Cleaning of the Guṇḍicā Mandira
[July 11, 2021 is the cleaning of the Guṇḍicā Mandira in Vṛndāvana, India. The following is an excerpt from Questions and Answers section of 'Viśuddha Caitanya-vāṇī Volume I' by Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Vijñāna Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja.]
Question: What is the significance of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s pastime of cleaning the Guṇḍicā Mandira the day before the Ratha-yātrā festival?
Śrīla Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja: Prior to Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, devotees never performed Guṇḍicā Mandira-marjana; it was the responsibility of the servants of the king to prepare the temple for Śrī Jagannāthadeva, and it never occurred to anyone that this service was actually the duty of the devotees. But Śrīman Mahāprabhu considered, “As devotees of the Lord, it is our responsibility to prepare the temple for His arrival.”
On the day before the beginning of the Ratha-yātrā festival, when everyone was assembled in the Gambhīrā, Śrīman Mahāprabhu informed His antaraṅga-parikaras—not ordinary people, but rather only those advanced devotees close to His heart—that they would all shortly leave with Him to clean the Guṇḍicā temple. The act of cleaning is generally quite a dirty affair, and so it is noteworthy that Śrīman Mahāprabhu never instructed these devotees to change into old clothes. Instead, everyone wore new clothes. Their mentality was, “Because cleaning the Lord’s temple is very special sevā, we should all wear new clothes. How could we possibly perform such an important service in old, ragged clothes?”
Before departing, Śrīman Mahāprabhu personally gave garlands and candana to each devotee present, because He considered as worshipful anyone in whom the desire to serve the Lord has manifested. After this, Śrīman Mahāprabhu lead the devotees to Guṇḍicā Mandira, where they cleaned the temple as if they were cleaning their own heart. Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī has used two words to describe the state of the temple after they finished cleaning: śītala and nirmala. Nirmala, means ‘spotless’ or ‘clear,’ and śītala means ‘cool’ or ‘soothing.’ The weather in Purī is rather hot at the time of Ratha-yātrā, and so they not only cleaned the temple, but prepared it in such a way that the Lord would feel cool and refreshed while staying there.
In his commentary on the description of guṇḍicā-mandira-marjana-līlā found in the twelfth chapter of Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta’s Madhya-līlā, Śrīla Prabhupāda Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura has revealed the hidden, deep meanings of this pastime. There, he has described the various types of ‘dirt’ found within the heart of a sādhaka, as well as the process of purification a sādhaka must follow if, being inspired by the association of sādhus, he desires to invite the Lord to sit in his heart.
Śrīla Prabhupāda has written that the real ‘dirt’ in a sādhaka’s heart is the desire to obtain dharma, artha, kāma and mokṣa, and that it must be thoroughly cleaned before the Lord can be seated there. Those who falsely teach that one can become purified by pursuing these objectives and by following yogamārga, jñāna-marga, tapa-mārga, siddhi-mārga or any other path, do so with the utmost matsaratā (hostility). This matsaratā is directed not only toward others, but toward themselves, as well. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu has very clearly explained that the heart is cleansed only through bhakti, or performing loving devotional service to Bhagavān and His devotees. There is no other way.
Once, Śrīla Bhakti Kumuda Santa Gosvāmī Mahārāja accompanied the devotees of Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha in their observance of Guṇḍicā Mandira-marjana. He was leading a group of devotees to the Guṇḍicā temple, when he saw a number of devotees cleaning the temple with small brooms. He immediately chastised them: “What are you doing? For what purpose have you come here? Do you think it possible for you, in truth, to clean even the smallest of areas in this temple, or that you will derive any benefit from simply taking a broom in your hand and moving dirt here and there? What is your real intention? This is not a place for people who do not possess even an inkling of a service attitude. It would be better for you to return home instead of staying here and performing useless endeavors. True devotees are disturbed to see such empty displays of sentiment and emotion. Even if you are unable to perform any service, you should help those who actually are serving by behaving properly.”