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The holy name of Krishna is transcendentally blissful. It bestows all spiritual benedictions for it is Krishna Himself, the reservoir of all pleasure. Krishna’s name is complete, and it is the form of all transcendental mellows.The holy name of Krishna is not a material name under any condition, and it is no less powerful than Krishna Himself. Since Krishna’s name is not contaminated by the material qualities, there is no question of its being involved with maya. Krishna’s name is always liberated and spiritual.It is never conditioned by the laws of material nature. This is because the name of Krishna and Krishna Himself are identical – Padma Purana
Lord Brahma, Prahlada Maharaja and Richika Muni’s son Mahatapa had combinedly incarnated as Thakura Haridasa. Srila Haridasa Thakura is the namacharya of our sampradaya and is an eternal associate of Lord Gauranga.Srila Haridasa had accompanied the Lord in most of His magnanimous pastimes. He was an empowered incarnation of the Supreme Lord who had appeared just to set an example for all of us to follow. He had delivered innumerable suffering souls by bestowing upon them the nectar of the holy name. Though being born in a family of Muslims, Haridasa Thakura widely propagated that the chanting of Krishna’s holy names to be the Supreme spiritual practice, and preached how the Lord and His holy names are actually non-different.Thakura Haridasa teaches us, that the holy names of Krishna are actually non-sectarian and that God is one though we might call upon Him by different names. The relationship between the Lord (supersoul) and the jiva(soul) is eternal and chanting of the ‘Hare Krishna Mahamantra’ is the most effective means to evoke and revive this eternal relationship, especially in this age of Kali.The Thakura used to chant Krishna’s holy names, 300000 times a day, a practice he continued till the very end of his manifested pastimes.
In the ‘Navadvipa Dham Mahatmya’, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura mentions that in the age of Dvapara (the previous yuga), Lord Brahma had stolen the cows, cowherd boys and calves of Vrindavana with an intention of testing whether Krishna was the Supreme Lord.On realizing that Krishna was indeed his worshipable Supreme master, Brahma felt very ashamed. As atonement, he arrived at present-day Mayapur and began meditating upon the blissful form of Gaurahari. Lord Caitanya became very pleased and knowing the desires of Brahma, granted him the boon that he would become an intimate associate of the Lord when the Lord would next advent in this material world.However to ensure that Brahma didn’t get puffed up of his own position again, he arranged that Brahma incarnated as Haridasa Thakura who was born in a family of Muslims.Being an embodiment of humility and being free from pride, Srila Haridasa widely preached the glories of the holy name and brought auspiciousness to all. According to the revealed scriptures, Srila Haridasa Thakura was born in the village of Buron, which is presently situated in the Khulna district of Bangladesh. However no traces of his residence exists today at this place.
According to Advaita vilasa, Sri Haridasa Thakura was about 35 years elder to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and his father’s name was Khan Ullah Kazi. Sri Caitanya Bhagavata mentions the following about this great personality –
Buron Gramete avatirna Haridasa
Se bhagye se saba deshe kirtana prakash
Katadina thakiya aila Gangatire
Ashiya rahila Phulia Santipur-e
Paiya tahana sanga acharya Gosai
Hunkara karena, anandera anta nai
Translation – Haridasa Thakura had appeared in the village of Buron and by his mercy, the nectar of the holy name became revealed in those blessed lands. After staying many days and manifesting numerous pastimes, Srila Haridasa shifted to Phulia, a place situated by the Ganges. Sri Advaita Acharya had His residence not very far from here ,at Santipur. Receiving the association of Haridas Thakura, Advaita Gosai , became overjoyed and began to roar very loudly.
(Translated by ‘The Gaudiya treasures of Bengal’)
Pastimes at Benapole :
Soon after leaving his home at Buron, Srila Haridasa Thakura spent a few days here at Benapole, which is located in the Jessore district of Bangladesh. The place infact is very near to the international border post between India and Bangladesh. The team from ‘The Gaudiya Treasures of Bengal’ considers themselves exceedingly fortunate to have been able to visit and pray to Srila Haridasa at this exalted destination.
haridasa yabe nija griha tyaga kaila
benapolera vana-madhye kota-dina rahila
(Caitanya Caritamrta, Antya, 3.99)
Choosing a solitary forest for his stay over here at Benapole, Haridasa Thakura set up a cottage and established his bhajana kutira.He planted tulasi, and in front of tulasi devi, used to chant 3,00,000 holy names of Lord Krishna daily.He chanted through day and night. In order to sustain his body, he used to beg for food from a brahmana who lived nearby. Srila Haridasa Thakura’s name and fame soon began spreading far and wide. Everyone began respecting and revering him.
However, there lived an envious landlord, by the name of ‘Ramchandra Khan’. He was envious of Vaishnavas and a great atheist. He found it difficult to tolerate that Haridasa Thakura was being offered such respect. Thus, he began plotting of ways and means in order to defame and dishonor Srila Haridasa. Being unable to find any fault with him, he conspired with the prostitutes and asked them to lure Haridasa and deviate him from his vows of austerity. Among those prostitutes, one young and very attractive girl named ‘Hira bai’ was selected. Hira was very confident and assured Ramachandra Khan that she would be able to accomplish her job within three days. Ramchandra wanted to send a constable with Hira, so that he could arrest Haridasa as soon as he would try to get anywhere close to the girl. However, Hira bai wanted to get intimate with Haridasa Thakura atleast once, before Haridasa was arrested. So she requested Ramachandra Khan to send a constable when she would unite with Haridasa for the second time.
So, as planned, Hira bai approached the cottage of Haridasa Thakura in the middle of the night. She dressed herself very beautifully, and stood there exposing a part of her body to his view. She flattered Haridasa Thakura saying how beautiful he looked and how desperate she was to enjoy him. She explained that it would not be possible for her to continue living if she does not get to unite with Srila Haridasa.
tomara sangama lagi lubdha mora mana
toma na paile praana na yaya dharana
(Caitanya Caritamrta, Antya, 3.113)
Haridasa Thakura listened to the girl carefully and assured that He would definitely accept her. However, He requested her to wait until he had finished chanting his stipulated number of rounds.He said that he would fulfill her desires after that.So Hira sat there and waited for Haridasa Thakura to finish his chanting. When the light of the morning appeared, Hira stood up and left disappointed.She went and updated Ramachandra Khan about what had happened and expressed her confidence in alluring Haridasa the following night.
Hira came to Haridasa Thakura, the following night. Haridasa Thakura offered her assurances once again and made her sit and hear his chanting attentively. As the morning approached, Hira turned restless. Haridasa Thakura explained that he had vowed to chant ten million holy names a month. As his rounds were not finished yet, he was not able to enjoy with her. But he assured her that he would definitely complete his rounds, the next day and then they could unite as agreed. Hira left only to return the following night.
The next day, Hira arrived by evening and waited eagerly for Haridasa to complete his rounds. The night gradually passed and the chanting of the holy name slowly began to have its effect on the consciousness of the prostitute. She had a change of heart and soon surrendered at the lotus feet of Haridasa. She confessed her guilt and revealed how Ramachandra Khan had appointed her to defame and pollute the thakura.She begged forgiveness and expressed how ,being engaged in the profession of a prostitute, she had committed countless offenses in her life.She accepted Haridasa Thakura as her spiritual master and sought his guidance.
veshya hana muni paap kariyachon apara
kripa kari kara mo-adhame nistara
(Caitanya caritamrta, Antya,3.132)
Haridasa Thakura replied that he knew everything about the conspiracy of Ramachandra Khan, whom he then addresses as an ignorant fool (ajna murkha).He added that he could have left benapole, on the very day Ramachandra Khan was planning all of this. But he had only stayed back to deliver Hira bai.
Haridasa Thakura then instructed Hira, to immediately return home and distribute whatever property she possessed to the brahmanas. After that she was ordered to return to that very place, and chant the holy names of Krishna, in front of Tulasi devi, for the rest of her life. Instructing thus, Haridasa Thakura stood up and left.
Hira did accordingly, and she went onto become a great vaishnavi. She shaved off her head and resided in that cottage wearing only one cloth.She chanted three lakh holy names daily and ate whatever little food she obtained by begging. When she would obtain no alms, she would fast. Day and night she chanted and served Tulasi devi with utmost devotion. Gradually she conquered her senses and the symptoms of love of God began manifesting within her. Many stalwart vaishnavas came to take her darsana and seek her blessings. Hira bai came to be subsequently known as Laksha-Hira, as she chanted lakhs of holy names daily.
The team from ‘The Gaudiya Treasures of Bengal’ considers themselves greatly fortunate to have been able to visit the exalted bhajana kutira of Haridasa Thakura and Lakshahira devi. The sacred Madhavi tree under which Haridasa Thakura stayed and chanted exists over here till this day.
The fate of Ramachandra khan :
In course of time, Ramachandra Khan received the results of offending Vaishnavas, especially that of offending an exalted devotee like Haridasa Thakura.When Lord Nityananda returned to bengal for preaching Bhakti , he began touring all over the country. Thus it so happened, that He along with his followers, once visited Benapole, and rested at the Durga mandapa (where Goddess Durga is worshipped) of Ramchandra Khan. Ramchandra Khan objected to this and sent his servant to convey the message that the devotees should select a different place for their stay. Lord Nityananda, on hearing this, became very angry and started laughing out loudly. He exclaimed that Ramachandra had rightly spoken, that the place was unfit for the devotees to take rest. Instead it was only fit for cow killing meat eaters.Saying this Lord Nitai along with His followers left the village.
satya kahe – ei ghara mora yogya naya
mleccha go vadh kare, tanra yogya haya
(Caitanya Caritamrita, Antya, 3.155)
After Nityananda prabhu and His followers had left, Ramachandra ordered his servants to purify and clean the Durga mandapa, with cow dung and water.The fool was under the impression that the place had become contaminated ,coming in contact with Lord Nityananda and His followers, for whom he had no regards.Such is the consciousness of demons. A demon might make a great show of religiosity, by conducting Durga puja festivals or occasions like that, yet he can be easily identified by the way he treats other devotees or by the degree of his enviousness. Repeatedly committing Vaishnava aparadha, Ramachandra khan, was in no position to realize that Nityananda Prabhu was none other than lord Balarama.Worse, he ended up offending Him and His followers as well.
Ramachandra Khan’s business was questionable and he avoided paying taxes to the government.Soon, the muslim ministers found this out and they arrested Ramachandra Khan, along with his wife and sons. They stayed at his Durga Mandapa and killing a cow ,cooked it over there for three continuous days. They plundered the village and as a result, it remained deserted for many days. This is what happens when offenses are committed. Wherever an exalted devotee of the Lord is insulted, even if its a single person’s doing, the entire town or village ends up suffering the terrible reactions.
mahantera apamana ye desha graame haya
eka janara doshe saba desha ujadaya
(Caitanya Caritamrita, Antya, 3.164)
Life after leaving Benapole:
After leaving benapole, Haridasa Thakura shifted to adisaptagram and then he stayed for a few days at Phulia (near Santipur). Over there he had enacted some amazing pastimes, like surviving even after being whipped at twenty-two market places, initiating Maya devi,etc. Thereafter he shifted to Jagannatha Puri, along with Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and he subsequently put an end to his manifested pastimes there at Puri.We have covered these enchanting heart melting pastimes, as per our limited capacity, in another of our articles entitled – ‘Sri Haridasa Thakura’s Bhajana Kutira, Phulia’. After Haridasa Thakura had passed away, the Supreme Lord, Sri Caitanya, had remarked that Srila Haridasa was the crest jewel adorning the crown of this world and without him, the world was bereft of its valuable Gem.
haridasa achila prthibira shiromani
taha bina ratna sunya haila medini
(Caitanya caritamrta, Antya, 11.97)
What to See (Benapole) :
- The sacred Madhavi tree under which Haridasa Thakura performed bhajana exists over here till this day. We were fortunate to take darsana and pray under this tree.
- The bhajana kutira of Hira devi.
- The same compound where the temple stands today, is the sacred place where Lord Caitanya and Advaita acharya had previously met. At this place stands a sacred tamala tree which had originated from a twig that Advaita acharya had planted in the ground 500 years ago.
- A beautiful museum has been constructed at the site which reminds one of Haridasa thakura’s exalted pastimes.
- One can also take darsana of beautiful Jagannatha Baladeva Subhadra and Gaura Nitai deities who are worshipped in the temple.
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 Benapole. 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 Srila Haridasa 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 his 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.
How to Reach :
The place is renowned today as Benapole Patbari and is hardly a few kilometers from the international border crossing between India and Bangladesh. On crossing the international border at benapole, one can hire a cab to directly reach the bhajana kutira of Srila Haridasa and Lakshahira devi. The place has been very nicely preserved and the deities are served with all due diligence.
Accommodation – One can choose to stay at any of the hotels here at Benapole like the Parjatan Motel, etc. These hotels are a stone’s throw from the Benapole Pathbari. Or else one can choose to stay at Iskcon Jessore (+8801913171536) or Iskcon Ramsara (+880 1712-128285), where they can avail nice accommodation and prasadam. These Iskcon centers, however, are located near the Jesore city and hence are a bit distant from the Benapole patbari.
Nearest major airport – Jessore Airport, Bangladesh
Nearest major Railway station – Noapara Railway station (Bangladesh), Bongaon Railway station (India)
(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)