The silver wrapped 'footwear' of 16th century Vaishnava saint Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has been taken to Chittagong in Bangladesh for a religious festival, said the secretary of a historical society in Nabadwip in West Bengal on Wednesday.
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, a devotee of Lord Krishna, was born in Mayapur (or in Nabadwip, according to some believers) of Nadia district, in the late fifteenth century. A scholar of grammar, rhetoric and Sanskrit, he preached Vaishnavism, and is regarded as one of the leading lights of the Bhakti movement.
At the age of 24, he left home and his wife Bishnupriya Devi, and became an ascetic.
"Paying homage to Lord Mahaprabhu by offering puja to his footwear is an age-old tradition continued till date at the Mahaprabhu Temple in Nabadwip. Bishnupriya started it the day Mahaprabhu left home taking sanyas," Shantiranjan Deb, Secretary of Nabadwip Puratattva Parishad, told IANS.
According to him, the pair of footwear was the only memoir left with Bishnupriya Devi, hence she kept it in her custody. She worshipped a neem deity of Mahaprabhu and his footwear after he took sanyas.
Till date, it is worshipped by the members of Bishnupriya Samiti.
"Madhavacharya, Bishnupriya's nephew, stayed with her and was given this responsibility before her death. She advised him to keep the tradition intact," he said.
Shishir Kumar Ghosh, a journalist, was a devotee of Mahaprabhu and had also composed 'Shri Amiya Nimai Charita'. Since 1962, the footwear has been taken to Ghosh's residence during religious celebrations.
"The footwear has been taken to many places in West Bengal, this is the first time it has been taken abroad," he said.
A group of devotees named 'Haribhakti Pracharini Sabha' in Bangladesh has organised a festival that commenced on Tuesday and will continue till June 15. The footwear has been taken for this purpose.
The 'Haribhakti Sabha' was founded by Brwajanath Bidyaratna of Nabadwip. He had seen Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in 'Harisabha Bari' when the lord was in his 'Kirtan stance'. After this, Brwajanath got an idol made and offered him puja.
"When Congress leader Tarunkanti Ghosh had become a minister in the state in the 1970s, he had encrusted the wooden footwear with silver as it has to be cleaned with water every day," said Deb.
Sri Chaitanya's mantra of liberal universal humanism and his influence on Indian social life has continued till today.
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