Panihati Cida Dahi festival
Panihati cida dahi festival, also known as chippad rice festival or Danda Mahotsav (festival of punishment) is celebrated yearly on thirteen days of the full moon in the month of Jyestha (May-June).
Behind this festival of punishment, there is an intriguing story of Srila Raghunatha Dasa Goswami and lord Nityanand Prabhu. This story narrates the ecstatic love of God and his benevolence toward his devotees and religious maniac. The votary’s devotion and ecstasy of loving god are transcendental.
The Godly ‘Raghunath Dasa’
Srila Raghunatha Dasa was born 1495 in Krishnapur near Saptagram. His father was a wealthy opulent Zamindar Govardhan Mazumdar whose family’s affluence and prosperity were equivalent to that of Deva Indra.
Raghunath Dasa was one of the six Goswamis of Vrindavana who was not interested in the mundane and materialistic world. He always found himself detached from this materialistic world and wanted to abandon all the material pleasure of this world at a very early age. He was looking for a life full of spirituality.
First meeting of Nityanand Prabhu and Raghunatha dasa
Then the time arrived when Raghunath Dasa ran to meet the lord Nityanand Prabhu for the first time when he came to stay in Santipura after renunciation.
Raghunath Dasa expressed his desire to leave home and devote his life to the serve lord in front of Nityanand Prabhu but he denied him to do so and said, “Within your heart, you should keep yourself very faithful, but externally you may behave like an ordinary man. Thus Krishna will soon be very pleased and deliver you from the clutches of Maya. You may see Me at Nilacala, Jagannatha Puri when I return after visiting Vrindavana. By that time you can think of some trick to escape. What kind of means you will have to use at that time will be revealed by Krishna. If one has Krishna’s mercy, no one can check him.” (By His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda. Madhya-līlā Chapter 16, Text 236-239)
By hearing this, he gave up the idea of renunciation and engaged himself in his routine without any interest.
The reason calling it ‘Dand Festival’ or ‘Festival of Punishment’
In this way, two years passed, and one day, Raghunath Dasa heard that Nityanand Prabhu had come back again and stayed in a nearby village named Panihati. Raghunath took the permission of his father and went to see him.
He reached Panihati village and saw that Nityanand Prabhu was sitting on a rock under a Banyan tree which is next to river Ganga and was surrounded by his devotees, many kirtana performers and followers. Raghunath Dasa was surprised to see the magnificence of Nityanand Prabhu.
He was hesitating to go forward to see him as he thought himself to be unqualified and paid his obeisances from a distance. Some of the devotees noticed Raghunath Dasa and informed Nityanand Prabhu about him. Lord Nityanand called him and said, “You are a thief. Now you have come to see Me. Come here, come here. Today I shall punish you!” (CC Antya 6.47)
Raghunath Dasa was hesitating to go near the lord. Nityananda Prabhu ordered his servant to catch him and present Raghunath Dasa in front of him. The gracious lord put his lotus feet on the head of Raghunath Dasa and said, “You are just like a thief, for instead of coming near, you stay away at a distant place. Now that I have captured you, I shall punish you”.( CC Antya 6.50)
“Make a festival and feed all My associates yoghurt and chipped rice.” Hearing this, Raghunath Dasa was immensely pleased by heart. (CC Antya 6.51)
Arrangements did for the celebration.
Raghunath Dasa instantly sent his men to bring all the ingredients and eatable items and made arrangements for the celebration. Chipped rice, Bananas, Milk, sweet dishes, yoghurt and many more edible items were brought.
As the people heard that a fabulous festival would be celebrated, all the Brahmans and villagers started coming to enjoy this festival. A great number of people arrived from the village itself and also from nearby villages too. Seeing the crowd, Raghunath Dasa ordered more items and large earthen pots to put those items.
At one place, chipped rice was soaked in hot milk in large earthen pots. Half of the rice was mixed with yoghurt, sugar and bananas, and the remaining half of them got mixed with condensed milk flavoured with camphor and butter.
A blissful festival scene
After all this delicious food was ready to eat, lord Nityanand returned wearing new clothes and sat down on a raised platform. Seven Large pots with chipped rice were brought and placed in front of him. On that platform, other prominent associates gathered him with succulent chipped rice. Lord Nityanand honoured other learned scholars, Brahmans and priests and invited them to sit with him on that raised platform.
Two earthen pots served with two kinds of chipped rice given to all other devotees and associates who were present there. Other devotees sat on the ground around a raised platform surrounding lord Nityanand. When the place became full, and people did not get to sit, they went to the bank of river Ganga with their two pots. When the river bank also got filled, and there was no vacant place to sit and eat, people got down into the Ganga water and began eating their chipped rice. Twenty men were employed to serve food. Such was the scene of the festival celebration.
Divine pastime of Nityanand Prabhu with Chaitanya Mahaprabhu
When chipped rice was served to all, Nityananda Prabhu meditated and brought Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. As Chaitanya Mahaprabhu arrives, lord Nityanand stood up. They were both standing together and watching how the people were enjoying the festival with chipped rice. Then, experiencing transcendental bliss, they both moved around among the devotees.
Nityanand Prabhu took morsels of chipped rice from each devotee’s pot and fed Chaitanya Mahaprabhu with his own hand. In the same way, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu also pushed some morsels of chipped rice in the mouth of Nityananda Prabhu. People could not understand what Nityananda Prabhu was doing because no one could see the Chaitnaya Mahaprabhu. Only some fortunate could see the presence of lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu there.
Manifestation of Krishna and Balram
Experiencing the pleasure of this scene, a smile came on the face of Nityananda Prabhu. Then he sat down with Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and offered him a full pot of chipped rice to eat. They both together were eating the chipped rice as if Krishna and Balram themselves are eating. Then Lord Nityananda Prabhu ordered, “All of you eat, chanting the holy name of Hari.”
Suddenly the whole universe reverberated with ‘Hari Hari’. The remnants left by the lord were distributed among devotees, associates and followers as Prasad.
In this way, Nityanand Prabhu blessed the Raghunath Dasa and showered his grace upon him.
Raghunatha Dasa was fortunate that the Lord himself came to eat chipped rice served by him. The leniency and mercy of the lord are enigmatic. Remembering the mercy of Lord Nityanand on Raghunath Dasa, we celebrate this chipped rice festival or festival of punishment every year. Devotees visit the Panihati on this festival, which is today’s West Bengal near Kolkata city. Chipped rice is distributed among visitors and devotees as Prasad on this festival.
Do visit the Panihati with your family at this coming cida rice festival and enjoy this celebration. Surrender yourself in God’s devotion and experience the pleasure of ecstatic love of God.