.from Srila Bhaktivinode’s auto-biography- selected portions-
If you read the first part already, and want to go to part#2, click here.
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to part 4, here
I was growing up I was full with curiosity and tried to
everything. In my grandfather's house all kinds of festive
were celebrated. Jagaddhatri pooja was celebrated with
pomp. I can well remember Jagaddhatri pooja being
during the night especially. Hundreds of chandeliers
hang on the pooja house. Bachara would be observed outside
pooja house. There, lanterns would be wrapped around
the pillars and columns. All the guards at the doors would be
in sepoy uniforms. Numerous stout men dressed in golden
clothes would come from Ranaghat and Santipura. Many
and soldiers used to accompany all these men. In terms
people, the scene was like a forest of people and in terms of
it was like the battle of Kurukshetra. The scene was
with fireworks and rowdy pomp. On the first night there
kshemat and bainat dancing. At that time people would be so
with pleasure they would lose all sight of the
occasion. Late at night there would bekabi gana
contests]. At dawn I used to listen, but the kavi wallas
to scream so loudly that it would hurt my ears. The deity
be dressed in the best outfits. The eating arrangements
the greatest pleasure.
Durga seva used to be very nice. Everyday in the temple
goddess Jagattarini, who was very big and made of eight
was worshipped. At the time of Durga pooja the goddess
brought into the pooja house. I can remember that we used to
25 or 30 brahmanas from west [Bengal] come and carry the
to the place of worship and perform the pooja. For three
the pooja was celebrated with very great pomp. On the sixth
two types of drums [tak and tol] would be beaten and the
would shake the whole pooja house. On the ninth day many
and buffalo would be sacrificially killed. On that very day
ladies of the house would worship the goddess Durga by
incense on their heads in some manner. During the Kali
we young boys would get together and go to the temple. The
deity known as Dindayamayi Kali was always present in the
named Navachooda. On the actual night of Kali pooja there
always be great fan fare. Everybody used to enjoy this
except the goats and buffalo. Most of the Brahmanas and
used to come solely for taste of mutton.
the Dola Yatra festival there used to be singing and
kinds of sport. So much red dye was thrown about that
appeared to be red or blood colored. At this time
the guards took part in the festival. They would enter the
courtyard singing and throwing dye. Because of all their
I would stay a little distance away from them. During
Dola yatra I used to enjoy watching the festival bonfire
in the gardens, the ponds and the grain shed was not
[for my brothers, who were inclined to get into trouble].
this, I left their association, and at midday I would sit
by the outer gatekeepers.
gatekeepers where western soldiers. They would all eat rotis
from a whole measure of atar wheat and a whole bati of urhad
after which they would sit down and eat on cots on the
by the front gate. Thereafter, some of them would recite
Ramayana. Although the language was unfamiliar [to me]
sounded very sweet. One day, being charmed by the reading of
soldier named Srital Teoyari, I asked him to make the meaning
what he was reading clear. He told the story of the cheating
[Bhushanti Kaka]. That story seemed very sweet to me. In the
I retold this story to my mother and maidservant. [My
was very pleased] and showed her appreciation to Teoyari
giving me chewing tobacco to bring to him. Out of affection
me, Teoyari would give me merotis, dahl and kichari. I would
them and become very happy.
I used to wake up late at night and sit by the
At the forth watch [3 A.M.] Officer Naph and Officer
would be carrying lanterns in the courtyard and pathways
the estate and would shout out the watch calls. Sometimes
used to call Officer Naph over [to the window] and would
him about many things. Naph was very old but still used
carry his lantern, stick, club and sword. Previously he was a
dacoit. His residence was at my maternal grandfather's
in the district of Murshidabad. Fearing an attack at some
by dacoits my grandfather kept many Dvarabans from the west,
guards, Muslim guards, and sepoys. Even though [he had all
these guards] my grandfather gave Officer Naph and two of
other guards the task of protecting the inner grounds.
when Naph was a Dacoit, during a raid, he [accidentally]
off the head of his own guru, and since that time the sound
'Haribol' always issued from his lips. I used to call him over
my upper story window and ask him to tell me stories from his
and youth. I was only 6 or 7 years old and could not
half of what he told me, but I used to like to hear
buffalo elephant fights were the most entertaining. Numerous
were brought there from many places. The Mukhopadhyayas
a particularly huge buffalo and the horns of this buffalo
be covered in iron. One immense elephant would also have
tusks covered with iron. First there would be an announcement
the buffalo and the elephant would be set free in the middle
the town. Some times this buffalo, being very strong, would
the elephants. Sometimes the elephants used to overcome the
We would be on the second floor roofs to watch it all.
certain days we would ride atop our elephant named
who would carry us to various places for
[during the festivities].
those days there was no suffering at all in Ula. There
fourteen hundred good brahmana families, and there were many
and vaidya families too. The Mushtaphi Mahasaya family
the most wealthy. No one in that village went without food.
could get on with very little in those days. Everybody was
happy people used to sing, make music, and tell nice
You could not count how many jolly [fat] bellied
there were. Almost everybody had a good wit, could
sweetly and was skilled in making judgements. Everyone was
in the fine arts, song and music. Groups of people could
heard all the time making music and singing, playing dice and
That village was a very happy place. If anybody was in
they could go to the home of Mushtophi Mahasaya and get
they required without any difficulty. Medicine oil and
were aplenty. The village was so large that at that time it
56 men to maintain it. The good people in Ulagram did not
the need of finding work in order to eat. What a happy time
that time I never saw any of the villages [beyond Ula.] It
not possible to compare the excellence of Ula. Not a single
went by without some festival being observed.
all would play under that building . My father used to
a collection of different kinds of caterpillars. He kept the
the Akanda, the Kal Kasanda and many other kinds of
in a box. He raised them by feeding them the
types of leaves. Best of all was the caterpillar which
on the leaves of the Ishu Mul tree. When the caterpillars
grown and become butterflies he would let them go. Sometimes,
the afternoon, if I saw any of the different types of
I would save them and give them to my father.
that time there were many beehives in the garden. We used
break the hives and eat the honey. Eating so much honey would
our bodies hot and my mother would be able to understand
we had done] and would punish us. I was a little
but my brothers would show no restraint whatsoever.
day the honey bees stung us. My older brother, Kaliprasanna,
an innocent fellow, but the bees stung him so much that he
a fever for several days.
lived in a two story house in the midst of the Bazar in
Our sleeping quarters were upstairs and we cooked
the lower floor. The bazar and the street were at the front
the house]. Above the stairs was a statue of Ganesha. There
a storage room for cooking oil downstairs, more specifically,
the side of the kitchen rooms. The door was kept closed, but
used to fall through the cracks in the door and we would
them and eat them. Our main diet would be] rice and dahl.
cooking was done by a brahmana, but his cooking was not good.
time to time our nursemaid would bring us a light lunch
we would eat. Sitting on the stairs, we could see into the
of the oil press man. He was very old and would sit on a low
Because he was going to die soon he would have the
read. A seat was arranged for the reader in his
by means of an auspicious tent [a canopy]. From his
platform a speaker would read the Bharata. A garland would
placed over the head of the speaker, who would from time to
make his recitation and sing a particular song. I very much
to hear the Mahabharata and the stories about Bheema would
attract my mind.
certain days the speaker would get a lot of things to eat,
on those days he would be most eloquent. On those days when
received nothing his heart would be very depressed.
Saturday we would return to our house in Ula. Hired bearers
carry us on a palanquin with great haste. We would be very
on that day. Mahesa Babu, Kali Dada, and myself would go
on one palanquin. Soon we would reach our home and after
the feet of my mother we would feel great joy. On Sundays
would be no end to the stories [we heard]. Very early on
we would go to the residence of Goyara and after eating
would return to the college.
made some effort and again began learning my A,B,Cs, and my
learning quickly returned. On account of this, everyone
me a good boy. I thus gained a good reputation and my
teacher showed me a great deal of affection. The
tuber rose used to bloom at this 'parlour' school, and I
its fragrance [vary much]. Cricket was often played at the
Oneday the bat struck me on the brow, causing blood to
and since that occurrence I stopped playing cricket. I had
friends at that school. I excelled in reading and reciting
to the third level.
the Jagaddhatri pooja and and Durga festival were
by taking out loans. Even so, 30 to 35 western guards
employed, and many respectable gentlemen would come and sit
my father's parlour. Girish Mukhopadhyaya, Ramesh Raya, Nabin
and other good friends would come and sit. They would
different songs. Mohan Datta, who was a drunkard, would come
the day and begin to sing a lot. When there was recitation
the Mahabharata, Ramayana etc. at the old house I would go to
I used to like to hear about Hanuman crossing the ocean to
and about the demoness Simhika. The honourable reader would
along with the specific gestures and in my mind a great
would arise. I would make a regular habit of going to hear
reading after school. By hearing over and over again the
of stories from the scriptures, we learned many things.
this time my younger brothers Haridas and Gauridas
died. There was much grief in the mind of my mother,
my father fell into deep suffering.
there was only my sister, Hemlata, and myself.
poojas were performed in the house of a brahmachari [who resided in Ula].
There was a nice mandir outside his
and inside there was a garden and homa area. The worship of the brahmachari
was performed according to the doctrine of tantra. Cups made from skulls
were kept hidden away in a small room [in his house]. Some people said that
if you gave Ganges water and milk to a skull it would smile. I tried to see
this by giving water and milk to a skull but saw nothing. In that
place was the home of a learned man and I would go there to
the Durga festival there would be much eating and
at the homes of brahmanas. Sometimes, in the hope of
some nice prasada, I would accept an invitation to eat.
some homes I would get good dahl along with vegetable curry
rice. In other homes I would get khichari and dahl cooked
jackfruit and other things. One could get the best curry at
house of Visvanatha Mukhopadhyaya. At every house you could
goat curry. All of the non brahmana residents of Ula would go
the homes of the brahmanas for three days and get prasadam. No
would eat at his own house. During the Durga festival giving
and eating were the highlight and not so much music and
In other festivals specific arrangements for song and music
the extent the Mustophi family declined to that extent
families of Ramanadas Babu and Sambhanath Mukhopadhyaya
in prestige. In their homes, during the Jagadhatri
their affluence was exhibited with dance and song. They
horses and elephants, and at their gates they kept increasing
of western guards. As a man increases his material
he shows off his increase. At night we would go to
houses to hear the loud celebration of song. In the houses
of Deoyan Mukhopadhyaya and Krishna Mukhopadhyaya Babu
that village joy was full and thus everyone had a happy
and was free of worry. Everyone was expert at buffoonery,
many people got a name for being crazy. Many
people were known by names such as Ishe Pagal [the
Ganga Pagal, Pesha Pagal, Sambha Pagal and so on. They
go around [both] local and distant places and collect money
tricky means for the public poojas.
nine year of age I went to Jagat Bhattacarya in order to
astrology. Kailash Datta also was making an effort to
this art. I kept notes. Whatever Bhattacarya taught us
wrote down and memorized and tried to understand.
of three days after returning from Mollahati Kuti to Ula
father came down with a fever. By that time my grandfather's
had broken up and my father was the only [surviving] son.
Kaviraj made medicine [for my father]. My grandfather
gave him medicine made of eighteen ingredients, but gradually the disease
worsened. After eight days there was a change for the worse. Many people
came to see [him]. Many kinds of medicines were administered.
worked. Finally my father was brought from the inner
and sat on a chair in the Simri room [room with stairs?]
the Pooja Bati. Haru Mama, Parasuram Mama, Mahendra Mama and
others began to arrive. At that time it was four dandas. At
at the time of [his] coming downstairs, my father's mother
brought from the rented house of Girish Mitra. She was crying
crying and falling down saying, Where will Babu go?" The
house was filled with crying. My father stayed in the
building. I stayed with my father all the time. Late at
I fell asleep. My father was brought to the bank of the
at Santipur [while I slept].
I rose at dawn I could not see father. There was no one
At that time Lalu Chakravarti and Paramesvara Mahanti
come from Orissa, and they had carried my father to the bank
the Ganges. Seeing everybody crying, I also began to cry.
honourable mother, being in anxiety, was crying, and many
were trying to console her. By the second prahara
returned. Loud sounds of crying filled the house. My
grandfather closed the door.
while father was living I began to become a little
“What is this world? Who are we?" These two questions
in my mind when I was ten years old. On some days I thought
had the answers, on other days I had none. One day, in the
as the moon was rising, while I was wandering about on
roof of my father's parlour, I noticed that the moon was
with me. I thought this must be the same moon that we saw
Krishnanagar, and that this small circular thing exists
in the same fashion. I previously thought that in
places there was a different moon. But now, seeing the
move, I concluded that it was the same moon everywhere. Some
the women used to say that the moon and
the sun gods were two
and would accept invitations to dinner. Their mother
say, Bring some excellent food."The moon brought sandesa
the tip of his finger, but the sun brought nothing at all."
their mother gave an immortal benediction to the moon
she pronounced the curse on the sun, saying, "You will dry up
urine and stool of the world."
a short time I came to know that these stories of the
were complete nonsense. I would read the Ramayana,
Kali Purana, Annada Mangala etc. from Bengali
and learned much lore in this way. I would discuss
edifying subjects with whomever I met who was a little
Haladhara Misra would worship Durga, Kali and Siva etc.
thought that Haladhara spoke to the gods. One day I asked him
this matter and he said that sometimes he did talk to them.
believed him and enquired of him, saying, Very well, Mr.
Vachaspati Mahasaya stays day and night in the deity
Is there talk between him and the Diety?" He said, "There
I asked Vachaspati Misra about this conversation. He said
Haladhara Misra was lying, and that there is no talk between
and the gods in Kali yuga.
Mahasaya was fat and learned and I had no faith in
Misra. Some days at noon during the second prahara, when
one was around, I would talk to the moortis at different Siva
that were open. There would be an echo only. I thought
perhaps Siva was teasing me. I would touch Him and then run
I reasoned that if Siva was real then he would catch hold
me, give me some pain or harass me [in some way]. Siva did
and I understood that [the moorti of] Siva had no
day I went to eat gamarul fruit in the garden near my
parlour. I heard that a ghost lived in the fruit
and on that day I ran away in fear of the ghost. Another day
thought that if some remedy could be effected then I could go
eat the fruit without fear of the ghost. In the hot weather
gamarul fruit is very tasty. I made inquiries of many people
how to deal with ghosts, and no one said there was no such
as ghosts. Being very disturbed, I asked Vachaspati
who said that ghosts were a particular form of living
Their form is of the wind and their eyes are like the
fruit [very small and red]. Hearing the words of
Mahasaya I became even more afraid of ghosts. But
there is no gamarul, there is no eating. The mother of
was very expert in the occult. She was an exorcist for some
and she oversaw the storage room of my grandfather.
questioning her she informed me that there is no fear of
while one chants the name of Rama. She called for
and a servant appeared who said the same thing. By way
experiment I went to the site of the Gamarul tree calling the
of Rama over and over again, and I saw no evidence of a
in any fashion. Knocking down some fruit, I ate two
I understood that the name of Rama was protection
the ghost. At dusk I would always utter Rama Nama. When
about in the streets and alleys I always chanted Rama
I obtained great satisfaction in my mind and for many days
I took this medicine against the ghost. I heard that a
lived in the homa building. Uttering the name of Rama I
the ghost away from the pooja building. Now I would not
afraid to go outside at dusk.
was an old carpenter who made backdrops for the goddess
I would go to him and ask him about many things. He
give answers to all my questions. One time I asked him,
does the goddess enter the statue?" He said that on the day
the eyes are made the goddess resides in the statue. So on
day I eagerly went to see the goddess come but I did not see
take up residence in the statue. I said [to the carpenter]
Goloka Pal made the statue first with straw then with clay.
one uses chalk and dye. At no time did the goddess
come. Then the old carpenter said that
in the statue when the brahmanas chant the mantras. I
to see [her come] at this time but saw nothing. Returning
the house of the old wise carpenter I asked him about all
He said, “I have no faith in the worship of statues. I
that these brahmanas are cheating. They are acquiring money
means of social custom."
had special regard for the words of this old sculptor. I
him to tell me about Paramesvara and he said, "Let anyone
whatever (he may], I have confidence in no one but
The gods and goddesses are imaginary. Everyday I
the Paramesvara." I had faith in the words of this old
became even more inquisitive. There was a guard, Golama
who would watch the door of the Koshadhan [the room where
valuables are kept]. I inquired of him and he said that God's
was Khoda. He was One and there was none other. Khoda took
stool [mala] from his own body and shaped it into a 'ruti'
tossed it into the water of the seas. The upper portion of
ruti] became the sky, the lower portion became the earth. In
form the world was created and in the creation of Adam and
man was created. We are all the decendents of Adam. Hearing
these stories, I asked, “Please tell who Rama was." He said
Rama and Rahim were one, and He is Khoda. I then received
on the mantra for [repelling] ghosts. Golam Khan
about ghosts and said that all ghosts were sons of Satan.
fear the name of Rahim. My thoughts on the truth of the
of the Holy Name of Rama were satisfied.
was meditating a good deal [on the cause of the world
At one time I thought that this world was false and that
alone was real. And I appeared to be Isvara. Like a man
in his sleep I [only] imagined that I was suffering.
the sleep broke I laughed at this understanding of Isvara.
I thought that I alone was the creator. I would frequently
my position and then would fall into this suffering
Then I thought that I was Isvara and this was my
By the force of this leela all mistakes and forgetfulness
the old house lived the father of Uncle Parasuram, Akhil
In the morning he would arise come and take a seat and
Vedanta. Thereafter, unfastening his kacha [the back part of
dhoti] he would recite the Kalma [a Muslim prayer] After that
would kneel down and worship Isvara [as a Christian]. He did
believe in the clay gods at all. Many people would say that
was very wise and others would say that he was less than a
Once I went to him and asked him questions. He said
Isvara alone was Purusha. The Vedas know him as Brahman, in
Koran he is Allah and in the Bible he is God. I believed him.
warned me not to go to Parasuram, who was an atheist.
to part 4, here
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