Situated on the bank of the ganges at the heart of North Kolkata, the Baghbazar Gaudiya Math represents the rich cultural and Vaishnava heritage of Bengal. Presently under the authority of the Gaudiya mission, the Baghbazar Gaudiya Math was established by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura (spiritual master of Srila Prabhupada) on the 5th of october,1930. Sri Jagabandhu Dutta belonging to the Banaripara of District of Barisal (Bangladesh) procured a piece of land on the bank of the Ganges at Baghbazar and donated it to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta for the purpose of establishing this temple. Calcutta was then the capital of British India. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, after having established the Caitanya Math at Mayapur (refer – ‘Sri Caitanya Math , Sri Chandrasekhar Acharya Bhavan (Masir Bari), Mayapur, Navadvipa’) wanted to open a main center ,his head office, in this capital city. This beautiful temple, ornamented with marble halls, is situated at a place where Mahaprabhu had once rested for sometime while travelling from Jagannath Puri to Baranagar (refer – ‘Sri Bhagavatacharya’s residence,Baranagar Path bari’). Srila Bhaktisiddhanta saraswati Thakura had spent the last six years of his manifested pastimes here at the Baghbazar Gaudiya Math. His Bhajana kutira and the room where he used to live, has been carefully preserved till this day.
‘The Gaudiya Treasures of Bengal’ considers itself exceedingly fortunate to have been able to visit the Baghbazar Gaudiya Math.The grandeur and the imposing presence of this ancient temple has mesmerized us. The enchanting deities of Sri Gaura Radha Binodananda jiu continue to bestow their merciful darsana upon one and all.We seek blessings of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati and would like to beg for his permission, in order to pen a few lines in his glorification.
Birth and early childhood :
On the 6th of February 1874 AD at 3.30 pm in the afternoon, Bimala prasad Datta (later renowned as Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura) appeared in this world, at a place not very far from the Jagannatha temple in Puri. He was the fourth son of Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Srimati Bhagavati Devi. ‘The Gaudiya Treasures of Bengal’ has dedicated a separate article in honor of Srila Bhaktivinoda, who is also one of the great acharyas of our sampradaya. The article is entitled – ‘Remembering Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura at Svananda Sukhada Kunja & Surabhi Kunja, Navadvipa (Godrumadvipa)’. Sri Bimala Prasad Datta exhibited the thirty-two bodily symptoms of a great personality, at the time of his birth. He was born with his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck like a Brahmin’s thread, perhaps a sign of his glorious mission.
When Bimala Prasada was just six months old, Lord Jagannatha’s Rathayatra cart had halted in front of Srila Bhaktivinoda’s house in Puri for three continuous days.It could not be moved.The cart began moving only after Bimala was brought before Lord Jagannath. As soon as Bimala came out, a garland fell off from the Lord’s neck and encircled the child.This was accepted as a sign of special favor by all present.During Bimala’s grain ceremony, his vocational inclination was tested. The child immediately embraced Srimad Bhagavatam, indicating his future as a great preacher.
On another occasion, Sri Bimala Prasad was chastised by his father, when he was about to eat some newly bought mangoes, which had not been offered to the Lord already. Bimala felt so guilty of this childish offense, that he vowed never to eat mangoes again. He stuck to his vow till the very end of his life. That was how highly he honored his commitments.
Bimala displayed his spiritual intent since his very childhood. Sri Bhaktivinoda Thakura had a house here in calcutta, where he used to often reside with his family (refer – ‘Bhakti Bhavan : Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s house in Kolkata’). During the construction of this house (renowned as Bhakti Bhavan), a deity of Lord Kurma was unearthed. Srila Bhaktivinoda entrusted this deity to his son Bimala, who then began worshipping the deity regularly. This beautiful deity has been preserved till this day here at Bhakti Bhavan and we consider ourselves exceedingly blessed to have been able to obtain His darsana.
Sri Bimala Prasad was a brilliant scholar. Whatever he would read once, he could later recall with perfect clarity. He received education in Mathematics and astrology at the Srirampur college. There his tutors were so amazed at his acumen, that they awarded him with the title ‘Siddhanta Sarasvati’. He was a regular at the weekly satsang classes provided by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. He was very fond of Narottama Das Thakura’s Prarthana and Prema Bhakti Candrika. In 1892, taking an entrance examination, he entered the Calcutta Sanskrit College.As always, he excelled in his studies. During his student days, he wrote various essays on spiritual topics for various magazines.He was a scholar in astrology and published old astrological texts like Surya Siddhanta. He was offered a chair in astronomy at the University of Calcutta by Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee, but he declined it, thinking it to be an impediment to his spiritual life. On the request of Sri Jagannatha Das Babaji (refer – ‘The Samadhi and Bhajana Kutira of Srila Jagannatha Das Babaji ,Navadvipa (Koladvipa)’) ,he composed Sri Navadvipa Panjika, a Krishna-ized almanac in which all the days,months and lunar fortnights were given the names of Vishnu.
Post his college, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta was employed by the royal kings of Tripura from 1895 to 1905. He accepted the post of an editor and he edited a history of their family, which subsequently came to be known as Raj ratnakar.In 1905 he requested to be relieved of his duties, which he was granted along with full pension.
Sri Gour Kishor das Babaji accepts him as his disciple :
After the birthplace of Lord Caitanya had been discovered (refer – ‘YogPeeth, Mayapur, Navadvipa – The birthplace of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’), Sri Jagannath Das Babaji and Sri Gour Kishor Das Babaji arrived from Vrindavana to take darsana of Yogpeeth. Sri Gour Kishor Das Babaji was a paramahamsa of the highest caliber and Sri Bimala Prasad was attracted towards him since he had met him. In the year 1900, Sri Bimala Prasad approached his eternal spiritual master, Sri Gour Kishor das Babaji, and expressed his desire to obtain initiation. Initially Sri Gour Kishor Das Babaji refused, as he thought himself ineligible to initiate a great scholar like Bimala Prasad. Such was his humility.But on further insistence, Sri Gour Kishor das babaji replied that he would have to ask for permission from Mahaprabhu. A few days later when Bimala did not receive a favorable reply, he decided to put an end to his life. Feeling compassionate, Sri Gour Kishor das babaji finally decided to accept him as his disciple. After initiation Sri Bimala Prasad received his new name : Varsabhanavi devi dayita Das.
Severe Austerity and Sannyasa:
In the year 1905, at the age of 31, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura vowed to chant 3,00,000 holy names (192 rounds) a day. He used to then reside at the house of Chandrasekhara Acharya (Mahaprabhu’s maternal uncle) and perform his Naam bhajana. This is the same site where he had later constructed Sri Caitanya Math (refer – ‘Sri Caitanya Math , Sri Chandrasekhar Acharya Bhavan (Masir Bari), Mayapur, Navadvipa’).Srila Bhaktisiddhanta stayed over here for 9 years, executing his severe austerities.He used to strictly follow his vows. Observing Chaturmasya,he used to cook rice in ghee and ate it from the floor in the manner of a cow. His spiritual master Srila Gaura Kishor das Babaji Maharaja was very pleased observing his renunciation and compared it with that of Srila Rupa and Raghunatha Das Goswamis.Srila Bhaktisiddhanta’s father, Srila Saccidananda Bhaktivinoda Thakura, one of the great acharyas himself, had brought up his son to be a dear servant of Mahaprabhu.When the roof of his small cottage became broken, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta didn’t waste time repairing it.Instead he used an umbrella, and continued his chanting.’The Gaudiya Treasures of Bengal’ can go on and on speaking glories of our dear spiritual great grandfather.But we are inhibited considering the length of this article. In the year 1918, a few years after Srila Gaura Kishor das babaji had wrapped up his earthly pastimes, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta saraswati Thakura ,at the age of 44, accepted his sannyasa initiation from a picture of Srila Gaura Kishor das babaji maharaja (his spiritual master), at the house of Chandrasekhara Acharya. Though accepting sannyasa from spiritual master’s picture was not as per any standards, the situation in this case was unique. Neither was Saraswati Thakura’s spiritual master physically present nor did he have any other god brother. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta decided that the time for widespread preaching had finally arrived.
Widespread preaching :
We would like to now briefly summarize the contributions and achievements of our beloved acharya. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati played a major role in debunking the strong rooted influences of casteism and the polluted philosophy of the sahajiyas, which had by then made deep inroads into the Indian society. He also took a strong stand against the mayavadis and the atheists. Besides, he did a lot to unify the various Vaishnava sects by stressing upon the agreement shared by the four major Sampradayas ( Brahma, Rudra, Kumara and Sri). In his travels throughout India, he enjoyed the reputation of being a very powerful debater. He was hence awarded with the title ‘Simha Guru’ (Lion Guru).
He established 64 temples out of which 17 are located in Navadvipa Mandala (the nine islands of Navadvipa).Few of these were established outside of India as well – like the ones in Rangoon, London and Germany. He was instrumental in printing of thousands of books including a daily newspaper called the Nadia Prakash. He owned several printing presses , which regularly printed the following magazines – Sajjana Tosani (English monthly), The Gaudiya (official weekly journal of the Gaudiya Math), The Bhagavata (Hindi), Paramarthi (in Oriya), Kirtana (in Assamese). Apart from his own writing, he also published many other books like – Bhagavad Gita with commentaries of the previous acharyas, Caitanya Bhagavata with his commentaries, Caitanya Mangala, Caitanya Caritamrta, Navadvipa Dhama granthamala, Caitanya Candramrta, etc.He established several significant parikramas like the Vraja Mandala Parikrama and the Navadvipa Mandala Parikrama. The erstwhile caste Goswamis (who claim their exalted status on account of taking birth in the lineage of devotees), did not like his growing influence and even threatened him with his life.Srila Bhaktisiddhanta was a Living encyclopedia possessing deep knowledge in Sanskrit, Bengali, English, Astronomy, etc. He was well versed with the knowledge of scriptures having devoured and memorized several libraries.He was naturally decorated with all the 26 qualities of a pure devotee.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati was a revolutionary acharya in many ways. Although Sannyasis traditionally never used any conveniences except for ox carts, he used to ride in motor cars, motorized boats, etc. He also sent out his disciples across the seas in order to preach the glories of the Supreme Lord. He even utilized radio for broadcasting the message of Godhead. All these innovations ,however, were strictly in the mood of preaching and engaging more people in Krishna consciousness. His principle of renunciation (yukta vairagya) was the type described by Srila Rupa Goswami wherein one engages everything (all modern facilities) fully in the service of Sri Krishna. But perhaps the most important contribution of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta lies in the fact that he was the spiritual master who had guided and empowered his dear disciple Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (refer – ‘The birthplace of A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Tollygunge’) to preach the message of Lord Caitanya throughout the world. On being asked about his spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada once exclaimed- ‘ What can I say ? He was a Vaikuntha Man !’
On January 1st, 1937, at about 5.30 AM in the morning, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura manifested his disappearance pastimes and entered into the Nitya Lila of the Lord. His spent his final days here at the Baghbazar Gaudiya Math.The day before he passed away, he had instructed his dear disciple Sripada B.R. Sridhara Maharaja to sing Sri Rupa manjari pada and another of his disciples ,Sri Navin Vidyalankar, to recite the siksastakam. His transcendental body was worshipped and carried by road to Mayapur.A huge crowd of people had gathered while his body was being taken away.He was subsequently placed into samadhi at the Caitanya Math, the place where he had once executed his severe austerities.
What to See :
- The enchanting deities of Sri Gaura Radha Binodananda jiu
- The room and the bhajana Kutira of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta saraswati Thakura (on the 1st floor)
- There is a ‘Caitanya Mahaprabhu Museum’ currently being constructed at this place, which is supposed to house the ancient manuscripts and valuable artifacts.
How to Reach:
One can board a metro and get down at the Shyambazar Metro station. From there one can avail a cab and directly reach the Baghbazar Gaudiya Math, situated on the bank of the Ganges. The postal address of this place is 16/A Kaliprasad Chakraborty street, P.O. Baghbazar, Kolkata – 700003
Accommodation – One can choose to stay at any of the hotels (there are many) in Kolkata. One can also opt to stay at the guest house of Baghbazar Gaudiya math itself where one can also avail nice prasadam. For booking, please contact : (033) 2554-4155 / 9051781493
Nearest major airport – Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport (Kolkata)
Nearest major Railway station – Sealdah station/ Howrah Station
(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)
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