Śrī Navadvīpāṣṭakam 1 | Harmonist

(Harmonist) – April 13th, 2023 |
by Harmonist staff

By Śrī Rūpa Goswāmī’, with commentary by Swāmi B.V. Tripurāri.

Text 1

śrī-gauḍa-deśe sura-dīrghikāyās
tire ’ti-ramye iha puṇyamāyyāḥ
lasantam ānanda-bharṇea nityaṁ
taṁ śrī-navadvīpam ahaṁ smarāmi

In meditation I recall Śrī Navadvīpa-dhāma, eternally shining, filled with ānanda—oh so charming!—here in Gauḍa-deśa on the side of the dīrghikā along the pure celestial Gaṅgā’s eastern shore.


In this aṣṭakam, Navadvīpa refers to nine (nava) islands (dvīpa) formed in the Gaṅgā delta, where the immortal Ganges enters the sea at what today is known as the Bay of Bengal. In his aṣṭakam, Śrī Rūpa shares two visions—spiritual and geographical—weaving effortlessly between them as if they are one. His Navadvīpa is shining with ānanda, yet located in Gauḍa-deśa, a geographical location known today as West Bengal. And in Śrī Rūpa’s vision, the town of Navadvīpa is located on the Gaṅgā’s eastern shore. This we know from the landmark mentioned in this verse: the dīrghikā, a large water tank established in the twelfth century during the reign of the Hindu king Ballāla Sen that is still visible today.

However, all nine of Navadvīpa’s islands could not have been on the eastern shore, nor are they described as such in later texts. But later in his aṣṭakam, Śrī Rūpa refers to bathing ghāṭas where Gaurasundara bathed and also to the residence of Jagannātha Miśra, where his son Viśvambhara was born. Thus, Rūpa’s reference to the eastern shore refers to Māyāpura centered in the island Antardvīpa, which is central to the entirety of Navadvīpa. And all Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas agree that Gaura Hari appeared in Navadvīpa/Māyāpura. But today, not all Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas agree on where Māyāpura and the birth site of Gaurasundara are located due to the shifting of the Ganges over the last five and a half centuries. And today the modern town of Navadvīpa is located on the western bank of the Gaṅgā.

But the modern town of Navadvīpa is undoubtedly a later development. Still, some devotees believe that Gaura’s birthplace is located on the Gaṅgā’s western shore. In this they obviously differ with Śrī Rūpa’s aṣṭakam. But if West Bengal’s history can be divided into two periods—pre- and post-Caitanya—as it should, there is no one person in the post-Caitanya era in modern times whose contribution to Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism in the region and from there the world over exceeds that of Kedarnātha Bhaktivinoda. And Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda determined through his vision in samādhi and subsequent empirical research along with confirmation from his śikṣā-guru, Jagannātha dāsa Bābājī, that Māyāpura, Gaura’s birth site, is located on the eastern shore of today’s Gaṅgā, as did Rūpa in his aṣṭakam of yore.

After Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda passed on, his successor, Bhaktisiddhānta Saraswatī Ṭhākura, followed the vision and instruction of Bhaktivinoda to develop the birth site of Śrī Caitanya and build a glorious temple (the prophesized adbhuta mandira) therein. And during the excavation of the Yogapīṭha temple site, a 20 cm black stone mūrti of Adhokṣaja unlike any from the twentieth century was discovered. Archeologists determined this Viṣṇu mūrti to be more than five hundred years old, and scripture tells us that Jagannātha Miśra worshiped such a deity in his home where Śrīman Viśvambhara Miśra—Gaura Hari—was born. The mūrti’s high cheekbones and square jaw mirror these characteristics of the inhabitants of the Sylhet area, indicating that he most likely was crafted in Sylhet, where the Miśra family lived before moving to Navadvīpa.


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