Sri Ramacandra Kaviraja, the son of Khandavasi Ciranjiva and Sunanda, was a disciple of Srinivasa Acarya and the most intimate friend of Narottama dasa Thakura, who prayed several times for his association. His youngest brother was Govinda Kaviraja. Srila Jiva Gosvami very much appreciated Sri Ramacandra Kaviraja’s great devotion to Lord Krishna and therefore gave him the title Kaviraja. Sri Ramacandra Kaviraja, who was perpetually disinterested in family life, greatly assisted in the preaching work of Srinivasa Acarya and Narottama dasa Thakura. He resided at first in Srikhanda but later in the village of Kumara-nagara on the bank of the Ganges.
Govinda Kaviraja was the brother of Ramacandra Kaviraja and youngest son of Ciranjiva of Srikhanda. Although at first a sakta, or worshiper of Goddess Durga, he was later initiated by Srinivasa Acarya Prabhu. Govinda Kaviraja also resided first in Srikhanda and then in Kumara-nagara, but later he moved to the village known as Teliya Budhari, on the southern bank of the river Padma. Since Govinda Kaviraja, the author of two books, Sangita-madhava and Gitamrita, was a great Vaishnava kavi, or poet, Srila Jiva Gosvami gave him the title Kaviraja. He is described in the Bhakti-ratnakara (Ninth Wave). (A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Sri Chaitanya Charitamrta Adi-lila 11:51. purport.)
Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja took pleasure in writing the infrequent passages which glorified Gopala Bhatta, and he never told Sri Bhatta how he had written them. (Bhakti-ratnakara. KHA226.)
I cannot write extentively about the depth of knowledge of Sri Gopala Bhatta during his life in Vrndavana for fear the book will become too large. (Bhakti-ratnakara. KHA227.)
Sri Bhatta had given many comments on the book ”Krsnakarmamrta• which gave much pleasure to all the Vaisnavas. (Bhakti-ratnakara. KHA228.)
Sri Gopala Bhatta, a remarkable person in the path of pure devotion had performed many supernatural activities. (Bhakti-ratnakara. KHA229.)
At a much later time, Srinivasa met him and got his desires fulfilled. (Bhakti-ratnakara. KHA230.)
On the order of Prabhu, Srinivasa took his initiation from Gopala Bhatta and later propagated the Gosvami scriptures in Gauda. (Bhakti-ratnakara. KHA231.)
Prabhu empowered Sri Rupa and others to write and compile scriptures on Vaisnava religion, for the propogation of those scriptures he empowered Srinivasa. (Bhakti-ratnakara. KHA232.)
Acarya and Sri Thakura Mahasaya were of the same soul in their devotion to Prabhu. Thakura Mahasaya had revealed the powers of both Rupa Gosvami and Srinivasa in his slokas. (Bhakti-ratnakara. KHA233.)
The slokas by Thakura Mahasaya say: “When shall I be able to find Sri Caitanya deva, the ocean of kindness, within the range of my vision? His aim was to create many Vaisnava scriptures through the intellect of Sri Rupa and others to later disseminate those scriptures to the people of the world through the efforts of Srinivasa.” (Bhakti-ratnakara. KHA234.)
Srinivasa Acarya was a grea scholar who benedicted the world by distributing those valuable Vaisnava books.(Bhakti-ratnakara. KHA235.)
”The favor of Lokenatha to Narottma” At that time Narottama arrived in Vrndavana and immediately engaged himself in the continous service of Sri Lokenatha. (Bhakti-ratnakara. KHA345.)
Lokenatha was satisfied with Narottama’s attitude and gave him Diksha mantra. (Bhakti-ratnakara. KHA346.)
Sri Gopala Bhatta and the other Vaisnavas accepted Narottama as an intimate friend. (Bhakti-ratnakara. KHA347.)
Narottama got the title Thakura Mahasaya along with the affection of Sri Jiva Gosvami. (Bhakti-ratnakara. KHA348.)
Srinivasa Acarya met narottama in Vrndavana and gradually a dynamic new circle of Vaisnavas was established there.(Bhakti-ratnakara. KHA349.)
Srinivasa also met Shyamananda in Vrndavana.(Bhakti-ratnakara. KHA350.)
The Embodiment of Lord Caitanya’s Love
by Satyaraja dasa
[From The Lives of the Vaishnava Saints © 1991 by Steven Rosen (Satyaraja Dasa). All rights reserved. Order from Folk Books, P.O. Box 400716, Brooklyn, NY 11240.]
It was the middle of the sixteenth century. Aspiring for perfection in spiritual life, young Srinivasa had tried to meet Lord Caitanya and His disciple Gadadhara. But Srinivasa came too late—they passed away before he could become their student. And so too did the great Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami. But as Srinivasa journeyed to the holy town Vrindavana, Rupa and Sanatana appeared to him in a dream. Go on to Vrindavana, they told him, and learn from the great gosvamis Jiva and Gopala Bhatta.
SRINIVASA ACARYA is one of the most important personalities in the religious history of Bengal, perhaps the most important Vaishnava teacher in the generation immediately following Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. He is chiefly remembered as the illustrious disciple of Gopala Bhatta Gosvami and Jiva Gosvami. His achievements include delivering the writings of the Gosvamis from Vrindavana to Bengal, converting King Birhambir to Vaishnavism, and originating the Manohar Shoy style of kirtana. At Kheturi, Bengal, he co-organized the first Gaura Purnima Festival (celebrating the anniversary of Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s appearance in this world), which Narottama, Syamananda, and thousands of other Vaishnavas attended.
Srinivasa Acarya’s parents—the brahmana Gangadhara Bhattacarya and his wife, Lakshmi Priya—lived in the small village of Cakhandi, on the bank of the Ganges in the Burdwan district of Bengal. They longed to raise a child who would be a great devotee, but until the birth of Srinivasa, they were child-less for many years.
Gangadhara was himself a great devotee of the Golden Avatara, Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the incarnation of Sri Sri Radha and Krishna predicted in the scriptures. Lord Caitanya had appeared in Navadvipa and was currently in the world. Gangadhara spent much of his time hearing and retelling the stories of Lord Caitanya’s pastimes (lila) with the Lord’s intimate associates. He wanted to see Lord Caitanya, but social and familial obligations kept him at home, so he resolved to meditate on the Lord in separation. In 1510, however, he could not tolerate the separation any longer. He set out for Navadvipa to see the Lord of his life. After only seven miles, as far as the village of Katwa, he learned that Nimai of Nadiya—Caitanya Mahaprabhu—was in that very village taking sannyasa, the renounced order of life.
“What?” cried Gangadhara. “Why must my Lord take the renounced order? This austerity is reserved for human beings like me so we can overcome our attachments to this world. Certainly there is no need for Sri Nimai, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, to live the harsh life of an ascetic.”
But Gangadhara’s reservations were mixed with excitement: he would soon see his Lord face to face. When he approached the sacrificial area where Sri Nimai was taking sannyasa, he saw the Lord’s intimate associates—Nityananda Prabhu, Candrasekhara Acarya, Mukunda Datta, and many others. He saw Madhu Sila, the barber, preparing to cut Nimai’s beautiful locks of raven black hair.
“No!” the onlookers were saying. “Please stop!” They, like Gangadhara, could not conceive of the Lord in the renounced order of life. Even Madhu, who had the good fortune to touch the Lord’s head, could cut His hair out of duty only, weeping profusely. Madhu and the others knew that the Lord had decided to set an example for the entire religious world and stress the importance of renunciation. There was nothing they could do.
Kesava Bharati, the sannyasa-guru, gave Nimai His new sannyasa name, “Sri Krishna Caitanya.” The crowd was in shock: “Beautiful Nimai is really taking sannyasa!” They couldn’t believe their eyes, from which tears were flowing incessantly. But the deed was done.
Madhu fainted. Why had he shaved the Lord’s head? It was as if he had been controlled by the Lord’s own hand to fulfill the Lord’s own desire. “Caitanya! Caitanya!” said Gangadhara Bhattacarya to himself. “Caitanya! Caitanya! Caitanya!” he repeated again and again. His eyes pleaded with everyone there: he wanted to understand what had just happened, but all he could do was mutter in a stupor of mixed emotions.
Gangadhara found himself calling the Lord’s names aloud with uncontrollable enthusiasm—“Caitanya! Sri Krishna Caitanya! Sri Krishna Caitanya!”
He returned to Cakhandi, half mad with ecstasy, unable to stop repeating the Lord’s names. He told his wife what had happened, and she too was overcome with ecstasy. As the days passed, their ecstasy increased, and the whole town of Cakhandi marveled at Gangadhara’s transformation. Seeing Gangadhara’s absorption in Sri Caitanya’s name, his wife and the other villagers began calling him Caitanya Dasa.
Journey To Puri
Caitanya Dasa and his wife went to Jagannatha Puri, where Lord Caitanya had gone after accepting the renounced order. When the couple arrived, they went to Sri Caitanya and surrendered at His feet.
“Lord Jagannatha is very happy that you have come here,” the Lord said. “Go to the temple and see His Deity form. The lotus-eyed Lord is extremely merciful, so please go see Him.”
Govinda, Lord Caitanya’s personal servant, accompanied Caitanya Dasa and his wife to the temple, where they offered many prayers at the feet of Lord Jagannatha. Weeping tears of divine love, the happy brahmana couple were soon escorted to the luxurious accommodations Lord Caitanya had arranged for them. They spent several happy days with Sri Caitanya in Jagannatha Puri.
One day Lord Caitanya told His servant of His plans for the couple. “Govinda,” the Lord said, “although Caitanya Dasa and his wife have not mentioned it to Me, I know they would like to have a child. They said so in front of Lord Jagannatha, who is nondifferent from Me. They have prayed sincerely, and I know their hearts. Their desired offspring will soon appear. His name will be Srinivasa, and he will be a greatly beautiful child. Through Rupa and Sanatana I will manifest the bhakti-sastras, and through Srinivasa I will distribute them. Caitanya Dasa and his wife should quickly return to Chakandhi.”
The Appearance of Srinivasa
In Cakhandi the couple had a beautiful baby boy, whom they named Srinivasa. He was born in the second or third decade of the sixteenth century on the auspicious full-moon day of the month of Vaisakha (April–May). Lakshmi Priya’s father, Balarama Vipra, a learned astrologer, told the happy couple that their son was a mahapurusha, a divinely empowered soul.
The boy had a broad chest and a long, elegant nose, and his beautiful eyes extended like lotus petals. Like Lord Caitanya, he had a bodily luster resembling molten gold and arms that extended down to his knees. According to custom, Caitanya Dasa and Lakshmi Priya gave charity to the brahmanas, and the brahmanas blessed the child.
Lakshmi Priya would constantly sing the glories of Lord Caitanya into the child’s ears, and the melodious sounds made him joyful. As Srinivasa grew, he learned to chant the names of Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Radha-Krishna. Soon this small crescent moon known as Srinivasa grew full and was known as the brightest and most beautiful boy in Cakhandi. He studied under the famed Dhananjaya Vidyavacaspati, who taught him all branches of Vedic learning, including religion, logic, poetry, political science, grammar, and Ayurveda.
According to the Prema-vilasa, Dhananjaya Vidyavacaspati said that he had nothing to teach Srinivasa. The Prema-vilasa also relates that the goddess of education appeared to Srinivasa in a dream and told him she would make him proficient in all areas of learning, especially the scriptures. Still, Srinivasa became known as Dhananjaya Vidyavacaspati’s prize pupil, and as such he was the pride of Cakhandi. He was loved by all the townspeople, who saw him as a precious gem.
Narahari Sarakara Thakura
Because of Srinivasa’s popularity, he met Narahari Sarakara, an intimate associate of Lord Caitanya from nearby Srikhanda. Narahari Sarakara’s intense devotion had pleased Lord Caitanya, and Narahari had the distinction of being allowed to sing the Lord’s glories in the Lord’s presence, although the Lord, out of humility, would not let anyone else do so. This distinction impressed young Srinivasa, and he accepted Sri Narahari as his first instructing guru.
After meeting Narahari Sarakara, Srinivasa began to show signs of ecstasy. Narahari told Srinivasa to go to Puri to see Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. While Srinivasa was considering how to execute the instruction, his father passed away from this mortal world after seven days of fever. It was a shock to the family, and Srinivasa did all he could to console his mother.
Meanwhile, the omniscient Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was preparing His associates for Srinivasa’s arrival. He had already written to Rupa, Sanatana, and Gopala Bhatta Gosvamis requesting them to teach Srinivasa spiritual life. And He asked Gadadhara Pandita in Jagannatha Puri to teach Srinivasa the Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Narahari Sarakara advised Srinivasa to see to his mother’s care in Jajigram, where her father and brothers had moved from Cakhandi. Then Srinivasa was to proceed to Puri to associate with Lord Caitanya. Srinivasa asked Narahari to initiate him into the chanting of Krishna’s name, but Narahari told him that Lord Caitanya wanted him to take initiation from Gopala Bhatta Gosvami.
Meeting with Gadadhara Pandita
Still a boy, Srinivasa set out with a companion for Puri. On the way, he learned that Sri Caitanya had left this world. Then Lord Caitanya—along with Nityananda Prabhu, who had also passed away—appeared to Srinivasa “on the pretext of a dream” and consoled him. The phrase shopna chaley (“on the pretext of a dream”) appears frequently in Bengali literature of the period and is usually taken to mean “in a spiritual vision.”
Still, Srinivasa remained grief-stricken. He went to the Gopinatha temple in Puri to take shelter of Gadadhara Pandita. The Pandita was overcome with separation from Lord Caitanya, and tears always flowed from his eyes. Srinivasa bowed at Sri Gadadhara’s feet and introduced himself.
Gadadhara Pandita became joyful. “I’m glad you have come and introduced yourself,” he said. “Just before passing away, Caitanya Mahaprabhu told me to teach you the Bhagavatam. He knew you would arrive in Puri one day, and He asked me to explain Krishna-lila to you.”
Gadadhara Pandita’s joy—he could now fulfill this order of the Lord—again turned to sadness. “I cannot teach you Bhagavatam at this time, O young Srinivasa,” he said, “for the manuscript in my possession has become illegible from the tears I have cried onto its pages.”
Srinivasa touched the sacred book to his head and felt ecstasy arise within himself. Nonetheless, the problem of studying a book that had been rendered illegible remained. But Sri Gadadhara and Srinivasa would not be swayed from their purpose. The will of Mahaprabhu could not be obstructed. Sri Gadadhara sent a message to Narahari Sarakara in Bengal asking him to secure another manuscript of Srimad-Bhagavatam. Narahari replied that another copy was available and that a messenger should be dispatched immediately. Gadadhara sent Srinivasa himself and told him to hurry. The separation from Lord Caitanya was intolerable, he said, and he didn’t know how long he could stay in this world.
Before leaving, Srinivasa fulfilled a long-cherished desire to see Lord Caitanya’s associates. He went to the homes of Ramananda Raya, Sikhi Mahiti, Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya, Vakresvara Pandita, Paramananda Puri, Gopinatha Acarya, and many others. He also went to see King Prataparudra, but according to the Bhakti-ratnakara the king had gone away in solitude to lament the Lord’s passing.
Srinivasa as Gaura Sakti
Srinivasa reminded the great personalities in Puri of Lord Caitanya. Seeing his intense and unprecedented love of Godhead, the devotees could understand that he was Gaura Sakti, the embodiment of the energy of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. According to the Prema-vilasa, Srinivasa is an incarnation of Lord Caitanya’s ecstasy. The Lord’s intimate associates could naturally perceive this and could understand that through Srinivasa the eternal message of Lord Caitanya—the message of the Vedic literature—would be widely distributed.
Lord Caitanya had broken open the storehouse of nectarean love of God, and the Gosvamis, by writing books, had taken that nectar and placed it in tangible vessels. Srinivasa would see that these vessels were circulated among all sincere souls. The intimate associates of the Lord gave Srinivasa instructions and advice for carrying on the mission.
When Srinivasa arrived in Bengal and received the copy of the Bhagavatam from Narahari Sarakara Thakura, he learned that Gadadhara Pandita had passed away. The news was a terrible blow, and Srinivasa lamented. Then Gadadhara Pandita appeared to him on the pretext of a dream and encouraged him to go forward.
Srinivasa reflected on the inconceivable will of the Lord. Why had He taken away the person who was to teach him the Bhagavatam? Was there a new plan? Was someone else to teach him the sacred scriptures? Some say that Srinivasa fell despondent at this time, but not much is known about the years that followed Sri Gadadhara’s passing from this world. It is generally assumed that Srinivasa spent this time at first in a heartbroken state and then in serious meditation. He probably continued his studies, as he was still in his teens.
When Sri Jahnava Devi, the wife of Nityananda Prabhu, went to Vrindavana, Rupa Gosvami asked her to send Srinivasa to Vrindavana as soon as possible. On her return to Bengal, she relayed the message to Narahari. Sri Caitanya had told the Gosvamis of Vraja to train Srinivasa, and Narahari advised him to hasten to Vrindavana so that the Lord’s command should not be violated.
The request heightened Srinivasa’s desire to study bhakti literature with Rupa and Sanatana. Had he gone to Vrindavana then, he would have met Rupa and Sanatana. But he decided to visit the homes of Lord Caitanya’s principal associates on the way, stopping at Navadvipa to visit Sri Caitanya’s home.
Association with The Navadvipa Devotees
This was the second time Srinivasa delayed a journey: first the journey to see Gadadhara Pandita, and now Rupa and Sanatana. Perhaps Srinivasa’s enthusiasm to associate with Lord Caitanya’s direct followers in Puri and Navadvipa was so overwhelming that he was unable to heed the advice of his forebears. Some say that all of this was the will of providence, so that Srinivasa would take initiation from Gopala Bhatta Gosvami. Others say that Srinivasa, by his example, was teaching the importance of pilgrimage and association with devotees.
Srinivasa was enthralled with the home of Sri Caitanya in Navadvipa (Mayapur), where he met Vishnupriya Devi, the Lord’s revered widow, and her esteemed servants, Vamsivadana Thakura and Isana Prabhu. They all blessed Srinivasa, and he stayed with them for several days, hearing the pastimes of Lord Caitanya.
During those days he watched Vishnupriya Devi perform severe austerities. For example, she would chant the maha-mantra—Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—over each grain of rice she was to eat. When she was finished with her daily chanting, she would eat only the grains she had set aside.
“Truly,” Srinivasa said, “this is a wife who was worthy of Sri Caitanya.”
Srinivasa also met Damodara Pandita, Suklambara, Murari Gupta, and other early friends and intimates of Lord Caitanya in Navadvipa. From there Srinivasa went to nearby Santipura, where he was warmly greeted by Sri Advaita’s wife, Sita Thakurani, and her sons Acyuta and Gopala.
Srinivasa Meets Jahnava Devi
Then Srinivasa visited the house of Nityananda Prabhu in Khardaha, where Jahnava Devi, her son Birabhadra, and others greeted Srinivasa as if he were part of their own family. But Jahnava Devi encouraged him to start for Vrindavana without delay because Rupa and Sanatana would soon rejoin the Lord in the spiritual world.
On the way to Vrindavana, Srinivasa stopped at the well-known Abhirama Thakura’s house in Khanakul Krishnanagar to deliver a letter from Jahnava Devi. The Thakura greeted him with three loving lashes from an extraordinary whip, but this unusual greeting was a benediction. The whip, known as Jai Mangala, would bestow love of God on anyone it touched. Sri Abhirama and his wife, Malini, showed deep affection for Srinivasa. Not only did they bless him with their famous whip, but they gave him valuable instructions and reiterated the importance of going to Vrindavana as soon as possible.
While continuing his journey, Srinivasa stopped in Katwa, where his father had seen Lord Caitanya adopt the renounced order. Next he passed through Agradvipa, where the three famous Ghosh brothers—Vasudeva, Govinda, and Madhava—had established their temple, and then he proceeded to Ekacakra, the birthplace of Nityananda Prabhu. Finally, Srinivasa made one last stop in Jajigram to say farewell to his aging mother and to visit Narahari Sarakara, his beloved guru. Narahari was concerned about Srinivasa’s delay in going to Vrindavana and asked him to leave immediately.
And so, without further delay Srinivasa set out for Vraja. By this time he had achieved adulthood.
The Journey to Vraja
Meanwhile, Sanatana Gosvami had left this mortal world, and Rupa Gosvami could not bear the separation. Sri Rupa felt that he, too, might not survive to instruct Srinivasa, so he asked his distinguished disciple (and nephew) Jiva Gosvami to care for Srinivasa.
Traveling in those days, mostly by foot, was difficult. Nonetheless, Srinivasa was making determined progress, stopping briefly on the way in Benares to visit the house of Candrasekhara Acarya, where Lord Caitanya had lived for two months. Here Srinivasa met an elderly disciple of Candrasekhara who invited him for a meal and showed him the places associated with Sri Caitanya.
Next, Srinivasa reached Prayag (known today as Allahabad) and spent the night there. Four days before arriving in Vrindavana, he heard that Sanatana had passed away four months earlier. And when he reached Mathura, he learned that Rupa Gosvami had passed away only three days earlier. Srinivasa fell to the ground, crying like a madman. He felt himself the most unfortunate person in the universe. He had failed to meet Lord Caitanya and to study the Bhagavatam with Gadadhara Pandita. Now he had failed to meet Rupa and Sanatana.
While Srinivasa sat beneath a tree wishing for his own death, Rupa and Sanatana appeared to him on the pretext of a dream and told him he was the embodiment of Lord Caitanya’s love. They encouraged him to proceed to Vrindavana to take shelter of Gopala Bhatta Gosvami and to study under Sri Jiva with all his life and soul.
Jiva and Gopala Bhatta Gosvamis
THE WORDS OF Sri Sanatana and Rupa somewhat relieved Srinivasa’s heavy heart. He could travel again, and soon he felt the dust of Vrindavana beneath his feet. He approached Rupa Gosvami’s Govindadeva Temple hoping to find more solace at Lord Govinda’s lotus feet.
As Srinivasa sat before the Deity, Jiva Gosvami and his many followers entered the temple. Srinivasa introduced himself, and Sri Jiva greeted him with warmth and loving hospitality. Srinivasa spent the night in comfortable quarters at Sri Jiva’s temple, Sri Sri Radha-Damodara. The next day, Srinivasa offered his homage at the tomb of Sri Rupa in the temple courtyard.
Then Jiva introduced Srinivasa to Gopala Bhatta Gosvami, who greeted him with kind words and expressed his disappointment that Srinivasa had not arrived sooner, as Rupa and Sanatana had been anxious to meet him. Gopala Bhatta took Srinivasa to his Radha-Ramana Temple and asked the Deity there to bless him. Gopala Bhatta Gosvami and Jiva Gosvami gradually introduced Srinivasa to the inhabitants of Vraja.
Narottama and Duhkhi Krishnadasa
Gopala Bhatta Gosvami initiated Srinivasa and taught him. And as Jiva Gosvami was the preeminent Vaishnava philosopher of the period, Gopala Bhatta directed Srinivasa to him for higher instruction, all in accordance with the desires of Lord Caitanya and Rupa and Sanatana Gosvamis. The Prema-vilasa states that Sri Jiva took care of Srinivasa and gave him a thorough spiritual education.
Another young scholar, the illustrious Narottama, had been studying under Jiva for one year when Srinivasa arrived in Vrindavana. Narottama had been initiated by Lokanatha Gosvami, who had sent him to Sri Jiva for additional spiritual instructions. Then young Duhkhi Krishnadasa came, sent by his guru, Hridaya Caitanya. The three young devotees studied under Jiva Gosvami with the utmost enthusiasm and became his best students. They were widely known as inseparable friends. Jiva Gosvami ordered them to study the forests of Vrindavana with Raghava Pandita, who knew all the sacred groves and their significance.
Eventually Srinivasa, Narottama, and Duhkhi Krishnadasa were given a special mission. They were to distribute the books of the Gosvamis—the bhakti-rasa scriptures—in Bengal and other areas. Vaishnavism was widely embraced in Bengal, but literature explaining the Vaishnava philosophy was wanting. Nityananda Prabhu’s wife, Jahnava Devi, had visited Rupa and Sanatana in Vrindavana some years earlier and was well aware of the prolific spiritual literature the Vrindavana Gosvamis were producing, so she contacted Jiva Gosvami and suggested that the books be sent to Bengal. To comply, Sri Jiva summoned his three best men.
The Mission Begins
In a large assembly of Vaishnavas, Sri Jiva called forth Narottama Dasa: “From this day forward, you will be known as Narottama Thakura Mahasaya.” Then he called Srinivasa: “You will be known as Srinivasa Acarya.” And finally, Duhkhi Krishnadasa: “Because you have brought so much pleasure [ananda] to Radharani [Syama], you will now be called Syamananda.” Then Sri Jiva told them of their mission to Bengal, Orissa, and other provinces of India.
Srinivasa, Narottama, and Syamananda did not want to leave Vrindavana, but they understood the importance of their mission. They went to their initiating gurus, who gave their blessings, instilling in them the necessary enthusiasm for the task.
Sri Jiva began the preparations for the long and arduous journey. These devotees were his best students, and he would spare no pains for their welfare. He had a rich merchant disciple from Mathura supply a large cart, four strong bullocks, and ten armed guards. The manuscripts—original works by Rupa, Sanatana, Gopala Bhatta, Raghunatha Dasa, Jiva, and others—were placed in a large wooden chest, which was bolted and covered with a waxed cloth. Sri Jiva also secured a special passport from the king of Jaipur that his three students would need to show as they traveled to eastern India. Then Srinivasa, Narottama, and Syamananda left Vrindavana.
The Journey to Bengal
As they began traveling, Sri Jiva and several other devotees accompanied them, unable to bear being separated. As the caravan neared Agra, the well-wishers stayed behind. Now the journey was underway. There could be no turning back.
After many months, the party reached a small village named Gopalapura, just within the boundaries of the Malla kingdom of Vana Vishnupura, in Bengal. When they retired that night, they felt confident that their mission was almost complete.
Vishnupura is in the district of Birbhum, bounded on the north by the Santhal Pargannas and on the south by Midnapura. The king of Vishnupura, Virhamvir, was the leader of a strong group of bandits who were the terror of the adjoining countries. He had employed a large number of thugs and assassins who infested the highways and killed and robbed wayfarers. The astrologers of the court were ever ready to submit to him confidential reports as to what fortunes the stars would grant him if he carried on robberies in particular localities.
Stealing the Books
The king’s dacoits had been following the cart from afar. This cart was especially interesting because the king’s astrologers had said that it held a great treasure. Although the dacoits had been following the cart for quite a distance, they thought it wise to wait until the cart reached their own kingdom.
The dacoits saw only fifteen men escorting the cart—ten armed soldiers, two cartmen, and three holy men. The band of dacoits, numbering over two hundred, inflamed one another’s imaginations with the astrologers’ words: “This cart is filled with jewels more valuable than gold.” They almost overtook the party in a village named Tamar, but circumstances did not permit it. They followed the party through the towns of Raghunathapura and Pancavati.
Finally, in Gopalapura, the party spent the night near a beautiful lake. All fifteen men slept soundly, tired from the journey. When they awakened, their worst nightmare had come to pass: the manuscripts had been stolen.
They could not contain their tears. Srinivasa, the leader of the party, advised Narottama and Syamananda to proceed to Bengal and Orissa with the teachings of the six Gosvamis. He would take it upon himself to retrieve the manuscripts. He wrote to Jiva Gosvami and told him all that had happened.
The King’s Regret
Meanwhile, as King Virhamvir was rummaging through treasures stolen from various travelers, his servants appeared with the court’s most recent acquisition—Srinivasa’s carefully wrapped chest of “the most precious jewels.” Virhamvir dropped everything else and feverishly unwrapped his latest prize. Having heard the prophesies, he could scarcely imagine what splendors awaited him. In one suspenseful moment, he removed the cloth covering and opened the trunk to reveal—manuscripts.
Where was the priceless treasure? Lifting out the top manuscript in disbelief, the king saw the signature “Sri Rupa Gosvami” written on a palm leaf. When he examined further and began reading Sri Rupa’s beautiful exposition of Vaishnava philosophy, he felt something change deep within. He reverentially returned the book to the trunk and retired for the evening, aware of the grave sin he had instigated.
Srinivasa Appears in a Dream
That night, the king had an unusual dream. He saw a beautiful and effulgent person whose body was filled with divine energy. “Do not worry,” the person said with a loving smile. “Soon I will come to Vishnupura and we will meet. I will retrieve my manuscripts, and you will be relieved of all sinful reactions. Your joy will be boundless. Know for certain that you are my eternal servant and I am your eternal well-wisher.”
The next morning the king awoke and started his life anew, waiting for the day when the mysterious prediction of his dream would come to pass.
Meanwhile, Srinivasa Acarya made his way to the outskirts of Vishnupura, where he met a brahmana resident named Sri Krishna Vallabha. The two became friends, and Krishna Vallabha invited Srinivasa to be a guest in his home. Gradually, Krishna Vallabha realized Srinivasa’s exalted position and surrendered to him as a disciple. In due course, Krishna Vallabha mentioned that the king regularly convened a Bhagavatam study group for all who were interested. Srinivasa was curious about the nature of the Bhagavatam presentation and asked Krishna Vallabha to take him to the next meeting.
When they arrived, Vyasacarya, the court pandita, was reciting and commenting upon the Bhagavatam. Srinivasa was unimpressed but said nothing. The next day, they found Vyasacarya pontificating in the same fashion. After two weeks of the court pandita, Srinivasa could not contain himself, and after the meeting he spoke to Vyasacarya.
“You, sir, do not follow the text,” said Srinivasa, “nor are your commentaries in line with Sridhara Svami or the other standard exponents of Bhagavata philosophy.”
Vyasacarya listened to Srinivasa’s comments but ignored his advice. The king, however, who was nearby, overheard what was said and found it interesting.
The next day at the recital Vyasacarya again attempted to elucidate the esoteric section of the Bhagavatam that delineates Sri Krishna’s rasa-lila.
Respectful but firm, Srinivasa interrupted with a question: “Sir, how can you comment on such confidential subjects without referring to the statements of Sridhara Svami? You are obviously unfamiliar with his work.”
Vyasacarya became angry. He disliked being challenged in front of his sycophantic assembly, who were accustomed only to his peculiar rendition of Bhagavatam commentary.
Before another word was said, however, the king began to defend Srinivasa’s position: “How is it that this brahmana scholar finds fault with your explanations? Perhaps your interpretations are questionable.”
“Who can interpret the texts better than I?” the arrogant Vyasacarya replied. “This newcomer is an upstart, and he dares to question me in the presence of Your Majesty.”
Then he turned to Srinivasa. “If you are such an authority on the Bhagavatam,” he said, “why don’t you come sit here and explain these verses in a better way?”
Srinivasa rose to the challenge. He sang the Bhagavatam verses beautifully and then commented upon them with great verve and authority. He drew upon existing Vaishnava explanations and yet offered his own unique presentation. No one had ever heard such a masterly enunciation of Bhagavata philosophy.
The king encouraged him to go on, allowing him to speak for several hours. When he finished, the whole assembly applauded, ecstatic with Srinivasa’s contagious love for Krishna. Vyasacarya could not believe his ears. He was defeated, but he was happy.
King Virhamvir was greatly moved. “No one has ever come to this kingdom and shared so much love and scholarship in the way you have,” he said to Srinivasa. “Please, tell me your name and where you come from.”
“My name is Srinivasa and I am a native of this country,” said Srinivasa. “I came here to see your magnificent court and to relish the Bhagavatam.”
The king then gave him the best accommodations in the palace and asked him to stay as long as he liked.
The King Surrenders
Later that evening, the king asked Srinivasa to dine with him, but Srinivasa said that he took only one humble meal per day and had already eaten. Nonetheless, Virhamvir encouraged him to have some fruit, and he complied, not wanting to offend his distinguished host.
As Srinivasa ate his fruit, the king sat at his side like a humble servant. The king had never felt this way about anyone: Srinivasa was that effulgent person he had seen in his dream—his guru—and he wanted to render some menial service.
That night, he heard Srinivasa repeating the name of Krishna in his room. It seemed as if Srinivasa did not sleep. “Here is a genuine saint,” thought the king. “He is simply absorbed in the name of God.” With this pleasant idea, the king fell asleep, listening to Srinivasa Acarya’s blissful voice in the next room.
The following day in the great assembly Srinivasa again spoke from the Bhagavatam. Once again, the eager, expectant audience relished every word. Srinivasa astonished all who listened. Chroniclers of the event have reported that “even the stone walls of the hall seemed to melt with emotion.” Srinivasa spoke with erudition, sensitivity, and devotion, honoring his Vaishnava predecessors, and everyone present agreed that the wisdom of the orator far exceeded his years. One by one, people came and bowed at Srinivasa’s feet, hoping to become his disciples.
Later, the king submitted himself to Srinivasa as a lowly beggar: “You are the real king,” he said, “for you have love for Krishna. I am not even worthy to be in your presence.”
Srinivasa, with all humility, merely shook his head; he was not able to accept his own exalted position.
But the king persisted: “Allow me to be your servant. Please! How can I serve you? My entire kingdom is at your disposal.”
“I came from the holy city of Vrindavana with a mission from Gopala Bhatta Gosvami and Jiva Gosvami,” Srinivasa replied. “I was to bring their writings to Bengal. But unfortunately this treasure was robbed within your kingdom. If I cannot retrieve these books, I would prefer to lose my life. Can you help me get them back?”
The king burst into tears. “A poor worm am I,” he said, “lost hopelessly in this land of birth and death. My own men pillaged for years and years under my order, and then they came upon your party. We were told you carried the greatest treasure in the universe, and we naturally pursued it. I cannot express my sorrow.”
Reflecting for a moment, the king said, “But there is a positive side to all of this. Our meeting would not have otherwise occurred. I would commit these sins again and again for but a moment of your association.”
Srinivasa laughed and reassured the king that sinful life was unnecessary for attaining his association. Srinivasa then forgave the king for all his sins and asked him to sin no more.
The Books Are Safe!
The king led Srinivasa to the room where his treasures were kept, and Srinivasa saw the trunk with the Gosvamis’ literature. Srinivasa felt ecstasy and took the garland of flowers from his own neck and placed it on King Virhamvir. Srinivasa asked the king to bring him tulasi leaves, flower garlands, sandalwood paste, and other items to worship the sacred books. The king brought everything, and his own initiation ceremony followed. By reciting into the king’s ear the maha-mantra—Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—Srinivasa initiated him.
According to the Prema-vilasa, Srinivasa gave him the name Haricarana Dasa. Jiva Gosvami later showed the king special mercy by writing a letter in which he renamed him Caitanya Dasa. The king’s wife, Queen Sulakshana, and their son, Prince Dhari Hamvir, also became Srinivasa Acarya’s surrendered servants. The queen’s initiated name is unknown, but the boy was named Gopala Dasa. Krishna Vallabha and Vyasacarya also became dedicated disciples.
Vishnupura as a Vaishnava Center
The initiation of the king and his loyal subjects was an important event in the history of the Gaudiya tradition. Vishnupura soon became a great center of Vaishnavism. In all of India, only in Vana Vishnupura did Gaudiya Vaishnava culture and art develop without foreign or distracting influence. Even the Muslim intrusion was minimal. Consequently, the architectural and sculptural art of Bengal, from the beginning of the seventeenth century onwards, is nowhere found in such abundance and in such pristine form as in the Vaishnava monuments of Vishnupura. This is one of the many virtues of royal patronage.
King Virhamvir reigned from 1596 to 1622 and in that time wrote many songs in praise of Krishna, Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and Srinivasa Acarya. Much of his exquisite poetry can be found in the Bhakti-ratnakara and the Pada-kalpataru. The king’s beautiful voice, reflected in his literary work, helped him in his mission of spreading Vaishnavism throughout his domain.
Srinivasa had thus accomplished his mission in Vishnupura. He wrote to Jiva Gosvami that not only had the books been retrieved but the main bandit, a king, had taken up Gaudiya Vaishnavism. All of Vrindavana rejoiced and sang the glories of Srinivasa Acarya. King Virhamvir and his entire kingdom were now converted to Vaishnavism, and Srinivasa was developing an important center there.
PART III (Conclusion)
Thieves working for the king of Vishnupura stole priceless manuscripts Srinivasa and his friends were bringing to Bengal. Srinivasa therefore sent his companions ahead while he stayed in Vishnupura. He recovered the manuscripts, made the king his disciple, and inspired him to spread Krishna consciousness throughout the kingdom.
NOW SRINIVASA needed to see his dear friends Narottama and Syamananda again. He had written them of the developments in Vishnupura, but he knew little of what his friends were doing. He had heard that his teacher Narahari Sarakara Thakura was ill and getting ready to die, so he wanted to go to Srikhanda to see him and to nearby Jajigram to see his own aging mother.
Srinivasa Returns to Jajigram
Bidding farewell to King Virhamvir, Srinivasa took the chest of books to Jajigram. Upon arriving there, he told the devotees what had happened. All the holy town’s people, especially his mother, rejoiced in his company. But they had heart-breaking news for him as well: Srimati Vishnupriya had left this world. Srimati Vishnupriya was Sri Caitanya’s widow, an important person in the preaching mission of Bengal. On hearing of her passing, Srinivasa fainted, and the devotees had to revive and console him.
A few days later, a message came from Narahari Sarakara and Raghunandana Thakura asking Srinivasa to come to Srikhanda. Srinivasa left at once to see these two well-wishers who had guided him in his youth. During this meeting, Narahari suggested that Srinivasa get married.
“Your mother is a great devotee,” Sri Narahari said. “She has been rendering valuable service in Jajigram for many years. You should fulfill whatever small desire she might have. I know she would be happy to see you married. Since she is a great devotee, you should comply.”
Hearing this, Srinivasa resolved to marry and raise a family.
After a few more days in Srikhanda, Srinivasa left for Kanthak Nagara to visit the great Gadadhara Dasa, one of the personal associates of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. When Srinivasa arrived, Gadadhara Dasa embraced him with affection. He asked Srinivasa about the devotees of Vrindavana, especially the Gosvamis: How were they able to live in separation from the Lord and His confidential devotees? Where were they living and under what conditions? Gadadhara Dasa and Srinivasa talked about Caitanya Mahaprabhu and the plight of His devotees in His absence.
After several days, Srinivasa was to return to Jajigram. Before he left, Gadadhara Dasa blessed him: “One day you will taste the nectar of congregational chanting in the company of the Lord Himself, and in the company of His intimate associates. For now, you have my blessings to marry. May it bring you all good fortune.”
Srinivasa Gets Married
The words of Gadadhara Dasa touched Srinivasa. Meditating on their import, he returned to Jajigram, where he met Gopala Cakravarti, an elderly brahmana with a beautiful and devoted daughter named Draupadi. Observing that Srinivasa and Draupadi were attracted to each other, Sri Raghunandana Thakura arranged the wedding.
After the marriage, Draupadi was called Isvari (some say it was her initiated name), honoring her devotion to God and acknowledging her marriage to a great saint. Her father, Gopala Cakravarti, soon accepted Srinivasa as his spiritual master, as did her two brothers, Syama Dasa and Ramacandra. Srinivasa quickly became one of the most prominent gurus in all of Bengal.
After some time, Isvari bore a son, and when Srinivasa wrote about the event to Jiva Gosvami in Vrindavana, Jiva sent back an exuberant reply and named the boy Vrindavana Vallabha. Some time after, Srinivasa married again (polygamy was common then). His second wife, Padmavati, was also a great devotee, and after initiation she was known as Gauranga Priya.
One may wonder why Srinivasa took a second wife. Most of the standard biographies do not elaborate, stating merely that the second marriage followed the first by a few years. But the Anuragavali informs us that his most intimate disciples asked that he remarry upon the death of his two sons from Isvari. They are said to have died young.
Isvari had three daughters—Hemlata, Krishna-priya, and Kancana, also known as Yamuna. Gauranga Priya had a son, Gati Govinda. Both Isvari and her daughters later had many disciples, and Srinivasa’s bloodline is still said to continue in Vrindavana from Gati Govinda.
The Passing of Narahari Sarakara
Some time after Srinivasa’s marriage, Narahari Sarakara Thakura left the world, having seen Srinivasa one last time. Srinivasa organized a massive festival to honor Narahari’s memory. Everyone from Srikhanda and neighboring villages attended, and Vaishnava festivals soon spread throughout the region. Ceremonies to install Deities of Krishna took place with elaborate festivities, including singing, dancing, and sharing of sacred food (prasadam). By such festivals the Hare Krishna movement spread throughout Bengal.
In due course, Srinivasa decided to return to Vrindavana. Ramacandra Kaviraja, one of his most renowned followers, went with him on this trip. Ramacandra was considered Srinivasa’s “other eye and other arm.” Ramacandra and his brother, Govinda, who was also Srinivasa’s disciple, were the sons of an intimate associate of Lord Caitanya. Both Ramacandra and Govinda were celebrated scholars, artists, and poets, but Ramacandra came to be widely accepted as Srinivasa’s most noteworthy disciple. This was in some measure due to Narottama Dasa Thakura, who at Srinivasa’s request took charge of Ramacandra and forged an intimate friendship with him while schooling him in all the details of Vaishnava philosophy.
With the help of King Virhamvir of Vishnupura, Srinivasa spread his preaching in Bengal to the districts of Birbhum, Bankura, Burdwan, and as far as Tripura in the East. He taught all over Bengal and made hundreds of disciples.
To the list of his prominent disciples, Hemlata Thakurani, his daughter, is often added. Although as a blood relation she is not properly counted a disciple, she was one of his most notable followers. A highly educated and vigorous preacher, she has been compared to the revered Jahnava Devi in spreading the movement throughout Bengal. She was a gifted and devoted leader, initiating both men and women into the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition. One of her disciples, Yadunandana Thakura, became a famous scholar and poet. He composed simple Bengali versifications of Gaudiya literature, some at her personal request.
In time she married a great devotee and had several children. Today her descendants live in the villages of Maliati and Budhaipad, in the Murshidabad district of Bengal, where she revolutionized the preaching of Gaudiya Vaishnavism.
Srinivasa Returns to Vrindavana
Srinivasa had not been to Vrindavana since recovering the stolen books. The Gosvamis were eager to show their appreciation, and when Srinivasa arrived they did so gloriously. And now Srinivasa had come to Vrindavana with Ramacandra Kaviraja. Such a worthy disciple showed Srinivasa’s merit as a preacher. So Gopala Bhatta Gosvami, who had wanted Srinivasa to take over the worship of the Radha-Ramana Deity in Vrindavana, gave the duty to his other disciple, Gopinatha Pujari, and insisted that Srinivasa keep preaching in Bengal. The descendants of Gopinatha’s brothers are still in charge of the Radha-Ramana temple.
Syamananda Pandita returned to Vrindavana about the same time as Srinivasa, so they were able to deepen their friendship. Together they resumed their studies. Gradually, Srinivasa began to reveal his mystic potency, and it became apparent he was fully absorbed in the most intimate love of God.
Back to Vishnupura
But the missionary work was incomplete, and after several months Srinivasa and others returned to Bengal, encouraged by the Vrindavana Gosvamis. On the way, they stopped in Vana Vishnupura to see King Virhamvir, who was delighted by the presence of his guru and the other devotees.
The king’s devotion showed throughout the kingdom. In the words of D.C. Sen:
Raja Vira Hamvira would not do anything without the advice of his guru [Srinivasa Acarya], even in political matters. His [Srinivasa’s] voice prevailed alike in the court and in the domestic circles of Vishnupura. We find that repeating the name of God a fixed number of times was made compulsory by penal law in the State. Sacrifice of animals at the altar of the gods was also discountenanced, though not actually prohibited by law. Worldly dignity attended the guru who had brought spiritual glory to the country. We find that on every occasion of Vaishnava festivities of any importance, valuable presents were given to Srinivasa, while Raja Vira Hamvira was ever ready to minister to his physical comforts in every possible manner. But true to the traditions of a brahmin scholar and saint, Srinivasa contented himself with living in a strawroofed hut, though he might have built palaces with the help of the Raja and other influential disciples. The money he received was mainly spent in feeding his disciples, of whom there was always a large number residing at his house. 1
The Glories of Vishnupura
The pervasiveness of Krishna consciousness in Bengal, especially in Vishnupura, lasted well after the time of Srinivasa and into the following centuries. King Virhamvir’s successor, Raghunatha Singh I, built Vaishnava temples in many distant villages to make Krishna consciousness popular with the tribal people. In fact, the kings of Vishnupura from the time of Virhamvir onward assumed great responsibility for the material and spiritual wellbeing of their subjects.
According to Dr. Sambidananda Das:
In short, the Vaishnava kings, from Vira Hamvira downwards, developed Vaishnava culture in all its branches. The practical religious lives of the kings … made the people of Vishnupura God-fearing, virtuous, humble, and courteous in manner and pure in heart. It is not an easy matter to make the whole population happy and pious. [But] the people regarded their kings as their gurus. To this day it is their custom to offer edibles to Sri Caitanya’s altar in the name of the king, on the occasion of public worship. Thus did Srinivasa, through Raja Vira Hamvira, start a new epoch in the religious life of the country.2
Srinivasa’s Daily Activities
The activities of Srinivasa Acarya can fill volumes, and they have. Several books offer details of his daily life in Vishnupura and Jajigram.
In the early morning he would read from scriptural books, explaining and interpreting them for his disciples. The study of these books would occupy him until ten o’clock in the morning. Then, till two in the afternoon, he would chant on beads in solitude, occasionally worshiping Krshna according to his inner meditation. From four o’clock to six in the evening he would perform congregational chanting with his disciples. The form of kirtana for which he became famous is called Manohar Shoy. Some say it is the only authentic classical style that has survived. At night he used to instruct his disciples and talk with them of Krishna’s pastimes.
His Literary Work
It is said that Srinivasa composed only five songs. He also wrote a commentary—studied and respected to this day—on the four essential verses of the Srimad-Bhagavatam. His other works include the famous Gosvamy-ashtakam (“Eight Prayers to the Six Gosvamis”). Though his literary work is spare, its content and style are nectarean. It has left a unique mark on the Gaudiya tradition.
Just as the authorized biographers of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu leave aside the details of His passing from this world, Srinivasa’s followers are silent about Srinivasa’s disappearance. But although his divine ascension remains a mystery, his life remains an inspiration.
1. D. C. Sen, The Vaishnava Literature of Mediaeval Bengal (Calcutta University, 1917), pp. 156–157.
2. Sambidananda Das, The History and Literature of Gaudiya Vaishnavas and Their Relation to Medieval Vaishnava Schools, Unpublished Ph. D. Thesis (Calcutta University, June 1935), p. 819.
Satyaraja Dasa is a disciple of Srila Prabhupada and a regular contributor to Back to Godhead. He has written several books on Krishna consciousness. He and his wife live in New York City.