Caitanya Mahaprabhu's Tirtha-yatra, Part 34


Lord Caitanya Instructs Ramananda Raya
Bhaktivedanta Book Trust

Mar 02, CANADA (SUN) — A serial exploration of the holy sites visited by Lord Caitanya.


Lord Caitanya's famous preaching travels around India took place along several main legs of the journey: from Puri to the south, south to west central, return to Puri, travels through West Bengal, Orissa, and to Vrindavan. In some cases, the Lord backtracked on His path, visiting a tirtha on more than one occasion. Today we are discussing Vidyanagara on the sacred Godavari, one of the places Lord Caitanya traveled to twice.

In his Summary of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya Lila 8, HDG Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur describes the Lord's first journey to Vidyanagara, and one of His most famous demonstrations of mercy – His discussions with Sri Ramananda Raya.

    Madhya lila 8 Summary

    "The summary of the Eighth Chapter is given by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura in his Amrta-pravaha-bhasya. After visiting the temple of Jiyada-nrsimha, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu went to the banks of the river Godavari, to a place known as Vidyanagara. When Srila Ramananda Raya went there to take his bath, they met. After introducing himself, Sri Ramananda Raya requested Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to remain in the village for some days. Honoring his request, Caitanya Mahaprabhu stayed there in the home of some Vedic brahmanas. In the evening, Srila Ramananda Raya used to come to see Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Ramananda Raya, who was clothed in ordinary dress, offered the Lord respectful obeisances. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu questioned him on the object and process of worship and also asked him to recite verses from the Vedic literature.

    First of all, Srila Ramananda Raya enunciated the system of the varnasrama institution. He recited various verses about karmarpana, stating that everything should be dedicated to the Lord. He then spoke of detached action, knowledge mixed with devotional service, and finally the spontaneous loving service of the Lord. After hearing Srila Ramananda Raya recite some verses, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu accepted the principle of pure devotional service devoid of all kinds of speculation. After this, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu asked Ramananda Raya to explain the higher platform of devotional service. Then Srila Ramananda Raya explained unalloyed devotional service, love of Godhead, and serving the Lord in the moods of pure servitude, fraternity and parental love. Finally he spoke of serving the Lord in conjugal love. He then spoke of how conjugal love can be developed in various ways. This conjugal love attains its highest perfection in Srimati Radharani's love for Krsna. He next described the position of Srimati Radharani and the transcendental mellows of love of God. Srila Ramananda Raya then recited a verse of his own concerning the platform of ecstatic vision, technically called prema-vilasa-vivarta. Srila Ramananda Raya also explained that all stages of conjugal love can be attained through the mercy of the residents of Vrndavana, especially by the mercy of the gopis. All these subject matters were thus vividly described.

    Gradually Ramananda Raya could understand the position of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and when Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu exhibited His real form, Ramananda Raya fell unconscious. After some days, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu asked Ramananda Raya to retire from government service and come to Jagannatha Puri. These descriptions of the meetings between Ramananda Raya and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu are taken from the notebook of Svarupa Damodara Gosvami."

Later, in Madhya Lila 9, we read about Sri Caitanya's travels after His first visit to Vidyanagara during which He visited many famous tirthas in the south, as well as His return to Vidyanagara before heading back to Puri Dhama.

    Madhya Lila 9 Summary

    "A summary of the Ninth Chapter is given by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. After leaving Vidyanagara, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu visited such places of pilgrimage as Gautami-ganga, Mallikarjuna, Ahovala-nrsimha, Siddhavata, Skanda-ksetra, Trimatha, Vrddhakasi, Bauddha-sthana, Tirupati, Tirumala, Pana-nrsimha, Siva-kanci, Visnu-kanci, Trikala-hasti, Vrddhakola, Siyali-bhairavi, Kaveri-tira and Kumbhakarna-kapala.

    [ ]

    The Lord then visited Tapti, Mahismati-pura, Narmada-tira and Rsyamuka-parvata. He entered Dandakaranya and liberated the seven palm trees. From there He visited a place known as Pampa-sarovara and visited Pancavati, Nasika, Brahmagiri and also the source of the Godavari River, Kusavarta. Thus the Lord visited almost all the holy places in South India. He finally returned to Jagannatha Puri by taking the same route, after visiting Vidyanagara again."

Coastal Andhra Pradesh

Srila Prabhupada provides further information on these travels later in Madhya 9:

    Madhya Lila 9.318

    sapta godavari aila kari' tirtha bahutara
    punarapi aila prabhu vidyanagara

    sapta godavari -- to the place known as Sapta-godavari; aila -- came; kari' tirtha bahutara -- visiting various holy places; punarapi -- again; aila -- came back; prabhu -- Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu; vidyanagara -- to the place where He met Ramananda Raya.

    After visiting many other holy places, the Lord went to Sapta-godavari. At last He returned to Vidyanagara.

    In this way Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu traveled from the source of the Godavari River and eventually visited the northern side of Hyderabad state. He finally arrived at the state of Kalinga."

On modern maps we find that there are several places with the name Vidyanagara, or Vidya Nagar -- in West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, and Maharashtra. Mahaprabhu had pastimes in at least two of these. Near Navadvipa, on the outskirts of Vidyanagar village is Rasapur, the place where Lord Caitanya studied in the asrama of Ganga das (Sandipani Muni). Here, he planted his wooden pens, and they grew into trees.

The location of the Vidyanagara Lord Caitanya visited when he met with Ramananda Raya is easy to confirm, because it is also the birthplace of Raya. This Vidyanagara is on the east coast of the Andhra Pradesh, about 63 kilometers south of Nellore, and 15 km inland from the coastal village of Durgarajupatnam.

Ramananda Raya was a prominent Viceroy of the Rajamahendri (Rajahmundry) of Andhra Pradesh. Lying on the bank of the River Godavari, his birthplace, Vidyanagara, was in the Godavari Province of the Kalinga-Utkala Empire, under the reign of the Medieval Orissan Emperor, Gajapati Sri Prataparudra Dev. Ramananda Raya was born in the early 14th century at Cuttack, to a prominent Oriya Kayastha (Karana) family.

The Banks of the Godavari near Vidyanagara

Lord Caitanya Instructs Ramananda Raya

Srila Prabhupada provides a beautiful commentary on the transcendental nature of Lord Caitanya's philosophical discussions with Ramananda Raya, in a section entitled "A Mine of Nectar" from In Search of the Ultimate Goal of Life:

    "During the presence of Lord Caitanya at Vidyanagara, the city where Ramananda Raya lived, all the scholars of different schools of philosophy were converted into devotees of Sri Krsna, and they gave up their previous ways of thinking. After the departure of Lord Caitanya, Ramananda was overwhelmed with grief on account of separation from the Lord, and thus he remained aloof from all sorts of routine work while continuing to absorb himself in deep meditation on the Lord.

    This is a short sketch of the meeting that took place between Ramananda Raya and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. The instructive and transcendental topics that were discussed between them are completely sublime and simple at the same time. Any fortunate person can take advantage of the revelations within this conversation and thus bring about the perfection of his life. Once the topic is heard with a reverential attitude, it will no longer be possible to leave aside the spiritual ambition of reaching the abode of Radha and Krsna.

    By hearing this short narration, one can enter into the essence of transcendental romance and pure love of Godhead. The most important thing to understand from this discussion is the secret of Lord Caitanya’s appearance in this world and the essence of His sankirtana movement."

One can appreciate the environment of Vidyanagara on the banks of the Godavari River by savoring the details of Caitanya Mahaprabhu's pastimes there with Ramananda Raya. Following are the Translations of Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya Lila 8.11 to 8.53, which refer to the Lord's initial visit to Vidyanagara-tirtha:

Dry Godavari bed at Gudur, near Vidyanagara

    Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya Lila 8:

    8.11: When He saw the river Godavari, the Lord remembered the river Yamuna, and when He saw the forest on the banks of the river, He remembered Sri Vrndavana-dhama.

    8.12: After performing His usual chanting and dancing for some time in this forest, the Lord crossed the river and took His bath on the other bank.

    8.13: After bathing in the river, the Lord walked a little distance from the bathing place and engaged in chanting the holy name of Krsna.

    8.14: At that time, accompanied by the sounds of music, Ramananda Raya came there on a palanquin to take his bath.

    8.15: Many brahmanas following the Vedic principles accompanied Ramananda Raya. According to the Vedic rituals, Ramananda Raya took his bath and offered oblations to his forefathers.

    8.16: Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu could understand that the person who had come to bathe in the river was Ramananda Raya. The Lord wanted so much to meet him that His mind immediately began running after him.

    8.17: Although Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was running after him mentally, He patiently remained sitting. Ramananda Raya, seeing the wonderful sannyasi, then came to see Him.

    8.18: Srila Ramananda Raya then saw Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to be as brilliant as a hundred suns. The Lord was covered by a saffron garment. He was large in body and very strongly built, and His eyes were like lotus petals.

    8.19: When Ramananda Raya saw the wonderful sannyasi, he was struck with wonder. He went to Him and immediately offered his respectful obeisances, falling down flat like a rod.

    8.20: The Lord stood up and asked Ramananda Raya to arise and chant the holy name of Krsna. Indeed, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was very eager to embrace him.

    8.21: Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu then inquired whether he was Ramananda Raya, and he replied, "Yes, I am Your very low servant, and I belong to the sudra community."

    8.22: Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu then embraced Sri Ramananda Raya very firmly. Indeed, both the master and the servant almost lost consciousness due to ecstatic love.

    8.23: Their natural love for each other was awakened in them both, and they embraced and fell to the ground.

    8.24: When they embraced each other, ecstatic symptoms -- paralysis, perspiration, tears, shivering, paleness and standing up of the bodily hairs -- appeared. The word "Krsna" came from their mouths falteringly.

    8.25: When the stereotyped, ritualistic brahmanas who were following the Vedic principles saw this ecstatic manifestation of love, they were struck with wonder. All these brahmanas began to reflect as follows.

    8.26: The brahmanas thought, "We can see that this sannyasi has a luster like the effulgence of Brahman, but how is it He is crying upon embracing a sudra, a member of the fourth caste in the social order?"

    8.27: They thought, "This Ramananda Raya is the Governor of Madras, a highly learned and grave person, a maha-pandita, but upon touching this sannyasi he has become restless like a madman."

    8.28: While the brahmanas were thinking in this way about the activities of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Ramananda Raya, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu saw those outsiders and restrained His transcendental emotions.

    8.29: When they regained their sanity, they both sat down, and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu smiled and began to speak as follows.

    8.30: "Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya spoke of your good qualities, and he made a great endeavor to convince Me to meet you.

    8.31: "Indeed, I have come here just to meet you. It is very good that even without making an effort I have gotten your interview here."

    8.32: Ramananda Raya replied, "Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya thinks of me as his servant. Even in my absence he is very careful to do me good.

    8.33: "By his mercy I have received Your interview here. Consequently I consider that today I have become a successful human being.

    8.34: "I can see that You have bestowed special mercy upon Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya. Therefore You have touched me, although I am untouchable. This is due only to his love for You.

    8.35: "You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Narayana Himself, and I am only a government servant interested in materialistic activities. Indeed, I am the lowest among men of the fourth caste.

    8.36: "You do not fear the Vedic injunctions stating that You should not associate with a sudra. You were not contemptuous of my touch, although in the Vedas You are forbidden to associate with sudras.

    8.37: "You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself; therefore no one can understand Your purpose. By Your mercy You are touching me, although this is not sanctioned by the Vedas.

    8.38: "You have come here specifically to deliver me. You are so merciful that You alone can deliver all fallen souls.

    8.39: "It is the general practice of all saintly people to deliver the fallen. Therefore they go to people's houses, although they have no personal business there.

    8.40: "'My dear Lord, sometimes great saintly persons go to the homes of householders, although these householders are generally low-minded. When a saintly person visits their homes, one can understand that it is for no other purpose than to benefit the householders.'

    8.41: "Along with me there are about a thousand men -- including the brahmanas -- and all of them appear to have had their hearts melted simply by seeing You.

    8.42: "I hear everyone chanting the holy name of Krsna. Everyone's body is thrilled with ecstasy, and there are tears in everyone's eyes.

    8.43: "My dear Sir, according to Your behavior and bodily features, You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead. It is impossible for ordinary living beings to possess such transcendental qualities."

    8.44: The Lord replied to Ramananda Raya, "Sir, you are the best of the topmost devotees; therefore simply the sight of you has melted everyone's heart.

    8.45: "Although I am a Mayavadi sannyasi, a nondevotee, I am also floating in the ocean of love of Krsna simply by touching you. And what to speak of others?

    8.46: "Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya knew this would happen, and thus to rectify My heart, which is very hard, he asked Me to meet you."

    8.47: In this way each of them praised the qualities of the other, and both of them were pleased to see each other.

    8.48: At this time a brahmana Vaisnava following the Vedic principles came and offered obeisances. He fell flat before Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and invited Him for lunch.

    8.49: Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu accepted the invitation, knowing the brahmana to be a devotee, and slightly smiling, He spoke as follows to Ramananda Raya.

    8.50: "I wish to hear from you about Lord Krsna. Indeed, My mind is inclined to desire this; therefore I wish to see you again."

    8.51-52: Ramananda Raya replied, "My Lord, although You have come to correct me, a fallen soul, my mind is not yet purified simply by seeing You. Please stay for five or seven days and kindly cleanse my polluted mind. After that much time, my mind will certainly be pure."

    8.53: Although neither could tolerate separation from the other, Ramananda Raya nonetheless offered his obeisances to Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and departed.

(To be continued)


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