The Holy Places of Jaiva Dharma: Saptagrama

BY: SUN STAFF - 26.2 2020


Ancient temples of Saptagrama: Basudeb Temple (left) and Hanseswari (right)

A serial presentation of the holy places mentioned in the Jaiva Dharma of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur - Part 134.

Next on the 'Glossary of Places' is the holy Saptagrama:

"Saptagrama - an ancient mercantile city about 50 km north of Calcutta on what is now the bed of the Sarasvati River. Saptagrama is located west of the Ganga and south of Ambika-Kalna. As the name suggests, this city encompasses seven settlements: Saptagrama (or, in the opinion of some, Sabdakara), Vamsavati, Sivapura, Vasudevapura, Krsnapura (or, in the opinion of some, Candapura), Nityanandapura, and Sankha-nagara (or Baladaghati).

The village of Triveni is also included in Saptagrama. Sri Uddharana Datta Thakura lived here. His father, Srikara Datta, was a wealthy gold merchant. Raghunatha dasa Gosvami lived in Krsnapura, Kalidasa lived in Sankha-nagara, and Balarama Acarya and Yadunandana Acarya lived in Candapura."

There is only passage in Jaiva Dharma that focuses on Saptagrama. In chapter seven, which discuses eternal duties, householder life and the material world, Srila Bhaktivinoda has given us the story of Candi dasa and his wife, Damayanta, two elderly merchants who became miserly with their bhakti.

"On the bank of the Sarasvati was an ancient merchant town named Saptagrama. For a long time a thousand merchants and bankers have lived there. By the mercy of Lord Nityananda, since the time of Sri Uddharana Datta these merchants have enthusiastically chanted the holy names of Lord Hari. Fearing that much money would be spent, a merchant named Candi dasa would not join the people of the town in chanting the holy names of Lord Hari. By living very frugally, he had accumulated a lot of money. His wife Damayanta, who had contracted this nature from her husband, would not give due respect to Vaisnavas or guests. In their youth this merchant couple had four sons and two daughters. Marrying off first one and then the other daughter, the couple carefully kept their great wealth to give to their sons. When Vaisnavas never visit a home, the children in there do not naturally become very kind or generous. These qualities become stunted. As the children grew up they became more and more selfish. Eager to get their inheritance, they yearned for their parent's deaths. The unhappiness of the merchant couple knew no bounds. One by one of the sons were also married. Imbibing their husband's nature, the daughters-in-law also began to wish their husband's parents would die. When they became able, the sons divided their father's wealth, and set themselves up as merchants.

One day Candi dasa called together his sons and said, "Look. By living frugally since childhood, I have accumulated some wealth for your sakes. For all this time your mother and I have not eaten good food or dressed in nice clothing. Now we are growing old and you should take care of us. That is your duty. However, I see that you are not inclined to take care of us, and that has made me very sad. I have some wealth hidden away, and I will give to whomever amongst you acts like a good son.

Hearing these words, the sons and their wives became silent. Meeting in another place, they all decided that the best thing would be to send father and mother far away and then take the hidden money, for there was no saying to whom the old man would wrongly give it. All were sure the wealth was hidden in the father's bedroom.

The father's eldest son was name Nari-carana. One morning he said to his father, "Father, you and mother should go and see Sridhama Navadvipa. In that way your human life will be successful. I have heard that in the age of Kali no holy place is sacred and auspicious like Navadvipa. To travel to Navadvipa is neither difficult nor expensive. If you cannot walk, for two panas a boat can take you there. If you wish, a Vaisnava lady is willing to accompany you there.

Candi dasa consulted with his wife, Damayanti. She was very happy. The two talked. "Your words the other day brought our sons to their senses. We are not so weak that we cannot walk. Passing through Kalna and Santipura, let us go to Sridhama Navadvipa."

Noting an auspicious day, the two began their pilgrimage. Walking and walking, on the next day they came to Ambika. Staying there at a merchant's place, they cooked and ate their meal. A man from Saptagrama came there and told them, "Your sons broke into your room and took all your belongings. They will not allow you to return home. They have taken all your hidden wealth."

Because we have mentioned this story of Candi dasa and Damayanti in a few previous segments of this series, we will not related how the story ends again, here. Suffice to say, Saptagrama's nature as a mercantile town, and the influence the place had on its residents, the family of Candi and Damayanti, illustrates Srila Bhaktivinoda's Vaisnava preaching theme.


( Saptagrama, to be continued…)