Caitanya Mahaprabhu's Tirtha-yatra, Part 7
BY: SUN STAFF
Chidambaram Nataraja Temple and Siva-ganga Tank
May 12, 2013 CANADA (SUN) A serial exploration of the holy sites visited by Lord Caitanya.
In the summary of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya lila 9, we read that Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu made a stop at Kamakosthi-puri during His southern India travels, on his way to southern Mathura (Madura).
Madhya 9 Summary
"Finally the Lord went to Sri Ranga-ksetra, where He converted a brahmana named Venkata Bhatta, who, along with his family, became a devotee of Krsna. After leaving Sri Ranga, Caitanya Mahaprabhu reached Rsabha-parvata, where He met Paramananda Puri, who later arrived at Jagannatha Puri. Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu then proceeded farther, arriving at Setubandha Ramesvara. At Sri Saila-parvata, the Lord met Lord Siva and his wife Durga in the dress of a brahmana and brahmani. From there He went to Kamakosthi-puri and later arrived at southern Mathura."
In his purport to Madhya lila text 9.78, Srila Prabhupada provides more detail about the Lord's pilgrimage to Kamakosthi-puri, which is also known by the names Kamakosni and Kumbhakarna. While serving as the capital of the Chola kingdom, the place was known as Kumbhakonam, and it commonly goes by that name today.
kumbhakarna-kapale dekhi' sarovara
siva-ksetre siva dekhe gauranga-sundara
"At Kumbhakarna-kapala, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu saw a great lake and then the holy place named Siva-ksetra, where a temple of Lord Siva is located.
Kumbhakarna is the name of the brother of Ravana. At the present moment the city of Kumbhakarna-kapala is known as Kumbhakonnam; it is situated twenty miles northeast of the city of Tanjorean. There are twelve temples of Lord Siva located at Kumbhakonnam, as well as four Visnu temples and one temple to Lord Brahma. Siva-ksetra, within the city of Tanjorean, is situated near a big lake known as Siva-ganga. At this place is a large temple of Lord Siva known as Brhatisvara-siva-mandira."
Later in Madhya lila, we read the following narratives:
tanra sange mahaprabhu kari istagosthi
tanra ajna lana aila puri kamakosthi (177)
"After talking with Lord Siva, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu took his permission to leave and went to Kamakosthi-puri.
daksina-mathura aila kamakosthi haite
tahan dekha haila eka brahmana-sahite (178)
When Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu arrived at southern Mathura from Kamakosthi, He met a brahmana."
Kumbakonam (Kamakosthi-puri) is famous as a temple town, having a large number of very prominent temples. Every 12 years the festival of Mahamaham is celebrated at the Mahamaham tank, and throngs of devotees come to take bath here. Kumbakonam is also home to a temple dedicated to Lord Brahma, featured in our series on Brahma-tirthas.
Aside from the large Mahamaham tank, there is the Shiva-ganga tank mentioned above by Srila Prabhupada. This theertham is part of the Chidambaram Nataraja Temple, a 9th century Chola temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple's Shiva-ganga tank is colonnaded, and framed by the shrine's four colorful gopuras.
Kumbakonam is also well known for the intricately carved Panchaloha deities made there, a craft that is now famous in ISKCON, since the Pancha-tattva Deities installed at Sridham Mayapur were crafted here. The finished Deities, each weighing about 3 tons, departed Kumbakonam on January 31, 2004, first making a stop at the Sri Swaminathar Swami temple, which was circumambulated by their Lordships on the truck before heading towards Their new home at Mayapur dhama.
Not surprisingly, Lord Balarama also made a pilgrimage to Kamakosthi-puri, as we read in Srimad-Bhagavatam:
gomatim gandakim snatva
vipasam sona aplutah
gayam gatva pitrn istva
ramam drstvabhivadya ca
pampam bhimarathim tatah
skandam drstva yayau ramah
drstvadrim venkatam prabhuh
kama-kosnim purim kancim
kaverim ca sarid-varam
yatra sannihito harih
rsabhadrim hareh ksetram
daksinam mathuram tatha
samudram setum agamat
"Lord Balarama bathed in the Gomati, Gandaki and Vipasa rivers, and also immersed Himself in the Sona. He went to Gaya, where He worshiped His forefathers, and to the mouth of the Ganges, where He performed purifying ablutions. At Mount Mahendra He saw Lord Parasurama and offered Him prayers, and then He bathed in the seven branches of the Godavari River, and also in the rivers Vena, Pampa and Bhimarathi. Then Lord Balarama met Lord Skanda and visited Sri-saila, the abode of Lord Girisa. In the southern provinces known as Dravida-desa the Supreme Lord saw the sacred Venkata Hill, as well as the cities of Kamakosni and Kanci, the exalted Kaveri River and the most holy Sri-ranga, where Lord Krsna has manifested Himself. From there He went to Rsabha Mountain, where Lord Krsna also lives, and to the southern Mathura. Then He came to Setubandha, where the most grievous sins are destroyed."
Nityananda Prabhu likewise traveled to Kamakosthi-puri, as described in Sri Chaitanya Bhagavat, Adi Lila 9, which narrates Lord Nityananda's pilgrimage and His meeting with Madhavendra Puri:
"He visited the Pampa (Tungabhadra), Bhima, Godavari Benva and in the Bipasa (Vyasa) River He remained submerged in the water for a while. In Madurai He visited the temple of Lord Kartikeya and then went on to the place known as Sri Prabat. There in a massive and impressive temple, His devotees, Lord Siva and Parvati, were being opulently worshiped as a Brahmin and his wife. Lord Siva and Parvati recognized Lord Nityananda as their worshipable Supreme Lord. The Original Sankarsana was now appearing before them in the dress of a mendicant. Siva and Parvati joyfully received their exalted guest and attended to Him affectionately. Parvati cooked palatable dishes for Nityananda's satisfaction and in reciprocation Sri Nityananda Rama offered them His obeisances.
Only Lord Krsna knows the confidential topics that transpired between Them. Lord Nityananda went from there to the Dravida territory. He travelled through
different pilgrimage spots touching such places as Vyenkatanatha, Kamakosthipuri and Kanci, then arriving at the banks of the sacred Kaveri. [He travelled through different pilgrimage spots touching upon the places of Vyenkatanatha, Kamakosthipuri and Kanci, arriving at last at the sacred river Kaveri.]"
In February 1905, HDG Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur also went on pilgrimage to various holy places in South India, visiting Simhachal, Rajmahendri, Madras, Peremvedur, Tirupati, Kanjiveram, Kumbhakonam, Srirangam, Madura, etc.
Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai at Chaitanya Kudiram
There is a newly built temple just outside of Kumbakonam in the village of Govindapuram, known as the Chaitanya Kudiram. It was built by members of the Bhajana Sampradaya of South India, and is dedicated to their Acarya, HH Bodhendra Saraswathi Swamigal. In a hall of the temple complex are installed the Deities of Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai and Lord Jagannath. The Deities were installed in honor not only of Mahaprabhu's presence in Kumbakonam, but also for HH Bodhendra Saraswathi's attachment to the Puri Jagannath Deities, Who are very dear to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Jagannath Deities at Chaitanya Kudiram
Caitanya-caritamrta, Srimad Bhagavatam - Bhaktivedanta Book Trust
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