Caitanya Mahaprabhu's Tirtha-yatra, Part 13


May 18, 2013 — CANADA (SUN) — A serial exploration of the holy sites visited by Lord Caitanya.


Today we explore an interesting aspect of Lord Caitanya's tirtha-yatra around India. Our intention throughout this series has been to weave together as many threads as possible related to the places Sri Caitanya visited: to understand where they're located, how they have been described historically, and how they are related to places where other transcendental pastimes occurred. Given the fact that place names change over time, and certain holy dhamas and tirthas are said to co-exist in multiple places eternally, we find it very enlivening to follow each lead to its apparent conclusion as the journey progresses.

In the case of Rsyamuka-parvata, we again find that Srila Prabhupada mentions two places by this name, a long distance apart from one another. But in addition, the journey through sastra via the many references to Rsyamuka-parvata raises questions about the location of a previous tirtha we covered, which seemed fairly straightforward at the time.

Let us begin in the usual way…

In the summary of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya Lila 9, HDG Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur describes Lord Caitanya's travels in this way:

    Madhya Lila 9 Summary:

    "At Sri Rangapuri the Lord received news of Sankararanya's disappearance. He then went to the banks of the Krsnavenva River, where He collected from among the Vaisnava brahmanas a book written by Bilvamangala, Krsna-karnamrta. 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."

Later in Madhya Lila, Srila Prabhupada provides more detail about the location of Rsyamuka:

    Madhya 9.311

    dhanus-tirtha dekhi' karila nirvindhyate snane
    rsyamuka-giri aila dandakaranye

    "The Lord next arrived at Dhanus-tirtha, where He took His bath in the river Nirvindhya. He then arrived at Rsyamuka Mountain and then went to the forest called Dandakaranya.

    According to some opinions, Rsyamuka is a chain of mountains beginning at the village of Hampi-grama in the district of Belari. The mountain chain begins along the bank of the river Tungabhadra, which gradually reaches the state of Hyderabad. According to other opinions, this hill is situated in Madhya Pradesh and bears the present name of Rampa. Dandakaranya is a spacious tract of land which begins north of Khandesa and extends south to Ahmadnagar, west to Nasika, and east to Aurangabad. The Godavari River flows through this tract of land, and there is a great forest there where Lord Ramacandra lived."

In his purport to Madhya 9.311, Srila Prabhupada gives the two opinions about Rsyamuka's location, but doesn't accept one over the other. He does offer further clarification by mentioning Dandakaranya, and pointing out that the Dandak forest covers a great area of land. So, the Rsyamuka Lord Caitanya visited is either at Hampi, Karnataka, or at Rampa, Madhya Pradesh. Madhya Pradesh, of course, is significantly further north than Karnataka.

Given the series of place names mentioned in Madhya Lila 9 Summary: Tapti, Mahismati-pura, Narmada-tira and Rsyamuka-parvata, followed by Dandakaranya, we can consider the proximity of these places to Rsyamuka.

Mahismati-pura is in Madhya Pradesh, 170 km east of Gujarat, and 80 km south of Indore, and resides along the banks of the Narmada River. Dandakaranya is also in North Central India, at Nasik. This would seem to indicate that the Rsyamuka Lord Caitanya visited is in Madhya Pradesh, not further south, at Hampi.

In the segment on Dandakaranya we discussed the evidence for the location of the Dandak forest tirtha Mahaprabhu visited, and it seemed quite clear that this Dandakaranya is in Nasik, Maharashtra. This was the place where the liberation of the seven palm trees took place. This appeared to be confirmed by Srila Prabhupada's description in Chapter 79 of Krsna Book (see Dandakaranya segment), and we found other ISKCON websites agreeing with this conclusion.

Again, in Madhya Lila 9 Summary we read: "The Lord then visited Tapti, Mahismati-pura, Narmada-tira and Rsyamuka-parvata. He entered Dandakaranya…". Later in Madhya 9.311 we read: "The Lord next arrived at Dhanus-tirtha, where He took His bath in the river Nirvindhya. He then arrived at Rsyamuka Mountain and then went to Dandakaranya." (9.311)

The ancient Nirvindhya River is known today as the Newaz, and it flows through Rajgarh, Madhya Pradesh. A text quoted in an earlier segment, India in Kalidasa, mentions three great rivers systems in the North: the Sindhu, Ganga and Brahmaputra, and the Nirvindhya is mentioned as a branch of the Ganga system.

So far, all the evidence seems to confirm that the Rsyamuka Sri Caitanya visited is located in Madhya Pradesh. That is, until we consider Dhanus-tirtha, where Lord Caitanya took bath in the river Nirvindhya. Madhya 9.311 tells us that after taking bath in Nirvindhya. the Lord arrived at Rsyamuka Mountain, then went to Dandakaranya. The sloka in Madhya 9.311 refers to rsyamuka-giri, whereas the Madhya 9 Summary refers to Rsyamuka-parvata. Both 'giri' and 'parvata' refer to a hill or mountain.

Madhya 9.199 states that Lord Caitanya traveled to Setubandha (Ramesvara), where he took bath at Dhanus-tirtha. From there, He visited the Ramesvara temple. In his purport to Madhya 9.199, Srila Prabhupada states that Dhanus-tirtha is located about twelve miles southeast of Ramesvara, near the last station of the South Indian Railway, called Ramnad station. At first glance, we concluded that this must simply be a second Dhanus-tirtha, different from one located in Madhya Pradesh by the Nirvindhya River. We also considered that rsyamuka-giri and rsyamuka-parvata may refer to two different places.

In reading Madhya 1.115-116, however, we also find the reference to Mahaprabhu traveling in South India, in the Trivandrum district (Thiruvananthapuram). After this, he delivered the sapta-tala trees, then took bath at Setubandha Ramesvara. In his purport, Srila Prabhupada states that the seven (sapta) palm trees were located in South India.

We know of only one instance when Lord Caitanya liberated seven palm trees. And, given the size of Dandakaranya Forest, it's certainly possible that the forest is adjacent to both the Madhya Pradesh and the Karnataka sites of Rsyamuka. Beyond this speculation, however, we must confess to being unclear as to the location both of the Rsyamuka-parvata Mahaprabhu visited, and of the Dandakaranya where the seven palm trees were liberation by the Lord. We hope that devotees more knowledgeable will give us their assistance, and clarify the situation for us and the readers.

As described in Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.79.9-21, we know that Lord Balarama also took bath in the Nirvindhya River, then entered the Dandakaranya:

    "The Supreme Lord then traveled through the kingdoms of Kerala and Trigarta, visiting Lord Siva's sacred city of Gokarna, where Lord Dhurjati (Siva) directly manifests himself. After also visiting Goddess Parvati, who dwells on an island, Lord Balarama went to the holy district of Surparaka and bathed in the Tapi, Payosni and Nirvindhya rivers. He next entered the Dandaka forest and went to the river Reva, along which the city of Mahismati is found. Then He bathed at Manu-tirtha and finally returned to Prabhasa."

Rishyamuka Mountain is also associated with the pastimes of Lord Rama, as described in Valmiki's Ramayana. At one time there was an interesting article at about a devotee's travels in the area of Hampi, and mention is made of the Rishyamuka Mountain located there:

    "Driving through Kiskhinda we came to Pampa Lake, filled with lotus flowers. (From Pampa the word Hampi was derived.) It is mentioned in the Chaitanya-charitamrita (Madhya 9.316) that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu bathed in Pampa Lake. Here Rama and Lakshmana met Shabari, an elder woman performing penance. She offered them delicious fruit and directed them towards Rishyamuka Mountain."

Caitanya-caritamrta, Srimad Bhagavatam - Bhaktivedanta Book Trust


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