The title of the book you are now reading, Nava-vraja-mahimā, when rendered in English becomes “The Glories of New Vraja-dhāma.” I originally conceived of itas a booklet, meant to guide devotees visiting the holy places of New Vraja-dhāma, ISKCON’s rural community in Hungary.
As you must have noticed, the book has grown in size since its inception and would now likely require a small handcart for eager pilgrims to be able to transport it from one pastime place to another! Nonetheless, it still serves its original purpose of extolling New Vraja-dhāma by praising its presiding Deities, Rādhā-Śyāmasundara, and by narrating the Supreme Lord Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes in His eternal abode, Śrī Vṛndāvana-dhāma.
Texts that glorify the holy abodes (dhāmas) of the Lord are called dhāma-māhātmyas. Two prime examples of this genre of devotional literature are Rūpa Gosvāmī’s Mathurā-māhātmya and Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s Navadvīpa-dhāma-māhātmya. Both of these books establish the sanctity of the dhāmas they depict–Vṛndāvana and Navadvīpa respectively–by citing Purāṇic praise of the dhāmas themselves as well as the pastime places within their boundaries. There is, however, an interesting difference between the two. Mathurā-māhātmya is an unordered compendium of scriptural references to the pastime places it describes, while Navadvīpa-dhāma-māhātmya chronicles the Lord’s pastimes and the places at which they occurred by following the sequence in which pilgrims visit those places as they circumambulate the dhāma. Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda also recounts the personal spiritual reflections he gleans from circumambulating Navadvīpa in an appendix to Navadvīpa-dhāma-māhātmya that he calls Navadvīpa-bhāva-taraṅga.
Despite their stylistic differences, the transcendental benefit readers derive from these two types of māhātmyas is the same. They act as practical guidebooks to the dhāma, and at the same time they aid pilgrims in immersing their thoughts in the Lord’s glories. For that reason, devotees who do not travel to the dhāma can also derive transcendental benefit by circumambulating the holy places in their minds as they meditate on both the Lord’s pastimes and the dhāma’s glories as they are recounted in sacred texts of this nature.
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