We seek strength at the lotus feet of Lord Nityananada and Sri Birchandra so that we may recite the miraculous and wondrous history of the Khardah Shyamsundar temple !!!
History of Khardah Shyamsundar temple
Sri Birchandra Prabhu, or Birbhadra Goswami , as He was later referred to, was born on the ninth day of the dark fortnight, in the holy month of Kartika (october-november). Birchandra Prabhu was the son of Sri Nityananda Prabhu and Vasudha devi. Srimati Jahnava mata was His initiating spiritual master. Sri Birchandra was an expansion of the Supreme Lord Himself, and appeared in this world to assist His father in furthering the mission of Lord Caitanya. Kavi karnapura reveals in his Gaura Ganoddesha Dipika that the expansion of sankarshan, who sleeps on the ocean of milk (Kshirodakashayi Vishnu) and manifests as the supersoul in our heart , had incarnated as Birchandra Prabhu in Mahaprabhu’s pastimes.
The holy dham of Khardah is located hardly at a distance of 20 kms from kolkata.The land of merciful Nityananda Prabhu is decorated all over with various wish fulfilling trees that readily bestow pure devotion upon all without any discrimination. Various demigods have been waiting and meditating for millions of years desiring to take birth in the transcendental abode of Khardah, where they shall be able to associate with the Lord’s pure devotees and obtain the dust from their lotus feet.The land of Khardah is a witness to Lord Nitai’s ecstatic pastimes, merely contemplating upon which ,one easily gains entry into the realm of transcendence.Srimati Jahnava Devi, Vasudha devi, Birchandra Prabhu have all manifested their sweet pastimes here and sanctified this holy tract of land. ‘The Gaudiya Treasures of Bengal’ is exceedingly blessed to have been able to visit Khardah and take darsana of Radha Syamasundara jiu, who continues to shower His causeless mercy upon us suffering souls. Just a stone’s throw from the Syamasundara temple is the residence of Nityananda prabhu where Birchandra had appeared in this world.This house is renowned all over the three worlds as ‘Kunja Vatika’ and we have covered our visit to this place in a separate article entitled – ‘Kunja Vatika, Khardah’.
Appearance Pastimes of Sri Birchandra Prabhu :
There is a very sweet pastime that has been narrated in Abhirama lilamrita, which talks of Sri Abhirama Gopala thakura’s arrival in Khardah. Sri Abhirama Gopal Thakura, one of the most prominent of the twelve cowherd boys (Dvadasa Gopala), was a very powerful personality. He was a great friend and an intimate associate of Sri Nityananda Prabhu. If Abhirama Thakura bowed down to any person who was not the Lord, or empowered by the Lord, then that person would die immediately. Similarly if he bowed down before any stone that was not a saligrama sila, then that stone would immediately crack.Several deities in Bengal had cracked just because Sri Abirama had paid them his obeisances.All the previous seven sons of Nityananda Prabhu had died because Sri Abhirama Thakura had paid them his dandavats. The pastimes of Abhirama Thakura are covered in detail in a separate article entitled – ‘The Sripat of Abhirama Gopala Thakura-Khanakul Krishnanagar’.
However when Sri Birchandra prabhu appeared in this world, Lord Nitai was very careful not to invite Sri Abhirama Gopala Thakura , to attend His child’s birth ceremony.He feared that Abhirama would again bow down and cause harm to His child.Though Lord Nitai was an expansion of the Supreme Lord, yet He played His part like a normal father, and therefore expressed His concerns and anguish. Nityananda Prabhu did not want to take any risks. He feared that Abhirama could still arrive uninvited.Hence He instructed all the boatmen of Khardah not to transport Abhirama Thakura to the other side of Ganges, in case he was seen that day.
Sri Abhirama Gopala was a cowherd boy of Vrindavana, and he neither had any ego nor did he care for any false prestige. In a very innocent mood , leaving behind all inhibitions, he set out for Khardah without any invitation, to meet his dear friend and bless His newborn.When Abhirama Thakura arrived on the bank of the Ganges,and asked the boatmen to carry him to Khardah, the boatmen panicked. Running out of options, they drowned their boats in the water. But Abhirama then simply spread his cloth and then sitting on that floating cloth ,peacefully crossed over the river. Seeing his prowess, all the onlookers were amazed. When Abhirama finally arrived at Kunja Vatika, Nityananda Prabhu courteously embraced him and fed him sumptuously. Thereafter in spite of Srimati Jahnava and Vasudha Devi’s pleas, Abhirama bowed down again and paid his obeisances to little Birchandra. When he saw that no harm was caused to the little child, he became overjoyed and composed verses glorifying Him, understanding that He was the expansion of the Supreme Lord. In an intoxicated mood, he sang and danced in ecstasy.Immersed in an ocean of joy, Abhirama began singing :
ye na dekhecha gora ,dekha ara bar ,punarbar sei gora vira avatar
‘One who has not witnessed the Supreme Lord Sri Caitanya, now has the opportunity to behold Him again, as the same lord has now appeared as Sri Birchandra’
Thus Sri Birchandra prabhu had displayed the exalted symptoms of divinity since His very birth.Sri Krishnadasa Kaviraja sings great glories of Sri Birchandra prabhu in his Caitanya Caritamrta.He identifies Him as the greatest branch of Lord Caitanya’s desire tree of devotional service after Lord Nityananda. He was a vigorous preacher of Krishna Bhakti and innumerable branches and sub-branches of this desire tree had originated out of Him (sri Birbhadra gosai – skandha mahashakha, tanra upashakha yata, ashankhya tara lekha). Sri Krishnadasa Kaviraja further elaborates that it was primarily due to Birchandra Prabhu’s preaching efforts that people all over the world today have the great fortune of singing the auspicious names and pastimes of Gaura Nitai (adyapi yanhara kripa mahima haite, Caitanya Nityananda gaye shakala jagate).
Appearance of Sri Shyamsundar jiu at Khardah:
It is stated in Prema Vilasa that Sri Birchandra Prabhu ,after having received appropriate instructions in His trance to install Sri Syamasundara jiu in Khardah, had set out to obtain the saligrama sila from the Nawab’s palace in Murshidabad, from which the deity needed to be carved. Sri Birchandra Prabhu’s reputation preceded Him, and the Nawab greeted him with full honour on His arrival. However the Nawab had evil intentions and behind the facade, he actually plotted to break Sri Birchandra’s vows by feeding Him meat. It is worthwhile mentioning over here that Vaishnavas only partake the remnants of the food offered to Lord Vishnu. The bhoga that one can offer to the Supreme Lord includes only pure vegetarian foodstuffs that even excludes the addition of onion and garlic. Hence the Nawab thought that feeding meat to this great Vaishnava, would end up derailing Him from His religious path and shall thereby spoil His reputation. However, when the Nawab attempted to serve Him the non-veg dishes, the food automatically got transformed into roses and jasmine. The Nawab ordered his chef to bring new items, but again and again, by the potency of Sri Birchandra, the food got transformed into flowers. The Nawab got frustrated in his attempts and finally came to realize that Sri Birchandra prabhu was a great devotee and no ordinary personality. Feeling remorseful and guilty, the Nawab fell at His lotus feet and begged Him for forgiveness. Birchandra prabhu feeling merciful forgave him.Some people also say that Birchandra Prabhu had cured the Nawab’s son of an incurable disease and thus the Nawab was very grateful towards Him.
Birchandra Prabhu then informed the Nawab “I saw a huge stone above your front gate.I would be happy to have it so that I can carve a nice deity out of it”.The Nawab was very happy to give his consent. Birchandra prabhu then took the stone back to Khardah by floating it into the ganges (as it was too heavy to board onto a boat). To the surprise of all, the deity floated down the river and ultimately reached the banks of Khardah, where it was carefully recovered.
While meditating at Kunja Vatika (the residence of Lord Nityananda in Khardah), Sri Birbhadra had received the beautiful darsana of Sri Syamasundara jiu in His heart. In His trance, he received orders from His father, Nityananda Prabhu, to fetch the saligrama sila from the Nawab’s palace and subsequently install Syamasundara jiu , here in Khardah.This concerned saligrama sila had a long history. This was the same stone, on which Kamsa, the wicked maternal uncle of Sri krishna, had murdered the six children of Devaki, over 5000 years ago.Somehow the stone had later landed up in the custody of the Nawab.As Birchandra prabhu entered the nawab’s palace, he noticed that the stone was perspiring and understood that it was the same saligrama sila that he had come looking for.
Sri Birchandra then engaged a sculptor who fulfilled His earnest desire by carving the captivating deity of Lord Syamsundara from this saligram sila.The first two deities that were sculpted ,didn’t match the exact form of Sri Syamasundara jiu, that Birchandra had witnessed in His meditation.Hence, He sent these first two deities to Serampore and Saibon, where they are worshipped today as Sri Radhavallabh jiu and Sri Radha Nandadulal jiu respectively.
Syamsundara gari abasishta je pathar
taha diye garila dui murti monohar
Sri Nandadulala murti rahe swamibana
Ballavapure ballavaji adhistita hona
The stone that remained, after giving shape to Syamsundara jiu , was used to carve out two more enchanting deities – Sri Nandadulal jiu who was installed at swamibon (present saibon) and Vallavaji who was installed at Vallavapura (present serampore).
– Prema Vilasa
The third deity , that manifested from the saligrama sila, however was an exact match, and Sri Birchandra then proceeded to install and worship it.Indeed ,the people of Khardah forgot their distresses when they saw this most attractive deity.Birchandra prabhu arranged a grand festival to install the deity with great pomp and show, inviting many devotees and feeding all of them sumptuously.The most merciful Acyutananda , the son of Advaita Acharya, performed the abhiseka of Sri Radha Syamsundara jiu.
On a closing note :
‘The Gaudiya Treasures of Bengal’ visited Khardah on the auspicious tithi of Govardhan Puja , which is celebrated to commemorate the pastime of Lord Krishna lifting up the Govardhan Hill to protect the Vraja Vasis from the wrath of Indra.We consider ourselves exceedingly blessed to have obtained the heart melting darsana of our beloved Radha Syamasundara, on this sacred day. Their enchanting forms have been the sole object of our vision ever since.
We worship the lotus feet of our spiritual master ,whose causeless mercy has empowered us ineligible fools ,to gain entrance and take up service in this exalted abode of Khardah. We seek shelter of this holy land, and pray that its glories remain forever imprinted in our heart.‘The Gaudiya Treasures of Bengal’ offers millions of obeisances and humbly prays to Sri Radha Syamasundara , Sri Birchandra Prabhu,Srimati Ganga Muni devi, Lord Nityananda, Srimati Jahnava and Vasudha devi that we advance in our Krishna consciousness, develop attachment unto the lotus feet of Lord Gauranga and are able to serve Sri Guru & Vaishnavas, by our honest and sincere efforts. We seek their blessings and compassion , in successfully rendering this humble service of reciting the pastimes and revealing the pastime places of the Supreme Lord and His beloved associates.We shall consider ourselves greatly fortunate and our existence meaningful if Lord Gaurahari and our dear spiritual master are kindly pleased with our endeavours.
What to See at Khardah Shyamsundar temple:
- Mesmerizing darsana of Radha Shyamsundara jiu
- The Ananta Sesha Saligrama Sila , that Lord Nitai tied around His neck ,is still preserved and worshipped in this temple.
Every year, on the day of Magh Purnima (the full moon day in the month of january-February), a huge festival takes place here in Khardah,Serampore and Saibon commemorating the installation of these 3 deities that took place 500 years back. Gaudiya Vaishnava devotees from all over the world gather here on this auspicious occasion, to participate in this grand event.
How to reach:
Take a local train from sealdah (in kolkata) and get down at Khardah. Get a rickshaw from the Khardah station to directly reach the Radha Syamasundara temple (also spelt as Shyamsundar).
Khardah is a beautiful place by the Ganges ,located in the north 24 parganas district of West Bengal.It is very near and well connected to kolkata via the road ,railways and waterways. The place shall be ever glorified in the pages of Gaudiya history, owing to the ecstatic and awe-inspiring pastimes that Sri Nityananda Prabhu has performed over here.And just by taking darsana of the beautiful form of Radha Syamasundara, here in Khardah, one can forever lose all his temporary interests in this material world. We visited Khardah on the auspicious occasion of Govardhan puja, and we noticed that almost each and every home here worshipped Radha Krishna Deities and had arranged to pompously celebrate the annakuta festival.The people of Khardah came across as extremely pious and spiritual. Sri Srinivasa Acharya, the stalwart vaishnava who was the incarnation of Lord Caitanya’s ecstasy, had also once come to Khardah to seek the blessings of Srimati Jahnava mata and Birchandra prabhu ,and smear himself with the dust of this sacred place, before setting out for Vrindavana (Please refer- ‘Sri Srinivasa Acharya’s Sripat, Jajigram (Near Srikhanda, Katwa)’).What more is left to desire,when one can so easily avail here in Khardah ,the dust of Lord Nitai’s lotus feet.Jai Nitai !
Accommodation – As Khardah is not even an hour’s ride from kolkata, it is recommended that one stay in Kolkata and then travel to take darsana of the exalted sites of Khardah. One can choose to stay at any of the hotels (there are many) in Kolkata. One can also opt to stay in the guest house of Iskcon Kolkata (3c Albert Road, Near Minto Park). The devotees are advised to contact the temple authorities of Radha-Syamasundara temple in Khardah to avail their prasadam.
Nearest major airport – Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport (Kolkata)
Nearest major Railway station – Khardah
(Please note that we neither necessarily recommend these hotels/accommodation centers mentioned above nor do we guarantee that they will provide the required facilities/services to the visiting pilgrims. We are not in any way related to the governance of these hotels/accommodation centers. The visiting pilgrim is advised to choose an accommodation as per his own discretion)