radha-syamasundara-at-kardah

It was late afternoon when we arrived in Kardah. Lord Nityananda lived here with His transcendental family. The part of India between Triveni and Panihati is drenched with exquisite drops of His mercy. Chaitanya-bhagavata says that no one can describe the ecstasy Nityananda Prabhu felt while dancing here. He visited all the villages and went door to door begging: "Chant the holy name!" and dancing like a madman. He made even the Muslims, who are usually not inclined to worship Krishna, cry tears of love and dance in kirtana. Therefore, this is the place where one can feel extraordinary mercy meant for the most fallen! It's not that I was much aware of that fact, but still the mercy touched my heart and made it dance.

The local devotees prepared lunch for us and served it on the roof of a devotee's home. After honoring prasadam, we went for nagar-sankirtana through the narrow and crowded city streets, following in Lord Nityananda's footsteps. As is usual in Bengali villages and cities, the people observed us with a mix of amazement and delight. Many of them joined in the kirtana.

First we visited the house where Nityananda Prabhu lived and Ganga Devi and Virachandra Prabhu were born. It was already dark, but the beauty of the Deities of Sri Sri Gaura Nitai, the sun and moon of Gauda-desa, was so effulgent it defeated the cover of the night!! Gauranga's complexion is golden and yellowish, while Nityananda's is reddish. Here too is Virachandra Prabhu, raising his hand to offer benedictions. My heart was feeling intense joy as we were circumambulating the house to the beat of the kirtana. It was the same kirtana that started 500 years ago and made the whole universe spin!

We next visited a nearby temple, Nityananda-Syamasundara Mandir. There resides a very special Deity of Sri Syamasundara that was worshipped by Virachandra Prabhu, Sri Nityananda's son. Here's the story.

Once, Virachandra Prabhu decided to visit the Nawab of Murshidabad. The Nawab had invited Virachandra to lunch with the intention of feeding him meat. Being an incarnation of kshirodakashayi Vishnu, Virachandra purified the food with his inconceivable potency and made the Nawab admit his indecent intentions. Sincerely wanting to apologize, the Nawab offered Virachandra whatever he wanted from him. Hearing that, Nityananda Prabhu's transcendental son immediately asked for the huge black stone that stood above the Nawab's entrance gate. As he was entering the Nawab's home, Virachandra noticed that the stone was perspiring and saw it was a salagrama sila. The large sila was transferred 200 miles away to Kardah, floating in the Ganga. Virachandra Prabhu desired that a Deity of Krishna be carved out of that sila. He considered the first Deity that was carved too large, the second Deity was too small, and finally, the third Deity was the desired size. It is this Sri Syamasundara who has since been residing in Kardah. At first, He was worshiped in the house where Nityananda and Virachandra lived, but later a new temple was built for Him and His consort. That is the temple we were visiting.

The temple was crowded, and the evening arati was just beginning. All the Gaudiya Vaishnava temples in Bengal look similar to this one. The altar and the kirtana hall are separate, and both are raised about a meter above the ground with several square meters of space in between. All those separated areas were packed with people. It seemed to me that the whole city was dedicated to the service of Sri Sri Radha Syamasundara. There was a deafening noise made of bells, gongs and karatalas – a typical Indian temple worship atmosphere. The noise and the crowd are an essential part of the whole scene, which is very difficult for Westerners to accept. Yet, the safari travel softens our armor, our Western cultural heritage, and makes us able to grasp the natural and spontaneous ways of the East.

(From the book Safari, by Teja Gaurangi dasi)