All glories to Sri Guru and Sri Gauranga

Sri Nabadwip Dham Parikrama
of Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math

Day One

17 March 2008

Text by Malini Devi Dasi
Pictures by Malini Devi Dasi and Dhira Krishna Prabhu

The nat-mandir is overflowing with people this morning. Mangal arati is loud and lively and you can feel that everybody is raring to go! Srila Govinda Maharaj appears at Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj's Samadhi Mandir and everybody gathers around him. He lowers his head in reverence to his Guru, an act that always touches the hearts of the devotees, and begins to sing Arunodaya Kirttan (Udilo aruna...).

Handing the microphone to Sripad Acharyya Maharaj to continue the song, he moves from his chair to his scooter and leads the excited crowd of pilgrims on parikrama around the temples, then out through the gate opposite the nat-mandir. Turning left, he goes down the road for a little while and stops at the main gate, urging the party to move on.

The mrdangas and karatals are played to an upbeat rhythm all the way to the ghat, where we crowd across the relatively new bridge to the jetty for the boat to Mayapur. The kirttan continues across the Ganges and Saraswati Rivers. In Mayapur, the group, despite constituting thousands of pilgrims, quickly gathers as one and proceeds down the road.

The first stop is the Sri Chaitanya Gaudiya Math whose founder is Sripad Bhakti Dayita Madhava Maharaj, a disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur who accepted sannyas from his Godbrother and our Param Gurudev, Srila Sridhar Maharaj. In the early days, our Nabadwip parikramas were combined.

Next we stop at Nandan Acharyya Bhavan which is the place where Lord Nityananda Prabhu first met with Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Here we meet the elderly Sripad Giri Maharaj, who in previous years has led the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math parikrama, but is unable to do so this year for various reasons.

Next we visit Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad's puspa Samadhi Mandir at the Iskcon headquarters, the enthusiastic party continuing along with very lively kirttan. We continue to the Yogapith, which is the birthplace of Sriman Mahaprabhu; Srivas Angan, where Mahaprabhu held night-time kirttans with his associates; the Sri Chaitanya Math, which was the principal of the 64 maths established by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Prabhupad (where are also his Samadhi and that of Srila Gaura Kishor das Babaji Maharaj); and on to the Sri Kazi Samadhi, the resting place of the converted Muslim ruler. 

Considering the fast pace, the beating sun and the long distance covered on foot, the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math Nabadwip Parikrama party flows easily in dance and song, honouring the sankirttan movement of Sriman Mahaprabhu, with several ecstatic outbursts of energy along the way. At each stop, the party is nourished with seated kirttan followed by lectures in Bengali, English and Spanish to honour the Pastimes of each location. Sometimes, Sripad Acharyya Maharaj calls the Westerners together to have a 'Western kirttan', to demonstrate Srila Bhaktivinod Thakur's expression:

"See how universal is the religion of the Bhagavat! It is not intended for a certain class of Hindus alone, but it is a gift to man at large, in whatever country he is born, and in whatever society he is bred."


Finally, at the Jagannath Temple we take anukalpa Prasadam to break our Ekadasi fast. The pilgrims are relieved to finally rest for a while and revitalise themselves by honouring Prasadam - huge quantities of sabji (vegetables), fruits and nuts which have been transported all the way from the Math in a huge truck.

After Prasadam, the party proceeds through a rural Bengali countryside landscape to Sri Simantadwip, Sri Rudradwip and Sri Antardwip. We walk for long distances between stops along these dusty roads flanked by fields. Once back on the main bitumen road, it is a non-stop trip back to the Math. The number of pilgrims has visibly dwindled since lunch, and after this last stop many catch rickshaws back.

Battling with my sore bare feet, I continue to the end - the fighter in me refusing to submit to the temptation to relieve my tired body. Last year I was unable to walk the parikrama due to a sprained ankle, so this year, having been allowed this opportunity by the Lord, I want to stubbornly stick it out!

At last, we make it through the gates of our 'Jol Mandir' at Sri Govinda Kunda at around 6.30pm, tired but satisfied from a truly rewarding day of pilgrimage!

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