Caitanya Mahaprabhu's Tirtha-yatra, Part 63

BY: SUN STAFF

Lord Rama, Sita and Laksman
Kalarama Temple, Pancavati, Nasik


Mar 31, CANADA (SUN) — A serial exploration of the holy sites visited by Lord Caitanya.


Pancavati

As we near the end of our series on the places Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu visited during His South India preaching tour, the yatra turns northward. Working His way back towards Jagannatha Puri from the southern states, Sri Caitanya visited Pancavati-tirtha in Maharashtra. Pancavati is mentioned in the Summary of Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya Lila 9:

    Madhya 9 Summary

    "The Lord then visited Tapi, Mahismati-pura, the Narmada River and Rsyamuka-parvata. He entered Dandakaranya and liberated 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."

This part of Lord Caitanya's journey is further described in Madhya Lila 9.316:

    Madhya 9.316

    prabhu asi' kaila pampa-sarovare snana
    pancavati asi, tahan karila visrama

    "Eventually Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu arrived at a lake known as Pampa, where He took His bath. He then went to a place called Pancavati, where He rested.

    PURPORT
    According to some, the old name of the Tungabhadra River was Pamba. According to others, Vijaya-nagara, the capital of the state, was known as Pampatirtha. According to still others, the lake near Anagundi, in the direction of Hyderabad, is Pampa-sarovara. The river Tungabhadra also flows through there. There are many different opinions about the lake called Pampa-sarovara."

Not only do we find little information about Pancavati in this verse from Madhya Lila, Srila Prabhupada provides no specific details in his purport. In an earlier segment on Pampa-sarovar, we discussed Srila Prabhupada's comments on the varying opinions as to Pampa's location, concluding that the most likely spot was the Pampa-sarovar at Hampi, Karnataka.

A week prior to the Pampa-sarovar segment, we visited Dandakaranya Forest, and as we noted in that article, there seems to be no question as to the location of Dandak, near Nasik, Maharashtra:

    "The residents of Dandakaranya who witnessed the miraculous pastime of Caitanya Mahaprabhu's liberation of the seven palm trees exclaimed that this personality must be Lord Rama, who was famous in the area since ancient times. Sri Rama appeared in Treta-yuga, more than two million years ago, and while on exile, lived in the Dandakaranya Forest for several years along with Sita Devi and Laksman. Although Lord Caitanya traveled here relatively recently, still the local residents recognized Him as Lord Rama when He liberated the seven palm trees at Saptatala.

    Lord Rama's 14 year exile was not all spent at Dandakaranya, however. Approximately 11 years of that time was spent in the area of Chitrakoot. Today, pilgrims travel from around the world to the Pancavati shrine at Dandakaranya Forest in Nasik to worship Lord Rama. It is also the place where Ravana kidnapped the mayic expansion of Sita Devi.

    The name 'Pancavati' refers to five banyan trees that are associated with a pastime of Surya's. Surya was overcome by lust for Usa, his wife, and to escape him, she took the form of a horse. Surya did likewise, however, and continued to pursue her. Five young brahmana boys (Rsi kumaras) happened to see this, and were very amused. Surya became offended at their laughter, and cursed the boys to become trees. They were also blessed that they would get darshan of the Lord when He came here.

    A beautiful black swayambhu (self-manifesting) Deity of Lord Rama from the Godavari River resides here at Pancavati. The Lord has one hand on His chest and one pointing down to His lotus feet. Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu came to this place and danced in ecstasy."

Although not explicit about the progression, the verses and purports in Madhya Lila 9.316-317 clearly indicate that Lord Caitanya went from Pampa-sarovar to Pancavati, then to Nasika. If we are correct in assuming that this Pampa-sarovar was at Hampi, then Lord Caitanya would have walked 700 kilometers northwest of Hampi, to Nasik. Although the distance is great, this leg of the Lord's journey took Him homeward bound, back to Jagannatha Puri.

While we don't plan to cover it in this series, given our lack of knowledge on the subject, we are told that there is a debate as to whether or not Lord Caitanya ever visited Dwaraka. Our limited research inclines us to think He may well have gone there, but some devotees apparently feel strongly that Mahaprabhu would never have gone to Dwaraka, where a very different mood of Krsna worship prevailed than in Vrindavan or Navadvip. Either way, we do note that another Pancavati is also found in Gujarat, on the very southern border of the state's great peninsula. There seems to be no question, however, that this is not the Pancavati referred to in Madhya Lila 9.316, which is clearly at Nasik.

One of the resource books quoted several times throughout this series is India in Kalidasa by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, Allahadad (1947). In it, he describes the tirtha of Pampa at Hampi, and also discusses the location of Pancavati, and Rama's hermitage there:

    "Pancavati is generally identified with Nasik and, according to Kalidasa, the hermitage was situated within the Pancavati itself and must be either Agastipuri, twenty-four miles to the southeast of Nasik, or Akolha to the east of Nasik. Next to the Agastyasrama but at a considerable distance so as to appeal like the full moon through the clouds lay the lake Pancapsara. It must lie somewhere between the Pancavati, i.e. Nasik and the Citrakuta hill nearer to the former than to the latter as there were certain other localities lying between this lake and the Citrakuta hill according to the description of the poet.

    We must also remember that it lay at a visible distance from about Nasik (Agastyasrama) and so must not have been situated very far from there. The identification of the list of Ancient Monuments in the Chota-Nagpur Division cannot hold ground in view of the fact that through its location the lake would not lie between the Pancavati and Citrakuta, or rather the latter would lie between the Pancavati and itself. And it would be an unnecessarily circuitous way to take from Nasik to Ayodhya via Chota-Nagpur even for a possible aircraft."

The glories of Pancavati-tirtha at Nasik are enumerated in Valmiki's Ramayana, in the Aranya-kanda, and this is probably the most detailed narrative available about Pancavati. We also find mention of Rama's Pancavati in a verse from Srila Bilvamangala Thakur, about Mother Yasoda telling Sri Krsna a story:

    ramo nama babhuva hum tad-abala siteti hum tam pitur
    vaca pancavati-vane viharatas tasyharad ravanah
    nidrartham janaki-katham iti harer hum-karatah srnvatah
    saumitre kva dhanur dhanur dhanur iti vyagra girah pantu nah


    "There was once a king named Rama."
    "Mm-hm."
    "His wife was Sita."
    "Mm-hm."
    "When they went to the Pancavati forest on His father's order, Ravana kidnapped her."

    The story was intended to put Him to sleep, and Hari was responding, "Mm-hm," as He listened. But upon hearing about Janaki, He suddenly jumped up and said, "Laksmana! My bow, My bow! Where's My bow!"

    May these agitated words protect us all."

Pancavati tirtha is also mentioned in Sri Garga Samhita, Canto Six, 15th chapter, 'The Glories of Gopi-candana Tilaka':

    Text 19

    ganga-mrd-dvi-gunam punyam
    citrakuta-rajah smrtam
    tasmad dasa-gunam punyam
    rajah pancavati-bhavam

    "Twice as sacred as the mud of the Ganga is the dust of Citrakuta. Ten times more sacred than that is the dust of Pancavati-tirtha."

In the Balasrama Sahasra-nama, we also see that one of Lord Balarama's thousand Names is Pancavati-pati.


Lord Rama (South India)


In the Ramayana, there are two chapters in Aranya-kanda ('The Forest Trek') that deal primarily with Pancavati: Chapter 13 (Sage Agastya directs Sri Rama to Panchavati) and Chapter 15 (The Panchavati). In the following excerpts from these two chapters, we find a beautiful narrative describing the glories of Pancavati-tirtha, why Rama chose it for His abode during exile, and how Laksman prepared a cottage for Rama, Sita Devi and himself there:

    "Then that eminent sage Agastya on contemplating a while about what Rama has said, that virtuous and confident sage spoke more ideational word to Rama. [3-13-12]

    "A most prosperous place called Panchavati is there at a distance of two yojana-s from here, oh, dear Rama, which is abundant with tubers, fruits, water, and many deer." Thus Agastya started to tell. [3-13-13]

    "That woodland will be delightful, isn't it Raghava, for it is praiseworthy and not very far off from here, and Seetha can take delight in there. [3-13-17b, 18a]

    "There Maithili will take delight nearby River Godavari, and it is with abundant tubers, fruits, various are its bird flocks, and it is very reclusive too, oh, great dextrous Rama, further it is meritorious and appealing. [3-13-18b, 19]

    "Oh, brave one, you see this great forest of flower-liquor trees, you have to proceed north of it and advance towards a banyan tree. [3-13-21]

    "Then on climbing up an upland a mountain is seen, that which is also not far away, and that renowned Panchavati is there in an ever-blooming forest in the valley of that mountain." Said Sage Agastya to Rama. [3-13-22]

    When thus said by Sage Agastya, Rama along with Soumitri venerated and bade farewell to that truth advocator sage Agastya. [3-13-23]

    Thus well bidden by Sage Agastya those two Rama and Lakshmana have offered their venerations at the feet of that sage and proceeded to their prospective hermitage at Panchavati along with Seetha. [3-13-24]

    Then on going to Panchavati which is full with many serpents and predators, Rama said to splendidly brilliant Lakshmana. [3-15-1]

    "We arrived at the place as indicated by the sage, oh, gentle Lakshmana, this region with its flowered forests is Panchavati." [3-15-2]

    "In which place we have to situate our hermitage for our liking, for that cast your sight all over the forest, and indeed you are an expert in such matters. [3-15-3]

    "In which place Vaidehi, likewise you and me too can take delight, where the woodland is scenic and the water is pleasurable, and where a water lake, ritual-firewood, flowers, and the sacred grass are available in proximity, oh, Lakshmana, such a place may be searched out. [3-15-4, 5]

    When thus said by Rama, Lakshmana adjoined his palms and said this sentence to Rama in the presence of Seetha. [3-15-6]

    "I am but a dependent, as long as you are there, may it be for innumerable years, I am your adherent, Rama, therefore you yourself tell me to build hermitage in such and such delightful place. [3-15-7]

    Rama is gladdened by those words of that great resplendent Lakshmana, and he selected a place that comprised of all the attributes. [3-15-8]

    On taking Lakshmana's hand by his hand Rama paced that beautiful place intended for the construction of hermitage up and down and spoke to Soumitri this way. [3-15-9]

    "This is an evenly and propitious place surrounded with flowered trees and it is apt of you to erect hermitage here, traditionally. [3-15-10]

    "This pleasing lake is seen here adjacently, beaming forth with its lotuses that are similar to sun in resplendence, and that are scented fragrantly. [3-5-11]

    "This River Godavari is also seen from here, surrounded by blooming trees, spread over with swans, and beautified with kaarandava, and chakravaaka birds, as that contemplated soul sage Agastya had said. [3-15-12]

    "Those soaring mountains are appearing beautiful with many caves, surrounded by flowered trees, flurried by animal herds, sounded by peacocks, and they are neither far-off nor very nearby. [3-15-13, 14]

    "Here and there are the golden, silvery and coppery ores on the mountains, and they are shining forth like cow-eye ventilators on walls and also like the superb paintings on elephants. [3-15-15]

    "These mountains are brightening with trees of Saala, Palmyra, Tamaala, Date Palms, Jackfruit and also thus with Punnaagaa. With Chuuta - Sweet Mango; Ashoka, Tialaka, even with Ketaka, Champaka trees, And even with Syandana, Sandalwood, Niipa, Paarnasa, Lakuch, dhava, Ashwakarna, Khadira, Shamii, Kimshuka, Paatala trees, and entwined are those and those trees with flowered shrubs, and along with climbers, and thus they brighten the mountains. [3-15-16, 17, 18]

    "This place is holy, this is delightful and this is with many animals and birds, hence Soumitri, let us reside here along with this bird Jatayu." Thus said Rama to Lakshmana. [3-15-19]

    Thus said by Rama to that remover of foe's valour and one with very great might, namely Lakshmana, he briskly erected a hermitage for his brother. [3-15-20]

    Lakshmana built a very spacious straw-cottage there levelling and raising the clay for raised floor of the cottage, strongly pillared with long bamboos, thereupon on those pillars excellent rafters are made, and the branches of Shamii trees are spread out, twined firmly with twines of jute strands, and with the cross-laid bamboos for thatching, and over that blades of Kusha grass and leaves of Kaasha are spread and well over-covered for the roof, and thus that very great mighty Lakshmana made that best and very spacious straw-cottage with a levelled surface for residence of Raghava in the interests of Raghava alone, and it resulted as a feast to the eye." [3-15-21, 22, 23]


Kalarama Temple


Pancavati's Temples

We find no specific information in Madhya 9.316 as to what Lord Caitanya did or saw during His visit to Pancavati, and we know of no temples there that existed at the time of His visit, although such places no doubt exist.

Today, two of the most prominent temples are the Kalarama Temple and the Naroshankar Temple. Kalarama Temple is the abode of the very beautiful black stone swayambhu deities of Sri Rama, Sita and Laksman. The current temple they reside in was built in 1790. The Deities were discovered in the Godavari River by sages during their morning prayers.

This temple featured prominently in the Dalit movement in India and interestingly enough, the author of India in Kalidasa, the prominent Dr. Ambedkar, once led a protest at this temple, agitating for the acceptance of Dalits into the temple.

The Naroshankar Temple of Sri Rameshwar was built in 1747 on the bank of the Godavari, which is known locally in Nasik as the Anga.

Also found here at Pancavati is Sita Guha, the cave kitchen Sita Devi cooked in during their exile at Pancavati.


Naroshankar Temple


Photos courtesty of N.Yuvraj@Flikr


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