When was nama-sankirtana first preached in Calcutta?

During what part of Sri Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s life was nama-sankirtana first preached in Calcutta? How can hari-kirtana be performed purely?

 

Once upon a time, the leaders of Sri Gauranga Samaj decided to perform sankirtana. Being induced by such thoughts and with the help of the citizens of Calcutta, they performed the first nama-sankirtana on Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s appearance day at Bidon Street, Calcutta. According to the opinion of many elderly persons, such a sankirtana festival had never taken place in Calcutta before. Everyone—both atheists and devotees—joined in the congregational chanting. Such a tumultuous sankirtana should be performed in all countries on the appearance day of Sri Mahaprabhu. Due to this sanklrtana festival, the citizens became attached to kirtana. What to speak of this, people gave up all other engagements and formed klrtana groups in every village, spending lavishly for that purpose. It was pleasing that the citizens of Calcutta, who hail from India’s different states, joined in the nama-kirtana. Particularly, the people from the western part of India, who have never even heard Mahaprabhu’s name, became intoxicated by chanting the names Nityananda-Gauranga in the course of their participation. Many shopkeepers and commission agents of Bada Bazar, who belong to the western part of India, participated in the nagara-kirtana by spending huge amounts of money and offering their labor. The residents of each of Calcutta’s villages performed kirtana in their respective villages with pomp.

On the appearance day of Sri Mahaprabhu, we were engaged in holding a grand festival at Sri Navadvipa Mayapur, the birthplace of both Mahaprabhu and harinama. After a few days we came to Calcutta and perfomed this harinama-sankirtana. It appeared that the religious principles that were extinct in Calcutta are now, by Mahaprabhu’s mercy, becoming prominent. This is because hari-kirtana, the essence of all religion, was being performed.

Despite these encouraging activities, however, Mahaprabhu did not distribute love of God, which is the most confidential mystery, in the metropolitan city of Calcutta. In order to reveal Himself the Lord has given sufficient encouragement to all kinds of people. He even gave them the strength to give up material happiness. Still He has not opened the door of pure love and devotion. He has induced people to chant the holy names, but He has not given them the propensity to follow in the footsteps of the mahajanas even today.

We saw many people performing kirtana with mrdahga and karatalas, giving up their leather shoes, yet we did not find any tulasi beads on their necks. If some people do have tulasi beads, they are new ones. This creates some doubt. Many people have not decorated their bodies with the twelve tilaka marks. In order to hear kirtana in the way of the mahajanas, we went to Neemtala Ghat one day, Joda Sanko another day, and Jhama Pukura on yet another day. Still, we could not find any such thing. We were extremely pained to hear kirtana performed by Nyadas, Bahuls, and other unauthorized people to the tune of cinema songs.

But our pain was somewhat diminished by hearing the eternal names of Hari, Krsna, and Rama uttered by them in the course of their singing. Those who possess love and devotion in their hearts love to hear kirtana performed with the old and ancient tunes. They do not like to hear or sing of useless topics. They sing and hear the pure holy names of Hari sung in the old tunes. Due to a lack of good association, the residents of this metropolitan city do not easily realize the characteristics of pure devotional service. Therefore they follow their own concocted process. Anyhow, our Sri Gauranga is most merciful. Since He has mercifully allowed the residents of Calcutta to perform kirtana, we hope that gradually He will reveal within their hearts pure devotional service.

Some people say that the residents of Calcutta have started this process of kirtana in order to avoid dreaded diseases like the plague. There is no doubt that those who are against this kirtana are enemies of the country. We have a proposal for them. They can perform sankirtana, but they must do so on occasions like Purnima, Ekadasi, Gaura-Purnima, Janmastami, Karttika, Vaisaka-masa, the days when the Lord is taken out on procession, and on days when the sun enters a particular zodiac sign. May the residents of Calcutta increase our happiness by performing kirtana with mrdanga and karatala in a pure Vaisnava way, following in the footsteps of the mahajanas. Sri Gauranga is jagatguru. Therefore, He will certainly award them their desired result.

 

(Sajjana Tosanl 11/3)

 

#Bhaktivinoda Thakura

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