Holy places in Navadvipa: answering the burning question
The Navadvipa Mandala Parikrama is the highest point in the Gaura Purnima festivities in Mayapur. Every year, thousands of devotees from all over the world congregate in Mayapur, and most of them participate in the parikrama. For 7 days, devotees forget about the external world and just become immersed in chanting, walking and visiting the holy places in Navadvipa.
During the parikrama, we visit many holy places, like Naimisharanya, Kurukshetra, Puskara Thirta, and even Radha-Kunda, which can make many devotees doubtful. To anyone with basic geographical knowledge, this may seem absurd. Everyone knows that Kuruksetra is in north India, that Radha-Kunda is in Vrindavana and so on. How are we supposed to believe that all these holy places are present in Navadvipa?
This is of course not something whimsical, nor based on mere local folclore. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura described the glories of Navadvipa dhama extensively in his works, especially on the Navadvipa Mahatmya. He was also the first of our acaryas to not only write about the presence of different thirtas in Navadvipa but to also locate the precise places. All the information about these different holy places that is transmitted during the parikrama comes precisely from the works of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and of our previous acaryas. They have perfect spiritual vision and they shared the information with us.
Still, many may have this question in the back of their minds: how is it possible that holy places that exist in different parts of India may simultaneously also exist in Navadvipa? There is even the Nrishinhapali, where Lord Nrshinhadeva came to rest and wash His hands after killing Hiranyakashipu, a place that is not even supposed to be on this planet! How are we supposed to accept that certain places are simultaneously present in distinct geographical locations throughout the universe?
The first point to understand is that Navadvipa is not a geographical location on this planet, but actually part of the spiritual world, as much as Vrindavana is not part of the district of Uttar Pradesh, but actually the center of the spiritual world. All the holy places are originally situated in the spiritual world, being part of Krsna’s pastimes. When Krsna comes to this planet, is not that He left vrindavana. Rather, it’s His abode, with all its inhabitants that become visible on this planet. The Vrindavana that we see on this planet is thus a kind of multidimensional space, that is simultaneously a region of this planet, and the core of the spiritual world. It’s a place where the material dimension is in touch with the spiritual dimension. In the material dimension we can see sand, briks, monkeys, etc. but in the spiritual dimension one can see kalpa-vriksa trees and cintamani stones. Which of the two realities one will see depends solely on his consciousness, but in any case, just by visiting one derives benefit.
There is a story when a king came to visit Sannatana Goswami. Being satisfied with him, the king offered to donate any amount of money to repair the temples and holy places of Vrindavana. Sannatana Goswami pointed to a broken brick and asked if he could fix it. Being so rich, the king was almost offended with his request. However, before the king could voice his dissatisfaction, Sanatanna Goswami reviewed to him the spiritual form of the brick. The king could see that the brick was actually made out of gold and cintamani stones. There was nothing he could improve: this simple brick was actually much more valuable than anything he had in his treasure. Baffled, the king could understand that there was nothing he could offer.
Similarly, when Lord Caitanya manifests His pastimes, His abode manifests in Navadvipa. Just like Vrindana, Navadvipa is a multidimensional space, a place where the material and spiritual dimensions are in touch. All the different thirtas, or holy places, that are present in different parts of this universe are actually expansions of the original holy places present in the spiritual world. Both Vrindavana and Navadvipa are manifestations of the spiritual world, therefore it is natural that all the holy original holy places are present there. Just like Navadvipa is like a portal, a place where we can access the spiritual realm, specific places in Navadvipa are portals to these specific places in the spiritual world. Holy places situated in other parts, like the Kurukshetra in Haryana, or the Puskara Tirtha in Rajasthan are actually just expansions of the original holy places that are situated in Navadvipa. Therefore, by doing parikrama in Navadvipa one gets even more benefit than one that does a pilgrimage through the whole India. One that has time and money to spare may take the long road and travel all over India, but one that is eager to make advancement can just stay in Navadvipa and visit all these places in just one week, during the Navadvipa Mandala Parikrama.
Finally, Navadvipa is non-different from Vrindavana, therefore even places like the Radha-Kunda are manifested there. One that bathes in the Radha-Kunda in Navadvipa achieves exactly the same result as one that bathes in Vrindavana. One that visits one of them, gains the benefit of visiting both.