Sridham Mayapur III
But if the place viz. the mundane village of Mayapur actually exists why should it have become necessary to discover it at all? How could it ever completely go out of the memory of the nation? Sri Chaitanya had many devoted followers in His time and the community of His professed followers has always been considerable in the country since the day when He began to teach the religion. The holy site of His birth has all along been definitely recognised as a place of special sanctity and pilgrimage for the Gaudiya Vaiishnab community. In these circumstances how was it possible for them to forget the site altogether? This is all the more unaccountable if we hear in mind the fact that the holy site of Sri Brindaban discovered and identified by Sri Chaitanya Himself has not been forgot in spite of strenuous attempts on the part of the Mahommadans to surpass the shrines. So the forgetfulness cannot be due to neglect produced by the decline of religious sprit in the community of persecution by the Mahommadans. A shifting town of Nabadwip maintained its existence and some portion of the old prosperity throughout the same period. In Bengal itself there exist to this day towns that are older than the time of Sri Chaitanyadeva. The times were not evidently utterly barbarous. Neither does it appear that the Chaitanyites ever become politically dangerous and the objects of special persecution at the hands of the Mahommadan Government. On the contrary we are told, what has never again happened, that a number of Mahommadans sought and obtained admission into the community of Chaitanya’s followers being permitted by Sri Chaitanyadeva Himself. The doctrines of Sri Chaitanya have no political features, direct or remote. They are on the contrary remarkable for their extreme unworldliness. The original leaders of the movement appear to have been singularly free from all taint of political or social ambition. Sri Rupa and Sri Sanatana Goswamis who organised the discipline and faith of the community fitted themselves for their mission by renouncing unreservedly positions of the highest political power. Orthodox Brahmans on entering the community became loyal servants of Vaishnabas born in the lowest cast or even of Mahommadan parentage. One of the greatest teachers of the community in the time of Sri Chaitanya was a converted non-Hindu. The movement from its very inception seems thus to have been characterised by absence of all worldly prejudices and ambitions, social, political, racial or credal.
The Chaitanyites are the makers of the Bengali language. They have also added many of its highest spiritual treasures to the Sanskirts literature. They have handed down to us detailed accounts of the movement in their records which, as we shall see later on, make the task of the identification of the site of Sridham Mayapur both easy and possible by means of the scientific method.
These broad facts would incline one to believe that the village of Sri Chaitanya’s Nativity should not only be well-known to most persons of to-day but should be in actual possession of priceless mementoes of the past in the shape of splendid shrines and sacred structures of every kind and quality. The present town of Nabadwip contains a number of such shrines; but few, if any, of them are barely a century old. But nowhere do we find any assemblage of really ancient shrines on a scale that should mark out, in a befitting manner, the site of Nativity itself.
The only theory that seems to harmonise to a certain extent with these facts is that of the almost total and sudden destruction at the initial stages of the main portion of the old city by erosion by the current of the Bhagirathi. Our available authorities provide a basis for such a theory. We are informed that very soon after the disappearance of the Lord a mighty earthquake completely changed the course of the river which swept away a great part of the old town of Nabadwip which part also probably remained under water for a long time afterwards. A large stretch of country on all sides was also more or less submerged. This prevented the erection of any structural shrines on the site of the Nativity in the period immediately following the disappearance of the Lord when the oldest extant shrines of the community were built. But the memory of the site and parts of the site itself survived in literature down to almost recent times. Perambulation of the nine islands by bands of devotees were performed regularly even as late as two hundred years ago. Details of the topography have been handed down to us by some of the authors for the guidance of pilgrims on such occasions.
The course of the Bhagirathi continued to shift endlessly. Those shiftings have become less and less destructive with lapse of time. But the country round the main city of old Nabadwip appears to have been permanently deserted and remained full of jungle, inhabited till very recent times by a few isolated families, the remnants of the old population or later immigrants who clung to the neighbourhood of the site under very great discouragements. The present population is for the mots part recent immigrants.
This accounts for the fewness of the extant old monuments or their relics of the country about Nabadwip. The present town of Nabadwip itself is not much older than a century and a quarter and contains a number of shrines which have been built quite recently.
In these circumstances we can expect very little help from the ordinary archaeological sources. Local tradition has also become confused on account of the perpetual shiftings of the population and the recent growth of the present town of Nabadwip, the head-quarters of the descendants of some of the most renowned followers of Sri Chaitanya Deva, who became the hereditary gurus of large numbers of disciples in every part of the country. For these reasons the ordinary illiterate Gaudiya Vaishnava thinks that the present town is the same as the old town of Nabadwip in which the Lord was born.
But in the town of Nabadwip itself the population still retain a confused and dim memory of old events and believe that the actual birth-site disappeared long ago under the water of the Bhagirathi. The present desire to ascertain the actual site of Nativity, made itself felt as a spiritual duty about fifty years ago. It was reinforced by scientific, literary, sectarian and patriotic curiosity generated by western education and the example of European savants and explorers. The old site of Sridham mayapur was actually identified and shrines were erected thereon about forty years ago. We shall consider later on the detailed evidence on which that identification is based.
In concluding these preliminary observations regarding the object and method of quest of Sridham Mayapur we have purposely confined our attention to the implications of the spiritual issue. The empiric scientific method has nothing to do with such issue and is, indeed, at liberty to arrive at its own conclusion by its own method regarding the position of the mundane village. We have no quarrel with the empiric scientist who is out in search of the site of what he necessarily regards as the old Bengali village of Mayapur. Only we do not admit either his method or object to be wholly identical with ours. We hold that Sridham Mayapur, which chooses to appear to those enquirers as the mundane village Mayapur, is not an ordinary village of this world but is really the eternal spiritual Abode of the Divinity Himself. Although the site of Advent may appear to our senses and sensuous judgment to be no other than an object of this world and amenable to the laws of enquiry applicable to the phenomenal world it is nevertheless really no part of of it. But at the same time if the empirical enquiry and observation happen as in this case to be directed to the substance itself under the impression that it is the shadow, the methods of empiric science cannot still be final and must be misleading when they are applied to the determination of a spiritual locality which by its nature lies completely outside their jurisdiction. By sufficiently recognising the presence of these special factors in the quest of the Abode of God as distinct from a mundane village we obtain the true method which is the empiric method subordinated to the special requirements of the higher or spiritual quest. The purely empiric method is inapplicable for the purpose of actually obtaining the knowledge of the spiritual which is neither a percept nor a concept although when it choses to descend to this world it is pleased to put on the appearance of a mundane object in order to come within the view of the people of this world. It is the latter circumstance which seems to render the empiric method applicable. Such application if it be deliberate cannot avoid the charge of being unscientific and profane and deserves the severest condemnation on the ground that it ignores wholly the possibility of the descent of the spiritual to the mundane plane and by implication of all dealing with the spiritual in this world or in other words of all religious activity as such. The only logical alternative to this that has ever been offered to our consideration is the method that admits the possibility of the spiritual descending into this world, and adjusting itself to the requirements of such admission. The only adjustment of this nature that is perfectly rational is complete readiness to accept the help of the transcendental teachers who rely on the revealed scriptures so far as such help appears to us to be really in conformity with the object in view which is no less than finding the holy Abode of the Divinity Himself. The testimony of the revealed Scriptures as expounded by the transcendental teachers, therefore, offers the only standing ground at all available to the consistent enquirer of the affairs of the spiritual realm who is not likely to improve the prospect of attaining to the knowledge of the Absolute by refusing to serve It by the present resources of his limited reason with loyal and humble conviction of its limitations. The Pandits and Bhattacharyyas actually resident at Nabadwip at the time of the appearance of the Supreme Lord failed to realise the truth by following the dogmatic empiric methods. Even if the whole world is convinced that the identification of the holy site by Srila Jagannath Das Babaji announced by Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur is empirically tenable it will be no nearer the truth than the misguided Pandits of Nabadwip unless it is also prepared to renounce the lead of empiric dogmatism out of deference to the constituent principles of free and impartial reason imperfectly mirrored in the conclusions of empiric logic itself and submit to be enlightened in a truly rational spirit.