The Grand festival of Kheturi

kheturi

Narottama das Thakura wished to inaugurate his six deities on the auspicious occasion of Gaura Purnima at his hometown in Kheturi (situated in Rajshahi, Bangladesh). He desired to arrange a grand festival at Kheturi and celebrate this occasion with great pomp and show. Narottama das Thakura’s brother, Sri Santosh Datta, was also a devout Vaishnava and had inherited the kingdom from his father, Sri Krishnananda. Accordingly, as per the instructions of his brother, Santosh began making all of the necessary arrangements. He ordered the construction of temples at Kheturi, where these six deities would subsequently be installed. Sri Narottama das Thakura personally invited Srimati Jahnava Mata, Sri Srinivasa Acharya, Ramachandra kaviraj, and several stalwart Vaishnavas to attend the festival at Kheturi.

During this grand festival that took place 500 years ago, gaudiya vaishnavas from all over India had come to participate. Sri Syamananda Pandita from Narsimhapur, Srimati Jahnava devi from Khardaha, Sri Parameswari das thakura,Srinivasa acharya along with his disciples, Krishnadasa sarkhel, Madhava acharya, Raghupati vaidya, Minaketan Ramdas, Murari Chaitanya das, Jnanadas, Mahidas, Sri Sankara, Kamalakara Pippalai, Gauranga Das, Bhagavatacharya, Sivananda sen, Nakari, Krishnadas, Damodara, Balaram Das, Mukunda das, Srila Vrindavana das Thakura, Achyutananda, Sri Krishna misra, Sri Gopala, Raghunandana, brothers of Srivasa Pandita  and many others participated wholeheartedly.

King Santosh Datta arranged for innumerable boats to transport devotees to the other side of the river Padma. Numerous Bullock carts and palanquins were arranged to ensure that the devotees faced no problems reaching Kheturi. The whole atmosphere was surcharged with the mood of love and surrenderance. Narottama das Thakura, Santosh Datta, and Srinivasa Acharya personally welcomed the guests with Chandana and garlands. Rooms and servants were arranged for each of the guests. The dust of the feet of such exalted Vaishnavas transformed kheturi into an exalted place of pilgrimage. Loud reverberations of Harinama sankirtana were heard and the sound of the Mridanga and kartalas enraptured the sky.

Not only the temples, but each and every house of the town was exquisitely decorated with banana leaves, auspicious pots ,articles, flowers, etc. Huge quantity of ghee, milk, vegetables and puja paraphernalia were arranged. Containers made of gold and silver were all kept handy.

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Srimati Jahnava Devi received divine instructions from Mahaprabhu to attend the festival of Kheturi. Lord Gaurahari informed her that Srinivasa, Narottama and others were eagerly waiting for her. Lord Gauranga also intimated her that He (Mahaprabhu) along with His eternal associates ,would bestow their blissful darsana once again amidst the festival of Kheturi. The Lord assured that He, along with His associates, though they had already wrapped up their earthly pastimes by then, would reappear in the midst of the rousing sankirtana, in the festival of Kheturi. He would manifest again owing to the intense desires of Srinivasa, Narottama and His followers,Hearing these words, mother Jahnava became overjoyed and she atonce left for Kheturi.

When the residents of Khardaha learnt that Maa Jahanava would be leaving for Kheturi, they came out to meet her. She entrusted all the responsibilities to appropriate people and consoled Vasuda devi, Virchandra prabhu and Gangamuni devi before leaving. Accompanying her were many of her disciples, namely – Krishnadasa Sarkhela, Raghupati Vaidya, Madhava acharya, Minaketana Ramdasa, Murari Chaitanya, Sri Sankara, Jnana das, Kamala, Nrsimha, Kanai pandita, Sri Parameshwari, Vrindavana das, and others. Several maidservants also accompanied her. As her palanquin passed, more and more people joined in the procession.

She halted for a few days at Navadvipa where Sripati and Srinidhi, the two brothers of Srivasa also joined the yatra. Achyutananda and Gopala, the two sons of Advaita acharya, along with several Vaishnavas also joined her over here. She then visited Kantaka Nagara (Katwa) and was warmly welcomed at the Gauranga Bari temple. Here Raghunandana and numerous other mahantas joined Jahnava devi in her journey. Jahanava Mata cooked delicious prasadam for the deities at Gauranga bari, and offered the remnants to all the vaishnavas.

The pilgrims then travelled to Teliya Budhari village where they rested for a day. This village is located in the Murshidabad district of present West bengal. River Padma separates Teliya Budhari (situated in West bengal) and Kheturi (situated in Bangladesh), which now lie on the opposite sides of the international border. However Bengal used to be a single entity in those days and the devotees frequently travelled to and fro these exalted places.

King Santosh datta had made all the necessary arrangements and a huge boat was hired to transport the devotees to Kheturi, situated on the other side of Padma. Sri Srinivasa acharya and Narottama das Thakura personally welcomed all the guests. All the necessary arrangements for accommodation and prasadam were very nicely taken care of. The villagers considered themselves very fortunate having received the association of such revered guests.

On the day before the festival, during the adhivasa ceremony, Sri Narottama das Thakura worshipped Jahnava Mata with Chandana and garlands. Thereafter all the other Vaishnavas were honored appropriately. Srimati Jahnava Devi was appointed the chief guest for the festival and Srinivasa Acharya was appointed the head priest. On the request of Sri Narottama and Srinivasa, Sri Raghunandana Thakura invoked the auspicious Mangacarana prayers. The sankirtana continued till late in the night after which the devotees accepted Prasadam and rested for the night.

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The next morning, on the auspicious occasion of Gaura Purnima (the divine appearance day of Lord Chaitanya), Sri Srinivasa acharya, after taking due permission from the mahantas, proceeded with installing the six deities. According to the wish of the Lord, he named the deities as Sri Gauranga, Sri Vallabhi Kanta, Sri Krishna, Sri Vraja Mohana, Sri Radha-Kanta, and Sri Radha Ramana. The beauty of the deities amazed one and all. The whole atmosphere of Kheturi was surcharged with names of Lord Hari. Beautiful music accompanied the grand festival. The brahmanas uttered hymns from the vedas, while Srinivasa decorated the deities sandalwood paste and flower garlands. All the devotees lent their voice to the tumultuous sankirtana at Kheturi. Jahnava mata ordered Srinivasa to distribute the garlands and sandalwood paste to the assembled Vaishnavas. Sri Isvari (Jahnava devi) was greatly overwhelmed by the touch of the garlands and sandalwood, and she shed tears of joy.

Jahnava Mata stared at Narottama and empowered him with spiritual prowess that is beyond the comprehension of ordinary beings. Thereafter Narottama led the kirtana and Sri Vallabhi das and others repeated in chorus. Narottama das Thakura appeared just like a moon who was surrounded by stars (musicians). It is worthwhile mentioning at this point that Sri Narottama das Thakura had a unique style of singing bhajans which since became renowned as Garanhati. Sri Narottama das Thakura is renowned all over the three worlds for his bhajans. The songs contained in his book, ’Prarthana’ and ‘Prema Bhakti Chandrika’, are the treasured jewels of our Gaudiya sampradaya. Anyway, returning to our present discussion, the kirtana played by Narottama was so deep, such was its scale and modulation, that it moved all to tears. Narottama’s songs described the mental condition of Lord Gauranga; the intense separation He felt from His beloved Krishna. Jahnava mata cried while relishing these songs. During this Kirtana the demigods from heavens showered flowers upon the singers. Narada and other celestials disguised themselves as ordinary beings to participate in the heart melting pastimes of Kheturi. As the pastimes became more and more intense, people completely forgot their own existence, and bathed themselves in ecstasy.

The devotees who were present sometimes laughed like madmen and at times shivered uncontrollably. Their lips trembled and the hairs on their bodies stood at their end. In this way, Narottama inundated the entire place with the love of God. All of a sudden, as the transcendental emotions reached their peak, Lord Gauranga Sundara, along with His associates, appeared in the midst of the devotees at Kheturi. Lord Gauranga could not hold Himself back, hearing the stone melting bhajans of Narottama das. So though He had already wrapped up His earthly pastimes by then, He appeared over there at Kheturi just to shower His causeless blessings upon Narottama and the Kheturi Mahotsava. Just as a flash of lightning appears from within the dense clouds, similarly Lord Gauranga appeared amidst the ecstatic rousing Harinama sankirtana.

Kahite ki sankirtana sukhera ghotay
Ganasaha avatirna haila Gaura Raya
Meghete udaya bidyutera punja yaichhe
Sankirtana meghe prabhu prakataya taichhe
(Bhakti ratnakara : 10.572)

He was accompanied by His eternal associates like Narahari Sarkar, Sri Mukunda, Sri Gaudidasa, Sri Advaita, Nityananda, Madhava Ghosh, Vasudeva Ghosh, Govinda Ghosh, Purandara acharya, Mahesh Sankara, Sridhara, Jagadish Pandita, Yadunandana, Kashishwar Pandita and many others. All the devotees present over there at Kheturi joined Mahaprabhu and His associates in the most ecstatic dancing sankirtana ever seen on the face of this world. Manifesting His divine appearance along with His associates, Lord Chaitanya fulfilled the desires of Srinivasa and Narottama. 

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Sriman Mahaprabhu and His associates danced enchantingly with the increasing beat of the musical instruments. Lord Nityananda’s dance caused the world to tremble while Advaita acharya danced like a mad lion, roaring in joy. Gadadhara Pandita danced gracefully with Srivasa Thakura. The joyful dancing of Mahaprabhu and His associates lifted the devotees out of their sorrows and lamentation.At the end of the sankirtana Lord Gaurahari and His associates disappeared from everyone’s sight. The devotees felt the bitter pain of separating from the Lord once more. Srimati Jahnava mata confirmed that Mahaprabhu had fulfilled the desires of His beloved devotees by appearing again, and manifesting His pastimes, during the sankirtana. He has thus delivered several atheists from their sin and lifted mankind out of its pitiable condition.

Jahnava mata then ordered Srinivasa acharya to inaugurate the festival of colors, which is also known as Holi. Accordingly different shades of colors were brought, and mixed with perfumes. On the orders of Jahnava devi, Srinivasa acharya begged permission from the mahantas, before beginning with Holi. Sri Jahnava Mata then offered the auspicious colors unto the deities. Thereafter the devotees smeared colors upon each other very enthusiastically. Some of them put colors upon the deities. Mere words are not enough to describe how beautiful the deity of Mahaprabhu appeared with colours smeared upon Him. Even the demigods disguised themselves and mixed with the devotees to participate in this joyous festival. Beautiful songs glorifying the Holi pastimes of Sri Radha and Krishna were sung to compliment this amazing festival of colors.In the evening, the sankirtana resumed once more and it continued till late in the night. The next day Jahnava Mata cooked bhoga for the Lord. She personally served prasadam to all the devotees. Also, it was here at the Kheturi festival that Srimati Jahnava Devi personally resolved the differences that existed within the conclusions of the various branches of our Gaudiya sampradaya.A few days on, the devotees began departing for their respective Sripats. With tearful eyes, King Santosh Datta, and Narottama bade their guests farewell. A very pathetic atmosphere enveloped Kheturi at the time of the devotees’ departure. The people of Kheturi followed their departing guests for some distance and cried miserably. The King donated various items unto his guests in charity. The grand festival of Kheturi came to a conclusion and all the Vaishnavas wholeheartedly blessed Narottama das and his pious brother, King Santosh.

kheturi


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