Madan Prabhu was my neighbor during the five years I spent in Nabadwip (1980-1985). The Judge Bari in Gokulananda Ghat was a privileged location, only a few minutes walk from the center of the town and the market, while at the same time being a large, quiet and green area with two tanks, in a rather unkept state, admittedly, but nevertheless protected from the throngs and traffic. The far wall on the southern side, across this empty space, was the boundary between this property and the home of Madan Prabhu.
Of course, Pran Gopal Goswami, Madan Prabhu's grandfather, was and still is a legend in Nabadwip and Vrindavan. He was the most prominent speaker on the Bhagavata in his day and an avid seeker of advanced Vaishnava association, and so a regular visitor to Vrindavan and Radha Kund, where he was often in isthagoshti with the leading figures of that samaja. And so he is frequently cited as a character in the stories of those saints.
Madan Prabhu used to play something on the loudspeaker every morning at 6 o'clock--usually Subbalakshmi's Bhaja Govindam or a very sweet rendition of Bhagavad-Gita verses. Despite the current wish that there would be a little more plain silence in India, I remember enjoying hearing those transcendental sounds, which became the signal that it was time to put down the mala and do Giridhari's puja.
I became a frequent visitor to Madan Prabhu's house, and if I look back, I don't think there were many, perhaps no one else in Nabadwip at the time, who were as great supporters of Madhusudan and myself, particularly me. I still have the Chaitanya Charitamrita that Madan Prabhu signed and gave me. It was a mula matra edition that was published by Pran Gopal Prabhu's very worthy disciple Gopinath Basak and Shyamlal Saha, who was one of our closer friends in the local Vaishnava community. This memento of Madan Prabhu has been with me wherever I have gone over the last 35 years and so you could say that a little bit of his kripa has been my constant companion. He gave me many other books as well, such as the published edition of Chaitanya Charitamrita with Vishwanath's Sanskrit and Pran Gopal's Bengali commentaries. Where that valuable volume is today, I unfortunately have no idea.
The annual festival at Madan Prabhu's Bari is the one dedicated to Pran Gopal Prabhu's mother and guru. I was a regular attendee at this festival, which often had notable guests, such as Chabi Bannerjee, doing Lila or Nama kirtan. And, of course, Madan Prabhu gave Bhagavata classes in his own inimitable style. I don't know to what extent he was an innovator and to what extent he followed his gharwana style of patha, but he always accompanied himself with a harmonium, and later when he got one of the first digital keyboards in Nabadwip, with that. He had a very good voice and did something akin to the way things are done nowadays in Vrindavan--mixing path with songs. In those days, Madhusudan and I were into Ananta Dasji and looking for Radha Krishna lila katha and that kind of mood, so Madan Prabhu's specialty, which was Dhruva-lila and Prahlada-lila, did not interest us very much, but we could appreciate the effectiveness of what he was doing, as evidenced by the large number of disciples who came flocking to his feet, especially in Tripura.
Madan Gosai showed special favor to me by asking me to be one of the Vaishnavas doing parayana during one part of the festival. He liked to hear me chant Chaitanya Chandramrita and always insisted that the mike be put in front of me for most of the time allotted to this function. It may seem like nothing now, but there were a lot of people in the Nabadwip samaj who did not exactly welcome the presence of mlecchas on center stage. Even so, Madan Prabhu was insistent that as Vaishnavas we were not to be considered inferior in any way.
He also defended me to Western scholars. Once Donna Wulff came for the festival to film Nanda Kishor Das, who was the seniormost lila kirtaniya in the old style in Bengal. She was doing research into lila kirtan and filming everyone she could find, but especially Nanda Kishor. When I dropped in that day, I must have looked scruffy, shirtless and wearing an off-white loincloth, neither clean-shaven nor bearded, Radha Kund mud on my forehead and chest. She gave me an undisguised bit of that look the civilized reserve for those who "go native." I was admittedly feeling underdressed and started to wither a little, but when Madan Prabhu introduced me, he told her not to underestimate me.
Another time, I went to hear his path in the Baladeva mandir around the corner--a temple which is in the home of a cousin or uncle, also in the line of Pran Gopal. On that occasion, I was sitting right next to the Vyasasana, and afterwards he gave me the prasad from the Bhagavata puja to distribute to the bhaktas. One of the brahmins there refused to take the prasad that I offered him because of my mleccha-ness. I was offended that he thought I could contaminate prasada and so I wrote a big article on the subject that was published in a local Vaishnava publication. I am pretty sure that Madan Prabhu supported me in that. Although I never understood exactly what happened, as I went to Vrindavan shortly afterward, the article caused a bit of a turmoil in Nabadwip with the babajis and brahmins taking sides against each other, and the babajis even stopping accepting invitations at the Govinda Bari. When I came back, I innocently accepted an invitation at the Govinda Bari, making all the babajis angry that I was not putting my mouth where my mouth was!
Madan Prabhu was always someone I could count on in Nabadwip. I knew that I could go to his house on any day of the week and take prasad. There was an open invitation. If anyone made me feel welcome there during those years, it was he.
When I was working on the English and Bengali translation of Hamsaduta, he invited me to a disciple's house near Calcutta where he was speaking; there was to be some kind of meeting and he wanted me to participate as a speaker. I remember the famous scholar Prof. Roma Chaudhury was also there. Madan Prabhu and I went through most of the Hamsaduta together and he helped improve the Bengali a great deal, so that I learned a lot. But most of all, it was his encouragement and approval of much of the translation as it was that I recall. In particular, we got a lot of relish out of the following verse:
“Nor will the Lord of Death favor Râdhâ, O Murari!
Since her tears have formed a river
whose waves are even more forceful
than those of the Yamunâ,
which looks wan in comparison,
Yamaraj, Yamunâ’s older brother,
has become envious and refuses to oblige her,
even when Râdhâ cries out to him for mercy. (76)
Another time, I wrote a few poems in English about Mahaprabhu. One I remember was the product of a train ride from Calcutta during football playoffs when everyone was listening with frenzied and obsessional interest to the game on the radio. The poem was called, "Is this what Advaita was praying for?" Madan really liked it and had it published in the annual magazine that came out at the Guru festival time.
Madan Prabhu was a great believer in his family tradition. For us foreigners and graduates of the Iskcon Gaudiya Math school, it sometimes seemed quite alien that anyone should think they were privileged by their birth in any way. Madan Prabhu once told me the story of how Ramdas Babaji, at the height of his fame and influence, came and paid his obeisances to him, even though he was just a child at the time. When father Jadu Gopal complained, Ramdas Baba said that just like a rosgulla is always sweet, whether big or small, so a descendant of Nityananda Prabhu is always holy, no matter what his age. I have to say that this changed my perspective considerably on the issue, at least it gave me insight into the way that the sampradaya was spread and the way that the Vaishnava samaj had traditionally operated. Madan Prabhu often spoke of Mahaprabhu's purpose in having Nityananda Prabhu return to Bengal and family life: dui prabhu santane jagat hobe prabhumoy: "Through the children of the two Prabhus (Nityananda, Advaita), the presence of the Prabhus will be felt everywhere." For him, this conviction of the innateness of his responsibility as a descendant of Nityananda Prabhu to spread the message of Mahaprabhu overcame any sense he may have had of personal limitation. That was simply who he was: Nityananda Prabhu's representative on earth.
Madan Prabhu like to hug people, in the firm conviction that his touch would sanctify and inspire them. I got many a hug from him, and looking back on that, I wonder if that is where my own firm belief in hugging people comes from. At any rate, I remember those embraces fondly today and I thank him for them as well as for his many other kindnesses. May his sons continue the noble tradition of their branch of the Nityananda Vamsha in the humility that comes with a great responsibility. I pay them my obeisances and wish them all the best.
Joy Nitai, Joy Gaur, Joy Radhe.
Dear Jagadananda Das,
Loving wishes to you. I pray to Sri Nityananda for your bhajan full life. I wanted to contact you, but didn't know your address. For that I wrote Anuradha and she gave it to me. I think she has already told you that my father Prabhupad Madangopal Goswami entered the Nityalila on June 4 at 4.10 pm.
Though my father opposed so many sampradayas, as soon as they got the news of his entering the Nityalila, they all sent representatives with garlands to show their shraddha to him and to participate at his cremation.
We want to publish a magazine with the name Prabhu Madangopal at the time of the Sri Sri Guru Niryan Maha Mahotsav. You had many experiences and some feeling for him because you spent lot of time with him. I need and request you to write about these feelings and experiences in a article for our magazine. Please send your answer.
Joy Nitai, Joy Gaur.
Prabhupad Premgopal Gosvami
Son Of Prabhupad Sri Madangopal Goswami