By Acarya Dasa
On January 30th we arrived in the town of Tenkasi located in the Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu. The town is the second largest town in the district and is situated at the foothills of the Western Ghats near Coutallam. Tenkasi (‘kasi’ is translated as ‘south’, referring to the Kasiviswanathar temple), is a wonderful place filled with natural beauty; when we were there it felt as if we were in the Himalayas. Tenkasi, also known as South Kasi, is famous for its ancient ‘Kasiviswanathar Shiva Temple’, which Lord Caitanya visited when He came there.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s visit to Tenkasi
As our padayatra party entered the town many people came to take darsana of Sri Sri Nitai Gaurasundar and everyone was happy to have Their Lordships there. While in town we performed sankirtana, did book distribution and held programs, all of which received good responses from the public –due indeed to the mercy of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Actually, this place has a lot of significance for us, as devotees, because Lord Caitanya visited Tenkasi also known as Tila-kanci during his tirtha-yatra in South India. The Lord travelled to many places in Tamil Nadu, as it is stated in the summary of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya Lila 9:
“The Lord next visited the places known as Pandya-desa, Tamraparni, Naya-tripadi, Ciyadatala, Tila-kanci, Gajendra-moksana, Panagadi, Camtapura, Sri Vaikuntha, Malaya-parvata and Kanya-kumari. The Lord then met the Bhattatharis at Mallara-desa and saved Kala Krsnadasa from their clutches.”
Later in Madhya Lila (9.220), we find some additional information about the Lord’s pastimes at Tila-kanci:
ciyadatala tirthe dekhi’ sri-rama-laksmana
tila-kanci asi’ kaila siva darasana
“After this, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu went to a holy place known as Ciyadatala, where He saw the Deities of the two brothers Lord Ramacandra and Laksmana. He then proceeded to Tila-kanci, where He saw the temple of Lord Siva.
The purport of this verse states:
Ciyadatala is sometimes known as Cheratala. It is near the city of Kaila, and there is a temple there dedicated to Lord Sri Ramacandra and His brother Laksmana. Tila-kanci (Tenkasi) is about thirty miles northeast of the city of Tirunelveli.”
Bhaktivikas Swami’s visit
While in Tenkasi we received news that Bhaktivikas Maharaja was going to give a seminar in the area. We discovered that Maharaja was staying at a rest house just three kilometers away from where we were staying. So, I went there to take darsana of Maharaja and to invite him to visit us and to give us his guidance. Maharaja mercifully agreed and met with all the padayatris. He glorified the padayatra and inspired us to walk for the pleasure of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Maharaja also said that we should establish padayatra in every district, and, that this way preaching would become very easy. He said that it’s a sankirtana festival everyday on padayatra and that our movement is a sankirtana movement. Maharaja told us,
“All of you padayatris walk and dance doing sankirtana every day, thus pleasing the Lord. You should all remain on padayatra for a lifetime.”
Maharaja asked us which state in India padayatra received the best response. “Bengal”, I replied, to which. Maharaja commented,
“Yes, because of namahatta and Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s special mercy in this place.”
Maharaja spoke to each one of us personally, thus inspiring us. We all thanked him for his wonderful guidance and insisted that he visit us again whenever he is nearby.
We had a great time at Tenkasi. It has many waterfalls, one of which flows constantly all year round. So, we decided to take the festival deities of Nitai Guarasundar there for a holy dip. Lokanath Swami says that padayatra means ‘daily picnic’. Every day we have some kind of adventure. Padayatra is not just about walking, but it’s about walking with the Lord, and following His desire to go to different places –this way our lives are filled with adventure.