The Holy Places of Jaiva Dharma: Nadiya


Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu

May 29, 2014 — CANADA (SUN) — A serial presentation of the holy places mentioned in the Jaiva Dharma of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur - Part 101.

Next on the Jaiva Dharma 'Glossary of Places' is Nadiya, to which Srila Bhaktivinoda ascribes this brief description:

    "Nadiya - a large district which encompasses the nine islands of Navadvipa."

There is no mention of Nadiya found in either of the Jaiva Dharma transcripts being used in this series. In the verse one purport to Ajna Tahal, Srila Bhaktivinoda gives this definition:

    nadiya-godrume nityananda mahajana
    patiyache nam-hatta jivera karana

    "In the land of Nadiya, on the island of Godruma, the magnanimous Lord Nityananda has opened up the Marketplace of the Holy Name, meant for the deliverance of all fallen souls"


    `nadiya' -- this word indicates Sri Navadvipa-Dham, the abode formed of nine islands."

While Nadiya is not featured in Srila Bhaktivinoda's Jaiva Dharma, it is mention countless places in sastra, including many of the passages we've quoted over the course of this series. Because Nadia is discussed so broadly in Chaitanya-lila literature, we cannot begin to summarize that material here. Instead, we present one author's commentary which, although not written from within the bounds of our Sampradaya (if any at all), offers some interesting information that may be helpful to devotees studying Sri Chaitanya's pastimes in historical Nadiya.

From Chaitanya And His Age by Dinesh Chandra Sen (Calcutta, 1922):

Condition of Bengal before the Advent of Chaitanya

(v) The political condition of the period.

Hussain Shah, the Emperor of Gour, was at first inspired like all zealots with iconoclasm. During the absence of Raja Pratap Rudra from Orissa in course of his warfare in the Deccan, Hussain Shah raided the country and destroyed hundreds of its picturesque temples and broke and disfigured a large number of images of gods and goddesses. Pratap Rudra, when he returned to his capital wanted to retaliate these wrongs. He was doubtless aware of the fact that one of his predecessors had once invaded Bengal and defeated the Pathan force.

He prepared a large force for leading an expedition against Gour, but was afterwards counselled not to do so, as it would cause hardship to the Hindu population. The boundaries of the two kingdoms were, however, clearly defined by the terms of peace, and we find the demarcation line marked by tridents and watched over by armed officers on both sides. While Chaitanya was crossing this boundary. Ram Chandra Khan, the officer of Pratap Rudra, took all possible care, so that Chaitanya and his people might escape molestation from the hands of Mahomedan zealots. [1]

Another account states that a high Mahomedan official who had the title of Nawab, instead of showing any sign of hostility as had been expected, was greatly impressed by Chaitanya's religious fervour and became one of his staunch admirers. There was a prophecy current at Nadia, the last seat of Hindu kings in Western Bengal, that a Brahmin of that place would drive away the Pathans and become the Emperor of Gour. We find in many Vaishnab works a mention of this prophecy. Jayananda's Chaitanya Mangal says that the inhabitants of Nadia were at this time skilled archers so that Hussain Shah became actually frightened by the prophecy. He ordered a general devastation of Nadia and its locality.

There is a small village near Nadia called Pirullya where the Mahomedan army encamped and carried on oppressions in the neighbouring localities, converting Brahmins and other people to Islam by force. "Wherever there stood a Banyan tree, held sacred by the Hindus, it was cut to pieces or uprooted. Hundreds of these trees were destroyed. The same fate attended the sacred Tulsi plants. The temples were broken and their gods desecrated. Bathing in the Ganges was prohibited by law." "These Mahomedans!" laments Jayananda, "ruined the noble brahmin families of Nadia." Many illustrious Brahmins and amongst them Vashudev Sarbahbhouma, his father Visarad and brother Vidyabachaspati left Nadia at this juncture. Vashudev went to Orissa where Pratap Rudra honoured him by giving him a golden seat near his throne in his court. Those Brahmins whose caste was destroyed by force, have since been called Pirili Brahmins; for though unclean food was forced into their mouth and thus they were degraded in social scale, they did not accept Islam but remained Hindus. The oppressions done to Nadia were not novel in this province at the time.

We find in Bijay Gupta's Manashar Bhashan written in 1494 A.D., and other contemporary works the modus operandi of Pathan zealots in oppressing the Hindus and making them converts to Islam. The Brahmins were not allowed to wear sacred threads. If any of them wore a sacred tulasi leaf on his head, he was bound hand and foot and brought before the Mahomedan Kazi for punishment. Von Neor's 'Life of Akbar ' refers to the law that was enacted by the Pathan administrators that Hindu subjects must open their mouth to receive spitting from Mahomedan revenue collectors, should they wish to spit in course of their discharging public duties. A reference to such spitting and other humiliating punishments are to be found in many of the Bengali works of this period.

It seems that after having committed 9.11 kinds of atrocities upon his peaceful Hindu subjects at Nadia, a spirit of commiseration and repentance came upon Hussain Shah. Chaitanya Mangal ascribes this change in the spirit of his administrative activities to a bad dream in which the goddess Kali is said to have threatened him with death, should he continue such oppression. Whatever it might be, the remorseful emperor passed orders for repairing Hindu temples and otherwise compensating the losses sustained by the Brahmins of Nadia. We find it mentioned in the same Bengali work that there broke out a great famine in the locality of Nadia about this time. But in the spring of 1485 A.D. the agricultural condition of the country changed for the better, and the city becoming immune from Mahomedan oppression once more attained its old flourishing condition. From the account supplied by Brindaban Das we find that there lived a considerable number of millionaires in Nadia at this time. When the sky thus assumed a serene and cloudless aspect, and the city smiled in prosperity, Chaitanya was born at Mayapur, one of its wards, in 1186 A.D.

But the dread of the people for Mahomedan oppression had lurked in the minds of the quiet Hindus throughout the reign of Hussain Shah, and however much he professed friendship for them, they could by no means be absolutely sure of his good will. Chaitanya was advised to leave Ramkeli near Gour, "for," said Keshab Basu, deputed by the Emperor to enquire about Chaitanya, "though Hussain Shah seems to be well disposed to you, Sir, there is no faith in this Mahomedan. How can we forget all the wrongs that he did to the Hindus of Bengal and Orissa, by breaking their temples and gods ? There is no knowing when he may change his mind." [2] The fear of the Emperor sending an armed navy against Nadia to suppress the sankirtan and oppress its promoters was ever in the minds of the citizens. Whenever they saw a large l)oat coming by the Ganges, they feared it contained the king's army, and we know how the house of Ramchandra Khan of Benapole was once raided by the royal army and its temples desecrated. Though in his later years Hussain Shah turned sober and even kindly, his cruel nature could not always be suppressed. It is well-known that inspite of his loud professions of regard for Chaitanya, Sanatan, his minister, was sent to jail for no other fault than his willingness to follow Chaitanya. Availing himself of the absence of Hussain Shah from his capital, Sanatan fled from the jail having bribed Mir Habool the jailor with a sum of Rs. 7,000.

Hussain Shah in his early youth had worked for sometime as a menial servant in the house of one Suhuddhi Hay, minister of a former Gour Emperor. It is recorded that one day failing in his duty he was whipped by Suhuddhi Ray; the marks of the whip, it is said, could be seen on his body in after years. But save this punishment, he was otherwise very kindly treated by his Hindu master for whom the Shah entertained high respects and gratitude. Many years after when Hussain Shah became the Emperor of Gour, he remembered Subuddhi Ray and treated him with kindness. His queen, however, insisted on his inflicting some punishment on the old man for having once whipped him.

The Emperor remonstrated, but ultimately the counsel of the queen was allowed to prevail, and Subuddhi Ray was forced to taste unclean food, so that his caste was destroyed. He sought the advice of stern Brahmin legislators as to how his sin could be expiated, and they declared, " the only way to save yourself from this sin is to throw yourself into fire and be burnt alive."Subuddhi Ray sought an interview with Chaitanya at Benares and when he met him, the Master said, "Go to the Vrinda groves and lead the religious life of an ascetic. This will expiate all sin, if any sin there has been on your part for the cruelty of others."


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