Mayapur, A Spiritual City

T he vision of S ri M ayapur was born from a bija or seed spoken to Srila Jiva Go- swami by Lord Nityananda, whom we know as an incar­ nation of Lord Balaram Himself. Speaking more than 400 years ago the Lord told Jiva Goswami: “When our Lord (Caitanya) disappears, by His desire the Ganges will swell. The water will almost cover Mayapur for a hundred years and then recede. For some time, only the land will remain, de­ void of houses. Then by the Lord’s desire Mayapur will again become prominent, and people will live here as before. All the ghats on the bank of the Ganges will again be visible and the devotees will build temples. . . In this way, the devo­ tees will reveal the lost places. Know this for certain: at the end of four hundred years, the task of recovering the lost holy places will begin.” The prophecy appears to have unfolded wonderfully on schedule. At the end of the nineteenth century, the great vision­ ary Srila Bhaktivonode Thakur, a magis­ trate in the Bristish administration, took up a personal quest to locate the original birthplace of Sri Caitanya. He studied an­ cient maps, historical records and texts, and took help from seers living in the area. His diaries record how one night, in a lucid dream, he saw a light shining on a particular grove of Tulasi trees, one that he had often passed when walking along the Ganges. His guru, Srila Jagannath das Babaji, who was said to be over 120 years of age, and was so weak and frail

that servants carried him a basket, asked to be taken to the site. Upon arriving at the grove, Jagannath das Babaji leapt from the basket crying out the name of Caitanya, thus confirming the authenti­ city of Srila Bhaktivenode’s dream. Srila Bhaktivenode then personally begged one rupee each from over 50.000 homes to establish the first shrine to Lord Caitanya at Mayapur. A replica village hut now marks the birth site. The original neem tree has long since gone, but a new one has grown in its place. Pilgrims circumambulate, tie threads, and take on their heads the dust from its roots. This is the Yoga-pith - the place that connects the mundane earth to the spiritual world. In the past hundred years the reputa­ tion of Mayapur and appreciation of Lord Caitanya’s teachings have grown steadily. It is now well understood and recognized that Lord Caitanya was the most significant figure within the bhakti tradition. Lord Caitanya’s birthplace and home of His early pastimes in Mayapur have immense significance for devotees, Hindus, scholars, and spiritually minded people throughout the world, as do the places in the region associated with His contemporary disciples. In 1890 Srila Bhaktivinode foresaw that Lord Caitanya’s message was not to be limited to India. He predicted, “A day wil come when the fortunate Russians, Prussians, English, French, Americans and all other nations come together in Sri Mayapur under the banner of Sri Caitanya and raise kirtan throughout the land of Nadia!” 7

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