In the republic of India , in the state of West Bengal, nestled amidst the rice fields of the Navadwip region, in the district of Nadia, is Sri Mayapur Dham. The ancient name of Mayapur refers to both the spiritual and the material energies of the divine. Situated where the sacred Ganges meets the Jalangi River, this holy place is itself a point of confluence, a place of extraordinary encounters. Here, eternity flows through the present, matter transforms into spirit, and humanity reconnects with God.
Today, Sri Mayapur appears to be a small pilgrimage center, but this belies its majestic history. One thousand years ago, the renowned scholar, author, and ruler, Ballal Sena, established the capital of a great dynasty on the banks of the Ganges. This site was previously the original town of Navadwip, a historic center of learning whose reputation rivaled that of Benares.
It was here in 1486 that Sri Chaitanya was born. Based on Vedic scriptural references, He was recognized by His followers not only as a saint, but as a divine incarnation—the Golden Avatar. Sri Chaitanya rejected the social conventions of His time that deviated from Vedic teachings and restricted all from participating in spiritual activities. His exuberant egalitarianism inspired people from all walks of life to experience the highest spiritual state, pure love of God, and to share it freely with others, regardless of caste, race, or creed.
Thus began India's great devotional renaissance—the widespread chanting of the names of God, a non-sectarian practice that makes spirituality the central goal of human life, and is easy, joyous, and accessible to everyone. India's tradition of bhakti, devotion, owes everything to Sri Chaitanya. His words and example inaugurated a movement of reform that has had a profound transformative effect on the life of India and the world.
At the end of the nineteenth century, the visionary Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur embarked on an organized effort to bring Mayapur and Sri Chaitanya's teachings to the rest of the world. His mission was the development of Sri Chaitanya's birthplace, not just as a historical site, but as a dham, a spiritual abode that would provide shelter and enlightenment to an India whose ancient culture was under attack by the British colonial presence. His son, Srila Bhaktisiddhantha Saraswati Thakur, continued to develop Mayapur, and instructed his followers to share the teachings of Lord Chaitanya with the Western world as well.
His wishes went largely unfulfilled until the 1960s, when His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, later known as Srila Prabhupada, founded the movement known as the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). Within a decade he brought Sri Mayapur to the attention of the world, establishing Krishna Consciousness in cities on virtually every continent. He then returned to Mayapur to continue the work of his predecessors. He envisioned a wondrous exhibition of the spiritual and material universes, an astonishing temple for the cultivation of religious experience and spiritual knowledge, and a city dedicated to education, culture, and community.