Caitanya Mahaprabhu's Tirtha-yatra - Part 2
BY: SUN STAFF
Payasvini River at Pulikunnu, Kasaragod
Jan 28, CANADA (SUN) A serial exploration of the holy sites visited by Lord Caitanya.
As mentioned in the opening segment of this series, Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu's famous travels throughout South India are described in the Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya lila 9. Included in the introductory summary is a description by HDG Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur, which states that: "The Lord also collected the Brahma-samhita, Fifth Chapter, on the banks of the Payasvini River. He then visited Payasvini, Srngavera-puri-matha and Matsya-tirtha."
Today, the Payasvini River is often referred to as the Chandragiri, which is more correctly the river's name at the point where it flows out into the Arabian Sea at Kasaragod, Kerala. The Payasvini snakes its way westward from Tamil Nadu, crossing the northern tip of Kerala. At Kasaragod, the river makes a sharp turn south, then north, forming a distinct 'U' shape. It then immediately flows into the sea.
The Payasvini River is considered to be the traditional boundary between the Tulu Nadu and Malayalam regions of Kerala. The river originates in Koinadu village of Kodagu district in Karnataka state. It flows in a north-westerly direction through Sullia taluk of Dakshina Kannada district, then west into Kasaragod, and the sea.
While the Payasvini River is still shown by that name on modern maps, we do not find a town by the name Payasvini. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur's description, however, seems to indicate that Lord Caitanya both visited a town by that name and walked along the banks of the Payasvini River.
The Lord's most well known pastime in this area was, of course, His discovery of the fifth chapter of Sri Brahma-samhita. Traveling along the banks of the Payasvini River in Travancore, Mahaprabhu reached the temple of Adi-kesava in Thiruvattar, Trivandrum district of Kerala. There, in the temple library He discovered a manuscript of Sri Brahma-samhita, being the fifth out of 100 chapters from the Hymns of Brahma.
In 1932, the Gaudiya Matha published an English-language version of Sri Brahma-samhita", with subsequent reprints in 1958 and later by Srila Prabhupada's BBT in 1973. These editions feature the English translation and commentary of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur, whose erudite words stand as the Absolute introduction to Sri Brahma-samhita.
Thiruvattar Adikesava Perumal Temple
In his Foreword to Sri Brahma-samhita (1932), Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati wrote the following:
"This booklet is only the fifth chapter of the Hymns of Brahma which were recorded in a hundred chapters. The Supreme Lord Sri Caitanya picked up this chapter from the temple of Adi-kesava at Tiruvattar, a village lying under the government of Travancore, for the assurance of all God-loving, and especially Krsna-loving, people in this conditioned jurisdiction. This booklet can easily be compared with another book which passes by the name of Srimad-Bhagavatam. Though it has got a reference in the pantheon of Puranas, the Bhagavatam corroborates the same idea of this Pancaratra."
In the Introduction to the most recently published BBT edition of Sri Brahma-samhita, we read:
"At the time of His discovery of the text, Sri Chaitanya was touring south India, preaching His message of love of Krishna and promulgating the practice of sankirtana congregational singing of the holy names of God. Sri Chaitanya commenced this tour shortly after becoming a monk (sannyasi), at age twenty-four. and the tour lasted approximately two years. After a southward journey from Puri (in Orissa State) to holy places such as Sri Ranga-kshetra, Setubandha, Rameshvaram, and finally Kanyakumari (Cape Comorin), He turned northward and, traveling along the bank of the Payasvini River in Travancore State, reached the temple of Adi-keshava in Trivandrum District."
As emphasized in the BBT Introduction, Lord Caitanya was not simply on pilgrimage to these South India tirthas, but was taking out His Sankirtana party open the floodgates of Love of God. In Srimad-Bhagavatam, 11th Canto, Chapter 5, we find similar mention of the Lord's pastimes. Here, Narada is explaining how Lord Narayana is worshipped in the various yugas.
Srimad Bhagavatam 11.5.38-40
kritadishu praja rajan
kalav icchanti sambhavam
kalau khalu bhavishyanti
kvacit kvacin maha-raja
dravideshu ca bhurisah
tamraparni nadi yatra
kaveri ca maha-punya
pratici ca maha-nadi
ye pibanti jalam tasam
prayo bhakta bhagavati
"My dear King, the inhabitants of Satya-yuga and other ages eagerly desire to take birth in this age of Kali, since in this age there will be many devotees of the Supreme Lord, Narayana. These devotees will appear in various places but will be especially numerous in South India. O master of men, in the age of Kali those persons who drink the waters of the holy rivers of Dravida-desa, such as the Tamraparni, Krtamala, Payasvini, the extremely pious Kaveri and the Pratici Mahanadi, will almost all be purehearted devotees of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vasudeva."
While devotees in the Ramanuj Sampradaya like to apply this verse to the appearance of the Alwars, the Gaudiya Vaisnavas understand that this is a clear reference to Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Taking the waters of the Payasvini, the Lord manifested His lila as the perfect pure-hearted devotee.
In their purport to Bhagavatam 11.5.38-40, the BBT editors write:
"According to Srila Jiva Gosvami the words kvacit kvacit in this verse indicate that in Kali-yuga Lord Sri Krishna Caitanya will appear in Gauda-desa, in the district of Nadia. And from this pivotal point, He will gradually expand the flood of love of Godhead to cover the entire earth."
Interestingly enough, Payasvini theertham is also manifest in Navadvipa Dhama. In the fourth chapter of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur's Navadvipa Dhama Mahatmya, Pramana-khanda, we find the following glorificaiton of Navadvipa, as spoken by Lord Shiva to Parvati in the Urddhvamnaya Maha-tantra:
"O Devi, the wise know that Navadvipa manifests from the Lord's potency like fruits come from flowers. All the Vedas glorify Navadvipa as nonmaterial, spiritual, full of variety, beyond matter, the supreme eternal Brahmapura, an enchanting abode in the form of a lotus. The nine islands of Navadvipa exactly resemble a lotus flower. O Devi, please listen as I describe the real form of Navadvipa where the Lord as Gaurasundara is eternally situated.
Antardvipa, Simantadvipa, Godruma dvipa, and Madhyadvipa are situated on the east bank of the Ganges. And Koladvipa, Rtudvipa, Jahnudvipa, Modadrumadvipa, and Rudradvipa are situated on the western bank. Flowing in various places of Navadvipa are all auspicious rivers such as the Ganges, Yamuna, Godavari, Sarasvat River, Narmada, Sindhu, Kaveri, Tamraparni, Payasvini, Krtamala, Bhima, Gomati, and Drsadvati. Navadvipa is always surrounded by these holy rivers.
"O Parvati, [the places of] Naimisaranya present within this eternal Navadvipa-dhama are Ayodhya, Mathura, Maya (Haridvara ), Kasi, Kanci, Avanti (Ujjain), Dvaraka, Kuruksetra, Puskara, and Naimisaranya. The four streams of the Ganges - Bhagirathi, Alakananda, Mandakini, and Bhogavati - enclose the thirty-two mile circumference of Navadvipa. All the holy places in the heavenly, earthly, and lower planets are present in Navadvipa."
Just as the holy Payasvini River flows in Navadvipa-dhama at all times, and the holy abode of Naimisharanya is manifest always in Navadvipa, we read that Naimisharanya is said to be comprised of all the most sacred spots, with thirty thousand tirthas living in the area of Naimisharanya at all times. And just as the Mandakini River flows in Navadvipa-dhama, it also flows in Chitrakoot, where the Mandakini is another name for the Payasvini River.
Tied together like the island pearls of Navadvipa are connected by the holy waters, we can see the connections between Srila Jiva Gosvami's reference to Bhagavatam 11.5.38-40 regarding Caitanya Mahaprabhu's appearance in Nadia as the pivotal point from which He would flood the entire earth in love of God, and Sri Caitanya's tirtha-yatra to the holy Payasvini River, also mentioned in that Bhagavatam sloka.
We find mention of Payasvini several other places in Vaisnava literature, most notably in the Sri Radha-sahasra-nama by the Narada Pancharata, translated by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur. There, in sloka 26, we find that 'Payasvini' is a term used to describe the qualities of Srimati Radharani:
"She is buxom (payasvini and payo-datri), pure (pavitra), all-auspicious (sarva-mangala), the great giver of life (maha-jiva-prada), Lord Krsna's beloved (krsna-kanta), and beautiful as a lotus (kamala-sundari)."
Similarly, Payasvini is one of Lord Balarama's names. In the Vraja Vilasa-stava by Ananta Das Pandit, the name is found in chapter thirteen, "Sri Balabhadra-sahasra-nama - A Thousand Names of Lord Balarama". These are Lord Balarama's thousand transcendental names, which Garga Muni gave to the gopis on the beautiful bank of the Yamuna River:
Chapter Thirteen, Text 61
kaveri ca payasvini
pratici suprabha veni
"He is the Krtamala, Maha-punya, Kaveri, Payasvini, Pratici, Suprabha, Veni, Triveni, and Sarayupama rivers."
Finally, it is interesting to note that Sri Madhvacarya's travels took him to many of the same places visited by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. After his famous visit to Vishnumangala (Kerala), where he effortlessly ate hundreds of bananas at one sitting, Sri Madhva stopped near the Payasvini River. There, he reminded the villagers that Shri Durga, the sister of Lord Krsna (Arjuna's wife Subhadra) would reincarnate there.
While traveling in the south, Lord Caitanya stopped at Sri Saila-parvata, and there He met Lord Shiva and his wife Durga, who were in the dress of a brahmana and brahmani.
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