The sacred value of Chhoti
According to Indian tradition, the place where one’s paternal ancestors resided is considered to be one’s śrīpāt. Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava scholar Dr. Fakir Mohan Dās further specifies the word ‘śrīpāt’ as the native place where a great saint stayed with his deities and family. Thus, in the case of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, his śrīpāt is village Chhoti located in Odisha.
Chhoti does not only hold the dust of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s lotus feet, but also that of Śrī Krishnananda Dutta and Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī. For this reason Chhoti is to be valued as extremely sacred and worshipable by all followers of these saints.
The two names of the exact place in village Chhoti where Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura resided are ‘Baluadiha’ or ‘Babughora’, which means the house of the landlord. Near to his Baluadiha is a large open field called Kantanapadia. At the time of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, Nāma-haṭṭa [preaching centers] and Dola-yātrā1 were conducted in this open field regularly.
Re-establishing awareness about Chhoti
After the physical departure of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī, Chhoti became unnoticed to the entire Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava society. It was only after a public speech2 by Śrīla Gour Govinda Swami that awareness was re-established about this sacred village. He mentions in this context:
“Chhoti is the śrīpāt, native place, of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, and he resided there. Having been decorated with the dust of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s lotus feet, this is a very sacred place. But most people have not known about it. This place is now coming to everyone’s notice because of the blessings of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura. Getting the strength of that blessing, the research scholar Dr. Fakir Mohan Dās has been working to reveal this place to the world. Without such blessings, no one can do this work. Śrīpāda Dr. Fakir Mohan Dās may face much opposition, but after resisting this opposition strongly, he will surely establish the real truth.”
This speech inspired numerous ISKCON devotees to start visiting Chhoti and sing there together for the pleasure of the Lord and His eternal associates.
Dr. Fakir Mohan Dās’ unique and unparalleled contribution
As predicted by Śrīla Gour Govinda Swami, Dr. Fakir Mohan Dās would surely establish the real truth about Chhoti. Not only did he research the vast amount of literary works left by Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, he would also visit Chhoti to do the necessary research whenever he had time. This intensive and challenging research journey started in 1982. After approximately 15 years of research, Dr. Fakir Mohan Dās bundled all his findings about this village and manifested a book titled Choti; The Native Place of Śrīla Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda (1999).
How to reach Chhoti?
By air: Nearest airports are at Bhubaneswar, 80 km and Calcutta, 500 km.
By rail: Nearest station is Cuttack, 60 km.
By bus: Nearest major bus depot is Badambadi Bus Stand, Cuttack. From Cuttack, buses are readily available to Kendrapara throughout the day (travel time is 2.5 hours). Daily direct bus service to Chhoti and Mangalpur is also available. Bus service from Calcutta to Kendrapara is available from Babughat near Esplanade, Calcutta.
By car: From Calcutta to Chandikhol via National Highway 5 is 450 km. From Chandikhol to Kendrapara by National Highway 5A is 40 km. From Kendrapara to Nikrei College Square by Indupur Road is 6 km. From Nikrei College Square to Chhoti by Thakur Bhaktivinode Sarani is 5 km.
1 Dola-yātrā: a festival where Radha-Krishna deities from different villages and cities come together.
2 In 1993 Śrīla Gour Govinda Swami held a speech at a public meeting organized in the Dina-bandhu Sahoo Law College located in Kendrapara (Odisha) on the occasion of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s 155th birth anniversary. Also during this meeting a ceremony was performed to honor Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura as the first ever law graduate of Odisha. To acknowledge this achievement a portrait of him was installed in the college building.