Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Guru Nanak, Part 3

BY: SUN STAFF - 12.3 2019

Sri Chaitanya and Guru Nanak

A serial presentation on Guru Nanak's role in the Bhakti Movement, and his Caitanya-lila pastimes.

In a 2008 article for Sangai Express Dr. Dwijendra Narayan Goswami described Guru Nanak's travels through northeastern India and into Manipur, and his meeting with Lord Chaitanya in Jagannath Puri. He states that it is recorded that Guru Nanak met Sri Chaitanya Deva at Puri and sang dohas (bhajans) and danced with Him. This is narrated in the Chaitanya Bhagabatof Iswara dasa, an Oriyan devotee of Sri Chaitanya that:

Sri Nibas O Biswambhar kirtana madheya beteare 
Jagai Madhi ekatra karanti a nritya
"Nagar Purusotham and dasa Jangali nandini tapasa
Nanak Sahitegahen Gropal Guru sanga tena
sangeta matta Balaram bbihar Nilgiri dham.

Here saranga means Mardana, who used to play a sharengi with the songs of the Guru, and Matta Balaram means Prabhu Nityananda, who is the incarnation of Lord Balarama of Dwarpar age. Chaitanya Deva came to Puri in 1431 A.D. saka in the month of Falgoon, or first week of Caitra. If he had gone there after 8th Caitra then the saka would be changed to 1432.

According to Granth Sahib, Guru Nanak visited Puri in the Bikrami year 1566, which falls within the period of April 1509 to March 1510. 1431 saka year corresponds to 1509 AD. The 15th or 16th of March is the corresponding date of 1st Caitra. This supports the historical record of the meeting between Sri Chaitanya and Nanak Dev at Jagannath Puri.

In a paper entitled Guru Nanak in Oriya Sources, author Raghubir Singh Tak describes an Oriyan palm leaf manuscript preserved in the Jagannath Temple Museum, which documents the point in history when Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Guru Nanak were visiting the holy dhama at Puri Jagannath at the same time, along with other associates. Raghubir Singh Tak, formerly a Professor in the Department of Guru Nanak Studies, GNDU, describes the manuscript:

"There is an entrenched tradition in Sikh religion that Guru Nanak during his sojourns visited Jagan Nath Puri and recited Arti- 'Gagan main thai ravi chand deepak bane..: enshrined in Sri Guru Granth Sahib (pp. 13, 363) . In this paper, I shall try to present some rare and valuable Oriya Source material hitherto not very much known but significant for Guru Nanak's visit to Jagan Nath Puri in particular and Orissa in general.

Bhakta Panchak (Five Saints):

It is the title of a Palmleaf Oriya manuscript (No. 143), preserved in the Jagannath Temple Museum, Jagannath Puri. According to Sri Sada Shiv Rath Sharma, the Curator of the Museum, the author of the manuscript was Jasobant Das of Sisu Math, Puri. He is said to have been a contemporary of Raja Pratap Rudra Deo, who reigned over Orissa from 1504 to 1534 A.D.

The manuscript. written (engraved) in Oriya script, contains description of the five saints: Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Jagan Nath Das, Achuta Nand Das, Nanak Acharya and Sisuant Das. The size of the palmleaf is just that of a foot rule. Each page of the palmleaf manuscript contains five verse lines. The manuscript was copied by Sri Madhu Sudan Das in 1807 A.D. from an old manuscript. The opening lines of manuscript on page 14, dealing with Guru Nanak, are as under:

"I shall tell the life account of bhakta. In the north, there was a Guru named Nanak, whose miraculous life account I will propound that will fascinate the heart of bhaktas. The theme of the portion dealing with Guru Nanak's visit read out by Sri Sada Shiv Rath Sharma is as under:

During the 13th year of the reign of Raja Pratap Rudra Deo of Puri, on Bhadon Shukla Ekadashi sal 924 (Oriya year), Guru Nanak along with Mardana and fourteen other sanyasis arrived in the morning at Puri to visit Jagan Nath temple. From Guru Nanak's dress (detailed in the manuscript) he was mistook for a khaleefa (Caliph) and was not permitted to enter the premises of the temple. One of the sanyasis explained that Guru Nanak was the same person who had shown/kautak (miracles) at Kaliaboda (Cuttack). Guru Nanak, along with the sanyasis, went near the seashore and started reciting bhajans (devotional songs), as per his wont.

The king of Puri in his dream saw Lord Jagan Nath telling him not to perform any rituals and ceremonies in the temple (of Lord Jagan Nath) when He (Lord Jagan Nath) goes (in the morning and evening) to hear /katha, bhajan (devotional service) of a saint (Guru Nanak) on Swarga Dwar near Pitri Stambh. On enquiry, it was found that there had been some disruptions in the daily performance of rituals in the temple. The king went to pay homage to Guru Nanak and saw, to his great surprise, that Lord Jagan Nath, Balram and Subhadra were standing there, while bhajans were being recited. The king tendered his apology to Guru Nanak, presented him clothes and ornaments and took him to the temple of Lord Jagan Nath in a royal procession along with a band.

After visiting the temple, Guru Nanak sat near a banyan tree just opposite the temple, where now stands Mangu Math. Guru Nanak, while delivering his sermon, raised his palm vertically and the king saw the image of Lord Jagan Nath on the palm (the flags of Mangu Math and Bauli Math still bear the insignia of a white palm on their red flags). Guru Nanak was given a royal send off when after a stay for 24 days, he left Puri along with the sanyasis. The king of Puri and other persons accompanied him (Guru Nanak) to Chandi Nala (a place at a distance of about 23 Miles from Puri) on Jagannath road and bade him an impressive farewell.

Sri Chaitanya Bhagwata

It is an Oriya manuscript written by Sri Ishwar Das. It was donated by Prachi Samiti, Cuttack to Utkal University, Bhubaneshwar. The manuscript was edited by Rai Bahadur Arthabaltaba Mohanty and published by the University in 1953. The author does not provide any date of his work. However, Prabhat Kumar Mukhopadhaya deems it as a work of sixteenth century, whereas Bimanbehari Majumdar is of the opinion that the work is of eighteenth century.

Sri Chaitanya Bhagwata is a detailed biographical account of Sri Chaitanya (1485-1533 A.D.) but no incident of his life is dated; The book contains as many as five references to Guru Nanak on pages 268, 279-80, 382-83, 405-9 and 429."

Both Bhakti Sravan Tirtha Swami (mentioned in our first segment and Raghubir Singh Tak, in his Guru Nanak in Oriya Sources article, which describes the Oriyan palm leaf manuscript narrating Lord Caitanya and Guru Nanak's visit to Puri, make reference to the statements found in Ishwar Das's Chaitanya Bhagavata.

Bhakti Sravan Tirtha notes that Ishvar Das was a close associate of Mahaprabhu's in Puri, and is thought to have been the only biographer to write about the event of the Lord's meeting with Guru Nanak, so it's not surprising that these Bhagavata references are frequently mentioned in narrations about Lord Caitanya and Nanak Dev in Puri. However, some Gaudiya Vaisnavas believe Ishvar Das to be in an apasampradaya, and his Chaitanya Bhagavata to be unbonafide literature. This is evidenced by the fact that his Oriyan Bhagavata states that Lord Caitanya is an incarnation of the Buddha.

Over the years, we have featured many articles in the Sun about the Orissan amalgamation of Buddha/Jagannath worship, which attempted to codify Buddhism by associating it with Lord Visnu and His Dasavatar incarnations. In fact, that debate is actively going on today, as recently report by our Sun Correspondent in Puri: "Jagannatha Among Dasavatar? Puri Priests Unhappy".

So while it is interesting to read narrations by the Orissan Vaisnavas as to the great historical events surrounding Lord Caitanya's visit to Jagannatha Puri, and Guru Nanak's simultaneous visit there, the reader should proceed with caution in accepting such narrations as fact.