By Gaurnam Das
On the 2nd of October, forty-three devotees left from ISKCON Mayapur to tour Ekacakra and Katwa, two important places of the Lord’s transcendental pastimes in West Bengal. The tour was arranged by the Mayapur Nagar Sankirtana Department in conjunction with the devotees from there. It was aimed to please the Lord with congregational chanting, to learn more about the Lord’s pastimes by hearing related katha, and to share the bliss of Krishna Consciousness with all the people we met on the road.
On the way to Ekacakra we had our first stop in Kandi. This town is famous because of the historical Radha Vallabha deities that were installed here in 1765 in the royal palace of the king. This King later later renounced material life became a very austere Vaisnava mendicant. He passed his final days in Vrindavana and is well known to this day in Vraja as Lalla Babhu. We visited this formally very opulent palace and temple and performed a Harinama procession through the town with the local Nama Hatta devotees. We took breakfast Prasadam at their centre. We hired a Muslim rickshaw driver by mistake, to transport our amplifying equipments during the procession, and not all of his friends were happy about it - especially as it happened to be an important Muslim Holiday, but when they saw the Chand Kazi’s symbol carried by a devotee, they immediately offered their respects.
One of the Nama Hatta members expressed his gratitude for our group visiting their town saying, “This is exactly what our town needed. Here we have many elderly people established in the practice of Krishna Consciousness, but the youth needs more encouragement. Now our young devotees have firsthand experience of the real blissful nature of Krishna Consciousness and also how Srila Prabhupada’s mission is having a powerful affect internationally.”
After breakfast we jumped on the bus to Ekacakra Dhama - Nityananda Prabhu’s Holy birth place.
Reaching Ekacakra Dhama, we began our parikrama by visiting Katasura, “the place where Bhima killed the Demon Bakasura.” The Siva lingam that was worshiped by Bakasura is still worshiped there and the demon’s fossilized knee cap can be seen on exhibition. The local pujari told us that if the fossil comes in contact with fire it produces a very bad smell. After Hearing from His Grace Nitai Prasada Prabhu about the area’s history and pastimes, a group of devotees performed a drama about the killing of Bakasura. The drama was very funny and effective - Bakasura had no chance against Bhima.
Next we visited Kundalal Tala, “the place where Lord Nityananda used his earring to block a snake in his hole, stopping him from disturbing the residents of this area.”
His Grace Doyal Baladeva Prabhu described the pastime. This snake was actually an arrow-weapon given by Lord Siva to Arjuna. Arjuna fired it to kill Bakasura in order to help Bhima who left alone on that mission. By the time the weapon arrived on the spot Bakasura was already dead and therefore the snake weapon could not complete its mission. Since then the snake remained in the area and would disturb the locals. When Lord Nityananda heard of this he blocked the snake in its hole with one of his earrings which magically expanded in size. When the snake asked Lord Nitananda how he would get his food Lord Nityananda told him that a temple would be built here and people would regularly come and make offerings of milk and other things. This pastime is the reason why Lord Nityananda is seen with only one earring in pictures that depict His later pastimes.
Then we visited the birth place of Padmavati, Lord Nitananda’s mother. Because the roads were too narrow for the bus to pass we got down and performed a roaring Harinama procession from the main market place through the village to the temple of Mouresvara Siva. This is an ancient Shiva Temple were Hadai Pandita, the father of Lord Nityananda, would do his worship. When Lord Nityananda appeared in Ekacakra this deity roared so loudly that Advaita Acarya and other devotees could hear and understand the roar’s meaning at their distant residences in Mayapur and Santipur. Many local people gathered at the temple to take part in the chanting and watch. His Grace Nitai Prasada Prabhu introduced us in Bengali mentioning our nationalities and shared the pastimes of the area.
After another ecstatic Harinama back to the bus we had a short ride to our ISKCON temple in Ekacakra town where we first took a refreshing dip in the nearby Padmavati Kunda. This Kunda was made for mother Padmavati by her father as a dowry. She would come here and bathe little Nitai every day. We all took a refreshing bath in the cool water feeling relief from the fatigue of the day’s activities. While we were bathing, heavy thunder sounded the brewing of a tropic storm coming near. We then hurriedly returned back to the temple where a grand evening prasadam feast was waiting for us. After prasadam we attended the Tulasi aroti in our ISKCON Temple and immediately left for another Harinama procession through Ekacakra town that already was covered by the darkness of night. Visiting the Shiva temple, Jagannatha Temple and Bankie Ray Temple, we performed kirtana and the locals joined in on the fun. After some time we returned to our temple for more Nitai Bhajans led in traditional style by His Grace Prema Nitai Prabhu and Krishna Katha by His Grace Doyal Baladeva Prabhu enlightened us on the glories of Ekacakra Dhama and Nitai’s activities.
After being shaken to the near point of death we finally passed the world’s bumpiest road from Ekacakra to Jaji Gram the famous pastime place of Srinivas Acarya, Narottama Das Thakura and Ramacandra Kaviraja. We had darshan of the most handsome deity of Srinivas Acarya and his deities Sri Sri Nitai Gaurasundara. Then His Grace Nitai Prasada Prabhu explained in great detail the history of the place and the pastimes of these three exalted devotees.
From there we proceeded by bus into the town of Katwa where we were warmly greeted by the local Nama Hatta Devotee’s who where blissfully engaged in a kirtana in front of their house. The Mataji’s were blowing conch shells and making the ulludwani sound, (if you have never heard this before it is something like the American Indian war cry, but is considered very auspicious in greeting guests and other festive occasions). After receiving sandalwood pulp and a shower of flowers on our heads we went up stairs to be sat down for a traditional Bengali feast. The host made a special arrangement to leave out the chillies and instead gave extra paneer so everyone enjoyed the feast to their heartsâ€™ content.
All the visiting devotee’s then took some rest while the local devotees took their prasadam and when everyone was finished we went out on a Big Harinama procession through the town of Katwa to the Ashram of Keshava Bharati Maharaja where Gauranga Mahaprabhu took Sannyasa. There we had an exciting kirtana lead by His Grace Krishna Das Kaviraja Prabhu who was our main singer for the trip. Throughout our journey we distributed the 30 kilograms of dried â€śkhajaâ€ť sweets that we took along from Mayapur.
After an hour of dancing and singing the Lord’s holy names the kirtana finished and we heard from His Grace Nitai Prasada Prabhu the pastimes of Mahaprabhu taking Sannyasa. A story that we really liked was about the barber named Madhu. After having shaved the beautiful black curly hair of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu he broke down in tears and made a vow to never shave anyone’s hair again. After this he needed a profession to maintain himself and became a sweet maker. It is said that his sweets were the best in Bengal due to his hands touching the hair of Mahapubhu. With these sweet memories we went back home to Mayapur Dhama looking forward to our next transcendental tour through the Lord’s places of vibrant pastimes.
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