The Chida-dadhi Festival of Panihati

Vakresvari dd

The crest jewel of the Vaishnava society, Srila Raghunatha dasa Goswami, was the only son of the king of Saptagram. Those days India was the greatest country in the world; Bengal was her most glorious province, and the port of Bengal Saptagram was the most opulent place. The annual income of Raghunatha dasa's family was twenty lakhs rupees. His standard of material happiness was equal to that of Indra, the King of heaven. In his boyhood Raghunatha dasa became attracted to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and got mad with ecstasy of love of the Lord. Time and time again he tried to run away from home and go to Nilachala to meet Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, but his father's men caught him and brought him back. His father locked him up and appointed eleven guards to watch him.

When Lord Caitanya came to Santipur from Puri Raghunatha went to see Him. He revealed his heart to the Lord and begged Him to take him to Puri. But the Lord instructed him to go back home, take care of his duties with a mood of detachment and worship Sri Sri Radha-Krishna in the mind. He assured him that he would meet Him in Jagannatha Puri as He returned there from Vrindavan. With broken heart Raghunatha went back home, and took care of his worldly duties according to that instruction of the Lord. His parents became very pleased to see this transformation. Thus he spent about two years at home.

Then with the ropes of His causeless mercy, Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu employed a trick to deliver Raghunatha dasa Goswami from the blind well of contemptible family life.

It happened as follows. One day, Raghunatha got the news that Nityananda Prabhu came to Panihati. He immediately went to meet Him there. Sitting on a rock under a tree on the bank of the Ganges with all His main associates, Lord Nityananda seemed as effulgent as hundreds and thousands of rising suns. Many devotees sat on the ground surrounding Him. (The banyan tree, under which Lord Nityananda sat is still here and nowadays during this festival the place is crowded as it was 500 years ago.)

Seeing the effulgence of Nityananda Prabhu, Raghunatha dasa was astonished and thus he offered Him obeisances from a distance. Seeing him Nityananda Prabhu became very pleased and being by nature very merciful and funny, He told Raghunatha with great affection. 'You thief! Now you have come to see Me. Come here. Today I shall punish you!"

But embarrassed Raghunatha did not go near Him. Then the Lord forcibly caught him, 'You thief, instead of coming near, you stay away at distant place. Now that I caught you, I will punish you! Make a festival and feed all my associates yogurt and chipped rice (dadhi and chida).

Hearing this Raghunatha became very pleased, and immediately sent his own men to the village to purchase chipped rice, yogurt, milk, sweets, sugar and bananas and organized a wonderful feast. Innumerable brahmanas and saintly persons came to attend that festival.

Chipped-rice was first soaked in hot milk, then half the rice was mixed with yogurt, sugar and bananas. The other half was mixed with condensed milk and bananas, the sugar, ghee and camphor were added. Nityananda Prabhu sat on a raised platform and in a circle around Him, all the most important associates sat there.

No one could count how many people gathered there, so many that there was no room left on the bank of the Ganges. Therefore many people had to go into the river and stand there eating their chipped rice. Everyone was offered two earthen pots--one of chipped rice soaked in yogurt and the other of chipped rice soaked in condensed milk.

Then Lord Nityananda in meditation brought Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu who was unseen. From each and every pot of the devotees Lord Nityananda took one morsel of chipped rice and playfully put it into the mouth of Lord Caitanya. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu also did the same to Lord Nityananda, and laughed as He made Him eat it. In this way Lord Nityananda was walking through all the groups of eaters and all the Vaishnavas there saw 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.

Lord Nityananda offered Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu a place and had Him sit down. Then together the two brothers began eating chipped rice. Seeing Lord Caitanya eating with Him, Lord Nityananda Prabhu became very happy and exhibited varieties of ecstatic love.

Lord Nityananda asked everyone to chant the holy name of the Lord and eat. Immediately the holy names "Hari, Hari" resounded, filling the entire universe. When all the Vaishnavas were chanting the holy names and eating, they remembered how Krsna and Balarama ate with Their companions the cowherd boys on the bank of Yamuna.

When shopkeepers of many other villages heard about the festival, they arrived there to sell chipped rice, yogurt, sweets and bananas. Raghunatha dasa purchased it all, and fed them the very same food. Anyone who came to see the festival was also fed chipped rice, yogurt and bananas.

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.

The next morning, after taking His bath in the Ganges, Nityananda Prabhu sat down with His associates beneath the same tree under which He had previously sat. Raghunatha dasa went there and worshiped Lord Nityananda's lotus feet. Through Raghava Pandita he submitted his desire. "No one can attain the shelter of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu without Your mercy. Although I am unfit and greatly afraid to submit this plea, I nevertheless request You to be especially merciful toward me by granting me shelter at the lotus feet of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu."

Then Lord Nityananda Prabhu placed His lotus feet upon Raghunatha dasa's head and said to him that since he arranged the feast on the bank of the Ganges, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu came here just to show him His mercy eating chipped rice and milk. Now all the impediments meant for Raghunatha's bondage are gone.

Thus everybody can easily get the mercy of Lord Nityananda and Lord Caitanya, taking part in the Panihati festival, which is very dear to Them. Therefore His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada instructed his disciples to organize this chida-dadhi festival at Panihati and other places in the world. Thousands of people come to Panihati that day and ISKCON devotees feed them all. We invite you all to come to that festival at Panihati and receive the mercy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Nityananda Prabhu, who are none other than Krishna and Balarama.

There is a continuation of this story connected with the famous house of Raghava Pandita in Panihati, which is especially visited during the chida-dadhi festival by all visitors.

The next day after festival was over Nityananda Prabhu at night went to the temple of Raghava Pandita and began congregational chanting of the holy name of the Lord. Lord Nityananda Prabhu first influenced all the devotees to dance and finally He Himself began dancing, thus inundating the entire world in ecstatic love.

Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was observing the dancing of Lord Nityananda Prabhu. Nityananda Prabhu could see this, but the others could not. No one can properly describe the sweetness of Lord Nityananda's dancing. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu personally comes to see it.

After the dancing and after Lord Nityananda had rested, Raghava Pandita submitted his request that the Lord take supper. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu came there unseen and sat down at His place. Raghava Pandita however could see Him and He felt increasing happiness. He would bring and distribute prasada to the two brothers, feeding Them with great attention. They ate everything with great satisfaction leaving no remnants. Thereafter Raghava Pandita distributed prasada to all the other Vaisnavas.

There were varieties of cakes, sweet rice and fine cooked rice that surpassed the taste of nectar. There were also varieties of vegetables. Aromatic and pleasing to see, the food was the essence of all sweetness. He brought so many presentations that no one could know them perfectly. Indeed, it was a fact that the Supreme Mother, Radharani, personally cooked in the house of Raghava Pandita.

Every day Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu would eat at the house of Raghava Pandita. Sometimes He would give Raghava Pandita the opportunity to see Him.

It is said that Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu is always present in three places: wherever Lord Nityananda is dancing, when prasada is offered to Him in the house of mother Saci and in the house of Raghava Pandita.

So in this particular day of festival you could be fortunate enough to offer prasadam to the Deity of Madan-Mohan in the house of Raghava Pandita as most of the pilgrims have done and beg the Lord for mercy to appear and be established in your heart and thus deliver you from clutches of material existence. On the samadhi of Raghava Pandita is a creeper, which is on a concrete platform. Raghava Pandita was one of the main associates of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Close to his house was a lemon tree on which kadamba flowers grew. Raghava Pandita would make garlands from the flowers from this tree and offer them to his Deities. In Krishna-lila Raghava Pandita was a confidential gopi named Dhanistha, who would always be engaged in preparing foodstuffs for Krishna. Raghava Pandita's sister Damayanti also lived here. With great love and affection she would collect various ingredients which were used in cooking for Lord Caitanya. In Krishna-lila she was the gopi named Gunamala.

Every year Raghava Pandita and his sister would prepare wonderful dried foods to be taken to Lord Caitanya. When Raghava went to Jagannatha Puri for Rathayatra he would take these food items to Lord Caitanya. Three bearers would carry them in bags called raghavera-jhali or "the bags of Raghava".

Such wonderful pastimes the Lord and His associates manifested in Panihati.

(based on CC Antya Lila, Chapter Six)