Bengal was ruled by Muslim rulers in 16th century. It was during this period that Lord Chaitanya appeared (in 1486 CE) in Mayapur, Navadvipa. The Vedic teachings had taken a beating because of the atrocities of the Muslim rulers and also because the caste brahmanas had misinterpreted Vedas so that they can get unflinching monopoly over the Hindu religion. “Caste brahmana” mean those people who consider themselves as a brahmana just by taking birth in a brahmana family. The Vedas very clearly says that just by taking birth in a brahmana family one cannot become a brahmana just like simply by taking birth in a doctor’s family one cannot become a doctor.
However Lord Chaitanya who also appeared in a brahmana family challenged the caste brahmanas who were doing great injustice to Vedic literatures because of which thousands were being deprived of pristine message of sacred literature. Along with this, he also encouraged the people in general to practice their religion without fearing prosecution by the Muslims autocratic rulers.
He introduced the chanting of the holy names of Krishna – the Hare Krishna Mahamantra – and said that we all are children of the same God and God does not discriminate amongst his children and everyone can chant his names. His all-inclusive approach attracted all – men, women, children, brahmana, kshatriya, vaisya, sudra, rich, poor, Hindus, Muslims all were welcome and all participated. Everyone chanted the Hare Krishna Mahamantra, sang and danced joyfully. The kirtan (devotional song) would go on in the daytime and also in the night time. At the house of Srivas Pandita everyone would assemble and sing the Hare Krishna kirtan for hours even during the night.
Chaitanya Charitamrta (CC) Adi 17.123 informs, “When the saṅkirtana movement thus started, no one in Navadvipa could hear any sound other than the words “Hari! Hari!” and the beating of the mridangas and clashing of hand bells.”
Some of the envious Muslims became very angry and they complained to Chand Kazi, the city magistrate. When Kazi came for inspection he saw kirtan is going on in one house. In a fit of rage he broke the mridanga and warned, “No one should perform sankirtan on the streets of the city.” CC Adi 17.127. He further said, “The next time I see someone performing such saṅkirtana, I shall certainly chastise him by not only confiscating all his property but also converting him into a Muslim.” CC Adi 17.128
Shocked and terrified devotees rushed to Lord Chaitanya. Seeing their grief and anxiety Lord Chaitanya told them not to worry. He told that today we all will perform sankirtan and I will protect you all. “In the evening, burn torchlights in every home. I shall give protection to everyone. Let us see what kind of Kazi comes to stop our kirtana.” CC Adi 17.134. Thousands of residents of Navadvipa carrying torchlight, mridangas & kartals enthusiastically chanting and dancing marched towards the house of Chand Kazi. It was in fact the first civil disobedience movement in India or in the entire world.
Seeing the massive procession of devotees Kazi hid himself in a room. Lord Chaitanya entered Kazi’s house and asked few devotees to call Kazi. When devastated Kazi came then Lord Chaitanya spoke very respectfully to him and asked why he behaved in such a rude manner. There was a philosophical discussion between the two and finally Kazi accepted that he was wrong. Moreover after Kazi had threatened the devotees he had many personal experiences which had forced him to go for a course correction. In the night he had a dream of Lord Nrsimhadeva who was very angry with him. And when his orderlies had gone to prevent devotees from chanting then from nowhere flames would appear causing them injury and they had to flee from there in fear.
After meeting Lord Chaitanya and undergoing through such experiences Chand Kazi’s heart was totally transformed. He not just promised not to stop sankirtan but in fact said that whoever takes birth in his dynasty in the future will not check the sankirtan movement (CC Adi 17.222). Lord Chaitanya was extremely pleased hearing this, all the assembled devotees were jubilant. When the sankirtan again began, then Kazi too joined enthusiastically.
This incident happened around 500 years back and at present also the descendants of Kazi’s family do not oppose the chanting of the holy names of Krishna even though there might be Hindu Muslim riots in other places.
Lord Chaitanya, the pioneer of Bhakti movement, through his teachings wanted to unite all. And this is why we see that everyone forgetting their religious and bodily identity participated in his sankirtan movement. Today after 500 years his messages are even more relevant as there is much disharmony amongst the people on the basis of caste, creed and religion. But those who study the life and teachings of this great personality come to the conclusion that we all are children of the same God and we all should express our love to the Supreme Lord by living together peacefully.
Today is Gaura Purnima, the appearance day of Lord Chaitanya, and it is the best day to meditate on his sublime teachings.
By Purushottam Kumar