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All my life, I have always lived in big cities, where everyone are so-called happy or trying to find happiness some way or the other, somehow or the other. By Kṛṣṇa’s arrangement, even my life was so-called happy surrounded by luxury (and its associated complications). But on the 26th of September, 2013, I came to comprehend what happiness really is.
I had moved in to Śrīdhāma Māyāpur three months ago and life has changed for good. In the middle of my “busy”ness trying to settle down here, I came across the information regarding another of Śrīdhāma Māyāpur’s unending festivals—one of the most wonderfully enjoyable features of life here. On one of the most auspicious days for all the devotees of ISKCON—the day when Śrīla Prabhupāda set foot on American soil in 1965—the Māyāpur Tourism Department was organizing a half-day yātrā (on a boat) to Modadrumadvīpa (locally known as Māmagāchi), one of the nine islands of Navadvīpa.
The two transcendental brothers, Lord Caitanya and Lord Nītyānanda, were compared to the sun and the moon respectively, by the great ācāryas.
citrau śan-dau tamo-nudau
“I offer my respectful obeisances unto Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya and Lord Nityānanda, who are like the sun and moon. They have arisen simultaneously on the horizon of Gauḍa to dissipate the darkness of ignorance and thus wonderfully bestow benediction upon all.” – (Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Ādi-līlā 1.2)
Śrīla Prabhupāda wrote in the purport to Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Ādi-līlā 1.102 referring to the appearance of these two transcendental brothers: “They appeared on the horizon of Gauḍadeśa to spread the science of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, and it is predicted that as the sun and moon gradually move west, the movement They began five hundred years ago will come to the Western civilizations by Their mercy.”
Lord Caitanya had predicted that His name would be heard in every town and village of the world. In 1896, the year of the divine appearance of Śrīla Prabhupāda, his powerful predecessor Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura had predicted that this prophecy of Lord Caitanya would soon be fulfilled. His own spiritual master, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, had ordered Śrīla Prabhupāda to preach the timeless message of the Vedic literature in the English-speaking nations. It is to fulfill these desires of his preceptors that Śrīla Prabhupāda embarked on the arduous journey to the United States in the cargo ship Jaladuta in 1965. After weeks of a difficult journey through rough seas and ill-health, Śrīla Prabhupāda reached the New York Harbor on the 19th of September, 1965. The boat ride to Modadrumadvīpa was to commemorate this occasion of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s arrival in the USA.
Approximately forty-five enthusiastic devotees from around the world—Indians, Spanish, Burmese, Russians—huddled inside two boats. Oh! What a mix. We had Hindi, Bengali, English, Russian and a few other languages filling the cool early morning breeze. The journey started at the Yogamāyā Ghat in Māyāpur. Being my first parikramā in Māyāpur, I had no idea what it was going to be like. As the boat moved, the cool breeze and the gentle sound of the ripples made in the water captivated me.
We were fortunate to be blessed with the association of His Holiness Nityānanda Svāmī, who narrated to us the pastimes connected to Māmagāchi. He told us that each of the nine islands in Navadvīpa represent one of the nine devotional processes. Modadrumadvīpa represents dāsyam or servitude. Moda, he said, meant happiness and druma meant trees. In Tretā-yuga, during His exile, Lord Rāmacandra had come to this place with Lord Lakṣmaṇa and Śrīmatī Sītādevī. They built a hut under a banyan tree and lived here very happily for a few days. Hence the name Modadrumadvīpa—the island of happiness amidst trees. How true could it get? The simplicity of the environment made everything very wonderful. Also, when we physically visit a place of pilgrimage and hear narrations of the pastimes connected, the importance of the place increases manifold times.
Accompanied by loud kīrtana, we marched first to the house of Śrī Sāraṅga Murāri. Śrīla Prabhupāda describes him in Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Ādi-līlā 11.20) as follows: “He had no material bodily features, for he was completely spiritual. Thus he would sometimes chase after tigers in the jungle and treat them just like cats and dogs. He would slap the cheek of a tiger and take a venomous snake on his lap. He had no fear for his external body, of which he was completely forgetful. He could spend all twenty-four hours of the day chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra or speaking about Lord Caitanya and Nityānanda. Sometimes he would remain submerged in water for two or three days, but he would feel no bodily inconvenience. Thus he behaved almost like stone or wood, but he always used his energy in chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra. No one can describe his specific characteristics, but it is understood that wherever Śrī Sāraṅga Murāri passed, whoever was present would be enlightened in Kṛṣṇa consciousness simply by the atmosphere he created.” Śrī Śrī Rādhā Madana-gopāla, Who were established by Śrī Vāsudeva Datta are worshipped here.
Mahārāja narrated further pastimes while we honored prasādam. Then we proceeded to (we also got to pick campaka flowers on the way) the birthplace of Śrīla Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura, the author of Śrī Caitanya-bhāgavata, who has most fascinatingly expressed in his work, the early life of Lord Caitanya. Śrīla Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura is actually an incarnation of Śrīla Vyāsadeva, who had described the pastimes of Lord Kṛṣṇa in his Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. There were big banyan trees all over, which were said to have been present during the time of Lord Caitanya. Also, there is the most worshipped bakula tree of Śrī Sāraṅga Murāri that Lord Caitanya had embraced with His beautiful golden arms. The Lord had noticed that the tree had become hollow and was almost dead. Upon the touch of Lord Caitanya, completely rejuvenated, the tree burst forth with green leaves and fresh super-fragrant flowers. Even to this day, the tree can be seen in full bloom.
With a hungry heart wanting more such “excursions”, we returned back to Māyāpur. Mahārāja inspired and urged devotees to help restore these extremely important places. I’m greatly thankful to the Māyāpur Tourism Department, especially Gopījana-vallabha Prabhu, who was personally present and took care of all the devotees’ needs, for having arranged such an unforgettable day. Therefore, just walk in to the tourism office, irrespective of how many of you are traveling, and they will take care of everything. Dear devotees, please do take advantage of this mercy that Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and our dear most Śrīla Prabhupāda have bestowed upon us.