Puthia is an Upazila of the Rajshahi District of Bangladesh. Located 23 km to the east of Rajshahi city, Puthia has the largest number of historic Hindu temples in the country. The temples were constructed by the erstwhile zamindars (landlords) of Puthia who were then-rulers of the land. Pitambara, the first landlord of the Puthia royal family, was a contemporary of Akbar. Mughal emperor Jahangir later awarded the title of ‘King’ unto the rulers of Puthia. The royal family of Puthia has been later blessed with the appearance of a great devotee in their lineage. Saci Devi, who subsequently came to be known as Gangamata Goswamini, appeared in the year 1601 AD. She was the only child of King Naresh Narayana.
From her very childhood, Saci devi exhibited symptoms of intense devotion. She remained immersed in the service of her beloved Madana Gopala. She was indifferent to the affairs of the material world. In a very short period of time, she gained mastery over grammar, poetry, and different subjects. Noticing Saci devi’s indifferent mood, King Naresh Narayana soon decided to arrange for her marriage. However, Saci devi protested that she would not want to spend the rest of her life with a person who was destined to suffer disease and death. In other words, she did not want to get married to any human being. Her heart was stolen away by her beloved Lord Krishna.
After King Naresh Narayana and his wife passed away, Saci devi abandoned her royal palace and set out on an extensive pilgrimage. She spent some time at Jagannatha Puri. Thereafter she visited Vrindavana, where she found the ultimate treasure of her life.
Accepting Initiation :
At Vrindavana, Saci devi received the association of Haridasa Pandita (not to be confused with namacharya Haridasa Thakura), who was one of the most prominent servants of Radha Govinda Dev jiu. Haridasa Pandita was a disciple of Sri Ananta Acharya (refer – ‘Sri Ananta Acharya’s Sripat, Baruipura’), a close associate of Mahaprabhu. Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami has mentioned in Caitanya Caritamrta that it was Haridasa Pandita who had inspired him to compose Caitanya Caritamrta, a biography that would also contain the details of Mahaprabhu’s later pastimes in Puri (Tenho ati kripa kari ajna dila more, Gaurangera sesh leela barnibar tore). Sri Haridasa Pandita was very fond of Lord Caitanya’s pastimes and he used to recite Sri Caitanya Bhagavata every day in the assembly of the Vaishnavas.
Initially, Haridasa Pandita tested Saci devi saying that it would not be possible for a princess like her to observe the strict vows and lead the life of renunciation that is required for practicing bhakti. But Saci devi did not relent. Haridasa Pandita tested her again by instructing her to practice madhukari (begging food from door to door) in Vrindavana. Saci devi began begging from door to door and slowly became absorbed in the mood of serving Vrajendra-Nandana. The residents of Vrindavana could find spiritual effulgence within Saci devi and could understand that she was not very ordinary. She began spending her days doing madhukari, regularly taking bath in the Yamuna, circumambulating the holy temples, hearing Bhagavatam, etc. Being very pleased with Saci devi, Haridasa Pandita initiated her in the Shukla trayodashi tithi of Chaitra (March- April), in the temple of Radha Govinda dev jiu. She used to chant three lakh holy names a day and used to serve her spiritual master dutifully.
Returning to Jagannatha puri :
After a few years, Sri Haridasa Pandita instructed Saci devi to return to Jagannatha Puri and preach the message of Gauranga and Nityananda extensively. He also instructed her to protect and revive the house of Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya, which was lying in ruins by then. Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya was the great mayavadi logician, who was mercifully delivered and awarded Prema bhakti by Lord Caitanya. It was in the house of Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya that Lord Caitanya had provided 108 explanations of the atmarama verse. It was in his house that Lord Caitanya had bestowed darsana of His sadbhuja form (six handed form) to Sri Sarvabhauma. Thus Sri Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya’s house is hence a very significant pastime place of Lord Caitanya and is one of the most worshipable for the Gaudiya Vaishnavas.
When Saci devi arrived at Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya’s house, she found nothing except an old broken temple housing the worshipable Radha-Damodara sila of Sri Sarvabhauma. Saci devi began reciting Srimad Bhagavatam every day. Such were the glories of her recitations that her name soon spread far and wide. Eventually, even the king of Puri, Sri Mukunda Deva, began regularly attending her Bhagavatam classes. Lord Jagannatha appeared in the king’s dream one night and instructed him to hand over the land where Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya’s house once existed, to Saci devi. The King made the necessary arrangements and approached Saci devi, the very next day. Remembering her Gurudeva’s instructions, Saci devi happily accepted the piece of land as a donation.
How Saci devi became renowned as Gangamata Goswamini :
Once on a Madhu-Krishna Trayodashi tithi, seeing everyone leave Puri to bathe in the holy Ganges, Saci devi developed a keen desire to bathe in the Ganges as well. As Ganga does not flow through Orissa, people had to come over to Bengal in order to take their baths. However, Saci devi could not leave Puri as her spiritual master had instructed her to stay and serve in the holy dham. That night Lord Jagannatha appeared in her dream and instructed her to bathe in the nearby water body (It has since come to be known as Sveta-Ganga). Lord Jagannatha informed her that mother Ganga, desiring to associate with Saci devi and to enable her to fulfill her desire of taking the holy dip, had herself arrived in that water body (Sveta-Ganga).
As soon as she received this news, Saci devi immediately arrived and took her bath in that water. It was the middle of the night. Goddess Ganga appeared in person to welcome Saci devi. Her waves washed Saci devi and floated her away. Most miraculously, the waves washed her away and brought her right inside the Jagannatha temple at Puri.
Over there she saw how the eternal residents of Sri-kshetra were bathing together along with Lord Jagannatha. The loud joyful cries of the devotees created a tumultuous sound which awoke the guards of the temple. They, in turn, sent a message to summon the temple priests. On the instructions of the priests, the temple gates were then opened at night and there they saw Saci devi standing alone (the blissful bathing sight was not visible to the general populace).
Thinking that Saci devi might have broken into the temple at night, to steal the Lord’s property, the guards arrested her and she was sent to the prison. But Lord Jagannatha could not tolerate such mistreatment of His dear devotee. Hence the temple priests soon began suffering from different diseases and misfortunes. Lord Jagannatha appeared in the king’s dream one night and revealed to him the exalted position of Saci devi. The Lord ordered the king to atonce free her and beg forgiveness at her lotus feet. King Mukunda Deva immediately set Saci devi free and he, along with the temple priests, begged forgiveness and accepted initiation from her. From that day onwards, Saci devi came to be known as Gangamata Goswamini.
The King wanted to give Guru-Dakshina to his Guru-Mata, but Gangamata did not want to accept anything. Finally, on the insistence of the king, she agreed to accept two pots of Jagannatha Mahaprasada, sabji, two offered garments and a trivial amount of around 160 paise (100 paise = 1 INR) as her Guru Dakshina. This practice has continued till this day and even today Jagannatha Mahaprasadam is brought and offered unto the samadhi of Gangamata Goswamini at Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya’s house. Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya’s house has since come to be known as Gangamata matha.
Serving Rasika Raya :
There was a brahmana by the name Chandra Sharma, who used to live in Jaipur (Rajasthan). He used to serve a deity of Lord Krishna, named Rasika Raya, in his house. Due to committing of offenses while serving the deity, all of the brahmana’s family members passed away one by one. Lord Jagannatha appeared in the brahmana’s dream one night and instructed him to hand over the service of Rasika Raya to Gangamata Goswamini. Accordingly, the brahmana arrived at Puri and revealed all that had happened to Gangamata.
Gangamata initially refused to accept the service of Rasika Raya, as she could not afford the cost of serving and offering bhoga unto the deity. She used to lead her life begging from door to door. So the brahmana left disappointed. At night, Sri Rasika Raya appeared in Gangamata’s dream and revealed to her that He had come all the way from Jaipur only to be served by her. Rasika Raya added that the brahmana had actually left Him lying in the midst of the Tulasi trees in the garden. Rasika Raya also requested her to feed Him as He was very hungry.
Thereafter Gangamata installed Rasika Raya and began serving Him very lovingly. Out of the twenty-four hours in a day, she spent twelve hours serving the deity. She spent the rest of the time contemplating upon the Lord’s pastimes. The glories of Rasika Raya soon spread far and wide. Gangamata was so busy serving her beloved Lord that she found no more time to beg. Rasika Raya then Himself arranged for all the necessary foodstuffs and materials to be brought over to Gangamata’s residence, by various devotees.
Disappearance pastimes :
In the year 1721 AD, at the age of around 120 years, Gangamata Goswamini entered the eternal pastimes of the Lord. Before passing away, she handed over the service of her beloved Rasika Raya to her disciple Sri Vanamali das Mahanta Goswami. Chanting the names of Rasika Raya, seeing His beautiful face with her two eyes, hearing His glories, smelling the Tulasi leaves that were at His feet, and in the midst of tumultuous Harinama sankirtana, Gangamata Goswamini entered the eternal pastimes of the Lord.
What to See :
The Royal members of Puthia were initially Shaivites. They were inspired to accept Vaishnavism by Sri Radha Mohana Thakura (1697-1778 AD), a descendant of Srinivasa Acharya. At that time, Puthia was ruled over by King Rabindra Narayan.
There is a huge Shiva Linga that is worshipped in one of the altars, here in Puthia palace. It was installed in the year 1823 AD by Queen Bhuvanamayi devi. This is arguably the largest Shiva Linga in the world. It has not been destroyed in spite of the several wars and the severe earthquakes that has since plagued the area.
The royal family has constructed several temples across the town of Puthia. There is a Radha Govinda temple situated on the eastern side of the palace. This was established in 1889 AD and is adorned with beautiful carvings on all of its sides. Though the temple is very old and needs urgent renovation, yet its pristine beauty stole away our hearts. Sri Radha Govinda, Gopala, and Gaura Nitai are diligently worshipped over here till this day.
The royal palace was built and renovated by Queen Hemanta Kumari devi in the year 1895 AD, in the loving memory of her mother in law ,Srimati Saratsundari devi. We pay our humble obeisances unto her lotus feet for preserving this site vibrant with ancient spiritual heritage.
- The beautiful palace of Puthiya
- Radha Govinda temple
- The temple of Gopala
- Huge shiva Linga
- Dol Mandira
- Ratha mandira (temple)
- Contemplating upon the pastimes of the great Vaishnavi , Gangamata Goswamini devi. This place is a witness to the childhood pastimes of this great vaishnavi, who disregarded and sacrificed all of her royal opulences and chose to accept the priceless treasure of Krishna Prema.
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 transcendental abode of Puthia. 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 Gangamata Goswamini 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 :
Puthiya is located in the Rajshahi district of Bangladesh. This place is not very far from Puthia bus stop and is renowned all over the world as ‘Puthia Rajbari’.This place is hardly a 1 hour drive from Rajshahi city.
Accomodation – One can choose to stay at any of the prominent hotels in the Rajshahi city. There is also an Iskcon center located in Rajshahi, where one can avail his prasadam.
Nearest major airport – Rajshahi Airport, Bangladesh
Nearest major Railway station – Rajshahi Railway station (Bangladesh)
(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)
We are very grateful to our well-wishers ,especially Vishal Gandotra Prabhu and Jayadeva das Prabhu (both residents of USA) ,for generously contributing and sponsoring our yatra to Rajshahi. We pray for their spiritual well being and beg Gangamata Goswamini to shower her choicest blessings upon them.