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21. Retirement and Expansion of Preaching
IN mid-1893 the Thakura was requested to resume his duties by Sir Henry Cotton, Chief Secretary to the Government of Bengal. Shrila Bhaktivinoda wanted to resume his service in Krishnanagar, but he was asked to go to Sasaram where there were riots between Hindus and Moslems. He recalls: "... there was a serious dispute between the Hindus and Moslems over cow slaughter. There had been very good relations between the Hindus and Moslems for many a year, but because of cow slaughter their good relations had ended. The feelings of hostility were mutual and there was constant fighting between them. In the town of Sasaram there were many alleys and lanes, and Moslems and Hindus lived cheek by jowl. Because of this there was plenty of opportunity for disputes. Fighting would develop daily. A certain Vaishnava sannyasi bought a small piece of land facing my court office, and he endeavoured to build a temple there. The Moslems insisted that the temple could not be built. The sannyasi spoke to me about the matter, and I spoke to the Moslem Serestadara so as to know the thoughts of the local Moslems on this matter. The sannyasi did not wait for the result [of the talks], and he began to build the temple [anyway]. That particular day I was in Nasariganga. Moslems went [to the plot of land] with sticks and swords to fight. The leaders among the Moslems sent a telegram to the government, and the Commissioner was informed that the sannyasi was building the temple over a [Moslem] tomb and that it was being done with the connivance of Hindu officers. Many letters were exchanged concerning this matter. Being a Hindu officer it was difficult for me to stay in Sasaram [and remain impartial]. I made many attempts to get away from Sasaram. My superior officers gave much help to me, and the government secretaries informed me that there would be a transfer elsewhere at a suitable time."
In the meantime the Thakura was requested to go to Koyath as a matter of urgency: "I came to know that in [Koyath] there was an excellent bull that belonged to a brahmana... the brahmana went to Purushottama [Puri], but he did not take the bull. Upon returning, he searched for the bull and [when he could not find it] he concluded that the local butchers had killed and eaten it. The brahmana challenged the Moslem butchers and they replied, 'What of your bull? In the future we will kill five cows in front of everyone on market day! What will the Hindus be able to do when they see this?' Hearing this utterance, the brahmana was enraged and informed all the Hindus. He also wrote to the respectable citizens [of the town] in order to put an end to the cow killing. On the market day almost four-thousand Hindus from all over the region and beyond and carrying missiles and swords, came to the house of the butcher, who fled. They made a slight disturbance but did not see the man and therefore dispersed. By the afternoon the Moslem group had grown, and taking up guns and swords, some of them injured some Hindus. The injured persons had to be sent to hospital. After some delay the police came, but they were not able to do anything. Finally, they saw the Moslems creating a disturbance, but because the fight was not started by the Moslems, but, rather, was started by the Hindus, the Hindus were considered to be at fault... After carefully questioning witnesses from both sides I gave two-year prison sentences to a few Hindu men. Then, after examining the witnesses against the Moslems, I gave two-year prison sentences to some of them. They appealed to the high court against my decision in these two trials, but my decision was upheld." Finally, the Thakura wrote to Sir Henry Cotton and he received a transfer to Nadia. He comments, "The days of my trouble were over. In the month of October I came to Calcutta from Sasaram." The Thakura's work-load was somewhat reduced, and he again contemplated his retirement longingly.
The year was 1894. In Krishnanagar a grand meeting of the Shri Navadvipa-dhama-pracarini-sabha was held and many scholarly men attended. After much discussion it was decided that Deities must be established at the Yogapitha (birth site of Lord Gauranga). In October of 1894, at the age of fifty-six, the Thakura decided to retire from government service against the protestations of government authorities and his family. He felt that the greater work of preaching the glories of the Holy Name was urgent and that his government service was a hindrance. He retired to Surabhi-kunja in Godruma-dvipa, where he engaged himself fully in preaching, chanting and writing. He revised many of his previous writings, perfecting and refining them. No longer was he distracted by mundane duties.
On December 6, 1894, an article appeared in the Amrita Bazar Patrika that describes how, just after the Thakura's retirement from government service, he began going from door to door in Calcutta, begging donations for Lord Chaitanya's Temple in Mayapura in a spirit of perfect humility: "Babu Kedar Nath Dutt, the distinguished Deputy Magistrate, who has just retired from the service, is one of the most active members. Indeed, Babu Kedar Nath has been deputed by the committee to raise subscription in Calcutta and elsewhere and is determined to go from house to house, if necessary, and beg a rupee from each Hindu gentleman for the noble purpose. If Babu Kedar Nath Dutt, therefore, really sticks to his resolution of going round with a bag in hand, we hope, no Hindu gentleman, whose house may be honoured by the presence of such a devout bhakta as Babu Kedar Nath, will send him away without contributing his mite, however humble it may be, to the Gaur Vishnupriya Temple Fund."
Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura thus honored the houses of many persons, even persons who had formerly been opposed to him for one reason or another. His efforts served as inspiration for many other workers and before long sufficient funds had been taken up to erect a temple in Mayapura. While the foundation of the temple was being dug, a Deity of Adhokshaja Vishnu was found. By referring to the Gaudiya Vaishnava scriptures, the Thakura determined that this Deity was the very Deity worshiped by owned and Shri Jagannatha Misra, the father of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. This discovery confirmed the authenticity of the site from yet another point of view: archeological!
On March 21, 1895, on Gaura Purnima, the anniversary of Shri Gauranga's birth, an enormous installation ceremony and sankirtana festival was held. Thousands of visitors attended, and the festival was compared by many participants to the famous Kheturi festival of Narottama dasa Thakura which he organized 450 years ago to unite all the followers of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura recalls: "...there was an enormous Shri Murti installation festival and uncountable participants attended ... there was Manoharasari kirtana ... and nama-sankirtana, all with great bliss ... envy had previously arisen from the inhabitants of present-day Navadvipa over the finding of old Navadvipa. There had been some talk and a storm of abusive words for the worshipers of Gauranga. But for those who have offered their lives to the lotus feet of Gauranga, why would they be intimidated by the talk of wicked people? Not listening to the talk of the worldly-minded and envious, the devotees arranged to build a temple and worship the Lord."
The Thakura installed Deities of Lord Chaitanya and His consort, Shrimati Vishnupriya, and everything was conducted with great pomp. The birthplace of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was officially commemorated and its true identity and importance was dramatically revealed to thousands of people. Thousands of Vaishnavas from all parts of India were present and took part in the ecstatic chanting, dancing and feasting. Most of the learned panditas of Navadvipa, after hearing the exhaustive evidence uncovered by the Thakura, finally admitted that this was indeed the place of Lord Chaitanya's appearance.
After this momentous celebration, the Thakura traveled to Tripura, a mountainous state, where Viracandra Deva Maharaja, who was devoted to Lord Vishnu, was king. The Thakura traveled there at the king's invitation in July of 1896, and for four days he preached about the glories of the Holy Name to the people there. On the first day he spoke about the eternal principles of devotion and the spiritual form of the Holy Name of Krishna. His lecture was filled with deep philosophical analysis and many quotations from the Vedic literature, unknown even to the many panditas and learned gentlemen in attendance. Upon hearing his talk, they became stunned with amazement at the erudition and deep realizations of the liberated paramahamsa. Many were able to grasp for the first time the transcendent nature of pure devotional service and the chanting of the Holy Names. For the next two days, the Thakura enlivened both the royal family and the general public by continuously speaking on Lord Chaitanya's sublime pastimes.
Returning from Tripura to his work with the Nama-hatta in Godruma-dvipa, the Thakura toured all of the villages in the vicinity of Calcutta and Kumara Hatta, chanting the Holy Name and distributing the teachings of Lord Chaitanya. From the time of his retirement in 1894 until 1896 there was another incredible outpouring of preaching, writing and publication work. In 1894 he published Vedarka-didhiti, a Sanskrit commentary on Shri Isopanishad, along with a commentary by Baladeva Vidyabhushana and other commentaries as well. He also published Tattva-muktavali or Mayavada Sata-dushani, a book by Madhvacarya refuting the philosophy of Sankaracarya, with a prose Bengali translation. In 1895 the Thakura was in full stride with the publication of his Amrita-pravaha-bhashya, his commentary on Shri Chaitanya-caritamrita; Hari-bhakti-kalpa-latika, a Sanskrit work about pure devotion by an unknown author and edited by the Thakura; Shodasa Grantha, sixteen small essays on Vaishnavism by Shri Vallabhacarya; Shri Gauranga-stava-kalpataru, a twelve verse poem in Sanskrit from Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami's Stavavali; Manah-santoshani a Bengali translation of a Sanskrit work by Shri Pradyumna Misra; Mukunda-mala-stotram, by King Kulaksekhara, who was one of the twelve Alvars of South India; Shri Lakshmi-carita by Gunaraja Khan, the author of Shri Krishna-vijaya; four nama-stotras from the Narada Pancaratra, and Shriman Mahaprabhor Ashta-kaliya-lila-smarana-mangala-stotram, an eleven verse Sanskrit poem on the eight-fold daily pastimes of Lord Chaitanya by an unknown author.