Sri Caitanya's Nectarian River Pastimes, Part 23

BY: SUN STAFF

Panca Mahanadi - the Five Great Rivers


Nov 06, 2015 — CANADA (SUN) — Sri Caitanya's transcendental pastimes with rivers.


India's Ancient River Systems

In describing ancient India's holy rivers, there are a few designations of interest found in the various geographical regions. For example, the term 'confluence' or sangam describes the spot where one or more rivers join together. The Triveni Sangam is foremost among them, being the place at Prayag, Allahabad where the Ganges, Yamuna and Sarasvati (hidden from view) flow together.

At Kaleshwaram in Telangana state (formerly part of Andhra Pradesh), South India, there is another famous place called Triveni Sangam. This one is the confluence of the holy Godavari and Pranahita rivers. The third river making up the tri-veni is the Sarasvati, also in non-visible form.

When the term Panca Prayag is used, it refers to the confluence points of five sacred rivers flowing out of the Himalayan Char-dham, at Vishnu Prayag, Nanda Prayag, Karna Prayag, Rudra Prayag and Dev Prayag.

Further south there is another interesting use of the term panca. This one describes the Panca Mahanadi, which is mentioned in the context of the South Indian alvars. In this passage from Srimad Bhagavatam 11.5.38-40, referring to King Kulashekhar, we read:

    "My dear King, the inhabitants of Satya-yuga and other ages eagerly desire to take birth in this age of Kali, since in this age there will be many devotees of the Supreme Lord, Narayana. These devotees will appear in various places but will be especially numerous in South India. O master of men, in the age of Kali those persons who drink the waters of the holy rivers of Dravida-desa, such as the Tamraparni, Krtamala, Payasvini, the extremely pious Kaveri and the Pratici Mahanadi, will almost all be pure hearted devotees of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vasudeva."

Sometimes the Mahanadi is included in a different group of five than the group mentioned in the Bhagavatam. This Panca Mahanadi is associated with five northern rivers: the Yamuna, Ganga, Mahi, Aciravati and Sarabhu.

There is an ancient Buddhist text that refers to this Panca Mahanadi as a metaphor for renunciation, like rivers pouring into the sea. It's interesting to note Uposathasuttam reference to the varnas.


Udāna 5-5: Uposathasuttaṁ (45)

Seyyathā pi bhikkhave yā kāci mahānadiyo, seyyathīdaṁ:
Just as, monks, whatever great rivers there are, that is to say:

Gaṅgā, Yamunā, Aciravatī, Sarabhū, Mahī,
The Gaṅgā, the Yamunā, the Aciravatī, the Sarabhū, and the Mahī,

tā mahāsamuddaṁ patvā jahanti pūrimāni nāmagottāni,
having arrived at the great ocean, give up their former lineages and names,

mahāsamuddo tveva saṅkhaṁ gacchanti,
and are then designated as the great ocean,

evam-eva kho bhikkhave cattāro me vaṇṇā:
so, monks, there are these four classes:

Khattiyā, Brāhmaṇā, Vessā, Suddā, te Tathāgatappavedite
o Khattiyas, Brāhmaṇas, Vessas, and Suddas, who, having gone forth

Dhammavinaye agārasmā anagāriyaṁ pabbajitvā,
from the home to homelessness in the Dhamma and Discipline taught by the Realised One,

jahanti purimāni nāmagottāni,
give up their former lineages and names,

samaṇā Sakyaputtiyā tveva saṅkhaṁ gacchanti.
and are then designated as Sakyan ascetics.

Yaṁ bhikkhave cattāro me vaṇṇā:
That, monks, there are these four classes:

Khattiyā, Brāhmaṇā, Vessā, Suddhā, te Tathāgatappavedite
Khattiyas, Brāhmaṇas, Vessas, and Suddas, who, having gone forth

Dhammavinaye agārasmā anagāriyaṁ pabbajitvā,
from the home to homelessness in the Dhamma and Discipline taught by the Realised One,

jahanti purimāni nāmagottāni,
give up their former lineages and names,

samaṇā Sakyaputtiyā tveva saṅkhaṁ gacchanti,
and are then designated as Sakyan ascetics,

ayam-pi bhikkhave imasmiṁ Dhammavinaye catuttho
o is the fourth wonderful and marvellous thing, monks,

acchariyo abbhutadhammo,
about this Dhamma and Discipline,

yaṁ disvā disvā bhikkhū imasmiṁ Dhammavinaye abhiramanti.
which, having seen and considered, the monks delight in this Dhamma and Discipline.


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