The Glories of West Bengal


By editor - 14.11 2016

Temple Complex – Kalna, West Bengal

A serial presentation of West Bengal kshetras, and the tirthas associated with Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His parishad associates.

We are pleased to begin a new series today – one that we hope will continue for many months, along with other ongoing serial Features. Like Sri Vrindavana Dham, the kshetras of West Bengal are among the most sacred to the Vaisnavas. The transcendental pastimes of the Yuga Avatar, Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu unfolded here, and His pastimes will forever own the heart of Bengal.

In a previous Sun series entitled "Caitanya Mahaprabhu's Tirtha-yatra", we explored many of the towns and villages, temples, shrines and theerthams visited by Lord Caitanya and His associates during His various travels, primarily in South India.

The Lord's South India tirtha-yatra ended in the village of Brahmagiri (Alalanatha), just west of Jagannath Puri. As detailed throughout Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, both before and after His South India preaching tour, Lord Caitanya traveled extensively throughout North India, in West Bengal, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh. Today we begin to explore the holy sites in West Bengal that are associated with Mahaprabhu's lila.

As in the case of our Tirtha-yatra series, we will not attempt to make this a progressive presentation according to a timelines of the Lord's travels. As we illustrated during the South India yatra Features, the pastimes presented in sastra are not generally given in such an ordered fashion.

Kalna, Bardhaman District, West Bengal

We will begin our exploration of the Glories of West Bengal by starting at Ambika Kalna, in the Burdwan District, about 22 kms south of Navadvip. This place is most auspicious, being the abode of Sri Gauranga Mandir, which is home to Lord Caitanya's manuscript and some of His personal belongings.

The town of Kalna, 50 kms. from Bardhaman, is one of the Shaktipiths, or holy dhams of the Shakti worshippers. The town is named for Devi Ambika, an expansion of Durga, who is worshipped at the Siddheshwari Temple. Aside from numerous Shiva temples there are a number of important Vaisnava temples here, including the Krishna Chandra mandir, famous for its 25 steeples, the Anantavasudev temple, and a Jagannatha temple. Much of the temple architecture in Kalna is constructed in the terracotta style for which Bengal is famous.

Kalna Views

The most important tirtha for Gaudiya Vaisnavas in Kalna is the Mahaprabhu Bari, also known as Gauranga Mandir. It is the transcendental abode of Mahaprabhu's punthi, or bark/leaf manuscript, being Lord Caitanya's own handwritten manuscript of Bhagavad-gita. The Mahaprabhu Bari where the Lord's Gita resides is actually Gauridas Pandita's mandira, because the Lord gave his Gita to the Pandita. This pastime is mentioned in Srila Narahari Dasa's Bhakti-Ratnakara:

"The Lord took the Pandita with him to Nadia and engaged him in wonderful activities.

Who can understand the plan of Gaura Candra? He gave the Pandita the lyrics that he himself had composed.

After some days the Pandita returned to Ambika where he regularly read the Gita given to him by Prabhu.

Simply seeing the handwriting of the Lord on the manuscripts of the Gita gave the Pandita extreme pleasure.

Fortunate visitors to Ambika can have darshan of the handwritten manuscripts of the Gita by Prabhu and also the oar." 

(Bhakti-Ratnakara, 7.337-341)

In segments to come, we will discuss in detail Sri Krsna Caitanya's travels to Ambika, and His gift of the Gita manuscript to Gauridas Pandita.

Mahaprabhu Bari, Left Entrance