The first Navadvipa Mandala Parikrama ever, was done by Lord Nityananda and his beloved eternal servant Sri Jiva Goswami. Sri Nityananda prabhu being mercy personified took Sri Jiva in one ecstatic Parikrama full of love by the remembrance of Lord Gouranga’s pastimes, as described in the Navadvipa Dhama Mahatmya:
“…My worshipable Lord eternally resides at Mayapur, situated on the east bank of the Ganges. Although in the eyes of common people, Visvambhara took sannyasa and left Navadvipa to go elsewhere, actually My Gauranga never gives up Mayapur or Navadvipa. The devotees can perceive His daily Lila. You, Jiva, will also see Gauranga dancing.
Hearing the Lord’s words, Jiva, with tears in his eyes, fell flat like a stick at Nityananda feet and requested, “You will show real mercy on this unworthy wretch if You Yourself take me on parikrama.”
Hearing Jiva’s request, Nityananda Raya simply said, “So be it”. By that, He revealed His mind. Nityananda said: ” Jiva, today take darsana of Mayapur. Tomorrow we will tour more extensively.”
Saying this, Nityananda Prabhu got up, and Jiva followed Him with a happy heart. Nityananda moved forward slowly, for His body was extremely agitated with ecstatic love for Gauranga. Nityananda Prabhu was engrossed in ecstasy, and His enchanting form was decorated with gold ornaments which glittered and shone. The very feet that Brahma and Siva cannot attain by meditation were served out to Sri Jiva simply by the mercy of Sri Nityananda. Thus Jiva followed the Lord taking the dust of the Lord’s feet and smearing it over his body. Off he went in great happiness….”
Lord Nityananda Himself took Jiva Goswami in Parikrama starting from Saci mata’s house in the Yoga Pitha. They had prasadam cooked by Sri Vishnupriya devi, and after that they proceeded to Srivasa’s courtyard and so on. All the details dear reader, you can find in the book Sri Navadvipa Dhama Mahatmya, written by Srila Sacidananda Bhaktivinoda Thakur.
By bringing Jiva Goswami in Parikrama the Lord was instructing all of us the best way to go to the amazing places where Lord Gouranga Mahaprabhu and His associates was performing pastimes in this world. Lord Nityananda’s mercy came to us from Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur who was living in Sri Navadvipa Dham and dedicating part of his life to find the sacred places those we are visiting in Parikrama nowadays.
125 years ago Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur, after having received an order by Lord Chaitanya in a dream, started an extensive research to discovery where were the sacred places of Navadvipa Dham. He went through old maps, manuscripts, government records and scriptures like Bhakti Ratnakara written by Sri Narahari Cakravarti.
In 1887 the entire research has culminated in the discovered of the Yoga Pitha, Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s birth place in Sri Mayapur. Details about this amazing history of bravura, love and dedication you can read here, in one of his biographies.
Many lost sacred places in Navadvipa Dhama were discovered along with the discovery of Lord Chaitanya’s birth place. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur also wrote extensively on the teachings of Lord Caitanya. Just before leaving this world, he instructed his son and spiritual successor, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, to “develop Sri Navadvipa Dhama parikrama [circumambulation], for by its performance all people of the world can be liberated.”
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta fulfilled his father’s desire. Upon setting up his headquarters in Navadvipa in 1918, he initiated an annual parikrama of Sri Navadvipa Dhama. The parikrama was done in grand style, with elephants leading a huge parade of thousands of devotees carrying flags and dancing in kirtana. Each day they walked to different holy places and gathered to hear Srila Bhaktisiddhanta speak on the pastimes of Caitanya Mahaprabhu.