Manipur Rajkunja

 K Rajeshwar Sharma
No Manipuri born at the beginning of the 21st century could have imagined there was a ‘great ruler of Manipur, who was an administrator of a high order as well as a saintly man with artistic sensibilities of a high order’ had there been no Nabadwip (New island in Bengali). The ‘great ruler of Manipur’ was none other than Maharaja Bhagya Chandra Singh, the patron saint of the Manipuri Hindus in Manipur and elsewhere.
At the request of Maharaja Bhagya Chandra Singh, a piece of land of sixteen Bighas on the bank of the Ganga at Nabadwip was granted as ‘Manipur Rajkunja’ by Raja Krishnachandra, the then king of Nadia. The road that led to ‘Manipur Rajkunja’ was also named ‘Manipur Road’. In 1797 Maharaja Bhagya Chandra Singh undertook a pilgrimage to Nabadwip the birthplace of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, in whose name a temple, popularly known as ‘Anumahaprabhu Mandir’, was built inside ‘Manipur Rajkunja’ for his devotees and other pilgrims.
One hundred and twenty kilometers north of Kolkata lies the sleepy town of Nabadwip on the western bank of the Bhagirathi-Hooghly, which is known as Ganga or Kati-Ganga to the natives of the town. From Kolkata Airport at Dum Dum, it takes three and half hours by taxi to reach the holy town. A small pilgrimage town with a population of about one lakh twenty-five thousand, Nabadwip boasts of its several ancient Hindu temples which are tucked in its labyrinthine streets. At any time of the day, no temple at Nabadwip is seen without being crowded with devotees and pilgrims.
About three kilometers away from the Nabadwip Dham railway station, the temple of Anumahaprabhu at ‘Manipur Rajkunja’ or Manipur Rajbari is visited throughout the year by pilgrims from Manipur, Tripura, Assam and Bangladesh. Apart from the temple and its Mandop, the temple complex of Anumahaprabhu comprises a pond with a garden, several guest-houses, shops and residential buildings that house the family members of the head-priest and the family members of Sri Sri Anumahaprabhu Sebait Samity that runs and manages the temple complex. Rajkumar Tikendrajit Singh, general secretary of Sri Sri Anumahaprabhu Sebait Samity, was born and brought up at Nabadwip. Apart from Manipuri, he speaks Bengali as fluently as any other native does.
Unlike other Manipuris, R.K. Tikendrajit Singh is a man of tall stature who speaks without mincing his words. ‘Out of the sixteen Bighas of land of ‘Manipur Rajkunja’, six Bighas had been lost to the Bengali refugees from Bangladesh’, allegedly said R.K. Tikendrajit Singh. He had no idea whether it was given away or sold. During the Bangladesh liberation war in 1971, more than ten million people fled their country, erstwhile East Pakistan, and took shelter as refugees in West Bengal, Assam and Tripura. Majority of the refugees were Hindus who faced ‘torturous’ religious persecutions. Hundreds of them were allegedly said to have been given shelter at ‘Manipur Rajkunja’ at Nabadwip in Nadia District which borders Bangladesh to the east.
Not only does Sri Sri Anumahaprabhu Sebait Samity run and manage the Anumahaprabhu temple complex but it also remains vigilant to protect the sanctity of the temple complex. In 2019 an attempt was made to construct a meat processing plant with a slaughter house near ‘Manipur Rajkunja’ on the bank of the Ganga. Along with the support of other Temple boards at Nabadwip, the Samity protested vehemently against the project. As Sri Sri Anumahaprabhu Sebait Samity grows stronger with the support and cooperation from patrons and scholars in India and abroad, it can thwart any ill design. ‘Now no one can harm us’, said R.K. Tikendrajit Singh with confidence. Seventy-four-year old Adhikarimayum Madan Gopal Sharma, the head-priest of Anumahaprabhu Mandir, looks jubilant and tireless in spite of his advancing age. Besides being the head-priest, Madan Gopal Sharma also serves as the head-cook. He performs all the rites at the Mandir as well as on the bank of the Ganga. ‘I’m the longest serving priest of Anumahaprabhu’, claimed Madan Gopal Sharma, who hailed from Tripura. Armed with several degrees in Sanskrit, the head-priest came to Nabadwip in 1971 in pursuit of higher degrees in Sanskrit.
Of all the festivals celebrated every year at Anumaprabhu Temple complex, Yaoshang or Holi is the biggest one. It is the festival to celebrate the birthday of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu who was born at Nabadwip on 18th February 1486. He is considered to be the combined reincarnation of Radha and Krishna, and founder of Gaudiya Vaisnavism. ‘Thousands of people from Manipur and other parts of India come every year to celebrate Yaoshang festival’, said Rajkumar Ranjit Singh, the chairman of Sri Sri Anumahaprabhu Sebait Samity.
The death anniversary of Maharaja Bhagya Chandra Singh is also celebrated every year in September with great pomp and joy. During the celebration, scholars who are interested in Manipuri culture are invited to give lectures on various aspects of Manipuri culture as well as on Vaishnavism. Dr. Suniti Kumar Chatterji, a renowned scholar of India, described Maharaja Bhagya Chandra Singh as ‘a saintly man with artistic sensibilities of a high order’. In praising the patron saint of Manipuri culture, Dr. Suniti Kumar Chatterji further said, ‘He has a very high place in India’s Roll of Honour of great personalities in art and culture as well as religion.’ An elderly Manipuri pilgrim from Assam described ‘Manipur Rajkunja’ at Nabadwip as a ‘beacon’ to all the Manipuris who seem to have forgotten their great king that put them on a high pedestal.