Vol. 5 Num 966 Sat. February 17, 2007  

Of Shiva Chaturdashi and Sitakunda

An International Vedic Conference is being held from 15th to 17th February 2007 at Sitakunda Shrine Estate in Sitakunda Chandranath Dham, Chittagong on the occasion of Shiva Chaturdarshi, a Hindu festival in worship of Lord Shiva. Chandranath Dham at Sitakunda, Kanchannath at Fatikchari and Adinath at Maheshkhali have been honoured from time immemorial for having Vedic roots and are profoundly regarded as holy places of pilgrimage. The Sitakunda Chandranath Dham is, of course, among the most ancient holy places.

Millions of Hindu pilgrims, devotees, tourists and representatives of shrines and temples all over the world especially from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Cyprus, Bali, USA, UK, Australia and other countries assemble at Sitakunda on the occasion. In this International Vedic Conference of Hindus, a healthy and fruitful discussion continues on Hinduism, a religion of tolerance and service to the mankind, as well as on problems of shrines, temples and places of pilgrimage in different countries by the saints, religious leaders and other dignitaries of the community. Besides these, religious and cultural functions including Kirtan, Bhajan are arranged with the spirit of total surrender to God and the hope to receive the divine blessings.

Sitakunda Chandranath Dham is a holy place of pilgrimage known all over the sub-continent for centuries. It is mentioned in the puranas that Lord Ramchandra visited this place during his exile in the forests. The great sage Vargaba, brought into existence by his supernatural powers a reservoir for Sita Debi (wife of Ramchandra) to bathe in, which was called 'Sitakunda' after her. Later, when people came to live around it, the whole locality took the same name.

We know that there is no unbroken history of the Hindu holy places. None is available of Chandranath either, specially because of the long conflicts between Hindus and others in Chittagong, the destructive work of which has made the collection of evidence for a complete history impossible. In the Sanskrit Rajmala we find that in 610 Bengali era, that is to say about 800 years ago, Raja Biswambhar Sur, a descendant of the famous Adisur of Gour, made an attempt to reach Chandranath by sea. We find in the Nigamkalpataru that poet Joydeb Goswamy lived for a long time in Chandranath. We also find in the Rajmala that at the time of Dhanya Manikya, ruler of Tripura and a votary of Siva, Chandranath received almost all its endowments. Dhanya Manikya reportedly attempted to remove the icon of Shiva from Chandranath to his own dominion but failed. Whatever the stories of Chandranath, the place is known to the people for time immemorial.

In the 8th century, Sankaracharya advanced greatly the prosperity of Hindu places of pilgrimage by establishing the Sanyasi Sect and setting up four principal monasteries in four corners of India. Of the ten different sects of the Sanyasis, 'Tirtha' and 'Ashram' were founded by Biswarupacharya, the first disciple of Sankaracharya. From his 2nd disciple Padmacharya came 'Ban' and 'Aranya'; from his 3rd disciple Trotokacharya 'Giri', Parbat' and 'Sagor'; and from his forth disciple Sarupacharya, 'Saraswati', 'Bharati' and 'Puri'. Biswarupacharya was at the head of Sringery Math at Rameswar in the southern India, Trotokacharya of Joshi Math in Badrikasram in the North, Sarupacharya of Saroda Math in Dwarka in the west and Padmacharya of Gobordhan Math in the East. Chandranath is within the jurisdiction of Gobordhan Math.

Now, as ever, traditional rules regulate the work of this Shrine. And through the munificence of the pious rich of this country as also the devotion of the late poet Nabin Chandra Sen for improvement of this beautiful and unique place of pilgrimage, the work proceeds and progresses as days pass and the glory of the shrine grows. The place is easily accessible today. The natural beauty of this place is excellent. Water from the spring is available night and day, Sitakunda Shrine Committee is vested with the responsibility for managing the said Sitakunda, Adinath and Kanchannath shrines. And Shiva Chaturdashi happens to be main or one of the main occasions for these shrines.

Prem Ranjan Dev is a research worker.