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Goraksanatha


Goraksanatha (or Gorakhnath) is one of the chief gurus of the Nath community. Despite being a historical figure, he was first regarded as a hearsay person and was later transformed into a superhuman being by many people. The founder of guru-centred Nath community was Matsyendranath who was born in Chandradwip in the seventh (according to another view, ninetieth) century. Goraksanatha was his direct disciple, and through his efforts the Nath religious doctrine had developed strong foundation, crossed the borders of Bengal and spread to other provinces of India including Nepal and Sikkim. For this reason, the followers of Goraksa consider him the founder of Nath religion.

Many believe that Goraksanatha was born in East Bengal. Haripa and Mainamati were his disciples; and Mainamati's son Gopichandra was Haripa's disciple. Several Bangla poetry works ' both oral and written ' are found which were written on Matsyendranath and Goraksanatha, namely Goraksanatha-Bijoy and on Haripa-Mainamati-Gopichandra namely Manikchandra Rajar Gan or Gopichandrer Gan. Sixteenth-century poet Sheikh Faizullah first wrote a book in verse titled Goraksa-Bijoy which describes the exalted position of Nath guru and the greatness of Nath religion. Matsyendranath, the first Nath Guru, being cursed by the Lord Shiva came in contact with women of a lady-land, kadali, and relinquished religious practices. Nath religion involved dispassionate bodily practices. Goraksa-Bijoy describes the triumphs and greatness of Goraksanatha's character. Apart from Bangla, there are two poetry books written in the Sanskrit language: Goraksa-Songhita and Goraksa-Siddhanta. Innumerable temples and shrines in different places of Bangladesh and India prove that Goraksanatha was very popular in the ancient and the Middle Ages. His temples, shrines and monasteries still exist. Goraksanatha's puja (worship) used to be performed at 'Jogir Ghopa' (gofa) in Rajshahi, 'Jogir Bhaban' in Bogra, 'Goraksa Mondop' in Rangpur, 'Gorkui' in Dinajpur, 'Goraksa Basuli' in Domdom. A room of 'Jogir Ghopa' in Rajshahi contains Shiva's phallus and three-pronged spear. Since Goraksanatha is believed to have been from the body of Shiva, he is worshipped through the latter's phallus.

The place of contemplation of an ascetic is called gofa. One of the four temples in the house of an ascetic in Bogra is believed to have belonged to Goraksanatha. One of the single-coronet temples in Dinajpur belongs to Goraksanatha; its dark room contains Shiva's phallus and Kali's statue. Fire lighted by Goraksa is still there in Goraksanatha's temple in Domdom. In the eyes of the devotees, the historic Goraksanatha has been transformed into a mythological one.

In public perception, Goraksanatha has been transformed even further. In Dinajpur-Rangpur region, farmers of the lowly Hindu castes Rajbangsi and Polia worship Goraksanatha as the god of cows' protection, as they believe that he protects domestic animals from all sorts of diseases. An oil- and vermilion-anointed wooden statue of Goraksanatha is kept in the cowshed and is worshipped. They offer rice also at this puja. Goraksanatha's puja was once widespread among the general farmers. In different places including Pabna, Mymensingh and Dhaka, various customary practices such 'Goraksanatha's vow' and 'Goraksanathas shirni' (sweet dish) were prevalent. The method of this rite is to milk a cow after 30 days of the birth of its calf and to boil the entire milk on fire in order to condense it. Then sugar is mixed with the milk, and shapes of cows and calves are made with this foodstuff; the devotees also make sweet drops and swastika. A shepherd leaves that food offering on banana leaves in the cowshed in the evening; and it is believed that Goraksanatha comes at night to enjoy that food. This ritual of food offering is performed in order to increase the milk of cows. In some areas, a corner of the yard is kept separate, and all the shepherds of the region are called and fed there. Soon after having the meal, they hit the back of the cows with their unwashed hands. And the popular belief is that, this increases cow's milk yield. On this occasion, Panchali (narrative folk song) is performed. In some areas, this ritual is observed after twenty-one days of the birth of a calf, and a boyati (folk singer) sings Panchali, sitting in the middle of the cowshed. While the boyati sings, the shepherds shout 'hechchho' and sing chorus by repeating the leitmotif. In the Panchali, prayer is made with the wish for the increase in cow's milk yield. According to pundits, although Goraksanatha is generally known as the protector of cows, Goraksanatha is not the original guru of the Nath community; rather, he is an indigenous local god. He is also known as the hidden Buddha god, whom the Buddhists worship as the protector of the cows. [Wakil Ahmad]

See also nathism; nath literature.