August 12, 2013

Special Report From Birnagar, Birthplace Of Srila Thakura Bhaktivinoda

On the 175th birth anniversary of the founder of modern day Gaudiya Vaisnavism, Srila Saccidananda Bhaktivinoda Thakura, the BRC is very pleased to announce a major development from Birnagar, his birthplace — the scanning and preservation of their entire literary collection.

Birnagar, formerly known as Ulagram (a name of Durga), is situated only fifty minutes south of Sridham Mayapur and ten minutes from Ranaghat. At the time of the Thakura’s birth the family estate was large and opulent. In 1817–1918 his maternal great-grandfather, Sri Isvara Chandra Mitra, constructed a temple complex comprising one Durga-mandira, one Kali-mandira and ten small stupa-style Shiva-mandiras. To date the place is still known as Dvadasa-mandira (12 temples).

In Bhaktivinoda’s teens the place fell into hard times and was lost to the family. Decades later his seventh son Srila Lalita Prasada Thakura managed to recover approx. five acres including the temples and the actual birthsite of his father and today there is a small samadhi to mark the spot.

In 1972 Srila Prabhupada went to Birnagar with a few disciples to discuss the possibility with Lalita Prasada Thakura of ISKCON getting a lease on the birth site to develop a temple and preaching centre there.

He visited again in 1976 and although Lalita Prasada was favorable he was by that time 96 years old and things were being managed by a committee. Consequently nothing came of it.

There was however the beginnings of a literary collaboration. In 1972 through Acyutananda Swami Prabhupada came to know that there were many original hand-written manuscripts being kept in poor conditions and seriously deteriorating. He immediately dispatched Yadubara dasa to go there with instructions to photograph all the works, stressing the importance of his task:

 Letter June 12 1972 to Acyutananda:
“I have asked Yadubara to come there to Birnagar from Bombay for photographing all of the manuscripts in the possession of Lalita Prashad Thakura page by page very completely before it is too late. The pages are in very decrepit condition, so best thing is to request Lalita Prashad if we may take care of them by treating them against insects and storing them in a tight, dry storage place where they may be preserved for future generations of Vaisnavas to see the actual handwriting and words of such great saintly persons. Treat this matter very seriously and thoroughly, and take all precautions to protect this wonderful boon of literatures forever.
Yadubara may photograph every page, never mind Bengali or English or any other language, and later we shall see where to send the copies to different places. …
These items are very, very priceless and are a great treasure house of Vaisnava lore, so be very careful in the matter and take all precautions to guard them.”

Yadubara spent one week taking several hundred photos but could not complete the task. The bulk of the works remained untouched. (Yadubara’s film was eventually sent to the Bhaktivedanta Archives where it was recently digitized.)

At the beginning of 2013 a friendly contact was established between the BRC and the Bhaktivinoda Gosthi, a new committee of eight devotees with Sri Bamsidas Babaji as its President, which manages the affairs of the Dvadasa Mandira. 

After several mutual visits the committee members became convinced of the capability of the BRC and thus in April the Gosthi and the BRC signed an agreement allowing it to catalogue, scan and preserve their entire collection of manuscripts.

Thus after 41 years and in the 175th anniversary year of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, the desire of Srila Prabhupada has now been fulfilled!

March 25, 2013

BRC Uncovers Some of Srila Prabhupada's Previously Unknown Correspondences

We were excited to discover some previously unknown correspondence of our beloved Founder-acarya Srila Prabhupada in March while attending the Gaura Purnima festival. Together with Sriman Jananivasa prabhu we conducted a search of Srila Prabhupada’s quarters and found about 20 postcards sent to Srila Prabhupada in 1949–1950.

Along with these were two each original prints of Srimad-bhagavatam Canto 1 Part 1 and Part 2; an original Back To Godhead from 1957 and two editions of Hindi language Bhagavat Dharma from 1957; and the first ISKCON-era Indian edition of Back To Godhead in Hindi from 1970 which lists Los Angeles as ISKCON’s world headquarters and Gorakhpur as the only Indian center.

A special mention is due to Sriman Nrsimhananda dasa of ITV and Topanga Canyon Pyramid House fame for donating his entire and extensive collection of Back to Godhead magazines. He made the decision after seeing a power-point presentation of the BRC in Udipi in December.

January 31, 2013

Mission for Manuscripts goes to Odisha and Bangladesh

Our Manuscripts team made their second visit to Odisha in January 2013 gaining many new contacts and much information on possible manuscript sources. They were given access to the libraries in Ravenshaw University and the State Museum and made tentative agreements to work with them in the future.

In the small village of Nayagarh, Udaypur, we discovered the Dasarathi Pattanayak Library and Museum. This library has an enormous collection of more than 17,000 manuscripts, 40,000 old books and a massive number of old journals. The owner was happy to give us access and we are planning how to catalogue the collection in order to identify which ones are important to scan for the BRC.

Most importantly, our first excursion to Bangladesh commenced in mid-February 2013. We have a number of contacts in Dhaka University where there is a large collection of Vaisnava manuscripts and books. Apart from this our team travelled north-east to Sylhet, the birth district of Lord Caitanya’s father Sri Jagannatha Misra as well as other important tirthas in Chittagong and Khulna.

At Iswara Patasala, Coomilla we discovered a wonderful collection of 60,000 books and 9,000 manuscripts. None of it is catalogued and the collection is in danger of simply rotting away. The 87 years old custodian more than welcomed our offer to come there for an extended stay and catalogue the whole collection and show them how to preserve their works. BRC has made an offer to the managing committee and we are awaiting their positive response.