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A project of ISKCON Mayapur 110A Motilal Nehru Road, Kolkata 700 029, WB India PH: 91 33 4065 2475/ 5216

ISSUE #8, August 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.

A Little History
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 Thakuras birth the family estate was large and opulent. In 1817-18 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 Bhaktivinodas 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.

Connection with Srila Prabhupada and ISKCON

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 certre 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. (Yadubaras film was eventually sent to the Bhaktivedanta Archives where it was recently digitized.)

Fast forward to April 2013

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!

Birnagar Collection
The total number of manuscripts is 137, plus 17 letters and 27 books.

Nine are original, hand written works by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, including his auto-biography Svalikhita Jivani.

One of the letters in the collection is of special historical value to followers of Srila Prabhupada a hand-written Bengali letter to Lalita Prasada Thakura, sent from Moscow on June 21 1971:

National Hotel, Red park, Moscow, Russia 21st June, 1971. My dear uncle Prabhupada Lalita Prasad Thakur, Kindly accept my humble obeisance to your lotus feet. At present I am staying at the above mentioned hotel in Moscow, Room No. 356. With me there are two American disciples. Here the preaching subject will be 1. Vedic Conception of Communism, 2. Knowledge derived from authoritative tradition, 3. Scientific classless society. Now with your blessing in this severely atheistic country the teachings of Sriman Mahaprabhu will be preached. Here many local and foreigner girls and boys have visited. I advise them to do the Bhajana of the Lord. A few boys of this place have become very much impressed after listening to our Harinama. They want to join us. But the laws of this country are so tough that they cannot go against them. Here discussions are going on to meet many reputable professors and there will be the arrangement of lecture in the Indian Embassy. You bless me. From here I will go to Paris, San Francisco, Los Angeles, London etc. This is the first time I came to Moscow. If you want to write to me, send it to this address3764 Watseka Avenue. Yours affectionately, Sri Bhaktivedanta Swami

Of the remainder, there are 44 works written, edited or compiled by Lalita Prasada Thakura, as well as 33 hand copied manuscripts by Rupa and Jiva Goswamis and Visvanatha Chakravarti. Two books are by Sri Bipin Behari Goswami, the diksa guru of Bhaktivinoda Thakura. With scanning now completed we face a great challenge in preserving them by de-acidification and encapsulation. Some unkown person previously tried to laminate an unpublished work Rasa- rasodaya by Bhaktivinoda Thakura with plastic with near disasterous results. The wrong type of plastic was used and its shrinkage has damaged the manuscript considerably.

Once the preservation is completed the originals will be returned to Birnagar for storage and display. Most of the scanned works will be available on the BRC website.

Service Opportunity to Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura

Next year 2014 marks the 100th Disappearance anniversary of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. Readers may want to take this opportunity to do some service to his birth place and legacy. The BRC has undertaken to do some renovations by reconstructing the prasadam hall at a cost of $6,000.00.

Preservation of the literature will cost approx. $4,000.00. If anyone would like to take this chance of rendering service to the founder of modern Gaudiya Vaisnavism on this auspicious occasion please contact BRC Director Hari Sauri dasa: +919830120437 website: This concludes our special edition on Birnagar. We hope you have enjoyed this glimpse into what we regard as one of the most important developments since the BRC opened in 2009. Please visit us whenever you are passing through Kolkata and see the hundreds of original and historical works of our acaryas there is nothing like the bliss of being surrounded by these transcendental artifacts! Your humble servants at the BRC