Sri Caitanya's Nectarian River Pastimes, Part 30


Bathing in the Narmada
[Photo: © Getty Images]

Dec 04, 2015 — CANADA (SUN) — Sri Caitanya's transcendental pastimes with rivers.

The Narmada River

Following our last segment on issues of semantics and references in the original and changed books with respect to the Naramada and other holy rivers, in Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.10.15 we find an important point of differentiation regarding the Narmada River. Here, the Sanskrit term used to describe the banks of the Narmada is narmadayam rather than narmada-tira, and a distinction is made between the river in India, and the transcendental, celestial Narmada:

    Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.10.16

    tatah suranam asurai
    ranah parama-darunah
    treta-mukhe narmadayam
    abhavat prathame yuge

    tatah--thereafter; suranam--of the demigods; asuraih--with the demons; ranah--a great battle; parama-darunah--very fearful; treta-mukhe--in the beginning of Treta-yuga; narmadayam--on the bank of the River Narmada; abhavat--took place; prathame--in the first; yuge--millennium.

    "Thereafter, at the end of Satya-yuga and the beginning of Treta-yuga, a fierce battle took place between the demigods and the demons on the bank of the Narmada.

    Herein the Narmada does not mean the Narmada River in India. The five sacred rivers in India--Ganga, Yamuna, Narmada, Kaveri and Krsna--are all celestial. Like the Ganges River, the Narmada River also flows in the higher planetary systems. The battle between the demigods and the demons took place in the higher planets."

Next, we have a reference that refers specifically to Lord Caitanya's visit to the Narmada. This sloka specifies that Lord Caitanya's pastimes took place on the banks of the Naramada – not in its waters. The Sanskrit clearly states this: narmadara tire. This fact is further distinguished by the reference to the Tapi River, in which the Lord bathed. The sloka says tapi snana kari -- bathed in the Tapi. The sloka does not say tapi-tire, because it is referring to the Lord's pastimes in the water, not on the banks.

Thus the reader can see that in line with our previous comments on this issue, Madhya 9.310 below strongly supports our opinion, that the BBT editors have erred in changing Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur's words, eliminating the qualifying descriptor narmada-tira, and changing it to a place name, Narmada River.

    Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya Lila 9.310

    tapi snana kari' aila mahismati-pure
    nana tirtha dekhi tahan narmadara tire

    tapi--in the Tapi River; snana kari'--taking a bath; aila--arrived; mahismati-pure--at Mahismati-pura; nana tirtha--many holy places; dekhi--seeing; tahan--there; narmadara tire--on the bank of the river Narmada.

    "Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu next arrived at the banks of the river Tapi. After bathing there, He went to Mahismati-pura. While there, He saw many holy places on the banks of the river Narmada.

    The river Tapi is presently known as Tapti. The river's source is a mountain called Multai, and the river flows westward through the state of Saurastra and into the Arabian Sea."

In the following sloka we find a concise description of sacred rivers like the Ganges or Narmada as being auspicious places where the Deity is worshipped. In this case, there is a differentiation between where the river flows (padam, the place), the qualities of the river (nadyah, sacred), and the activities conducted on the banks of such a river, like deity worship (arca).

    Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.14.29

    yatra yatra harer arca
    sa desah sreyasam padam
    yatra gangadayo nadyah
    puranesu ca visrutah

    yatra yatra--wherever; hareh--of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna; arca--the Deity is worshiped; sah--that; desah--place, country or neighborhood; sreyasam--of all auspiciousness; padam--the place; yatra--wherever; ganga-adayah--like the Ganges, Yamuna, Narmada and Kaveri; nadyah--sacred rivers; puranesu--in the puranas (supplementary Vedic literature); ca--also; visrutah--are celebrated.

    "Auspicious indeed are the places where there is a temple of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna, in which He is duly worshiped, and also the places where there flow the celebrated sacred rivers mentioned in the Puranas, the supplementary Vedic literatures. Anything spiritual done there is certainly very effective."

Following is another pointed example of the importance of specificity in describing the river and its banks. In this case, the Narmada River is described as narmadayah, the bank of the river is described as tate, and the bank is further described as being the northern bank, uttare:

    Srimad-Bhagavatam 8.18.21

    tam narmadayas tata uttare baler
    ya rtvijas te bhrgukaccha-samjnake
    pravartayanto bhrgavah kratuttamam
    vyacaksatarad uditam yatha ravim

    tam--Him (Vamanadeva); narmadayah--of the River Narmada; tate--on the bank; uttare--northern; baleh--of Maharaja Bali; ye--who; rtvijah--the priests engaged in ritualistic ceremonies; te--all of them; bhrgukaccha-samjnake--in the field named Bhrgukaccha; pravartayantah--performing; bhrgavah--all the descendants of Bhrgu; kratu-uttamam--the most important sacrifice, named asvamedha; vyacaksata--they observed; arat--nearby; uditam--risen; yatha--like; ravim--the sun.

    "While engaged in performing the sacrifice in the field known as Bhrgukaccha, on the northern bank of the Narmada River, the brahminical priests, the descendants of Bhrgu, saw Vamanadeva to be like the sun rising nearby."

In the following two verses from Bhagavatam we find another interesting example of terminology, this time precisely differentiating between a particular river (the Reva, or Narmada), being in the water of the river (reva-ambhasi, the flow of the water (rurodha saritam, the directionality of the flow (pratisrotah), and the banks of the river (sarit-jalaih).

    Srimad-Bhagavatam 9.15.20-21

    TEXT 20

    stri-ratnair avrtah kridan
    revambhasi madotkatah
    vaijayantim srajam bibhrad
    rurodha saritam bhujaih

    stri-ratnaih--by beautiful women; avrtah--surrounded; kridan--enjoying; reva-ambhasi--in the water of the River Reva, or Narmada; mada-utkatah--too puffed up because of opulence; vaijayantim srajam--the garland of victory; bibhrat--being decorated with; rurodha--stopped the flow; saritam--of the river; bhujaih--with his arms.

    "Once while enjoying in the water of the River Narmada, the puffed-up Kartaviryarjuna, surrounded by beautiful women and garlanded with a garland of victory, stopped the flow of the water with his arms.

    TEXT 21

    viplavitam sva-sibiram
    namrsyat tasya tad viryam
    viramani dasananah

    viplavitam--having been inundated; sva-sibiram--his own camp; pratisrotah--which was flowing in the opposite direction; sarit-jalaih--by the water of the river; na--not; amrsyat--could tolerate; tasya--of Kartaviryarjuna; tat viryam--that influence; viramani--considering himself very heroic; dasa-ananah--the ten-headed Ravana.

    Because Kartaviryarjuna made the water flow in the opposite direction, the camp of Ravana, which was set up on the bank of the Narmada near the city of Mahismati, was inundated. This was unbearable to the ten-headed Ravana, who considered himself a great hero and could not tolerate Kartaviryarjuna's power."

Finally, in Chapter 79 of Krsna Book, Srila Prabhupada specifically states that Lord Balarama visited the Narmada River, and His pastimes took place on the bank of the river. It's interesting to note that although the sloka from Srimad Bhagavatam 10.79.19-21 which refers to this pastime does not differentiate between the river bank or the river's water, in Krsna Book, Srila Prabhupada mentions twice the river bank, thus giving it obvious emphasis.

    Krsna Book, Chapter 79

    "From Cape Comorin Lord Balarama turned toward Kerala. The country of Kerala is still existing in southern India under the name of South Kerala. After visiting this place, He came to Gokarna-tirtha, where Lord Siva is constantly worshiped. Balarama then visited the temple of Aryadevi, which is completely surrounded by water. From that island, He went on to a place known as Surparaka. After this He bathed in the rivers known as Tapi, Payosni, and Nirvindhya, and then He came to the forest known as Dandakaranya. This is the same Dandakaranya forest where Lord Ramacandra lived while in exile. Lord Balarama next came to the bank of the river Narmada, the biggest river in central India. On the bank of this sacred Narmada there is a pilgrimage spot known as Mahismati-puri. After bathing there, according to regulative principles, Lord Balarama returned to Prabhasa-tirtha, wherefrom He had began His journey."

All these examples serve to underscore the point that every shade of description in sastra has meaning, and the Sampradaya Acaryas are very precise in saying exactly what they wish to say. Our job is sravanam, kirtanam -- hearing and repeating, without change. In this way, the transcendental nature of Lord Caitanya's transcendental activities on, in, and alongside the holy rivers can be understood.


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