SHREE VALLABH !
What Means Baithak?
: BAITHAKS :
You have always been fascinated by going on a pilgrimage to the BAITHAKS of Jagadguru Shrimad Vallabhacharya Mahaprabhu. The idea itself generates immense pleasure and joy. The quite, serene ambience, exotic surroundings, fresh tranquil breeze, divine vibrations and above all the sheer presence of Shri Vallabha takes you in a state of transc. Isn't it ? I'm sure many of you must have experienced this. But, those who haven't, don't take long to visit the Baithaks.
But do you actually know what is a Baithak ?
It is quite shocking that in the last quarter of the 20th century, the number of visitors to these Baithaks has been atleast five times more than in all the previous four centuries. Ironically, majority of these tourists / vaishnavas do not know the importance of the place, nor they are conscious of the existence of Shri Vallabha. They go there either because they have to escort their family members or it is a fashion, a trend to go to places like Champaranya or other such places in large groups for picnic, as if it's a party. Disgusting !!
Baithaks are actually those sacred places where Shrimad Vallabhacharya Mahaprabhu has rested, halted or stayed for days, weeks or even months during His three pilgrimages throughout India in order to emancipate the divine souls and/or to execute a specific task. It is here that Shri Mahaprabhuji read the entire Shrimad Bhagavatam or gave discourses on the sacred text revealing it's secrets. On exceptional occassions, He even read the Ramayana as in Ayodhya and Chitrakoot.
Where are these Baithaks ?
There are in all 84 Baithaks of Shri Mahaprabhuji spread accross India. Besides these there are 28 Baithaks of Shri Gusainji, 4 Baithaks Shri Giridharji, 1 Baithak each of Shri Balakrishnaji, Shri Raghunathji and Shri Ghanashyamaji, 13 Baithaks of Shri Gokulnathji and 7 of Shri Harirayaji. Apart from this, there are 3 Baithaks of Shri Damodardas Harsaniji. In all 142 Baithaks.
Over here, the subject matter of this article is the 84 Baithaks of Shri Mahaprabhuji. It is to be noticed that all these Baithaks are situated either on the banks of a river or a fresh water pond or on the outskirts of the village / town in an isolated place. You will also find a Chhokar tree in each and every Baithak as Shri Mahaprabhuji always sat under this tree except in Ujjain where there is a Peepal tree.
As mentioned earlier, these Baithaks are spread accross the whole nation. But we can segregate them zonalwise - in the north there are 39 Baithaks (out of which 22 are in Vraja), 18 in the south, 4 in east, 20 in west and 3 in central part of India. Out of these 84 Baithaks, 65 Baithaks have been physically revealed where devotees flock regularly for worship while the rest are yet to be discovered.
The Divine Form of the Baithak
While circumbulating India, Shri Mahaprabhuji never wore a foot-wear. He always walked bare-footed, blessing the holy land with the touch of His lotus feet. As it is known that Shri Mahaprabhuji granted His foot-prints on a piece of cloth to His disciple and also his Paduka (wooden sandal) to a few of His very dear devotees and ordered them to worship them. Similarly, a particular place where Shri Mahaprabhuji sat for days/weeks, is extremely sacred for us. This Baithak is not just a sand-pit or a marble platform but the sacred dust of the lotus feet of the Spiritual Master that we worship.
The Baithaks are revered in three divine forms; the materialistic form (Adhibhautik Svaroopa), the spiritual form (Adhyatmika Svaroopa) and the transcendental form (Adhidaivika Svaroopa). The physical structure what we see with our eyes is its materialistic form. The series of events which took place in these Baithaks or the divine pastimes of Shri Vallabha is its spiritual form and the presence of Shri Vallabha at present in all the Baithaks is the transcendental form. The former can be seen by all but the latter two can be experienced only by the grace divine of Shri Mahaprabhuji.
From when did the Baithaks came into existence ?
These sacred places, better known as Baithaks came into existence during the life span of Shri Mahaprabhuji. This is quite evident in the stories of 84 and 252 vaishnavas. We get to know that Sheth Purushottamadas of Kashi had gone to Champaranya to see the birth place of his guru. The illustration of a few vaishnavas from Kashi coming to Shri Bhagavandasji's house in Hajipur (Bihar) and having the vision of Shri Mahaprabhuji is also quite clear. 'Bhavasindhu' mentiones of a Baithak in Krishnadeva Raya's palace in Vidyanagaram. From these evidences we can conclude that these places were visited by vaishnavas from that time itself.
On studying the life history of Shri Mahaprabhuji closely, we can presume that there may be more Baithaks than the known 84. For eg. A Baithak in Kavi village falling in Vadodara district of Gujarat. According to 'Vallabha Digvijaya,' Shri Mahaprabhuji had a religious debate with Kapil Brahmins over here. This Baithak is small but beautiful with natural surroundings. Yet, it is not included in the 84 Baithaks. Similarly in Jambusar (Gujarat) then known as Bhanuksetra and Dakor (Kandaksetra), are Baithaks where Shri Mahaprabhuji read the Bhagavatam are also excluded from the main Baithaks. Instincts from vaishnavas opens a possibility that there must be a Baithak of Shri Mahaprabhuji besides the existing Baithaks of Shri Harirayaji.
Pastimes at the Baithaks
Devotees have been regularly visiting these Baithaks from the time of Shri Mahaprbhuji. The devotees have always wondered what instances must have taken place at that time or how Shri Mahaprabhuji must have spent His time during His stay at a particular Baithak. These secrets were not unveiled until Shri Gokulnathji, the fourth son of Shri Gusainji, who, in his daily satsang with his intimate disciples revealed the secrets of the pastimes of Shri Vallabha. The compilations of his teachings are known as 'Baithak Charitra' or the various pastimes of Shri Vallabha at the Baithaks.
Though the number of visitors have increased immensely to the Baithaks still, it is unfortunate that vaishnavas have somehow neglected to read Baithak Charitra in comparison to 84 and 252 vaishnava vartas. Shri Mahaprabhuji travelled extensively throughout India only for the deliverance of the divine souls and preaching the principles of the Shuddhadvaita Brahmavada. Residing in the Baithak He strongly condemned the theory of the mayavadis and firmly revealed the divine form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Shri Krishna.
It is through these events that we get to know the true character of Jagadguru Mahaprabhu Shrimad Vallabhacharya. How wonderful it would be if we knew about the pastimes of the Baithak which we are about to visit. When we go to a Baithak, we sit quitely besides Shri Mahaprabhuji remembering and experiencing the pastimes. This gives us more pleasure. Therefore, it is essential to know the pastimes of the Baithak before you visit one.
For this reason, we are here giving you breif information of all the Baithaks. We are also providing you the postal addresses and telephone numbers (wherever available) of the Baithaks which will surely be handy in planning your trip. But before you move ahead, I would like to tell you what you will do in a Baithak.
Preparations for a Baithak Yatra
Plan your pilgrimage to a Baithak keeping these things in mind -
• do not forget to take fresh, unused pair of clothes and towel. Gents wear dhoti / uparana / bandi and Ladies, saree or chaniya-choli.
• a full day fast is recommended one day prior to doing aparasa in the Baithak.
• a fresh pair of dhoti / uparana (best quality) for Shri Mahaprabhuji (also, if possible for other baithaks too, if there are any).
• take kum-kum, two tulasi malas, a gaumukhi with a tulasi japa-mala of 108 beads and good quality pure seasonal perfume (attar). Also take mishri (rock candy), dry-fruits, fresh fruits, saffron or any other thing which you feel like offering (only what is acceptable). Also, fresh seasonal flowers to prepare garland.
• keep necessary things like sugar or other stuff if you wish to prepare samagri in Dudhaghara. Also carry required utensils either to prepare the samagri or if you wish to take prasada at the Baithak.
What to do in a Baithak?
After having bath i.e. aparasa, go into the inner sanctum and pay prostrate obeisance (Sashtanga Dandavat) to Shri Vallabha. Ladies do Panchanga Dandavat i.e. bend on one knee. Then wash your hands, put some attar and rub it well on the palms. Seek permission from Mukhiyaji and then do Charanasparsha. After doing charanasparsha fill Jhariji and place it on the left of Shri Mahaprabhuji. After this, do tilak, offer tulasimala, gunjamala and dhoti / uparana. Put some perfume on it. Offer floral garland. Again do charanasparsha and dandavat. Wash hands.
Once you are over with this, offer samagri, mishri, fruits, dry-fruits, milk, etc. to Shri Mahaprabhuji. After you put the bhoga, sing kirtans or chant the Ashtakshara Mahamantra (Shri Krishnah Sharanam Mama) either in your mind or loudly in chorus. You can also recite the Shodasha Granthas or Sarvottama Stotra or any other stotra in praise of Shri Vallabha.
After sometime, remove the bhoga. Do the darshana and kirtans. Discuss the pastimes of Shri Vallabha at that Baithak or read the purport/commentary on the Shodasha Granthas or Subodhiniji or any other grantha.
The most important thing while in a Baithak is to observe discipline. Maintain silence, avoid pushing each other and do not throw litter in the premises.
What is Aparasa ?
The word 'Aparasa' has always confused ignorant vaishnavas. Aparasa is nothing but purity and cleanliness. It was a lifestyle then. Aparasa can be defined as worshipping the Lord in your purest form. We clean our body with water by having bath, but the inner self is cleaned by consuming Charanamritam (a mixture of the sacred dust of the holy land of Vraja and the holy water of the river Yamuna). There are many other rules too which cannot be discussed here.
How to do Aparasa ?
Before going to the toilet, keep your towel inside the bathroom and your clothes in the changing room. Do not touch them after going to the loo. To have bath, do not open the tap of the overhead tank by your own self. You can open it if there is a wooden stick attached to it or ask someone (who has aleady had bath) to do it for you. While bathing, rinse hair properly and see that the cloth you have worn is also completely wet as is your body.
Dry hair and body properly. Wear your clothes. Comb your hair, specially women who tend to keep their hair loose and dripping with water. This causes inconvenience while performing seva and also preparing samagri.
I hope that by reading the above article you will be able to realise the divine form of a Baithak and attain bliss. I also expect you to abide by the rules and make your's and others' Baithak Yatra most joyous, exciting, divine and memorable.
Before concluding, I would like to draw your attention towards the physical / strucural condition of the Baithaks and also its poor infrastructural facilities. Besides a few, mojority of the Baithaks do not even have proper walls and door. They also lack basic facilities like bathrooms / lavatories / changing room, etc. not to mention decent lodging. The employees are absolutely non-cooperative. The management is a total failure and administration is disastrous. Many a times, this leads to disbelief in the minds of the younger generation, who is educated and find their faith shattered.
There are a few organisations who have taken up this matter seriously. For the past decade they have been reparing, renovating even reconstructing the Baithaks with all required facilities. There efforts are extremely praiseworthy but such individual efforts cannot ensure a speedy success. We desparately need to collaborate. All the major organisations / trusts of Pushtimarg should join hands atleast for the sake of Shri Mahaprabhji's Baithaks and for the upliftment of Pushtimarg.