Caitanya Mahaprabhu's Tirtha-yatra, Part 36
BY: SUN STAFF
Tanjore sculpture of Durga Ma
Mar 04, CANADA (SUN) A serial exploration of the holy sites visited by Lord Caitanya.
Following his pastimes with Ramananda Raya in Vidyanagara, Andhra Pradesh, Lord Caitanya resumed His travels, visiting many tirthas in South India. One of them is Siyali-bhairavi, in Tamil Nadu, described in Madhya Lila 9 of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta:
Madhya lila 9, Summary:
"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."
Later in Madhya Lila 9 we find some additional details about Siyali-bhairavi:
siyali bhairavi devi kari' darasana
kaverira tire aila sacira nandana
"After visiting the temple of Siyali-bhairavi [another form of the goddess Durga], Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the son of mother Saci, went to the bank of the river Kaveri.
"Siyali-bhairavi is located in the Tanjorean district, about forty-eight miles northeast of Tanjorean City. There is a very much celebrated temple of Lord Siva there and also a very large lake. It is said that once a small boy who was a devotee of Lord Siva came to that temple and the goddess Durga, known as Bhairavi, gave him her breast to suck. After visiting this temple, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu went to the bank of the river Kaveri via the district of Tiruchchirapalli. The Kaveri is mentioned in Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.5.40) as a very pious river."
We unfortunately were not able to identify the Durga temple Lord visited at Siyali-bhairavi. What Srila Prabhupada refers to as the Tanjorean City is today known as Tanjavur, or Tanjore, Tamil Nadu. He also specifically mentions that the temple is located in Thanjavur District, and that it is 48 miles (77 kilometers) northeast of Tanjorean City. Although he is very specific in this regard, we still could not locate the temple.
As we see in the map above, Tanjore District, as its boundaries are drawn today, has a distinct arm jutting into the northeast. Aduthurai and Thiruppanandal are the largest villages in that corner of the district, and the distance between them and Tanjore City is only 50-52 kilometers. If one were to travel 77 kilometers northeast of Tanjore City, it would appear to take us out of the bounds of Tanjore District. Although modern maps fail us in this regard, we hope to someday get better information from local devotees who know the temple lore in that region.
Just over a year ago, we did a Feature story in the Sun entitled "Lord Caitanya's Influence on Durga Puja, which discussed some of the associations between Lord Caitanya, his parishad associates, and Durga worship. It states:
"While Durga worship is not recommended by our Sampradaya Acaryas, we understand that Durga Ma is the Lord's devoted servant, and she will serve Him diligently as she takes charge of the material body of each one of us, at the time of our death. In Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya lila 9, we read about the many holy places Mahaprabhu visited during His manifest lila. During His travels in South India, at Sri Saila-parvata, Sri Caitanya personally met Lord Siva and his wife Durga, who were in the dress of a brahmana and brahmani."
There is a significant amount of debate as to the location of Sri Saila-parvata, so we won't delve into a comparison of that location and Siyali-bhairavi in this article, but we find it interesting that Lord Caitanya gave darshan to Durga Ma on more than one occasion during His tirtha-yatra in South India.
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