The Holy Places of Jaiva Dharma: Bilva-puskarini
BY: SUN STAFF
Mar 24, 2014 CANADA (SUN) A serial presentation of the holy places mentioned in the Jaiva Dharma of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur - Part 36.
The next sacred place listed in the 'Glossary of Places' appended to Jaiva Dharma is the village of Bilva-puskarini. Srila Bhaktivinoda describes it in this way:
Bilva-puskarini - also known as Bael-pukura. Sri Nilambara Cakravarti, the maternal grandfather of Sriman Mahaprabhu, lived at this place. It is situated near the northern border of Simantadvipa and forms part of the area known as Simuliya.
Bilva-puskarini is mentioned quite a number of times in Jaiva Dharma, while Bael-pukura is not found.
One of the most significant passages in Jaiva Dharma referring to Bilva-puskarini is found in chapter twelve, which introduces one of the main characters of this transcendental novel. Much of the book deals with the pastimes of Vrajanatha Pancanana, a young devotee who became a dig-vijayi pandita when he was just 21 years old. Vrajanatha lived in the village of Bilva-puskarini along with his grandmother, and studied at a school there (JD 3.12). Following is the dramatic story of an envious local pandit's attempt to end Vrajanatha's life. This narrative also tells us something of the location and history of Bilva-puskarini.
Nitya-dharma O Sadhana (Eternal Religion and Devotional Service in Practice)
"Sri Navadvipa-mandala is the best of all holy places in the world. It is a thirty-two mile eight petal lotus flower. The whorl of that lotus flower is Sri Antardvipa. In the centre of Antardvipa is Sri Mayapura. To the north of Sri Mayapura is Sri Simantadvipa. In Simantadvipa is a temple of Sri Sinmanta-devi. To the north of that temple is Bilva-puskarini, and to the south is Brahmana-puskarini. The region that contains Bilva-puskarini and the Brahmana-puskarini is called Sumuliya by the people in general. Therefore the village of Sumuliya-grama is in the northern part of Sri Navadvipa. At the time of Sri Mahaprabhu this place was the home of many, many panditas. This village was the home of Saci-devi's father, Sri Nilambara Cakravarti. Not far from his house lived a vaidika brahmana named Vrajanatha Bhattacarya. By studying in a school at Bilva-puskarini, in a few days he had attained great learning in nyaya-sastra, learning that was like a shoreless ocean. All the famous panditas of Bilva-puskarini, Brahmana-puskarini, Mayapura, Godruma, Madhyadvipa, Amraghatta, Samudragar, Kuliya and many other places also were embarrassed and frustrated by Vrajanatha's skill in newer and newer logical arguments. In the assemblies where the panditas were invited, Vrajanatha Pancanana became like a lion attacking a herd of elephants. Raising newer and newer arguments, he made the panditas burn with anger. Of these panditas a very hard-hearted logician decided to kill Pancanana by casting a spell from the Tantras. Day after day he stayed in the cremation ground of Rudradvipa and chanted mantras to kill his foe.
It was a frightening new-moon night. Blinding darkness filled every direction. At midnight in the cremation ground Naiyika-cudamani called out to his worshipable deity, "O mother only you should be worshipped in the Kali-yuga! I have heard that you are very easily pleased by even a little chanting of your mantras and you easily grant boons. O mother with the terrifying face, your servant has performed great austerities and chanted your mantra for many days. Please be merciful this one time. O mother, I have many faults. Still, you are my mother. Please forgive my faults and appear before me. Again and again screaming, Tarka-cudamani offered oblations into the fire and chanted a mantra with Nyaya-pancanana's name. What wonderful power did that mantra possess! At that moment the sky became covered with clouds. A powerful wind blew. A deafening thunder sounded. Again and again there was lightning. Many grotesque ghosts could be seen. Intoxicated by drinking the sacrificial wine, Cudamani called out, "O mother, please don't delay!" At that moment a voice spoke from the sky. "Do not worry. Nyaya-pancanana will not continue as a logician for many more days. In a few days he will renounce logical debates. Then he will become silent. He will be your opponent no longer. Be peaceful and go home." Hearing this voice from the sky, Cudamani became happy. Again and again he offered dandavat obeisances to Lord Siva, the author of the Tantras. Then he returned home."
(Jaiva Dharma Volume 3, Chapter 12)
Another key passage in Jaiva Dharma offering detailed information about Bilva-puskarini is found in chapter twenty-three:
Eternal Religion and Sambandha, Abhidheya and Prayojana (The Discussion of the Holy Name Begins)
"The village of Bilva-puskarini is very beautiful. The river Ganges flows on its northern and western sides. There, on the shore of the Puskarini, in a grove of Bilva trees, is a temple of Lord Siva. Not far from there is a place called Bhava-tarana. On one side is Bilva-puskarini and on the other side is Brahmana-puskarini. Between them lies the village called Simuliya, which on one side borders the town of Navadvipa. In the middle of Bilva-puskarini and north of the royal road lies Vrajanatha's house. After travelling a short distance, Vijaya-kumara returned to his sister. In his mind he had decided, "I won't leave until I have learned the truth about the holy name." Returning to Bilva-puskarini, he saw his sister and nephew and told them, "I will stay another day or two and then I will go."
That afternoon two Vaisnavas in the Ramanuja-sampradaya wearing Sri-tilaka came to the Candi-mandapa at Vrajanatha's house. Sitting in the shade of the panasa tree before Vrajanatha's house, the two Vaisnavas made a fire with some dried twigs and began to smoke ganja. Vrajanatha's mother was very happy to get the opportunity to show hospitality to some guests. Seeing that they were not eating anything, she brought them different kinds of food. Pleased, they began to cook some chapatis. Seeing that the Vaisnavas were peaceful and bright-faced, Vrajanatha and Vijaya-kumara gradually felt attracted to them. Seeing that Vrajanatha and Vijaya-kumara wore tulasi beads on their necks and twelve tilaka marks on their limbs, the two Vaisnavas respectfully greeted them and spread a cloth for them to sit. As Vrajanatha questioned them, one of the sannyasis said, "O maharaja, we have seen Ayodhya and now we are going to Navadvipa. In our hearts we have decided to see the places of Caitanya Prabhu's pastimes." Vrajanatha replied, "You are in Sri Navadvipa now. Please rest here today and tomorrow see the birthplace of Lord Mahaprabhu and the courtyard of Srivasa. The two sannyasis then happily recited these words of Lord Krsna in the Bhagavad-gita (15.6):
"They who reach My supreme abode never return to this material world."*
The two sannyasis said, "Today we are very fortunate, for we will see holy Sri
Mayapura, the best of the seven holy cities."
(Jaiva Dharma Volume 4, Chapter 23)
The remaining references to Bilva-puskarini in Jaiva Dharma are quite brief, and refer to someone who resided there, or to Bilva-puskarini as a location passed through by the Vaisnavas, while traveling from place to place. For example, we read that Sri Narayana dasa Babaji and others came from Sri Bilva-puskarini (JD 2.11). Several references are to Vrajanatha and his uncle, Vijaya-kumara, walking together to and from Bilva-puskarini (JD 4.19 & 4.22-23, 5.24, 5.26).
The last passage of note is from Jaiva Dharma 4.19, telling the story of Vijaya-kumara's arrival at Bilva-puskarini:
Eternal Religion and Sambandha, Abhidheya and Prayojana (Abhidheya)
"Vijaya-kumara was especially learned in Sriman Bhagavatam. By the mercy of Srimati Narayani-devi, he had attained great love for Lord Gauranga. Nowadays he went from place to place reading aloud from Srimad Bhagavatam. At the village of Denuda-grama he personally met Sri Vrndavana dasa Thakura, who advised him to visit Sri Mayapura, the inconceivable spiritual abode of the Lord. Vrndavana dasa Thakura told him that soon all the places of Lord Mahaprabhu's pastimes would become hidden, and only after four hundred years would they again be openly manifested. He also said that the places of Lord Caitanya's pastimes are not different from Sri Vrndavana, and that only a person who can see the spiritual nature of Sri Mayapura and the other places of Lord Caitanya's pastimes has the power to see Vrndavana as it truly is. Hearing these words of Sri Vrndavana dasa Thakura, who is an incarnation of Srila Vyasadeva, Vijaya-kumara became very eager to see Sri Mayapura. In his mind he decided to visit his sister and nephew in Bilva-puskarini, and then visit Sri Mayapura. In those days Bilva-puskarini and Brahmana-puskarini touched each other. Nowadays they are far apart. In those days the boundary of Bilva-puskarini was within a mile of holy Sri Mayapura. That abandoned village of Bilva-puskarini now goes by the names "Tota" and "Taranabasa"."
(Jaiva Dharma Volume 4, Chapter 19)
(Bilva-puskarini, to be continued…)
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