Wednesday, March 21, 2007


I have been working on an article about Jiva Goswami for the Journal of Vaishnava Studies. Basically it is just a chapter from my thesis, which I published on line without footnotes (Jiva Goswami: Biographical information and Jiva Goswami: An Overview of his writings).

One matter that I did not get into in that article was Jiva Goswami’s controverted relation to the Caitanya-caritāmṛta, which is described in Prema-vilāsa and Vilāsa-vivarta. This is primarily because I accepted the 1615 date for the CC; and since Jiva’s disappearance took place in 1608, the question of Jiva's throwing the CC into the Yamuna, being envious of KK, etc. (as found in VV), did not arise.

Nevertheless, I confess that I had never gone through the Prema-vilāsa thoroughly, so I decided to revisit the question after procuring the reprint of Jashodalal Talukdar's complete 1913 edition of Prema-vilāsa, which came out in 1999.

The complete version contains "24 1/2" chapters, but this really means that there are 24 vilāsas or chapters and then what appears to be an appendix (the "ardha” or “half” vilāsa), added on by the author at a later date, including six letters exchanged between the devotees in Bengal and Sri Jiva Goswami. There is also a summary of the contents of the 24 chapters. Nityananda Das writes that as he composed the text, there was such interest in it that "500 devotees" would make copies as soon as he had finished a chapter. Cf. page 300:

ek ek adhyāya raci jabe samāpta karito
pāñca śata bhakta tāhā likhiyā loito

The fact that there are several editions in manuscript form, some with 17, others with 20 chapters, yet others with 24, makes it uncertain exactly which chapters were written when. The postscript, however, comments on all 24 chapters. At the end of the 24th vilāsa, there is a clue to how this happened. Nityananda Das says, "I wrote the first eighteen chapters in Srikhanda. Chapters 19 and 20 were written in Khardaha. The last four chapters were written while I resided in Katwa. The epilogue was written after I had finished the book and then received copies of letters by Jiva Goswami, Srinivasa and Narottama."

First of all, according to his own testimony, Nityananda Das wrote the Prema-vilāsa, on the Krishna Trayodasi of Phalguna in 1522 Saka ( = 1610 AD) (p. 285). This date of completion is confirmed in Sanskrit at the end of the ardha-vilāsa. The Karṇānanda, another book on roughly the same subject matter, written by Yadunandan in 1529 Saka (=16o7 AD), refers respectfully to the Prema-vilāsa, a testimonial that confuses the matter, as it was apparently written before Prema-vilāsa. Even so, given the spotty history of the Prema-vilāsa's completion, it may well be a valid attestation. At any rate, this confirmation in a second work makes it more difficult to deny its historical value entirely, S.K. De, Biman Bihari Majumdar and most other authoritative historians of the movement do not trust the Prema-vilāsa, especially not "the last few suspiciously spurious chapters" (Faith and Movement, p. 74).

Now Nityananda Das (page 285) gives two other dates with great assurance: that of the composition of Caitanya-bhāgavata, i.e., 1495 Saka (= 1573 AD), and that of Caitanya-caritāmṛta, i.e., 1503 Saka (= 1581 AD).

He quotes the following verse found in the colophon of CC:

jyaiṣṭhe vṛndāvanāntare
sūrye'hny asita-paṣcamyāṁ
grantho'yaṁ pūrṇatāṁ gataḥ

The date 1615 AD, which would be 1537 śaka, is based on another reading of this verse, which begins zAke sindhv-agni-bANendau* [indu = 1 (there is only one moon), bANa = 5 (the five arrows of Cupid), agni = 3 (?), bindu = 0; sindhu = 7 (the seven seas)]

There are several reasons for prefering the later date:

(1) When Krishnadas describes how he came to write CC, he says that he approached the seniormost Vaishnavas living in Braj at the time. Jiva Goswami’s name is conspicuous by its absence. This could not be because there was friction between them (as the author of Vivarta-vilāsa would have it), since we see that Kaviraj was asked to convey Raghunath Das Goswami's last wishes to Jiva Goswami in 1584, and again was present as a witness to Jiva Goswami's last will and testament in 1606 and again in 1608. The Prema-vilāsa also speaks of cordial relations between the two saints. This therefore points to KK's writing the CC after Jiva's death in 1608 when Haridas Goswami (also signatory to Jiva's will) succeeded him as head of the Vaishnava community in Braja. KK does indeed praise this Haridas, who was mahanta of the Govindaji temple, as such.

(2) Krishnadas on at least two occasions in CC mentions that he is very old. Though he may already have been aged in 1581, it sounds like a more appropriate description of him 30 years later than that. By 1580, Krishnadas had most likely written Govinda-lilamrita, for he is refered to as “kaviraja” in other works of the time.

(4) The Gopala Champu, written after 1581 (i.e. between 1584 and 1592), is mentioned in the CC.

(5) It also appears to be clear that Raghunath Das Goswami was no longer living when KK wrote CC. Raghunath Das, we know for certain, disappeared in 1584.

(6) The proximity of dates for Chaitanya Bhagavata and CC gives rise to certain questions. CC seems to indicate that Cbh had been circulating for some time in Braj. Although I have argued before (see “The Authenticity of the Chaitanya Charita Mahakavya”) that communications between Bengal and Braja were quite fluid, I believe that it would have taken more than a few years for the project of yet another biography to come to fruition. Even though Raghunath Das would have been alive, and most likely a fellow listener along with Krishnadas of Chaitanya Bhagavata, and no doubt painfully aware of its shortcomings, it would have taken more than eight years for this project to have been conceived, planned and executed.

The dates of Chaitanya Chandrodaya (1572) and Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika (1576) should also be taken into consideration. I argued elsewhere (“Keeping Faith with Kheturi”) that the Pancha Tattva doctrine, which reaches its apotheosis in CC, was really made a powerful force in the Gaudiya Vaishnava world through GGD, and that this was one of the great themes of the Kheturi festival. Consolidating all these strands of thought would have taken more time, in my opinion, than the 1581 date would bear.

(7) Most problematic in this connection is the Prema-vilāsa story about the trip to Bengal with the books. Though Nityananda Das never states directly that the CC was among the books brought along with the three saints, Srinivas, Narottam and Shyamai, it is implicit in the account that he gives of Krishnadas’s reaction on hearing that the books had been stolen:

jarā-kāle kavirāja nā pāre calite
antardhāna kaila sei duḥkhera sahite...
nija netra krishnadasa raghunather mukhe
caraṇa dharila āni āpanāra buke...
jei gaṇe sthiti tāhā karite bhāvana
mudita nayane prāṇa koilo niṣkramaṇa

"Kaviraj was old and barely able to walk. The pain was so great [on hearing this news], that he disappeared... Casting his eyes on Raghunath Das's face and holding his feet on his chest... thinking of the group of Vraja residents he wished to be part of, he closed his eyes and his life airs departed." (p.110)

Nityananda Das then goes on at some length about how Raghunath Das eulogized Krishnadas at this time. But we are certain that Raghunath left his body (1584) before Krishnadas and that Krishnadas was still alive in 1608.

So, the question is: How could Prema-vilāsa have been written in 1610, when Kaviraj was presumably alive, and still get all this basic information wrong? I repeat that communications were good enough for Bengal to know of important events, like deaths, etc., within three or four months of their occurrence. And if he got this wrong, was it intentional? And if it was intentional, then what was the purpose of it?

And, of course, the Vilāsa-vivarta story about Jiva Goswami rejecting the Caitanya-caritāmṛta and throwing it into the Yamuna because it supported the parakiya rasa is also farfetched, if we accept that KK wrote it AFTER Jiva had left his body. Here, at least, the agenda is clear. When you read a book like Prema-vilāsa, which seems to be written in good faith, but then encounter information that just clashes so heavily with known facts, it undermines your confidence in the work as a whole. What other information is untrustworthy?

The possibilities that come of the CC’s accompanying the Three Saints are interesting. It would have greatly strengthened the influence of the Vrindavan school. But I simply cannot accept it. Accounts of the Kheturi festival say that the Chaitanya Mangal of Lochan Das was the current rage in Chaitanya biographies. The Chaitanya Bhagavata is still bringing up inter-Gaudiya tensions, which were defused by the Pancha Tattva doctrine. By the time the CC is written, these tensions have become a matter of amused appreciation (witness Nityananda and Advaita’s joking in Madhya 3 and elsewhere), further indicating that time has healed most of the sectarian feuding.

If one accepts Narahari Chakravarti’s statement that Rupa ended his lila only a month after Sanatan Prabhu, namely in 1558, then this gives plenty of time for Srinivas, Narottam and Shyamananda to be thoroughly trained by Jiva Goswami and thus prepared to carry out the mission that he entrusted to them.


Keeping the unreliability of the book in mind, I also noticed some interesting information in the chapter where Jiva’s relation with Shyamananda is recounted. Nityananda Das says that Jiva gave a number of mantras to Shyamananda, including Radha mantra, as well as giving him his siddha svarupa. He refers more than once to the “Ganoddesa,” meaning Rādhā-kṛṣṇa-gaṇoddeśa-dīpikā as the reference for the siddha-deha and manjari bhajana. Jiva says it is alright because the diksha guru is the one who gives Krishna mantra and therefore he has not usurped Hridaya Chaitanya’s position.

At any rate, the significance given by Nityananda Das to this Ganoddesa hints at the influence of this book on Karnapura and the production of the Gaura-gaṇoddeśa in the period following Srinivas, Narottam and Shyamananda's return to Bengal. So 1570-1571 is still looking pretty good for this most significant event.

By the way, Nityananda Das says that Jiva also offered to give the siddha-svarūpa to Narottam, first naming him "Vilāsa Manjari" (saying "you and I both have the same name!"), but Narottam tells him that Radharani herself has already given him the name Manjulali. (See page 93)

bhāvāntare kohe kichu dui bhuja dhari
āji hoite tomār nāma vilāsa mañjarī
śrī-rūpera vilāsa mūrti tumi mahāśaya
āmāte e saba nḷama asambhava hoy
tabe hāsi kohe gosāi et vicitra noy
tomāya āmāya eka siddha-nāma hoy
ke bujhite pāre tomār sādhan āśaya
āji hoite tomār nāma ṭhākur mahāśaya
ṭhākur praṇām kore gosāi kare āliṅgan
dainya savinaya kohe kākuṭī vacan
ājñā hoy jadi nivedaye punarbār
more je rūpe ājñā hoilo rādhikār
śrī-mukhe kohilo nāma campaka-mañjarī
jāniyā doṅhār guṇa samāna mādhurī

Still, of the three, it appears that Shyamananda was the most enthusiastic preacher of madhura-rasa and mañjarī-bhāva.

NOTE: In chapter 16, in the description of Jahnava's second trip to Vrindavan following the Kheturi festival, in which Nityananda Das says he himself participated, he writes that Jahnava met Krishnadas Kaviraj and Raghunath Das Goswami. So how could KK have left the world prior to this? More will have to follow, obviously... [Correction: Chapter 16 is a flashback (I believe) to a previous trip to Vrindavan made by Jahnava when Sanatan and Rupa Goswamis were still present.] However, Nityananda Das himself publishes the letters of Jiva to the Bengali group, in which Krishnadas "sends his obeisances" (Letter 6). Though no date is given, it certainly eliminates the possibility that Krishnadas died earlier on, immediately after Narottam et al arriving in Bengal.

alam ativistareṇa.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You wrote:

¨but Narottam tells him that Radharani herself has already given him the name Manjulali. (See page 93)¨

But in Bengali it says ¨...radhikar sri-mukhe kohilo nama champaka-manjari¨