Even more than being honored Himself, Krishna enjoys seeing His devotees honored. Sometimes a great calamity befalls a sincere devotee and it becomes an opportunity for his saintly qualities to be revealed to the world. So it happened once in Sri Nabadwip Dham, on the banks of the holy Ganges River at the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math, that Krishna revealed who are the real owners of the Math’s land. It was a very troubling time ….
Srila Bhakti Rakshak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj founded the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math in 1941. Then in 1947 Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswami Maharaj came to the lotus feet of his divine master, Srila Sridhar Maharaj. Although there were many difficulties, the Math continued to grow and sincere seekers of spiritual life found very much nourishment under the guidance and shelter of Srila Sridhar Maharaj.
During the late 1960s the external political situation in West Bengal continued to decline with rioting and armed revolts. There had been a long history of wealthy landlords controlling the vast majority of good farmland. The cultivation was mostly done by peasant farmers on small plots in a type of feudal system that gave the farmers little opportunity to gain financially from their hard work. Stoked by political activists, the peasants in the countryside were growing restless and more and more militant.
Then, a leftist communist government was elected in West Bengal in 1967. They passed a radical land reform act with the stated purpose of redistributing the land from the wealthy landlords to the peasants. But with so many corrupt and self-serving politicians, many dishonest practices developed. Small land owners became prey to local land mafias who forced them to sell for less than the land was worth. In some cases the land was sold even without the owner’s consent!
The communist politicians professed an allegiance to a Marxist-Lenin ideology that was atheistic. Naturally, one of the groups they were eager to “redistribute” land from was the religious temples and trusts, whom they perceived as their political enemies.
The land of the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math was targeted by these groups. Official documents had been filed to confiscate all the land of the Math and turn it over to the government. Srila Govinda Maharaj and Hari Charan Prabhu spent days and days trying to argue with the government officials, but to no avail.
The communist government was saying that Srila Sridhar Maharaj was the sole owner of the land and under this new law he was entitled to own a maximum allotment of 6 acres of land (or 2 ½ hectares). Originally the Math consisted of much more land, but a large portion had been sold. The government argued that that sale was illegal and so Srila Sridhar Maharaj owed the government more land than he actually owned. So to compensate the government properly, all the remaining land must be turned over to the government!
Srila Govinda Maharaj argued that the land was owned by the Deities: Sri Sri Guru Gauranga Gandharva Govindasundar and that Srila Sridhar Maharaj was the caretaker. But they did not accept this argument; after all they were atheists and did not give much value to any religious principles. The situation looked more and more desperate. For several months, sometimes daily, sometimes weekly, Srila Govinda Maharaj was travelling to Kalna to meet with the government representatives and discuss the case. Each time their position was the same: Sridhar Maharaj is one person and entitled to only one allotment of land. He sold land that was more than his allotment, therefore all the remaining land will be confiscated by the government.
Srila Govinda Maharaj worked so hard to counter their arguments and spent so much time and energy travelling back and forth to Kalna, that within two months he had lost 30 lbs., as he could not eat or sleep properly from worrying over the situation. Srila Govinda Maharaj spoke about how that had been one of the most difficult times in his whole life.
Then one day Srila Sridhar Maharaj told them to go see this man Jayanta Babu, who was a powerful lawyer with many students that had attained influential positions in the courts. Maybe he could help? Srila Govinda Maharaj described himself at this time as: “I was fainted.” He was in so much anxiety at the thought of losing the Math’s lands. But he was always respectful to follow Srila Sridhar Maharaj’s instructions, so Srila Govinda Maharaj sent Hari Charan Prabhu to see this man. Jayanta Babu had a lot of respect for Srila Sridhar Maharaj, so when he heard that Srila Sridhar Maharaj had sent someone to see him, he took a keen interest and told him to come back tomorrow with all the documents.
The next day, armed with all their documents and research, Srila Govinda Maharaj and Hari Charan Prabhu met with him. To their great relief, Jayanta Babu took up their case and subsequently wrote a heavy letter to the government on behalf of the Math. Quoting many court cases and references, he explained that Hindu law had traditionally recognized that the Deity was a legal person and capable of holding title to properties. In one case there were ancient revenue records that ascribed temple land to the name of the Deity. In yet another case the Deity was ruled as a legal person in the same way as a natural person and capable of holding property by reason of the Hindu shastras (religious scriptures).
They presented the letter to the courts and finally after much discussion amongst them, and being very much aware of the legal reputation of the writer, the court accepted that the Deities owned the land. The situation was starting to look hopeful! Now came the question of how many Deities and how many owners? The government took the position there were only three owners and so the Math still owed land to the government. They reasoned that the Deity of Mahaprabhu was one owner, Guru was a second owner and the Deities of Radha and Krishna were considered one owner because They were a married couple and under the land ownership law a married couple were only allotted one portion, not two.
Now the solution to the last argument became very clear to Srila Govinda Maharaj. After all he was trained in the holy scriptures, by the very best teacher – Srila Sridhar Maharaj. This was now a scriptural issue – were Radha and Krishna married? So Srila Govinda Maharaj presented to the court: No Radha and Krishna are not married they are paramour lovers. They each have Their own families. Srimati Radharani’s husband was named Abhimanyu. And even this point had been upheld by a previous court ruling. In Allahabad the court ruled that Radha and Krishna are not the same family! So it stands to reason that if there are two families, then the Deity of Sri Krishna would have an allotment of land and the Deity of Sri Radha would have another allotment of land.
Thus with four allotments of land to Sri Guru, Sriman Mahaprabhu, Sri Radha and Sri Krishna, all the Math’s land would be protected. After yet another meeting with the governor’s appointee and all the settlement officers, they decided “Yes” these arguments are correct! Then a certificate of release was issued and the Math’s land was saved!
Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswami Maharaj kijay!
Srila Bhakti Rakshak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj kijay!
Sri Sri Guru Gauranga Gandharva Govindasundar Jiu kijay!
Editor’s Note: I would like to offer my humble obeisances to the current President Sevaite Acharya of the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math, Srila Bhakti Nirmal Acharya Maharaj. He continues to protect the Math from so many disturbances while expertly maintaining the Deities, devotees and all the facilities.
Srila Bhakti Nimal Acharya Maharaj kijay!