Famine and Dearth

Translation Chaitanyamangal

About this text

Introductory notes

Dr. Bimanbihari Majumdar and Sukhamay Mukhopadhyay edited the version of Chaitanyamangal, brought out by the Asiatic Society as part of its Bibliotheca Indica series in 1971. Jayananda was a devotee of Chaitanyadev the Bhakti Saint who popularised Vaishnavism in the 16th Century. The editors believe Jayananda, an younger contemporary of Chaitanya, composed the work between 1550 to 1560. The work stands distinct from contemporary Vaishnava literature as it follows the Mangalkavya tradition. The work was composed in the form of ballads to be sung across villages.

Chaitanyamangal also, true to the tradition of Mangalkavyas, offers light on the lives and practices of the contemporary village society. The section on Visnupriya's Baramasya may be mentioned in this regard. Such Baramasya's are not regular features of Mangalkavya though they are absent in Vaishnava literature.

Selection details

Chaitanyamangal also, true to the tradition of Mangalkavyas, offers light on the lives and practices of the contemporary village society. The section on Visnupriya's Baramasya may be mentioned in this regard. Such Baramasya's are not regular features of Mangalkavya though they are absent in Vaishnava literature.

1.

There is a village called Jayapura in Shreehatta. It is a beautiful village, full of large ponds, tanks, wells and other water bodies bound with landing-stairs; temples, with attached gardens; theatres and schools and mansions; all of these built of bricks. Birds like geese, pigeons, peacocks, herons and parrots abound. The village is surrounded by trees of all description; coconut, jackfruit, areca, mango, peepul, tamarind, neem, date and others. It is bounded by the rivers Saraswati in the east and Gomati to the north, and the Dhol Sea to the west and the Karati river to the south. Jagannatha Mishra was born into the best of the great Brahmana families who lived in Jayapura. He married Nilambara Chakravarti’s daughter Shachi. They believed that the gods Rama and Krishna would be born in human form in their family. Nanda and Yashoda were reborn as Paramananda and Padmavati in the village of Ekchaka Khalakpura in the land of Rarha. Dasharatha and Kaushalya were reborn as Brahmanas, wih the names Madhavananda and Labhyamati. Jayananda meditated on the lotus feet of Chaitanya and composed the Chaitanyamangala.

Then there was a great famine in Shreehatta due to lack of rains. The famine led to theft and banditry, and ultimately, a pestilence broke out. Many died, and the rest of the inhabitants left the country. Jagannatha Mishra too, left Shreehatta with his family. He had been advised by an ascetic to settle on the bank of the river Ganga. So he decided to travel to Navadvipa or Nadiya on the bank of the Ganga. He found the beautiful land of Nadiya to his liking, and settled there. Jayananda meditated on the lotus feet of Chaitanya and composed the Chaitanyamangala.

Nadiya is a town where people from many lands and many races have settled. The temples and mansions are painted. The houses are decorated with water-pitchers and flags on rooftops, and fresh flowers and leaves on the columns and doors. There are flowering trees and plants all around, and many kinds of birds. The place also boasts of schools, temples, theatres, ponds and tanks, markets and gardens. It clearly looks as if the goddess Lakshmi resides there, and reminds the onlooker of the fabled city of Ayodhya. Nadiya has a spiritual atmosphere; each house has a member who reads the Vedas. It is said that the demigods and other supernatural inhabitants of heaven were reborn as the Brahmana inhabitants of Nadiya. Everything that the people use, be they pots and vessels, or combs and mirrors, or jewellery and ornaments, or clothes and blankets, are all well-crafted and beautiful to look at. The markets of Nadiya are rich beyond belief. Jayananda meditated on the lotus feet of Chaitanya and composed the Chaitanyamangala.

In the village of Ekchaka Khalakpura, a son called Ananta was born to Padmavati. As the boy grew up, he revealed an arrogant and passionate nature. At eighteen, he left his house and went to Prayaga where he met the ascetic Ishwara Puri. He became Ishwara Puri’s disciple and renounced the world and became an Avadhuta. After that, he was known as Nityananda. In the village of Bamanbala, a son was born to Labhyamati. He was known as Advaita. In Nadiya, Jagannatha Mishra came to be known as Purandara Mishra. He was known for his intense and rigorous religious practices. He had eight daughters and a son called Visvarupa. Then there was a famine in Nadiya. It led to theft and pillage and other malpractices, so that people began to leave the town. Jagannatha Mishra remained in Nadiya. The king of Gauda now began to oppress the Brahmanas living there. Many lost their lives, their castes, and their homes. Temples and gardens were destroyed, and the people were stopped from bathing in the river Ganga. Sacred trees like the peepul were cut down. The Yavanas from the village of Piralya, who were of a different religious faith, induced all this oppression; they complained to the king that the Brahmanas of Nadiya were planning to oust the king and take the throne themselves. The king issued orders to destroy Nadiya. Many important personages left Nadiya in the fear of their lives and settled in Utkala, Varanasi and Gauda. Sarvabhauma Bhattacharyya went to live in the kingdom of Prataparudra of Utkala. Then the king of Gauda dreamt that the goddess Kali threatened him with utter destruction unless he restored Nadiya to its former glory. The king promised to do so. He abolished the taxes and allowed everyone to cultivate their lands in Nadiya. Anyone who cut down trees or destroyed temples would be impaled in full public view. The ban on bathing was lifted and the Brahmanas were allowed to perform all their religious rites as before. Hearing this, those that had left the town came back to live in it once more, except Sarvabhauma. Jayananda meditated on the lotus feet of Chaitanya and composed the Chaitanyamangala.

Shachi spoke to her second son, Gauranga, who was still a baby. He was crying because he had seemingly suffered a stomach-ache or had a fever and a fit of vomiting. Seeing Shachi deeply worried, Gauranga stopped crying and fell asleep. Jayananda said the Lord Gauranga only pretended to be a cry-baby.

Gauranga played with other boys his age when he was a little older, on the bank of the river Ganga. They made play temples, play idols, and play food with sand. He looked like the full moon amidst the other boys. He was so late in coming home that Shachi came to look for him, crying and lamenting. Taking pity on his mother, Gauranga went home. As he went home with his mother, he saw on the road a place where the leftover food from several houses was thrown away. He went and sat in it and explained how the difference as perceived between sandalwood paste and excrement was only Maya or an illusion. Jayananda meditated on the lotus feet of Chaitanya and composed the Chaitanyamangala.

In his youth, Gauranga dressed in fine clothes and jewellery made of gold and silver, and diamonds and pearls and corals. It was said that the fragrance of his body attracted even bees. His beauty and his complexion like that of the champa flower, attracted all women. Jayananda addressed Shachi saying he would die if his death would avert any menace or peril that might threat Gauranga.

As a child, Gauranga chased and caught a puppy and kept him as a pet and named him Gangadasa. Gauranga said that the dog was a Brahmana in his past life. A Vaisnava had begged for rice and the Brahmana had given him leftovers. The Vaisnava had cursed him to be a dog in his next life. He became Gangadasa. His curse was lifted when he ate Gauranga’s own leftovers. He drowned himself in the Ganga and was relieved of the cycle of karma and rebirth. Jayananda meditated on the lotus feet of Chaintaya and composed the Chaitanyamangala.

Gauranga or Visvambhara took his sacred thread in an eight-day long elaborate and rigorous religious ceremony. Jayananda meditated on the lotus feet of Chaintaya and composed the Chaitanyamangala.

Gauranga laughingly said to his mother that she, being old, should stop cooking for the household. His wife Lakshmi would cook for everybody from now on. He invited a large number of people the next day. Lakshmi cooked a luncheon consisting of several courses for the guests. The number of sweet dishes was large and especially elaborate. Jayananda said this was how Gauranga lived in Nadiya.

Gauranga left his home to live on the roads. He left his fine clothes and jewellery and fragrances. He slept on the floor, and his body and hair turned gray with dust. Thus he expressed his desire to become an ascetic. At this juncture, Nityananda arrived and encouraged Gauranga. Gauranga gladly decided to leave for Katowa along with his friends and well-wishers, Mukunda Datta, Gobinda Karmakara, Acharya Chandrashekhara, Acharya Hari, Vasudeva Datta et al. There he would renounce the word and become an ascetic. Jayananda meditated on the lotus feet of Chaitaya and composed the Chaitanyamangala.

After becoming an ascetic, Gauranga was known as Chaitanya. Chaitanya explained the true meaning of being a Vaisnava. A true Vaisnava had no caste and did not undergo the cycle of Karma. A Vaisnava ever thought of his Lord Krisna in his heart. The Lord accepted whatever the Vaisnava devotee offered him, be it a poor hut to live in, rice and water as a meal, or a string of berries to put around his neck. The Lord Krisna would be pleased when a Vaisnava was praised, and angry when a Vaisnava was criticized. The places where a Vaisnava went became sacred places. Whoever paid his respects to a Vaisnava, or did him a good turn, or embraced him, would be relieved of all his sins. Chaitanya declared his intention to beg food from a Vaisnava. Jayananda meditated on the lotus feet of Chaitaya and composed the Chaitanyamangala.

In Neelachala, Chaitanya spoke to Ramananda Raya about the glory of Lord Krisna, and how anyone who worshipped the Lord in any manner was relieved of his sins. He quoted Narada, who had recounted the tale of the king Sumati and his queen Satyavati. Both remembered their past lives. Sumati was a Shudra by birth, and a criminal who indulged in malpractices. His family disowned him, and he roamed the country alone till he came to a ruined temple of Visnu in the middle of a forest. He repaired the temple as best as he could and lived there. A sorrowful woman wearing worn-out clothes came to the temple and told him her tale. She had a good husband, yet slept with a hundred other men. She was caught and her ears and nose were cut off. She was kept tied up, until one day, she managed to kill her husband, and ran away. The two lived in the temple for twenty-five years. One day, the man, in a fit of drunkenness, tied a strip of cloth to a stick and stuck it on top of the temple, where it looked like a flag. At that moment, both of them were killed by a bolt of lightning. The servants of Yama came to take them away to hell, but four messengers from Visnu came and stopped them, and took the two away to heaven. Jayananda meditated on the lotus feet of Chaintaya and composed the Chaitanyamangala.

In Neelachala, Chaitanya sat at beneath the sacred banyan tree, and spoke about the future of the world. There would be less study of the Vedas, less rain, less growth of crops. The king would not look after his subjects. There would be incest and breaking of all taboo relationships. There would be less water in the river Ganga, and Varanasi would be destroyed by the Yavanas. No one would worship the gods any more. Each caste of people would behave inappropriately. Widows would eat fish and meat, wives would disobey husbands. Religious rites would not be performed and intercaste marriages would be the norm. Brahmanas would act like Yavanas, and Shudras would act like Brahmanas. Women would bear children at the age of seven or eight. A lesser educated man would be called learned man. Yet, in that time, it would be easy to liberate oneself from the cycle of rebirth and Karma. Jayananda meditated on the lotus feet of Chaitanya and composed the Chaitanyamangala.

In Shantipura, Advaita said that Keshava Bharati was the guru of Chaitanya. At this, Advaita’s son, Achyutananda, who was five years old at the time, protested. He had the power to divine past and future events. He said it was the other way round. A leper, who was also a Brahmana, came to Advaita’s door to beg. He had spoken badly of a Vaisnava, for which he was cursed to be a leper. There was a feast at Advaita’s house in the occasion of worship of his guru, Madhavendra Puri. The company consisted of Mukunda, Murari Gupta, Bhabananda, Govinda, Buddhimanta Khan, Chandrashekhara, Gopinatha et al. People from all castes came to the feast and ate their fill. All this filled Chaitnya with great pleasure. The next morning, Chaitanya went to Kumarahatta. There he spoke to Shreenivasa and encouraged him to become an ascetic. From there he went to Panihati with Nityananda. He ate at Raghava Pandit’s house, and praised the food there. The food multiplied miraculously, and whoever came to Raghava’s house ate their fill. Jayananda meditated on the lotus feet of Chaitanya and composed the Chaitanyamangala.

This text is an English-language translation of the original version:
Original

This is a selection from the original text

Keywords

begging, famine, food, incest, lack, pestilence, settlement, theft, topography, vice, village

Source text

Title: Chaitanyamangal

Author: Jayananda

Publisher: The Asiatic Society

Publication date: 2016

Original compiled c.1550-1560

Edition: 2nd Edition

Place of publication: Kolkata

Provenance/location: This text was transcribed from images available at the Digital Library of India: http://www.dli.ernet.in/. Original compiled c.1550-1560

Digital edition

Original author(s): Jayananda

Language: English

Selection used:

  • 1 ) pages 10 to 15
  • 2 ) page 19
  • 3 ) pages 20 to 21
  • 4 ) pages 24 to 25
  • 5 ) pages 27 to 28
  • 6 ) pages 32 to 33
  • 7 ) pages 64 to 65
  • 8 ) pages 124 to 125
  • 9 ) pages 159 to 160
  • 10 ) pages 193 to 196
  • 11 ) pages 214 to 215
  • 12 ) pages 220 to 222

Responsibility:

Texts collected by: Ayesha Mukherjee, Amlan Das Gupta, Azarmi Dukht Safavi

Texts transcribed by: Muhammad Irshad Alam, Bonisha Bhattacharya, Arshdeep Singh Brar, Muhammad Ehteshamuddin, Kahkashan Khalil, Sarbajit Mitra

Texts encoded by: Bonisha Bhattacharya, Shreya Bose, Lucy Corley, Kinshuk Das, Bedbyas Datta, Arshdeep Singh Brar, Sarbajit Mitra, Josh Monk, Reesoom Pal

Encoding checking by: Hannah Petrie, Gary Stringer, Charlotte Tupman

Genre: India > poetry

For more information about the project, contact Dr Ayesha Mukherjee at the University of Exeter.

Acknowledgements