Every year thousands of people from around the world gather in Sridham Mayapur to participate in the annual Navadvipa Mandal parikrama organized by ISKCON. They walk around the nine islands camping out for some great nine days apparently in some of the lost villages of India’s West Bengal state. Devotees also use boats to cross Ganga and other sacred rivers surrounding the islands.
Why do they do so leave their city comforts and high earning hours? Who inspires them and what makes them convinced that it is the best activities for them during this time of the year?
It all started before more than 532 years when Lord Nityananda Himself took His dear devotee, Jiva Gosvami, on a tour to this mystical abode of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He said to Jiva: “My Gauranga never gives up Mayapur or Navadvipa. The devotees can perceive His daily Lila. You, Jiva, will also see Gauranga dancing.” When Jiva Gosvami heard this, with tears in his eyes, he fell flat like a stick at Nityananda’s feet and requested, “You will show real mercy on this unworthy wretch if You Yourself take me on parikrama.” Hearing this, Nityananda Raya simply said, “So be it”. Lord Nityananda then took Jiva Gosvami around Sri Navadvipa Dham.
In 18th century, Srila Bhaktivinod Thakur, after having received an order by Lord Chaitanya in a dream, did an extensive research using old maps, manuscripts, government records and scriptures in order to relocate holy places where Lord Chaitanya enacted wonderful pastimes. In 1887 the original birth place of Lord Chaitanya in Sri Mayapur, known as Yoga pith, was discovered. Srila Bhaktivinod Thakur instructed his son and spiritual successor, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, to develop Sri Navadvipa Dhama parikrama, for by its performance, he said, all people of the world can be liberated.
Following this instruction, in 1918, the first official Navadvipa Mandal Parikrama was initiated by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur Prabhupad. Thousands of devotees carrying flags and led by auspicious elephants walked through sacred streets of Navadvip Dham performing ecstatic kirtan.
For those who do not know the meaning of the term Navadvipa Mandala Parikrama, the word Navadvipa means nine islands, mandala refers to circle, universe or any geometric pattern, while Parikrama (pronounced Parikrama, with a long “a” at the end) means circumambulation.
Navadvipa is located at the centre of the Gaura-mandala-bhumi, appearing like a large lotus with a hundred petals with a circumference of 270 km (168 miles) and a diameter of approximately 90 km.
Navadvipa is where the Supreme Lord incarnated as Lord Gauranga (Chaitanya Mahaprabhu) in kali-yuga to teach the people the best way to attain the ultimate goal of life, which is the Love of Godhead, or Krsna-prema. Srila Narottama Dasa Thakura says: sri-gauda mandala-bhumi yeba jane chintamani tara haya vraja-bhume vasa – “One who knows the Gauda-mandala-bhumi, the abode of Lord Gauranga, is transcendental and qualified to live in Vraja-bhumi.” Sri Narahari Thakur says: navadvipa vrndavana dui eke haya gaura-shyama-rupe prabhu – “Both Navadvipa and Vrindavana are one indeed, where the Lord enjoys as Gaura (golden) and Shyam (dark) respectively.”
Navadvipa consists of nine islands- Antardvipa, Simantadvipa, Godrumadvipa, Madhyadvipa, Koladvipa, Ritudvipa, Jahnudvipa, Modadrumadvipa, and Rudradvipa. Traditionally, the week-long parikrama is held from the tithi of Makari-saptami up to the full moon.
“After having darshan of Mayapur in Antardvipa, learned devotees go to Simantadvipa. Next one should go south of Mayapur to Godrumadvipa, then one should joyfully go to Madhyadvipa. After seeing these four islands on the east bank, one should reverently cross the Ganges. Having walked around Koladvipa at leisure, then take darshan of Ritudvipa. After you have seen the most beautiful Jahnudvipa, go and see Modadrumadvipa and then Rudradvipa. Then again cross the Ganges, and walk back to Mayapur. There, respectfully enter the temple of Sriman Jagannatha Mishra and Sachi mata and take darshan of the Lord. This is the procedure of parikrama for all times. One who follows this practice will obtain unlimited happiness.” (Sri Navadvipa Dham Mahatmaya)
Srila Bhaktivinod Thakur says that whoever walks around the one hundred sixty-eight miles of Gaura Mandala will quickly obtain the treasure of Gaura-prema.
-Mayapur Voice —