Panihati Festival

Where is Panihati? Panihati is located on the banks of the Ganges 10 miles North of Calcutta, in West Bengal India. It is the site of many wonderful spiritual pastimes of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and His close personal associates. In this region at this time of year June, pre-monsoon it is so hot, often up in the mid-to-high 40 C. The most cooling of foods in such a temperature is yogurt, cool yogurt (dahi or dadhi or doi) This pastime of the Lord is about how the devotees pleased Lord Chaitanya and how the Lord reciprocated with the devotees in a very wonderful and pleasing festival called the Panihati Cida-dadhi mahotsav.

In the village of Panihati, Raghunatha dasa obtained an interview with Nityananda Prabhu who was accompanied by many kirtana performers, servants and others. Sitting on a rock under a tree on the bank of the Ganges, Lord Nityananda seemed as effulgent as hundreds and thousands of rising suns. Many devotees sat on the ground surrounding Him. Seeing the influence of Nityananda Prabhu, Raghunatha dasa was astonished. Raghunatha dasa offered his obeisances by falling prostrate at a distant place, and the servant of Nityananda Prabhu pointed out, "There is Raghunatha dasa, offering You obeisances."

Hearing this, Lord Nityananda Prabhu said, "You are a thief. Now you have come to see Me. Come here, come here. Today I shall punish you," the Lord called him, but Raghunatha dasa did not go near the Lord. Then the Lord forcibly caught him and placed His lotus feet upon Raghunatha dasa's head. "Make a festival and feed all My associates yogurt and chipped rice." Hearing this, Raghunatha dasa was greatly pleased.

 

Raghunatha dasa brought chipped rice, yogurt, milk. sweetmeats, sugar, bananas and ether eatables and placed them all around. As soon as they heard that a festival was going to be held, all kinds of brahmanas and other gentlemen began to arrive. Thus there were innumerable people. Seeing the crowd increasing, Raghunatha dasa arranged to get more eatables from other villages. He also brought two to four hundred large, round pots. He also obtained five or seven especially large earthen pots, and in these pots a brahmana began soaking chipped rice for the satisfaction of Lord Nityananda.

 

In one place, chipped rice was soaked in hot milk in each of the large pots. then half the rice was mixed with yogurt, sugar and bananas. The other half was mixed with condensed milk and a special type of banana known as canpa-kala. Then sugar, clarified butter and camphor were added. After Nityananda Prabhu had changed His cloth far a new one and sat on a raised platform, the brahmana brought before Him the seven huge pots.

On that platform all the most important associates of Sri Nityananda Prabhu, as well as ether important men, sat down in a circle around the Lord. Among them were Ramadasa, Sundarananda, Gadadhara dasa, Murari, Kamalakara, Sadasiva and Purandara. Dhananjaya, Jagadisa, Paramesvara dasa, Mahesa, Gauridas and Hoda Krsnadasa were also there, Similarly, Uddharana Datta Thakura and many other personal associates of the Lord sat on the raised platform with Nityananda Prabhu. No one could count them all.

Hearing about the festival, all kinds of learned scholars, brahmanas and priests went there, Lord Nityananda Prabhu honored them and made them sit on the raised platform with Him. Everyone was offered two earthen pots. In one was put chipped rice with condensed milk and in the ether chipped rice with yogurt. All the other People sat in groups around the platform. No one could count how many people there were. Each and every one of them was supplied two earthen pots, one of chipped rice soaked in yogurt and the other of chipped rice soaked in condensed milk.

Some of the brahmanas, not having gotten a place on the platform, went to the bank of the Ganges with their two earthen pots and soaked their chipped rice there. Others, who could not get a place even on the bank of the Ganges, got down into the water and began eating their two kinds of chipped rice. Thus some sat on the platform ,some at the base of the platform, and some on the bank of the Ganges, and they were all supplied two pots each by the twenty men who distributed the food.

Sacred place of Chira-dadhi danda mahotsav on the bank of Ganges, Panihati

At that time, Raghava Pandita arrived there. Seeing the situation, he began to laugh in great surprise. He brought many other kinds of food cooked in ghee and offered them to the Lord. This prasada he first placed before Lord Nityananda and then distributed among the devotees. Raghava Pandita said to Lord Nityananda, "For You, sir, I have already offered food to the Deity, but You are engaged in a festival here, and so the food is lying there untouched."

Lord Nityananda replied, "Let Me eat all this food here during the day, and I shall eat at your home at night. I belong to a community of cowherd boys, and therefore I generally have many cowherd associates with Me. I am happy when we eat together in a picnic like this by the sandy bank of the river. Lord Nityananda made Raghava Pandita sit down and had two pots delivered to him also. There were two kinds of chipped rice soaked in them.

When chipped rice had been served to everyone, Lord Nityananda Prabhu, in meditation, brought Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. When Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu arrived, Lord Nityananda Prabhu stood up. They then saw how the others were enjoying the chipped rice with yogurt and condensed milk. From each and every pot, Lord Nityananda Prabhu took one morsel of chipped rice and pushed it into the mouth of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu as a joke. In this way Lord Nityananda was walking through all the groups of eaters, and all the Vaisnavas standing there were seeing the fun.

No one could understand what Nityananda Prabhu was doing as He walked about. Some, however, who were very fortunate, could see that Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was also present. Then Nityananda Prabhu smiled and sat down. On His right side He kept four pots of chipped rice that had not been made from boiled paddy. Lord Nityananda offered Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu a place and had Him sit dawn. Then together the two brothers began eating chipped rice. Seeing Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu eating with Him, Lord Nityananda Prabhu became very happy and exhibited varieties of ecstatic love. Lord Nityananda Prabhu ordered, "All of you eat, chanting the holy name of Hari. Immediately the holy names "Hari Hari" resounded, filling the entire universe.

When all the Vaisnavas were chanting the holy names "Hari Hari" and eating, they remembered how Krsna and Balarama ate with their companions, the cowherd boys, on the bank of the Yamuna. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Lord Nityananda Prabhu are extremely merciful and liberal. It was Raghunatha dasa's good fortune that They accepted all these dealings. Who can understand the influence and mercy of Lord Nityananda Prabhu? He is so powerful that He induced Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to come eat chipped rice on the bank of the Ganges. All the confidential devotees who were Cowherd boys, headed by Sri Ramadas, were absorbed in ecstatic love. They thought the bank of the Ganges to be the bank of the Yamuna.

Sri Sri Radha-Shyamsundar, worshiped by Srila Raghav Pandit, Sri Sri Radha-Raman worshiped by Srila Raghunath das Goswami, Sri Gopal Jiu, worshiped by Raghav Pandit's sister Damayanti devi. In Raghav-Bhawan, Panihati.

When the shopkeepers of many other villages heard about the festival, they arrived there to sell chipped rice, yogurt, sweetmeats and bananas. As they came, bringing all kinds of food, Raghunatha dasa purchased it all. He gave them the price for their goods and later fed them the very same food. Anyone who came to see how these funny things were going on was also fed chipped rice, yogurt and bananas. After Lord Nityananda Prabhu finished eating, He washed His hands and mouth and gave Raghunatha dasa the food remaining in the four pots. There was food remaining in the three other big pots of Lord Nityananda, and a brahmana distributed it to all the devotees, giving a morsel to each. Then a brahmanas brought a flower garland, placed the garland on Nityananda Prabhu's neck and smeared sandalwood pulp All over His body, When a servant brought betel nuts and offered them to Lord Nityananda, the Lord smiled and chewed them. With His own hands Lord Nityananda Prabhu distributed to all the devotees whatever flower garlands, sandalwood pulp and betel nuts remained

Srila Raghav Pandit Samadhi (Madhavi tala) in Raghav-Bhawan, Panihati

After receiving the remnants of food left by Lord Nityananda Prabhu, Raghunatha dasa, who was greatly happy, ate some and distributed the rest among his own associates. Thus have I described the pastimes of Lord Nityananda Prabhu in relation to the celebrated festival of chipped rice and yogurt.

Submitted by: Arup Govinda das, WVA India

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