Srivasa Pandita’s birthplace, Sylhet, Bangladesh

sylhet

Panca tattvatmakam krsnam bhakta-rupa-svarupakam
bhaktavataram bhaktakhyam namami bhakta saktikam

I offer my obeisances unto the Supreme Lord, Sri Krishna, who is non-different from His features as a devotee (Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu), devotional manifestation (Sri Nityananda Prabhu), devotional incarnation (Sri Advaita Acarya), devotional energy (Sri Gadadhara Pandita) and pure devotee (Sri Srivasa Pandita).

According to Sri Gaura Gannoddesha Dipika, Srivasa Pandita is none other than the incarnation of Narada Muni, who had appeared to assist Sri Caitanya, his beloved Lord, enact the heart melting pastimes of Navadvipa. We have covered the details of Srivasa Pandita’s life and pastimes in two of our previous articles entitled – ‘Srivasa Angan ,Mayapur ,Navadvipa – Part 1: where Lord Gaurahari eternally performs His ecstatic pastimes’ & ‘Srivasa Angan & Samadhi of Chand Kazi, Mayapur, Navadvipa – Part 2. In this article, however, we shall primarily deal with his appearance and early pastimes in Sylhet, before he shifted to Navadvipa.

A brief description of Srivasa Pandita’s family :

Srivasa pandita , and his family members had originally hailed from Srihatta (Sylhet,currently situated in Bangladesh) and later moved over to reside at Navadvipa.Srivasa Pandita had appeared in this world about 30 years before the birth of Lord Caitanya. He is one of the members of the pancha-tattva (the five members representing the five diversities of the Absolute truth) and represents the pure devotee of the Lord. Sri Jaladhar Pandita, a traditional brahmin, fathered five glorious sons – Nalina , Srivasa , Srinidhi, Sripati and Sriram. Nalina Pandita, the eldest of them all, was the father of Narayani Devi who subsequently became the mother of Srila Vrindavana das Thakura, the author of Sri Caitanya Bhagavata, the heart melting biography of Lord Caitanya (refer – ‘Denur – Where Srila Vrindavana Das Thakura composed Sri Caitanya Bhagavata’). Sriram pandita, Srivasa’s younger brother ,was the incarnation of Parvata Muni, a close friend of sage Narada.Srimati Malini Devi ,the wife of Srivasa pandita, was previously the nurse Ambika in Krishna lila, who used to feed little Krishna ,with her own breast milk. Malini devi was an intimate friend and companion of Saci mata, and regularly shared her advice on how to raise up mischievous Nimai.Later, after Lord Gaurasundara had accepted His sannyasa initiation and moved over to Jagannatha Puri, Srivasa pandita together with his family, being unable to bear the mournful separation from their beloved Lord,  shifted to a place called Halisahar, located on the other side of the Ganges. His worshipable Gaura-Nitai deities are till this day being served at a place called Chinsurah, where one can obtain their mesmerizing darsana (refer – Sri Srivasa Pandita’s deities ,Uddharan Gaudiya Math, Chinsurah). Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja explains in Caitanya Caritamrta how Srivasa Pandita, along with his whole family wholeheartedly engaged in the service of Sri Caitanya deva. They knew of no other Gods or Goddesses.

chari bhai savamse kare Caitanyera seva
Gauracandra bina nahi jane devi deva
(Caitanya Caritamrta, Adi – 10.11)

Srivasa Pandita’s birthplace at Sylhet  :

The place known as ‘Pancha Khanda’ ,now situated in the Sylhet district of Bangladesh, was once a seat of illustrious Vedic brahmanas. Hundreds of years ago, around 671 AD, the erstwhile king of Tripura, Maharaja Kirita, had performed a grand Vedic ceremony, here at Pancha Khanda. The Vedic sacrifice was performed in order to bring an end to the long famine that had plagued the place. The ceremony was presided over by five renowned brahmanas, who had hailed from Mithila (present day ‘Bihar’). Being very satisfied with the work of these brahmanas, the king of Tripura subsequently donated five pieces of land to them. It was since then, that this place came to be known as Pancha (five) Khanda (piece).

Tripura parvatadhisha Sri-Sri-yuktadi dharmafaah
Samagyang datta patrancha maithileshu tapasvishu
Vatsa vatsya Bharadwaja Krishna-treya parasara
Sri-Nanda-nanda Govinda Sripati Purussottamah
(Tripura Raja-mala)

Out of the descendants of these five brahmanas, those belonging to ‘Parasara’ gotra are believed to be the foremost. Sri Jaladhara Pandita belonged to this exalted lineage. His son Srivasa Pandita was an eternal intimate associate of the Supreme Lord. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu had later explained that the word ‘Sri’ refers to devotion (bhakti). Srivasa Pandita had been named so as he was the very ‘abode’ of devotion (abasa translates to ‘abode’ in bengali).

Great personalities have subsequently graced this sacred land of Pancha-khanda. ‘Pancha Khanda’ is also the birthplace of Raghunatha Siromani, the great logician, a lifelong celibate who had authored several books on sanskrit grammar and logic. He was a contemporary of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. He had defeated the head priest of Mithila in a debate and had been subsequently crowned as one of the foremost scholars of India.

Ani Pandita, another renowned scholar, had also hailed from ‘Parasara’ Gotra and belonged to the same lineage as Srivasa pandita. Ani Pandita had endeavored to set up a printing press in order to print and widely distribute his authored books. He had also set up a library which is believed to be the first of its kind in Sylhet. The ruins of his library, can still be witnessed by one visiting Pancha Khanda. 

Sri Nalina Pandita, the elder brother of Srivasa Thakura, had passed away at a very tender age, here at Pancha Khanda. When Srivasa Pandita was merely twelve years of age, Sri Jaladhara Pandita (Srivasa’s father) shifted to Navadvipa, along with his entire family. Srivasa Pandita went onto reveal himself as one of the most confidential associates of the Supreme Lord. It was at Srivasa Thakura’s residence in Navadvipa, that Lord Caitanya and His followers completely immersed themselves in ecstatic sankirtana every evening. Let us now try to recite a few of the innumerable exalted pastimes of Srivasa Pandita that establishes his sublime consciousness and intense devotion unto Lord Gaurahari, the supreme personality of Godhead.

Srivasa’s Mother-In-law hides in his house during Mahaprabhu’s sankirtana :

The sankirtana pastimes of Lord Caitanya at the house of Srivasa Pandita were exceedingly private ,which only His most intimate associates had the permission to witness. The envious people of Navadvipa, however, gathered outside the gates and spent their time criticizing the activities of the devotees inside.None of the people from outside were allowed into Srivasa Pandita’s house though, as all the blissful transcendental pastimes at Srivasa Angan, occurred behind the locked doors.

One evening, Srivasa’s mother-in-law hid herself in a corner of the house from where she hoped to witness Mahaprabhu sing and dance in ecstasy. Being the indweller of all beings, Lord Gauranga was aware of her presence and kept repeating to his companions that on that particular day he felt no joy in performing sankirtana. This was very disquieting to the devotees who suspected that some outsider might be hiding within Srivasa Angan and they began an extensive search. When Srivasa discovered his mother-in-law hiding, he was mortified.Taking her by the hair, he led her out of his courtyard. ‘Only those who have received the mercy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu have the right to witness His pastimes’, he said.

In India, elders are considered to be the most respectful. One’s mother in law is treated as one’s own mother if not more. So when Lord Caitanya came to know what had happened, He was taken aback and enquired as to why Srivasa treated her the way he did. Srivasa pandita replied that he was ready to go to hell or face any consequences for his actions. But he would not tolerate any inconvenience of his beloved Lord. Though he respected his mother-in-law a lot, yet his primary consideration was to ensure that Lord Caitanya remained satisfied and could perform His pastimes ecstatically. This wonderful pastime teaches us how dearly Srivasa pandita loved Lord Gauranga and how far he could go in order to satisfy his worshipable master.

Srivasa pandita’s son passes away during sankirtana:

There was another pastime that occurred during one of these days, which showcased the elevated mood and devotion that Srivasa Pandita possessed towards Sri Gaurahari. One evening, the Lord along with His associates engaged in an ecstatic dancing sankirtana at Srivasa Angan. While everyone was busy in sankirtana, the pandita’s young son, who had been ill for a few days, passed away. The ladies within the house began to wail in lamentation at the boy’s untimely death. Srivasa pandita could sense that some calamity had befallen his house. He quickly entered the inner chambers and found out what had happened.Being well versed in the scriptures, he could control his own grief and tried his best to console the women of the house.He explained to them that all living beings are actually spiritual entities who transmigrate from one body to the other. Hence death is inevitable for a living entity. However, as this boy had passed away hearing the Lord’s holy names, he must have achieved the supreme benediction of going back to the spiritual world. Hence none should be crying keeping in mind the good fortune of his now-expired son, he tried to explain. Srivasa Pandita further reminded them that the Supreme Lord, who is the very object of worship of all the demigods, including demigods like Lord Brahma and Shiva, was personally dancing in their courtyard and he hence requested all the ladies to control their cries until the Lord had finished His sankirtana. Srivasa didn’t want to disturb the lord and dampen His ecstatic mood.Srivasa Pandita warned the ladies that if the dancing of the Lord was disturbed due to their hue and cries, then he would commit suicide by jumping into the Ganges.After instructing thus, Srivasa pandita returned and joined Mahaprabhu in His ecstatic sankirtana.

Mahaprabhu continued His kirtana till the middle of the night. But of course the omniscient Lord knew everything about what had happened, and prolonged His kirtana only to further glorify Srivasa, His dear devotee.Lord Gauranga then expressed that He didn’t find the usual bliss in the kirtana that day and suspected that some calamity had befallen Srivasa Pandita’s family. When Sri Caitanya came to know of the untimely death of Srivasa’s son, He became greatly shocked and was surprised why nobody had informed Him about the incident till then. Noting Srivasa Pandita’s pure devotion and his selfless love,the lord began to cry and embraced him dearly. He repeatedly uttered to Himself as to how He could ever possibly abandon the company of such selfless pure associates. The surrounding devotees however became concerned hearing the lord speak of abandoning them. The devotees would later come to realize that the Lord by then had already made up His mind to accept sannyasa (renounced order of life).

Thereafter Mahaprabhu came over to where the dead body of the child was lying.As soon as He touched the body, the child regained his consciousness and began to speak as follows – After offering obeisances unto Sri Gaurahari, the child explained that the ordain of the Supreme lord is absolute, and no one can change that. He continued that he had taken birth several times before and had also undergone the process of death on all of these previous occasions. However, on this particular occasion, he had the supreme fortune of beholding the lotus face of Gaurasundara , while passing away and thus he had left his body very happily. Speaking thus, the child fell silent once more. Hearing these words from the mouth of a dead child, all the devotees present, became struck with wonder and fell upon the lotus feet of Lord Caitanya. Mahaprabhu then revealed that He and Nityananda Prabhu were like the two sons of Srivasa pandita and hence He advised the devotees not be too aggrieved at their recent loss.

The Lord enacted this pastime at Srivasa Angan only to teach us, how selfless and surrendered a perfect devotee should be.No matter what the personal loss, an ideal devotee is never too morose or baffled ,as pleasing Lord Gauranga, the Supreme Lord ,always remains his prime focus and ultimate objective.He is completely dependent upon the mercy of the Supreme, and hence relates anything good or bad that happens with him, as the will of the Supreme Lord, who is his ever well-wisher. Sri Srivasa Pandita is an example of such an ideal and exalted pure devotee of the Lord.

Dependence upon lord Gauranga :

After Lord Caitanya had accepted His sannyasa initiation and moved over to reside at Jagannatha Puri, Srivasa Pandita along with his entire family, being unable to bear the separation of the Lord, shifted to Kumarhatta (Halisahar, West Bengal, India). When the Lord came to Bengal to visit Saci mata, He stopped over for a few days at Srivasa pandita’s house at Kumarhatta. Mahaprabhu was then amazed to notice that Srivasa Pandita did not go out to earn but instead just sat and chanted in his house the whole day. When Mahaprabhu asked Srivasa pandita as to how he maintained his family, Srivasa replied that by Mahaprabhu’s mercy he and his family members never suffer from any shortage. Srivasa pandita added that if ever in future the situation arose that there was no food in the house, then he would wait for three days.If even after three days the situation did not improve then he would commit suicide by jumping into the Ganges.Lord Caitanya then reassured Srivasa pandita that such a day would never arrive.He reminded Srivasa of the boon that he and his family members would never ever suffer from poverty. The Lord then assured that for His devotees, He Himself bore all responsibility of their maintenance.The Lord also quoted a verse from Bhagavad Gita to support His statement, wherein He had stated that for His dear devotees, He personally preserved what they have and carry what they lack (ananyas chintayanto mam ye janah paryupasate, tesam nityabhiyuktanaam yoga ksemam vahamy aham).

Let us beg for the blessings and causeless mercy of Srivasa Pandita.Even if we achieve a tiny portion of his exalted mood and faith upon the Supreme, we would consider our lives to be successful. ‘The Gaudiya Treasures of Bengal’ has been striving to seek shelter of such great personalities throughout its spiritual journey. It is only with this objective of receiving their mercy and sharing it with others, that we have set out from our homes, trying to reveal to the world the mood and esoteric pastimes of these great men.The life and teachings, of these stalwarts inspire us to imbibe the same values and principles in our own lives and we pray that they mercifully bless us, so that we may forever contemplate upon their blissful pastimes.

What to See :

  1. The ancestral property of Srivasa Pandita
  2. Ani Pandita’s library which presently lies in ruins
  3. The remains of the temple at Srivasa Pandita’s house. Deities of Sri Sri Lakshmi Narayana and Lord Shiva were once worshipped here with all due diligence. This temple has since been attacked by goons and the deities damaged. Presently ISKCON has secured a portion of this property and has been endeavoring to preserve this exceedingly ancient and exalted dham. The deities of Panchatatva have now been installed and served over here.

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 Sylhet. We seek shelter of this holy land, and pray that its glories remain forever imprinted in our hearts. ‘The Gaudiya Treasures of Bengal’ offers millions of obeisances and humbly prays to Sri Srivasa Pandita 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.

How to Reach :

The ancestral property of Srivasa Pandita is situated at a place known as Pancha Khanda. The place is locally renowned as ‘Pandita Para’ and is situated within the locality of ‘Beanibazar’. The place is hardly a 1.5 hour ride from the Sylhet International Airport. The Iskcon temple is a few minutes walk from the Beanibazar bus-stop.

Accommodation – One can choose to stay in any of the prominent hotels of Sylhet city like ‘Farmis Garden’, ‘Hotel Noorjahan Grand’, etc. There is also an Iskcon center nearby where one can opt to stay or have his meals.

Nearest major airport – Osmani International Airport, Sylhet, Bangladesh

Nearest major Railway station – Sylhet

(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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