in the east and Rudradvipa in the west. But Smythe and other map makers showed Rudrapara (Rudradvipa) to the NE of new Navadvipa city as well as of Ramchandrapur (at the centre of Antardvipa?) and not to the west. Whereas Rudrapara remains definitely to the west of Mayapura, conforming the to the description, while the old Ganga flowed in between the two (Figs. 4 & 7).
8. A very rare genuinely old (500-600 years) idol of Adhoksaja Visnu was found in 1934 buried in the mound at the present site of the Yogapitha temple of Mayapura (Kedarnath Datta died in 1914). Adhoksaja Visnu was described as the family deity of Nimai's house (Fig. 1). It is so rare that neither any such idol was as yet found anywhere else in Navadvipa area, nor was it referred to in any of the historical volumes on Bengal. The idea that somebody kept it concealed from Ramchandrapur for over 400 years to bury it opportunistically at the very place where Yogapitha temple in Mayapura was to be erected is farcical.
9. The author (a pedologist) found the soil in the Mayapura area to be very compact, deep and humus clay, indicating rather old land formation. But in Kankrhar Matha (Ramchandrapur) north of new Navadvipa, in old Ganganagar (Bharuidanga), present Srinathpur (near Gurhgurher Khal) etc, the soil is distinctly layered fine and coarse silt, indicating that the area was in the bed of the river in not too long past. So, original Navadvipa, being a very old city, should have its area to be of hard clay by now (Figs 4 & 8)
10. Smythe's map showed in 1855 Ballal Sen's old Rajbari (palace) in Bamunpukur and Ballal Sen's old Dighi in ballaldighi mauzas (Fig. 4). Hunter's Account mentions definitely (1873) Chand Kazi's (Maulana Serajuddin) tomb being in Mayapura.
11. The 1958 air-photo and thorough ground-survey based map clearly indicates the location of Ramchandrapur to the SW of Rudrapara and Char Nidaya, while Mayapura further to the east of Rudrapara-Nidaya. Both Hunter in 1875 and Survey of India in 1958 referred to Mayapura in its correct spelling and not in the Muslimized form of Meyapur as given only in 1922 edition map.
Therefore, the evidences are very heavy in favour of Mayapura centering at Yogapitha area as the place of birth of Sri Caitanya. The author's considered opinion is that every inch of the old Navadvipa City could be considered as the birthplace of the great savant. The author's conception of the location of the old Navadvipa city and the layout of the Ganga at the time of Sri Caitanya (15-16th Century), based on palaeo-fluviometry, is given in Fig. 8. As the old city was extended from Chharh Ganga to Kazipara-Mollapara (Figs. 7 & 8), Ramchandrapur may be considered as part of the old Navadvipa-dhama. Anyone may raise a temple on any area of the old Navadvipa and may tell that his temple is located in the city of birth of Mahaprabhu. As Basak (1981) has rightly stated, there is no point to quarrel over the issue, when Vaisnavas throughout the world are famed for their humbleness. The savant has taught us to love all and his 500th advent anniversary should be celebrated with love.
In respect of Sri Caitanya's birth and demise several Gregorian dates (Julian too) are in circulation now, although there is no confusion about the Saka dates. Unfortunately, this confusion has developed because of a wrong basis of conversion on the part of many historians and literary critics (historians too). The Saka year starts with the first day of Caitra, which coincides with 22nd March of the Gregorian year (21st March in a leap year) i.e. the day of vernal equinox. The previous Saka month Phalguna ends with 30 days. Moreover, there is a difference of 78 years during the period from Saka newyear's day to Gregorian newyear's day and 79 years from the latter to the former (the Gregorian year remaining ahead of the Saka year). The Julian date on the other hand, is to be advanced by 10 days and the year receded by 46 years (or 45 for the last 10 days of the year) to obtain the Gregorian date. Therefore, if Sri Caitanya was born on the 23rd Phalguna of 1407 Saka (the date accepted by all), then as the difference (backward) is 8 days from 1st Caitra, so 8 days backward from 22nd March was 14th March of (1407+79) 1486 A.D., which was Wednesday according to astronomical calender. It was a full moon and Holi Festival day with lunar eclipse.
The demise of Sri Caitanya is shrouded in mystery and no definite date has been noted. The largely accepted date was 31st Asarh of 1455 Saka (Majumdar 1959). So, with a difference of 78 years the Gregorian year was 1533 A.D. Asarh 31 was 123 days from the beginning of the Saka year (Caitra 30 days and Vaisakha Jyoistha, Asarh each 31 days), so 123 days on and from 22nd March was 22nd July, which was again a Wednesday. The 500th year of birth will start from Thursday the 7th March 1985 (16th Phalguna 1906 Saka and 23rd Phalguna 1391 Bengali year--the Holi Festival day) and will conclude on the pre-Holi Festival day next year.
The Navadvipa almanacs with Gaura era (Gaurabda or Caitanyabda) in circulation amongst Vaisnavas (said to have been initiated by Kedarnath Datta around 1844) are now recording one year less in calculation. According to prevailing practice the number of year is calculated on the basis of Tyakta Varsa or Gatabda (the year that has been left behind or that has passed) and not on the basis of Gamyabda (the year that is continuing); although it is admitted that when the 1st year as recorded in the almanac, it was actually the continuing second year. So, according to this calculation the 500th year will be celebrated in the 499th Gaurabda of the almanac. There too, another day is advanced, as the year starts on and from the Anandotsava day i.e., the day after Holi (Pratipada) and ends on the Holi Festival day (Paurnamasi or full month), the birthday of Sri Caitanya, next year.
The author is obliged to all those followers of Vaisnava faith and others who helped unreservedly in his quest for truth since 1978. Special mention may be made of Principal Caitanya-carana Goswami of Navadvipa Vidyasagar College, inmates of Navadvipa Samajbari Asrama, Srimad Bhakti Kusum Sramana Maharaja--late President-Acarya of Sri Caitanya Matha at Mayapura, Srimad B.B. Sajjana Maharaja, present acarya Sripada Bhakti Prajnana Yati Maharaja, historian Sri Sudhir Kumar Mitra and West Bengal Land Records Office at Gopalnagar, Calcutta. He is grateful to Dr. S. C. Mukhopadhyay, Honorary Editor of this reputed journal. Special mention is also needed to be made of the excellent reference facilities obtained from the classical library of Sri Caitanya Research Institute and Bandhab Samity Text-book Library both at Rashbehari Avenue, Calcutta-26, National Atlas & Theamatic Mapping Organisation's map library at Calcutta and the map library of the Geography Department of the University of Calcutta. The author is deeply indebted to the authorities of these institutions/organizations.
From Vrndavana Dasa (Sri Caitanya-bhagavata, Madhya Sec., Ch. 23, 101-105):
ek dina daibe kazi sei pathe jaya
mrdanga mandira sankha sunibare paya
harinama kolahala caturdike matra
suniya sanagre kazi apanara sastra.
jahare paila kazi, marila tahare
bhangila mrdanga anacara kaila dvare
"One day the Kazi happened to pass along that road (in front of Srivasa Angana) when he heard loud kirtana in chorus with drums, cymbals and conch. He became furious and remembered his own religious sermons. He started beating whomever he could catch, broke the drums and urinated on the door-step." (Mandira - smaller cup shaped cymbal).
From Krsnadasa Kaviraja (Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi Sec., Ch. 17, 123-125):
mrdanga karatala sankirtana mahadhvani
hari hari dhvani bina anya nahi suni.
suniya je kruddha haila sakala yavana
kazi pase asi sabe kaila nivedana
krodhe sandhya-kale kazi ak ghare aila
mrdanga bhangiya sabe kahite lagila
"There was all around the great chorus of drum, cymbal and kirtana, and this loud chanting of God's name drowned all other sound in the area. The Yavanas (Muslims in the neighbourhood hearing this loud kirtana by the Hindus became very angry, went to the Kazi and complained. Being infuriated the Kazi came to the house (Srivasa Angana) in the evening and breaking the drums he ordered all (not to do kirtana any more)."
Bagchi, K. & Mukherjee, K. N., 1978: Diagnostic Survey of Deltaic West Bengal. Calcutta, pp. 17-37.
Banerjee, Asitkumar, 1962: History of Bengali literature, Vol.II (in Bengali). Calcutta, pp.190-481. 1966: Do, Vol. III, pp. 1070-82.
Basak Kartick, 1981: Gauranga and Gauth environ (in Bengali). Navadvipa, pp. 108-109.
Bharadwaj, Banarasinath, 1989: An undiscovered literary genious--Kedarnath Datta, Sri Caitanya Res. Inst., Silver Jub. Res. Publication, Calcutta.
Chatterjee, Satkari, 1915: Biography of Bhaktivinoda (in Bengali). Published by Bangiya Sahitya Parishad, Calcutta, pp. 1-17.
Dasa, Vrndavana, 1548 (?): Sri Caitanya-bhagavata (in Bengali). Ed. B.S. Sarasvati (1965), Sri Caitanya Matha, Mayapur, pp. 298-348.
Dasa, Mahaprabhu, 1973: True birthplace of Sri Gauranga (in Bengali). Navadvipa, pp.1-103.
Datta, Kedarnath (Bhaktivinoda Thakura), 1893: Navadvipa-dhama Mahatmya, Pramana-khanda (in Bengali/Sanskrit).
Goswami, Bhakti Saranga (Ed.), 1959: Sri Stava-kalpadruma (a collection of hymns in Sanskrit). Mathura, pp. 735-36.
Hunter, W.W., 1875: Statistical Account of Bengal, Vol I London, pp.356-72.
Kaviraja, Krsnadasa, 1595 (?): Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (in Bengali and Sanskrt). Sri Caitanya Matha edition, Mayapur, pp. 719-21.
Majumdar, Bimanbehari, 1959: Materials for Sri Caitanya's biography (in Bengali), Calcutta, pp. 4-6
Mukherjee, K.N., 1981: Nava Dvipas--land and people. Golden Jub. Vol., Bhaktivinoda Inste., Mayapura, pp.1-7
Et al, 1982: Comprehensive water pollution survey and studies of Ganga basin in West Bengal. Central Board for the Prevention & Control of Water Pollution, New Delhi, pp. 1-52. 1984: Application of cartographic techniques in presenting inter-disciplinary subjects.
Geographical Mosaic, Ed. By S.C. Mukhopadhyay, Calcutta, pp. 289-94.
Smith, Vincent A., 1962: Oxford student's history of India. Revised by H.G. rawlinson, London, pp. 98-106, 143-44
Vidyaratna, Paramananda, 1976: Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakur (in Bengali), Mayapura. Pp. 7-22