All glories to Sri Guru and Sri Gauranga

Pilgrimage to Sripat Bamunpara
The Holy Appearance Place of Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswami Maharaj
Monday 4th April 2005

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Pictures and webpages by Damayanti Devi Dasi of UK
The small party of pilgrims stopped first in Nadanghat, at the home where Srila Gurudev stayed while training to become a doctor. Sripad Paramahamsa Maharaj spoke joyfully of Srila Gurudev's youthful Pastimes in Nadanghat and Bamunpara.

'Bound by Affection'

His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswami Maharaj reflects on the events that surrounded his first days at Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math at the lotus feet of His Divine Master, Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj. This talk was given 50 years after the event, here at the Math.

My birth place was Bamunpara, known in former times as Brahmanpara, as you have seen when you visited there recently. I studied at the village school, and later went to school at Putsuri. Presently my father sold the property at Bamunpara and bought a new house in Rangpur, so we left this district to move there. My maternal uncle and his family lived in Rangpur. They were very wealthy and they invited my mother and father to settle there. At the time the political tension was building up to the inevitable division between India and Pakistan which eventually came in 1947. Then my father died in Rangpur and my family and I returned to my native Bamunpara.

The responsibility then came to me to support my family. In order to do so it was necessary for me to receive training and learn some kind of profession. So I went to train in a small charitable dispensary cum hospital. If it still exists I do not know. Doctors and nurses were in very short supply there -- there was only one doctor and one nurse in attendance and then myself. At that time it was unwritten law that if you took training from a doctor for between five and ten years you would be accepted as a doctor in your own right. So, to this purpose I would go daily to two separate dispensaries, two kilometres apart from each other. In each place I would open the dispensary, whereupon someone would come and clean and prepare everything for the days work.

After the doctor came and was attending the patients I would take that opportunity for recreation and go to play football. This was my regular daily routine. Afterwards, sometimes I would go back to the hospital and sometimes back to the village of Nadanghat where I would stay at a big zamindar's house. He was a big landlord and consequently also very rich. He and his family liked me. It is my good fortune that everywhere people liked me. Nadanghat is situated 12 km from Nabadwip and about 15 km from Bamunpara.

After playing football in the evenings I would relax with my friends and eat some supper, which often included channa (fried curd) and sak (spinach). Then together we would go back to that big zamindar's house to read. In those days I would read novels, and at night I would often sleep in the reading room.

Offering respects to Lord Nityananda Prabhu's lotus feet in the small village of Denur, where Srila Vrindavan Das Thakur wrote the Sri Chaitanya Bhagavat. When Lord Nityananda Prabhu was travelling throughout Bengal with Srila Vrindavan Das Thakur and other followers, He stopped at this spot to take the haritaki fruit, favoured as a mouth freshener and aid to digestion.

Drawn to the sadhus

One day a group of sadhus came from this Math, four or five of them. I first saw them at about 7.30 in the evening. They sang kirttans and then gave a discourse on Srimad-Bhagavatam. I was drawn to them. One of the sadhus appeared to be especially exalted. He had a very saintly body.

As he was giving a lecture about Srimad-Bhagavatam he reminded me of Srinivas Acharyya lecturing in the assembly of King Birhambir. Previously I had read much Vaisnava literature, and was familiar with the story of Raja Birhambir. He was a dacoit chief prior to becoming a disciple of Srinivas Acharyya. Have you heard of these events? Anyhow, that exalted sadhu appeared to be exactly like Srinivas Acharyya giving his discourse.

There were so many people there, maybe a hundred listening to his lecture. Sitting amongst them were three or four zamindars who were known to me, all of them dacoits. Although they were dacoits, nonetheless they were like grandfathers to me. I would constantly joke with them and tease them, and sometimes even chastise them very much, and they liked me for it. Somehow they relished my chastisement.

After hearing the very revolutionary lecture delivered beautifully by this brahmachari I was very impressed. It was not like the usual lectures given by roaming 'goswamis' and after hearing it, I was so attracted. So the next day I returned.

I had played mrdanga drums from a very early age, and I was well able to sing songs, so I had some capacity in this way. When I arrived they were singing "Vande guroh sri charanaravindam" and I asked if I could join them and play the mrdanga. They were surprised at my request as I was just a village boy, but they gave the mrdanga and I played. They were very impressed.

At that time I held the position of a professional singer, but that's another story. My father was a very famous professional singer of Vaisnava songs, kirttans, etc. He was very famous in that district and other districts also, and through him I inherited many songs. He died when I was fourteen years old. Not everybody knew that my father, being a professional singer leading a large sankirttan group, had to be paid in order to maintain it. He would ask 200-250 Rs, which was quite a lot at that time.

To the left is the haritaki tree.
A loving family of cows, on the parikrama path in Denur.

My uncle's sadness

One day I saw my uncle sitting on the veranda crying. He was very strong and a stick fighter. Indeed he was a famous stick fighter, so it was very unusual for him to be in such a state. After seeing this I asked my uncle why he was crying. He then told me a call had just come for my father to sing at a particular function, but the caller did not know that my father had already passed away. That had touched my uncle's heart and caused his sadness.

My Uncle said that the person would call back but he had no one to sing in my father's place. I told my uncle that there was a solution and he could take the call. He seemed surprised. "Who will sing these songs?" he asked me. I told him, "I can sing them." My uncle had never heard me sing before and he asked me how I had come to know these songs, because at that time I was too young to hear the songs about the Madhura-Rasa pastimes of Sri Sri Radha-Krishna. My father would not permit me to sing such kirttans because my father thought me, at such a young age, to be unqualified. I was not even allowed to listen to songs of such a high type. Nonetheless, I was very much attracted. So, whenever my father would go to sing, I would follow him and hide in a nearby rice paddy field where I was able to hear him sing these songs. Sometimes it would take him a whole month to fulfil all the invitations in a particular village.

I was very much addicted to the songs of Radha-Krishna, and at that time my memory was very fresh and I was able to memorise every song he sang. Also, every day my father would give lessons to some students, while I pretended to read a little distance away. Instead of reading I would listen to him teaching. In this way I became qualified.

I explained this to my uncle. Although he was very surprised he called me to his house to sing a 'heavy' song. I sang it fully, and he cried again and embraced me. He now knew that he would be able to take the phone call and tell them, "Yes, my brother is not here, but my brother's son will fulfil your appointment."

It was so far away from here -- about 30 km. In this way my first assignment as a professional singer began. After that I travelled to so many villages and sang so many songs. In this way also I was able to gain more experience and knowledge.

At the Temple in Denur where Srila Vrindavan Das Thakur wrote the Sri Chaitanya Bhagavat.

My first association

After having seen and heard the sadhus singing, I was naturally attracted and joined with them. They were very pleased with me. They told some Hari-katha and asked me why I was playing football. "Instead you should come with us and we will talk with you." Until this time I had not mixed with sadhus, but I felt strongly their affection and became very attached to them. In this way I stopped playing football and instead began mixing with these devotees. This was the beginning of my association with sadhus.

They began to teach me that this body is nothing, the mind is nothing, this world is nothing, your father is nothing, mother is nothing -- all is nothing, only Krishna is reality, and everything else is material and temporary. One day you will die, and you must be prepared for this moment. When you take birth, death must follow. After death what will you do? You do not know when death will come or where you will go. In the next life your father and mother may be a dog and a bitch -- you do not know who will become your next father and mother. They preached like that.

As a young boy I was very simple hearted, so I believed everything the sadhus told me. They had such a big influence on me. I jokingly asked them if they would take me with them. They said, "Yes, we will take you, but will you go with us?" And I answered, "Yes!"

Having already promised the sadhu, "Yes, I shall go with you," I tried to avoid so they would not take me. But they were eager to take me. They immediately accepted what I told them.

After my sudden, "Yes," and agreeing to go with them I became very disturbed. I had not lied in my life. Sometimes I think that my only good quality was that I never lied. Whatever promise I made I must keep, and I had made a promise in front of the sadhus.

Coming from a Vaisnava family and having read many Vaisnava books, I was well aware of the story of Nityananda Prabhu. His father, on the strength of a promise, had given his son to Madhavendra Puri. I knew this story but still I tried to find some way to avoid the promise I had made to the sadhus. I considered that if the sadhus would tell me it was not necessary to go with them, then I would get relief. But they did not say "No, it is not necessary to come with us." Instead the sadhus were always washing my brain. Everyday I would come to the sadhus and they would brainwash me more. I would return to the dispensary, then the hospital and cry thinking, "Oh, how will I leave everything here? But I promised the sadhu so I must go with them. How can I avoid it?"

I considered in many ways, but again when coming to the sadhus I received more strength in the other direction: "Yes, I must go!" But each time on returning to the hospital I would try to think how to manage this burden. I had many commitments.

The samadhi of Srila Vrindavan Das Thakur, and the Deities of Sri Sri Gaura Nitai he worshiped.

Plan for relief

Anyhow, finally I decided on a plan which would give me one last chance to avoid going with the sadhus. I considered that if I modified my promise and tell the sadhus, "Yes, I shall go with you if you take me today, but not later," then they would not be able to take me because the next day they were holding a big festival in that village. In this way I would be relieved of any commitment. I was expecting they would reply, "Tomorrow we shall take you." I would then say, "No, tomorrow I cannot go, today I must go." This was my plan.

In this way I was very simple and approached the sadhus with my statement. When I told them, their response was quite unexpected. They were very happy with my words and said, "Very good. This very night we will take you!" So that night they stole me.

Stolen for Krishna

It was 2 o'clock in the morning and our journey began by having to cross the river at Nadanghat. At that time of night there was no boat to cross the river, so, being taken by the sadhu, Jayadwaita Brahmachari, I had to swim the river with him. He was a disciple of Prabhupada Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur and he lived with Srila Guru Maharaj. Srila Guru Maharaj had sent him and the other sadhus to preach there in Nadanghat.

After some hours of walking we arrived on the outskirts of Nabadwip town and stopped. I asked that sadhu, Jayadwaita Prabhu, "Where is your ashram?" and he showed me a simple building. At that time here was only a small, three roomed building. I was a little disappointed.

From my childhood I had read the Mahabharat and Ramayan and the descriptions of Vaisistha's ashram, Visvamitra's ashram and many others. I knew these descriptions, but this ashram did not appear like those. Here was just a building, and I was a little disappointed. The brahmachari explained, "It is a small building, but a big, big sadhu is living within that building." Seeing the building I did not get hearty happy feelings. But already I had come out from my village and I could not go back. I had committed myself, so I must stay.

Close by is a small house which holds a manuscript said to be the original text of the Sri Chaitanya Bhagavat.
After a short drive to Bamunpara, the parikrama party, headed by His Grace Sripad Acharyya Maharaj, continued towards the house of Srila Gurudev's Appearance.

At that time Srila Guru Maharaj was walking on the veranda chanting upon his beads. Then Jayadwaita Brahmachari Prabhu showed me: "He is our Guru. Come!" Then I went up to the veranda and Jayadwaita Prabhu gave full dandavat pranams and told me to offer full dandavats also. Then Srila Guru Maharaj asked, "Where did you find this boy?"

Jayadwaita Prabhu gave a little description, and finally said, "In this way this boy has joined your ashram today." Srila Maharaj said, "Ah, this is a nice, intelligent boy." He thought, "If I can prepare him, this boy can be a good weapon for our Society."

He asked me, "Can you stay in ashram life?" I was surprised and thought, "Why is this sadhu asking me, 'Can you stay?' I have come to stay so it is already final, then why is this sadhu asking me, 'Can you stay or not?'" At that time I had no idea, but I replied, "Yes, I can stay."

First fasting

That was on Nrsimha Chaturdasi, a day of complete fasting. I had never fasted before. Ever since formally receiving the traditional Brahmin thread I had followed Ekadasi and never took grains on that day, but I had never fasted. Instead we would eat alu-dham (plain potato subji), and take some milk preparations on Ekadasi days. In this way we followed Ekadasi with very nice preparations which had a different taste. But here I was being told, "It is Nrsimha Chaturdasi, you will not be given anything at all to eat."

At that time I knew nothing about Nrsimha Chaturdasi and having walked since the middle of the night I was very hungry, so I asked Jayadwaita Prabhu, "Oh Prabhu, I am very hungry." To which he replied, "Today is a day of full fasting."

I asked, "I cannot eat anything?" He told me that I could eat some fruit. But where could I get some?

I pointed out a papaya tree nearby. Jayadwaita Prabhu then said to me, "Yes, you can take one papaya. But you must give half to the Deity and the remainder you can eat yourself."

That evening after Nrsimha-puja they gave me so much alu-dam, and the next day there was a very nice festival and much Prasadam. Especially the paramanna (sweet-rice) was really tasty.

After two days the rest of the preaching party returned from Nadanghat, and it seemed I had already many friends here by now.


Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math, Nabadwip
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