The Holy Places of Jaiva Dharma: Ambika-Kalna


Sri Sri Nitai-Gour and Shyamsundar
Deities Worshipped by Gauridas Pandit
Syama-raya Temple, Vrindavan

Feb 23, 2014 — CANADA (SUN) — A serial presentation of the holy places mentioned in the Jaiva Dharma of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur - Part 7.

Following is an interesting narration of Ambika Kalna's history and Gauridasa Pandit's residence there. It was written by Srimat Jivasaran das Babaji of Birbhum, West Bengal, translated to English by Sabyasachi Kundu for publication in Nityananda Janmasthan Ekchakra's Vaisnava periodical. It provides a comprehensive list of Vaisnava manuscripts in which Gauridasa Pandit and the Ambika Kalna pastimes are mentioned.

Gauridas Pandit and Sripat Ambika Kalna
in District Burdwan, West Bengal

"The river Ganges occupies the pride of the place. Situated on its banks is Ambika –Kalna. In all probability it was previously known as Ambika only. Mention of Ambika is found in Ain–e–Akbari authored by Abul Fazl, the renowned courtier of Mughal Emperor, Akbar.

Under the Satgaon Sarkar from 1582 A.D. there were 53 parganas (Mughal districts) and Ambika's name figured first on the list. Ambika and Kalna were close to each other, with a large portion of the subdivision of Kalna being within the periphery of Ambika Pargana. At one time Ambika became more prominent. Later Ambika became subdued, and Kalna was well known, so much so that even the rail station was named Kalna Court. With the spin of the wheel of time it was renamed later as Ambika-Kalna.

One of the Dwadasa Gopals and a close associate of Sri Chaitanya and Nityananda Prabhu was Gauridasa Pandit. . After taking permission from his elder brother Suryadas, he shifted his residence from his native place Shaligram to Kalna. At that time the area was more popularly known as Ambika. This fact is authenticated by the famous historical treatise on Gaudiya Vaishnavism, Sri Bhakti-ratnakara. Bhakti-ratnakara was penned during the middle ages [by Srila Narahari Dasa].

Muragacha is a rail station on the Eastern Railway on the Sealdah–Berhampore Court line. From Muragacha, one proceeds to Dhan-nada, a small hamlet. On the northeast of Dharmada lies Shaligram.

Gauridasa's presence at Ambika is also mentioned in Sri Chaitanya Parishad Janmanirnay and Chaitanya Sangita. Apart from these three books, Gauridasa Pandit's name and his exploits are mentioned in Sri Chaitanya Bhagwat, Sri Chaitanya-caritamrta, Chaitanya-mangal authored by Jayananda, Adwaita Prakas by Ishan Nagar, Vaishnava Abhidhan, Dwadaspat Nirnay, Ananta-samhita, Subalmangal, Gaura Ganodesa Dipika, Bhaktamal, Vaishnava Achar Darpaan, and Vaishnava Vandana penned by Daibaki Nandan. Gauridasa's Pandit also finds mention in Brindaban Das Thakur's Vaishanva Vandana

Incidentally, Nityananda Prabhu had a profound influence on Brindaban Das Thakur and he was also the last disciple of Nityananda Prabhu.

Gauridasa Pandit's birth as mentioned in scriptures was in 1485 A.D. He was more or less the same age as Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. His father was Kansari Misra and mother Kamala Devi. There were six brothers, namely Damodar, Jagannath, Suryadas, Gauridasa, Krishnadas, and Nrishinga-Chaitanya. Their original surname was Ghosal (Sarkhel).

To lead a secluded life, Gauridasa left Shaligram and settled on the banks of the River Ganges at Ambika. He took along with him the Shalagram shila (black stone being the symbolic representation of Lord Vishnu), Damodar, which he worshipped daily. It appears from his traits that since his childhood, he was oblivious of this material world and had a holistic approach towards life.

On the opposite bank of Ambika Kalna was Santipur – the home of Adwaita Acharya. It can be assumed that Gauridasa Pandit must have heard about Adwaita Acharya and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

Shivananda Sen was a well known aide of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. His son was born dumb but as a toddler, he sucked the great toe of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and regained his power of speech. Later on he became known as Kavi Karnapura, the author of the famous Gaura Ganodesa Dipika. In this book he proclaimed that Gauridasa Pandit was the incarnation of Subal. This is further supported in the books Vaishnavachardarpan, Ananta Samhita, Bhaktamal, Vaishnavabandana, Adwaitaprakash, and Chaitanyasangita.

In Vrindaban, the close associates (sakhas) of Lord Krishna were divided into four categories, namely sakha, suhrid, priyasakha and priya-narmasakha. Amongst the priya-narmasakha, the role of Subal was the most illustrious. This was authenticated by Sri Rupa Goswami in his book, Ujjwal-nilmani, where he states that only Subal had abundant access to Lord Krishna during His most intimate moments. This further strengthens the belief that Subal was indeed favoured by the Lord.

Subal later on incarnated himself in the form of Gauridasa Pandit. This has been amply illustrated in the life of Gauridasa Pandit. He had heard of Nimai Pandit (Sri Chaitanya) while at Shaligram, and on arriving at Kalna it was quite well known to him. But not for once did Gauridasa Pandit go and meet Nimai. It was as if to say that, "You are my Lord, hence you must come first to meet me."

Ultimately it turned out that way. During his stay at the residence of Adwaita Prabhu at Shantipur, one day Mahaprabhu set off on a boat and crossed the river Ganges and landed at Kalna. There are differences of opinion whether Mahaprabhu came alone or was accompanied by someone else. While some say it was Nityananda Prabhu who accompanied Him, others say it was Basudev Ghosh. But according to the authentic text, Bhakti-ratnakar, it was Mahaprabhu who came alone. In all probability he had not met Nityananda Prabhu at that time.

For the first time, Mahaprabhu accepted Gauridasa Pandit's hospitality at Ambika Kalna. While returning to Nadia, Gauridasa accompanied Mahaprabhu. At Nabadwip, Gauridasa was completely overwhelmed by Mahaprabhu, who gifted a copy of the Gita written by Him on palm leaf to Gauridasa. After some time Gauridasa returned to Kalna. His entire entity was now totally engulfed by the influence of Mahaprabhu. The Gita became the symbol of Mahaprabhu at the time of separation and he felt Mahaprabhu's existence at the touch of it."

"The second time Mahaprabhu visited Gauridasa Pandit, he was accompanied by Nityananda Prabhu. It was after His initiation as a sannyasi and prior to His departure to Nilachal. Gauridasa must have been saddened at the sight of shaven headed Mahaprabhu in the garb of a sannyasi, but he accepted it knowing very well that it was inevitable.

Mahaprabhu stayed for some time and sensing Gauridasa's restlessness, Mahaprabhu asked him to bring neem wood from Nabadwip and carve out two idols of Him and Nityananda Prabhu. Gauridasa did as he was ordered and two Deities were carved out. On completion, the Deities were consecrated as per the rites and installed on a throne.

Till now, plain facts and authentic documented history has been narrated. But there is more than what meets the naked eye. Some facts defy our reason and intelligence. Standing in the courtyard of Gauridasa Pandit's house, one sees five doors side by side at the entrance of the main temple. Only the middle door is opened and then closed immediately. Obviously one becomes curious to know the reason behind it. The view of the temple servants and hearsay have the following to say:

After the consecration ceremony was over, Mahaprabhu confided to Gauridasa of His decision to depart for Nilachal, as it was pre-planned. With tearful eyes, Gauridasa bade farewell to them and returned to the temple in his house to perform his daily rituals. While conversing with the Deities he found Them to be immobile. He rushed back to the two travelers (Mahaprabhu and Nityananda Prabhu). Sensing his urgency, the two of them came back and immediately the two Deities descended from the throne and walked towards the courtyard. But when Mahaprabhu and Nityananda Prabhu ascended the throne, They were transformed into two idols, much to the dismay of Gauridasa.

Again he ran back to the two who descended from the throne and implored them to come back. This situation continued for some time. It was now time for the afternoon offering to the Deities. It was decided that the two of them would proceed after Their afternoon meals. Accordingly, an offering was placed before the four of them. The two idols and the two living beings accepted the offerings. After resting for some time, it was time for them to depart. Again tearful, Gauridasa bade them farewell. This time Mahaprabhu himself confided to Gauridasa that He would accept whatever Gauridasa offered him, but that would be in solitude, not in public view.

Since this episode, much time has passed and in the meantime, Mahaprabhu left this material world in 1534 A.D. Devotees in large numbers thronged Gauridasa's house to have darshan of the Deities. But Gauridasa, on hearing of Mahaprabhu's demise, had closed the gate of the temple permanently. He feared that the two Deities may leave him again or that They might be removed by anybody in the guise of a devotee.

With the passage of time, Nityananda Prabhu also departed, in the year 1542 B.S. Wind carries the word of mouth. Nityananda Prabhu's wife, Jahnava Devi, came to know that the devotees returned heartbroken without having a darshan of the Deities. It is pertinent to mention here that Jahnava Devi was the younger daughter of Suryadas Pandit, the elder brother of Gauridasa Pandit. Without prior information, one day she arrived in a palanquin at the house of Gauridasa Pandit from Khardah, and narrated to the Pandit the plight of the devotees. It was decided that the doors of the temple would be opened to the devotees, but only for a glance of the deities -- the time taken to view the deities from head to toe. Since then, this practice has been maintained and the devotees have been able to quench their thirst by having a glance at the Deities.

On attaining mature age, Gauridasa Pandit handed over management of the Sripat to his worthy disciple, Hridaychaitanya, and proceeded to Vrindaban. His mortal remains are buried at Dhir Samir in Vrindaban. Nearby the Sripat of Gauridasa is the Sripat and temple established by Suryadas, elder brother of Gauridasa. Here the Deities of Nitai-Gour and Shyamsundar are worshipped.

There are various other Sakta Pithas, Vaishnava temples, Shaiva temples and places of religious importance in Kalna."

Edited slightly.

Krishna Going After the Butterballs
Terracotta sculpture, Krishna Chandraji Temple, Ambika Kalna


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