Caitanya Mahaprabhu's Tirtha-yatra, Part 50


Daksina-mathura – the City of Madurai

Jun 24, 2013 — CANADA (SUN) — A serial exploration of the holy sites visited by Lord Caitanya.


Today we travel to Daksina-mathura, or Southern Mathura, one of the tirtha's visited by Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu during His South India preaching tour. In the case of most segments in this series on Sri Caitanya's tirtha-yatra, there has been a temple or deity associated with each of the Lord's visits. In some cases, the tirtha was instead associated with a philosophical exchange or preaching pastime. In a few cases, most notably the Lord's discovery of the Brahma-samhita manuscript, the tirtha pastime centered around some sastric document. And that is the case in today's segment on Daksina-mathura.

In Sri Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya Lila 9, included in the Summary are HDG Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur's comments mentioning Southern Mathura:

    Madhya lila 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. A brahmana devotee of Lord Ramacandra's talked with Him. Then the Lord took His bath in the river Krtamala."

Daksina-mathura (Southern Mathura) is presently known as the City of Madurai, Tamil Nadu. It's ancient place name was Madura. Both Madurai and Kamakosthi-puri (modern Kumbakonam in Thanjavur district) are in Tamil Nadu, and the distance between them is about 220 kilometers.

Route between Daksina-mathura (Madurai) and Kumbakonam

Daksina-mathura is one of the tirthas Lord Caitanya visited twice during His journey. The significance of both these visits centers upon Mahaprabhu's interactions with a brahmana, and His delivery to that fortunate soul, whose name was Ramadasa Vipra, of an original leaf manuscript of the Kurma Purana. This story is told in Madhya lila 9.178 to 218.

In the context of this story about Lord Caitanya's two visits to Daksina-mathura and His conversations with Ramadasa Vipra, it is interesting to note how many other tirthas are mentioned in these verses. Many of them have been covered in this series, and links are included in the following text:

    Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya Lila 9.178-218:

    9.178: "When Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu arrived at southern Mathura from Kamakosthi, He met a brahmana.

    9.179: The brahmana who met Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu invited the Lord to his home. This brahmana was a great devotee and an authority on Lord Sri Ramacandra. He was always detached from material activities.

    9.180: After bathing in the river Krtamala, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu went to the brahmana's house to take lunch, but He saw that the food was unprepared because the brahmana had not cooked it.

    9.181: Seeing this, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu said, "My dear sir, please tell Me why you have not cooked. It is already noon."

    9.182: The brahmana replied, "My dear Lord, we are living in the forest. For the time being we cannot get all the ingredients for cooking.

    9.183: "When Laksmana brings all the vegetables, fruits and roots from the forest, Sita will do the necessary cooking."

    9.184: Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was very satisfied to hear about the brahmana's method of worship. Finally the brahmana hastily made arrangements for cooking.

    9.185: Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu took His lunch at about three o'clock, but the brahmana, being very sorrowful, fasted.

    9.186: While the brahmana was fasting, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu asked him, "Why are you fasting? Why are you so unhappy? Why are you so worried?"

    9.187: The brahmana replied, "I have no reason to live. I shall give up my life by entering either fire or water.

    9.188: "My dear Sir, mother Sita is the mother of the universe and the supreme goddess of fortune. She has been touched by the demon Ravana, and I am troubled upon hearing this news.

    9.189: "Sir, due to my unhappiness I cannot continue living. Although my body is burning, my life is not leaving."

    9.190: Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu replied, "Please do not think this way any longer. You are a learned pandita. Why don't you consider the case?"

    9.191: Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu continued, "Sitadevi, the dearmost wife of the Supreme Lord Ramacandra, certainly has a spiritual form full of bliss. No one can see her with material eyes, for no materialist has such power.

    9.192: "To say nothing of touching mother Sita, a person with material senses cannot even see her. When Ravana kidnapped her, he kidnapped only her material, illusory form.

    9.193: "As soon as Ravana arrived before Sita, she disappeared. Then just to cheat Ravana she sent an illusory, material form.

    9.194: "Spiritual substance is never within the jurisdiction of the material conception. This is always the verdict of the Vedas and Puranas."

    9.195: Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu then assured the brahmana, "Have faith in My words and do not burden your mind any longer with this misconception."

    9.196: Although the brahmana was fasting, he had faith in the words of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and accepted food. In this way his life was saved.

    9.197: After thus assuring the brahmana, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu proceeded further into southern India and finally arrived at Durvasana, where He bathed in the river Krtamala.

    Presently the Krtamala River is known as the river Bhagai or Vaigai. This river has three tributaries, named Suruli, Varaha-nadi and Battilla-gundu. The river Krtamala is also mentioned in Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.5.39) by the sage Karabhajana.

    9.198: At Durvasana Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu visited the temple of Lord Ramacandra, and on the hill known as Mahendra-saila He saw Lord Parasurama.

    In Durvasana, or Darbhasayana (now known as Tiruppullani), which is seven miles east of Ramnad, there is a temple of Lord Ramacandra. The hill known as Mahendra-saila is near Tirunelveli, and at the end of this hill is a city known as Tiruchendur. West of Mahendra-saila is the territory of Tribankura. There is mention of Mahendra-saila in the Ramayana.

    9.199: Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu then went to Setubandha [Ramesvara], where He took His bath at the place called Dhanus-tirtha. From there He visited the Ramesvara temple and then took rest.

    The path from Mandapam through the ocean to the island known as Pambam consists partly of sand and partly of water. The island of Pambam is about seventeen miles long and six miles wide. On this island, four miles north of Pambam Harbor, is Setubandha, where the temple of Ramesvara is located. This is a temple of Lord Siva, and the name Ramesvara indicates that he is a great personality whose worshipable Deity is Lord Rama. Thus the Lord Siva found in the temple of Ramesvara is a great devotee of Lord Ramacandra. It is said, devi-pattanam arabhya gaccheyuh setu-bandhanam: "After visiting the temple of the goddess Durga, one should go to the temple of Ramesvara."

    In this area there are twenty-four different holy places, one of which is Dhanus-tirtha, located about twelve miles southeast of Ramesvara. It is near the last station of the South Indian Railway, a station called Ramnad. It is said that here, on the request of Ravana's younger brother Vibhisana, Lord Ramacandra destroyed the bridge to Lanka with His bow while returning to His capital. It is also said that one who visits Dhanus-tirtha is liberated from the cycle of birth and death, and that one who bathes there gets all the fruitive results of performing the yajna known as Agnistoma.

    9.200: There, among the brahmanas, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu listened to the Kurma Purana, wherein is mentioned the chaste woman's narration.

    Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura remarks that only two khandas of the Kurma Purana are now available, namely the Purva-khanda and Uttara-khanda. Sometimes it is said that the Kurma Purana contains six thousand verses, but according to Srimad-Bhagavatam the original Kurma Purana contains seventeen thousand verses. It is considered the fifteenth of the eighteen Maha-puranas.

    9.201: Srimati Sitadevi is the mother of the three worlds and the wife of Lord Ramacandra. Among chaste women she is supreme, and she is the daughter of King Janaka.

    9.202: When Ravana came to kidnap mother Sita and she saw him, she took shelter of the fire-god, Agni. The fire-god covered the body of mother Sita, and in this way she was protected from the hands of Ravana.

    9.203: Upon hearing from the Kurma Purana how Ravana had kidnapped a false form of mother Sita, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu became very satisfied.

    9.204: The fire-god, Agni, took away the real Sita and brought her to the place of Parvati, goddess Durga. An illusory form of mother Sita was then delivered to Ravana, and in this way Ravana was cheated.

    9.205: After Ravana was killed by Lord Ramacandra, Sitadevi was brought before the fire and tested.

    9.206: When the illusory Sita was brought before the fire by Lord Ramacandra, the fire-god made the illusory form disappear and delivered the real Sita to Lord Ramacandra.

    9.207: When Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu heard this story, He was very pleased, and He remembered the words of Ramadasa Vipra.

    9.208: Indeed, when Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu heard these conclusive statements from the Kurma Purana, He felt great happiness. After asking the brahmanas' permission, He took possession of the manuscript leaves of the Kurma Purana.

    9.209: Since the Kurma Purana was very old, the manuscript was also very old. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu took possession of the original leaves in order to have direct evidence. The text was copied onto new leaves in order that the Purana be replaced.

    9.210: Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu returned to southern Mathura [Madurai] and delivered the original manuscript of the Kurma Purana to Ramadasa Vipra.

    9.211-212: "When he was petitioned by mother Sita, the fire-god, Agni, brought forth an illusory form of Sita, and Ravana, who had ten heads, kidnapped the false Sita. The original Sita then went to the abode of the fire-god. When Lord Ramacandra tested the body of Sita, it was the false, illusory Sita that entered the fire. At that time the fire-god brought the original Sita from his abode and delivered her to Lord Ramacandra."

    These two verses are taken from the Kurma Purana.

    9.213: Ramadasa Vipra was very pleased to receive the original leaf manuscript of the Kurma Purana, and he immediately fell down before the lotus feet of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and began to cry.

    9.214: After receiving the manuscript, the brahmana, being very pleased, said, "Sir, You are Lord Ramacandra Himself and have come in the dress of a sannyasi to give me audience.

    9.215: "My dear Sir, You have delivered me from a very unhappy condition. I request that You take Your lunch at my place. Please accept this invitation.

    9.216: "Due to my mental distress I could not give You a very nice lunch the other day. Now, by good fortune, You have come again to my home."

    9.217: Saying this, the brahmana very happily cooked food, and a first-class dinner was offered to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.

    9.218: Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu passed that night in the house of the brahmana. Then, after showing him mercy, the Lord started toward the Tamraparni River in Pandya-desa."

    Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.

As mentioned above, the distance between Daksina-mathura and Kamakosthi-puri (Kumbakonam) is about 220 kilometers. Lord Caitanya walked back and forth between these places, visiting with Ramadasa Vipra on both stops at Southern Mathura. In Madhya lila 9.216 we see that during their second visit, the brahmana is saying to Lord Caitanya that it had been just 'the other day' when he did not offer a nice lunch to the Lord during their first visit. Here is another indication of the inconceivable pastimes of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who walked a distance of some 240 kilometers, or nearly 150 miles, the time between His coming and going seeming to the brahmana to be just 'the other day'.

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 (Daksina-mathura), etc.

Likewise, Lord Balarama visited Daksina-mathura, as described in Srimad Bhagavatam 10.79.11-15, and again in Krsna Book:

    Krsna Book, Chapter 79:

    "While going to Visnukanci, Lord Balarama also visited Sivakanci. After visiting Rangaksetra, He gradually proceeded toward Madurai, commonly known as the Mathura of southern India. After visiting this place, He gradually proceeded toward Setubandha. Setubandha is the place where Lord Ramacandra constructed the stone bridge from India to Lanka (Ceylon). In this particularly holy place, Lord Balarama distributed ten thousand cows to the local brahmana priests."

Meenakshi-Sundareswarar Temple, Southern Mathura

The City of Madurai

Daksina-mathura, known today as the City of Madurai, is thought to be one of the oldest inhabited cities in all of India. Situated on the banks of the River Vaigai in Madurai district, it is home to many temples, most notably the Meenakshi-Sundareswar Temple (Meenakshi Amman).

Madurai was the capital city of ancient South India. There are records of trade going on here with the ancient Greeks and Romans from as early as 550 B.C. Going back to the Sangam period, it was the seat of power of the great Pandyan empire of Tamilakam.

Madurai flourished until the 10th century AD when it was captured by the Cholas, who were the Pandyas' arch rivals. The city's fortunes waned, later to flourish again under the rule of the Vijayanagar kingdom, and then the Nayak emperors.

The beautiful Meenakshi-Sundareswarar Temple was built by the early Pandya King Kulashekara. It is known today as one of the greatest Shiva Temples in Tamil Nadu.

Caitanya-caritamrta, Krsna Book - Bhaktivedanta Book Trust


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