‘Chhoti’: the native place of Śrīla Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda
Krishnananda Dutta moves to Choti
From the historical ślokas of the Dutta family of Andul, West Bengal, and also from the local people of Choti, it is learnt that in the 16th century Krishnananda Dutta, a disciple of Sri Nityananda Prabhu and a forefather of Thakur Bhaktivinode, left his home in Andul and lived in Puri as a Vaishnava sannyasi. There, he daily chanted 300,000 names of the Lord, worshipped his deities Sri Sri Radha Madhava, and observed a vow of silence. At the request of the King of Aul, Krishnananda left Puri and along with his deities Radha Madhava and Jagannath (Dadhi Baman) moved to the village of Choti, nearly 10 km from Kendrapara. The King of Aul established the Dutta family as the landlord of 9/16ths of Choti and another family, named Ray, as the 7/16ths landlord. The King also donated many landed properties for the worship of Krishnananda’s deities. Although the descendants of Krishnananda Dutta resided in Calcutta as rich landowners, they maintained their connection with Choti. However, in the 7th generation from Krishnananda, serious legal problems besieged the family and all the family properties in Bengal became lost. Thakur Bhaktivinode’s grandfather, Rajaballav Dutta, thus left Calcutta and lived permanently with his family in his paternal land at Choti. Rajaballav’s son, Ananda Chandra, though, chose to live in Ula, West Bengal, at his fater-in-law’s house, as educational opportunities for his family were not available in Orissa at that time. This is where Thakur Bhaktivinode was born.
Ananda Chandra was not present in Ula at that time of the Thakur’s birth in 1838. Some quarrel had developed in Choti between the Ray family and Rajaballav Dutta and the Ray family was forcibly collecting the rent due to Rajaballav. One of Rajaballav’s tenants, Sri Kurupi Sahoo, refused to pay rent to the Ray family and went to Ula, bringing Ananda Chandra to Choti to help Rajaballav. The Rays filled a case against the Sahoos and Rajaballav, but the case was dismissed and out of gratitude Thakur Bhaktivinode’s grandfather donated one acre of land to Kurupi Sahoo.
Choti Mangalpur (Nowadays: ‘Choti’)
When Ananda Chandra died in 1849, his wife, Thakur Bhaktivinode’s mother, came under severe financial hardship. But somehow she was able to arrange for the completion of her son’s education, and then, in 1857, Thakur Bhaktivinode brought his mother and the rest of the family from Calcutta to Choti, living there with his grandfather until his grandfather’s death in 1858. The landed property and zamindari of Choti Mangalpur were then recorded in the name of Thakur Bhaktivinode. The Thakur acknowledged this in his book Maths of Orissa: ‘‘I have a small village (Choti Mangalpur, six miles from Kendrapara) in the country of Cuttack, of which I am the proprietor.’’
He also described his place in his autobiography:
In Choti Mangalpur [now known as Choti] we have six or seven big thatched houses. Thakur Radha Madhava and Jagannath are being worshiped in one of these houses. Behind these houses there was a pond named Uasa Pokhari. There was a fence of kantā bāuṁśa [thorny bamboo] around the gaḍa [palace]. We did not think about our food, only because grandfather Rajaballav Dutta had nine parts (9/16) of the paternal zamindari here and the rest seven parts (7/16) belonged to the Ray family.
So, though Thakur Bhaktivinode took birth on 2nd September 1838 in his maternal uncle’s house in Ula, West Bengal, yet his native place is village Choti in Kendrapara. After his divine demise in 1914, the landed property there was transferred into the name of his son, Bimala Prasad Dutta, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur, and it still stands in that name. From the local people it is learned that Srila Bimala Prasad Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur came to Choti three or four times and he was regularly sending his brahmacari disciples from the Gaudiya Mission in Calcutta to collect the rents from the tenants. During his visits there, though, he would not enter into his father’s house, but he would stay in the adjacent Dasahara Mandap. As he considered Choti to be his native place and his hereditary property, and as he was leading the life of a Vaishnava sannyasi, he considered all his property to be dedicated to the service of Sri Sri Radha Madhava and Dadhi Baman (Jagannath), and thus it was not meant for him to enjoy.
Baluadiha or Babughora (the house of the landlord)
Choti Village, under Derabis Block, has a population of more than 3,000. Included in the village are the hamlets Baliapada, Saptapadi, Dihasahi, Jenasahi, Pankasahi, Nahakasahi, Kelasahi, Malikasahi, Panupanda Tota, Choti, Gokhasahi, Dhobasahi, Baniasahi, Mallasahi, and Kandarasahi.
To reach the native place of Thakur Bhaktivinode, one travels from Kendrapara on Indupur-Kendrapara Road (District Road No.13) up to Nikrei. At Nikrei College Square one turns left on Thakur Bhaktivinode Sarani, entering Choti Village first at Baliapada, then Saptapadi, Dihasahi, Jenasahi and Hata in Kantaniapadia respectively. From Hata it curves to the right side and runs through the hamlet of Choti. The native place of Thakur Bhaktivinode is called Baluadiha or Babughora (the house of the landlord).
The original houses in Thakur Bhaktivinode Nagar used by the Thakur are no longer existing. On the plot at present are two thatched houses, one of which is used as a temple for the family deities, and another which is used as a nāṭamandir, a portico for sankirtana and discourses. At present, only Dadhi Baman (Jagannath) remains of the original family deities, as Sri Sri Radha Madhava were immersed some time ago by the Ray family, the descendents of Thakur Bhaktivinode’s co-landlords, but Sri Sri Radha Madhava are returning to Choti through the efforts of Their devotees.
Regular daily worship is continuing there up to the present. They take amaṇiā-bhoga (early offering) in the morning time and ukhuḍa (puffed unboiled rice and molasses balls) with milk in the evening. On major festival days such as Gaura Purṇimā, Janmāṣṭami, etc., cakes and sweets are offered, and in the summer season chatuā (a powdered grain) and green coconut water are offered at 4:00 PM.
Dasahara Mandap and Kantanapadia
To the north of the temple are the residential houses of the Ray family and to the south is the old Dasahara Mandap where the goddess Durga is worshiped in the month of October as well as the Durgāpaḍiā (vacant land for observance of this worship of Durga). This Dasahara Mandap is where Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur would stay during his visits to Choti. Now public meetings with the chanting of the holy names is going on every year by the devotees of the land of Thakur Bhaktivinode.
Near to Thakur Bhaktivinode’s land, in a separate plot of a Brahmin family, Sri Baladevjiu together with Sri Sri Jagannath and Subhadra Devi are worshiped. These deities were brought from Mursidabad (West Bengal) in the sixteenth century by Raghunath Padhi and the King of Aul also donated land for Their worship. Now the worship of Baladev is being continued by Raghunath Padhi’s descendant, Sukadeva Dash.
Near to Baluadiha is a large open field called Kantanapadia. At the time of Thakur Bhaktivinode, Hari-hāṭa (Nama Hatta) and Dola-yātrā were conducted in this open field regularly. Now only Dola-yātrā is being conducted here, but every year the local ISKCON Nama Hatta devotees and ISKCON devotees from around the world conduct public chanting of the Lord’s holy name together with the local villagers in Baluadiha and other public places during the months of September, January, February, and June in honor of Thakur Bhaktivinode and Thakur Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami’s appearance and disappearance days.