Monday, May 28, 2012

Gadadhar Pandit :: Bhakti Shakti (Part III)

III. The moods of Nityananda

In this article it is not possible to give a thorough discussion of Nityananda’s personality, for that would lead us away from our subject—Gadadhar Pandit. Nevertheless, in order to understand the idea of “shakti” as it operates in personal form in Gauranga līlā, it is necessary to examine Nityananda and some of the developments that took place historically in the way his followers looked at him.

Nityananda is a character of the greatest significance in Mahaprabhu’s līlā. He was chief among the preachers of the Lord’s message in Bengal and was responsible for the conversion of many businessmen and people from lower castes to Vaishnavism. Without exception he is identified as Balaram, Krishna’s older brother, the ancient deity known as his first expansion (ādi-vyūha), Sankarshan.

Kavi Karnapur states that Nitai and his followers were gopālā gopa-veśinaḥ, "cowherd boys in spirit, who dressed that way also." (GGD 14) In numerous songs Vasudeva Ghosh and others describe Nityananda dressed in this way, accompanied by other "gopalas." They would imitate the līlā of Krishna’s sakhās (friends) by doing such things as herding cows and playing all the other games they used to play with Krishna. They carried flutes and sticks and wore peacock feathers, etc. (CBh 3.5.353)

Whenever Mahaprabhu displayed his opulences, Nityananda would be there to take the role of Ananta and hold an umbrella over his head. Being identified with Ananta, he was the one who glorified Chaitanya with a thousand mouths. When Mahaprabhu showed the form of Rama to Murari, Nityananda took the form of Lakshman.

Vrindavan Das, the chief expounder of Nitai’s glories, begins the Caitanya-bhagavata by identifying Nityananda with Balaram. He supports his authority to enjoy the rasa līlā by citing the Bhāgavata Purāṇa. Nityananda is ishwara, the supreme controller. He is the supersoul, the source of the oversouls of the entire cosmic manifestation, the individual universals as well as the individual souls; he is the supreme enjoyer. He is the kind distributor of love for Gauranga and is therefore beyond criticism. Mahaprabhu is quoted as saying that even if Nityananda should enter a wine shop or take a low-class woman on his lap, he is still always worshipable.

Vrindavan Das seems here to be obliquely referring to Nityananda’s marriage, which other than Jayananda, none of these authors mentions explicitly. Nitai had been an avadhuta, a renunciate of some kind, when he suddenly married the two daughters of Surya Das. This no doubt caused an uproar, and even more so when when he changed his mode of dress and began wearing various jewelled ornaments of silver and gold and other finery.

In one place, Vrindavan Das quotes Gauranga as saying that these decorations represent the different aspects of devotion. Vrindavan Das does mention that after the intimate meal at the temple of Tota Gopinath, Mahaprabhu gave some confidential instructions to Nityananda which no one else could hear. Those instructions, according to the later Nityananda-vamsa-vistara had to do with his getting married.

Only in one place, in Murari Gupta’s Kaḍacā, do we find an exception to Nityananda’s unwavering masculine identity. In the play at Chandrasekhara’s house, Baladeva (Nityananda) comes on stage in the dress of a gopi in order to taste a “special” rasa. When he took the sapling-like band of the lord of his life, his body became drenched with the tears flowing from his eyes. (KCC 2.16.6)

It should be noted that not one of the other authors has accepted Murari’s version. Everyone else has cast Nityananda as Jarati, the barai buri or Yogamaya. Barai ineans old woman. In the Radha-Krishna songs of Chandi Das, the barai is the old woman of the house who surreptitiously supports the amours of her dependent heroine. Later on this old woman’s role is divided between Mukhara, Radha’s affectionate, intentionally bumbling grandmother, and Paurnamasi, the much more serious figure also known as Yogamaya who mystically manoeuvers all the events of Vrindavan.

Kavi Karnapur says; “Nityananda’s acceptance of the role of Yogamaya is not amazing because the god known as Sesha becomes the abode, bed, seat, shoes, cloth, pillow, umbrella, etc., of the Lord. In order to serve the Lord, he accepts all other forms and is therefore called Sesha, the remainder.” (CCN 3.45)

Nityananda is thus the form of service (sevā-vigraha). Although God in every respect, he is God as servant to himself.

Vrindavan Das shows a penchant for describing Nityananda’s mood of a cowherd boy and other wild and erratic manifestations of his devotional ecstasy. After Mahaprabhu tells Nityananda to give up the muni-dharma of reclusive meditation, Nitai returns dancing to Gauda with his party of gopalas, turning every place they go upside down. There was among them, however, another Gadadhar, Gadadhar Das who was not a gopala. There (in perhaps the only place Radha’s name is mentioned in the entire Caitanya-bhāgavata), Gadadhar Das is said to be constantly absorbed in Radha’s mood, calling out; “Who will buy my cow’s milk?” (CBh 3.5.238)

At Gadadhar’s house in Eriyadaha, there was a performance of Dana-līlā (where presumably Nityananda took Krishna’s role and Gadadhar Das, Radha’s). (CBh 3.5.400)(NOTE 11) Vrindavan Das’s conclusion is:

ye bhakti gopikā-gaṇer kabe bhāgavate
nityānanda hoite tāhā pāila jagate

“The love for Krishna in the mood of the gopis which is described in the Bhagavata was attained in the world through Nityananda.” (CBh 3.5.303)

There are many occasions when Vrindavan describes Nityananda’s glories through the mouth of Sri Chaitanya. Mahaprabhu tells Raghava Pandit; “I tell you confidentially that Nityananda is completely non-different from me.” (CBh 3.5.100-104)

When Mahaprabhu tells the devotees to take pieces of Nityananda’s kaupin, he says; “By Nityananda’s grace one can attain Vishnu-bhakti. You should know that he is Krishna’s complete shakti.” (CBh 2.12.26)

This does not form very strong evidence of Nityananda’s being Radha, and nowhere does Vrindavan make such a statement. Generally, though, Nityananda’s strong absorption in a masculine role makes the proposition seem unnatural. Murari, therefore, notes that Balaram was not present at the vastra-haraṇa incident: “At that time the avadhuta, Nityananda, appeared on the scene again. In great happiness he’ also joined the dancing and chanting of the Lord’s names. The lotus-eyed Nitai played with Gauranga just as the bearer of the plough had previously played with the cowherd boys in Vrindavan. When this dancing came to an end, the Lord said to the best of the brahmins: ‘Wash the feet of the avadhuta. Drink the water and take it on your heads.’” (KCC 2.10.19-20)

Even so, “Whenever Mahaprabhu wants to enjoy in a particular way, Nityananda takes a suitable form. The Lord becomes a gopi, Nitai the barai. Who will understand if he has no sensibility?” (CBh 2.18.218-19)

There is a group of devotees who say that Nityananda is Radha, using the above argument to equate Nityananda with Krishna’s shaktis. They point to songs by a Vrindavan Das who is supposed to he the writer of the Caitanya-bhāgavata. This identification is doubtful, however. There are other texts also ascribed to this Vrindavan Das, particularly the Nityānanda-vaṁśa-vistāra, in which Nityananda is established rather prosaically as the guru of all the rasas, including madhura.

One of this Vrindavan Das’s songs goes like this;

Nitai is the lover, the ocean of rasa,
the guru of all the types of love.
Whatever one may want, that is what he gives,
for he is the tree which fulfils all desires.

Just like Radha, he has jealous fits of anger
and stays always by his side,
Not caring for day or night, he wanders always
in the pleasure of talks of Krishna.

Sitting on his left side, he smiles sweetly,
calling him the lord of his life.
As Radha desires in her mind,
so too does he.

Like the golden ketaki flower, he is the form of rasa,
coming to fulfill his own desire.
Vrindavan Das makes his appeal
to see Nitai as Radha.(NOTE 12)
Where did this idea came from? Krishna Das Kaviraj Goswami does not permit Nityananda to participate in any of Mahaprabhu’s exclusively madhura-rasa līlās. Even when he dances in gopī-bhāva before Jagannath, Nitai remains some what distant:

”Due to being overwhelmed by Radha’s love, it was as if the Lord took that very form. Nityananda watched from a distance and offered prayer. Seeing the deep emotion of the Lord, he remained somewhat distant. Other than Nityananda, who can stop the Lord. The Lord’s mood did not cease and the kirtan did not continue.” (Cc., 2.14.235-38)
Bhaktivinoda Thakur in his Amṛta-pravāha-bhāṣya on this section comments that the reason he stayed distant was because his own jurisdiction in rasa would have been contradictory.

How Did Nitai Become Radha?

Nityananda’s increasing popularity and the belief of his disciples in his divine intimacy and identity with Gauranga who was supposed to have given the bighest love of the gopis to everyone played an important part in his identification with Radha. Kaviraj says; “Mahaprabhu cared not whether some one asked for prema; he judged not their qualifications. His only consideration was, ‘I must give.’”

If Krishna took the mood of Radha to experience the glory of her love and to pay back his debt to her by suffering its sweet pains and by giving it to the other souls of this world, then how could he avoid giving it to Nityananda, who was so close to him? Murari has said that Nityananda is also rasa-viśeṣa-vinodī. He wanted to experience madhura-rasa by the power of Mahaprabhu’s mystique.

According to the legend, Nityananda took the householder ashram at the request of Sri Chaitanya in order to temper the movement’s revolutionary spirit and make the necessary compromises with society that would insure its long survival. The rebellion against society on the caste question could not go on forever. Marriage was the “taming of Nitai.”

Nityananda was the avadhuta; he could go into some frenzied dance with the cloth meant to cover his loins bound instead around his head; or he could sit in Malini’s lap and suck her breast like a baby, though she was well past her child bearing age and he a mature thirty-two years of age, and, what is more, make her bring forth milk. Such a person could not forever maintain the respect and awe of the serious community. Mahaprabhu, though respecting Nitai’s spiritual temperament, was the one who tamed him, who made him self-conscious enough to keep his clothes on and eventually told him to get married. When he got married he accepted all the trappings of varnashrama-dharma. He had to take his upanayana (sacred thread initiation) again, dutifully following all the rules rigidly. Even so, there was much opposition before and criticism after the marriage.

No one can doubt that Nityananda responded to the challenge of being a householder preacher in true style. His wives were jewels; in one he bore his children and in the other he invested his spiritual energy. Through Vasudha, his lone, powerful son, Virabhadra, was born. Vasudha’s sister Jahnava raised him. It was Jahnava who went to Vrindavan more than once, met Sri Jiva and Kaviraj Goswami and whom all accepted as Ananga Manjari, the younger sister of Radharani and the shakti of Balaram, Krishna’s brother.

Jahnava became the symbol of Vrindavan’s manjari-bhajana in Gauda Desh. She promoted the Goswami books through Srinivasa Acharya and Narottam. Jahnava’s adopted son Ramacandra of Baghnapada wrote the Ananga-manjari-samputika in which he quotes from a passage attributed to the Brahmanda Purana called the Dharani-sesa-samvada.

One doctrine that arises out of this dialogue between the Earth and the snake Ananta is that Radha is the hladini energy, Krishna the samvit potency, and Baladeva the sandhini. Baladeva is the substance of which God’s playthings are made. Balaram thus cannot be excluded from the madhura-līlā because he is automatically present everywhere. The text then equates Ananga Manjari with him.

Another song by the second Vrindavan Das illustrates this idea:

Rama in a secret form, fulfils his own desires
by becoming Ananga Manjari.
In the affairs of rasa-līlā, he remains in Vrindavan
enjoying with Govinda.
Hari, Hari! Who can understand
Rama’s way of doing things?
The purusha and prakriti, in unlimited forms,
taking which, the Lord enjoys.
Radha’s sister, her own younger sister,
who wears a blue dress,
Defeating spring ketaki flowers,
and the white jati and jasmine,
speaking so sweetly and softly.
In his friend-body, he is a friend;
in his serving mood, a servant;
in parental affection, a young boy.
Vrindavan Das therefore has surrendered to him
knowing him to be the jewel of his desire.(NOTE 13)

Another song by the same author exults in Nitai’s pervading all the features of Radha and Krishna’s most intimate līlās. In the Ananga-manjari-samputika, Radha’s younger sister has a direct, amorous relationship with Krishna, arranged out of Radha’s desire to see the happiness of them both.

At the time of her departure from the mortal world, Jahnava is said to have transformed into a beautiful image of Ananga Manjari standing in a dancing pose on Krishna’s right side. This Ananga-Kanai-Rai is the worshipable triad of the devotees of Nityananda. A yearly festival is held at the Tota Gopinath temple in Puri commemorating the previously described meeting of Nityananda with Gadadhar and Sri Chaitanya. A kirtan sung at this festival contains the words, “Nitai Gaura Gadai, Ananga Kanai Rai,” words not found in the Caitanya-bhagavata version of the incident.

At any rate, all these ideas represent thoughts developed among Nityananda’s family descendents and their followers. The curious thing is that although Vrindavan Das criticized the Gauranga Nagaras in the Caitanya-bhagavata, Nityananda and his followers were probably more partial to Gaura-kirtan than to Radha-Krishna kirtan. Virabbadra preached the names of Nitai and Gaura. Singing of the beautiful Lord Gauranga naturally involved descriptions of his physical attractiveness This led the followers of Nityananda to a greater appreciation of the Srikhanda devotees. The songs of Lochan Das and Narahari are song with great gusto by the followers of Nityananda even today, their love for Mahaprabhu exceeding that for Krishna, for Mahaprabhu is the new, “improved” Krishna.

IV. Gadadhar in the Caitanya-caritamrita

By the will of providence, Srila Krishna Das Kaviraj was given the final say about Sri Krishna Chaitanya. He had the opportunity of hearing and reading all of the available materials bequeathed by Murari, Kavi Karnapur and Vrindavan Das, whom he some times follows and sometimes contradicts. Often he acted as a judge when there were differences of opinion, accepting one author’s version over those of the others. The most valuable source of information for Krishna Das was Raghunath Das who Iived with Svarupa Damodar in Mahaprabhu’s Puri residence, Gambhira, for the last eighteen years of Mahaprabhu’s life.

Kaviraj made the Pancha Tattva doctrine one of the introductory elements of his work, quoting the verse written by Svarupa Damodar we have referred to above, but seems loathe to accept its implications, as Karnapur did, of equating Gadadhar with Radha. Kaviraj Goswami may have thought that after accepting Sri Chaitanya as the combined form of Radha and Krishna it was impossible for Radha to have another separate existence. Therefore, he calls Gadadhar: prabhur līlā-śakti(CC 1.1.41), śakti avatāra (1.7.17), antaraṅga-bhakta (1.7.17), and teṁho lakṣmī-rūpa tār same keho nāi(1.10.15). “The followers of Gadadhar Pandit are glorious, for they all have Sri Krishna Chaitanya as the lover of their lives” (1.12.89).

In the Madhya-līlā, Kaviraj Goswami says that amongst the Puri associates of the Lord, Ramananda worshiped him in friendship (sakhya), Paramananda Puri in guardianship (vātsalya) and Govinda Das in servitude. Gadadhar, Jagadananda and Svarupa Damodar were absorbed in the ecstasy of the chief of the rasas (madhura). By these four relationships the Lord was controlled. (CC 2.2.78)

Nevertheless, even though Gadadhar’s name comes first in the list, it was Svarupa Damodar who took the front-line position as the most intimate associate of the Lord. In the Caitanya-bhāgavata, Svarupa Damodar is said to be the chief of all the sannyasi disciples of the Lord.(NOTE 14) Svarupa Damodar’s specialty was kirtan and Gadadhar’s was reading the Bhāgavata. Hearing the līlā of Dhruva and Prahlada from Gadadhar the Lord would display all the different ecstatic symptoms. Svarupa Damodar’s age is unclear. Vrindavan Das describes him as a friend of Pundarika Vidyanidhi, Gadadhar’s guru, and his father’s friend. (CBh 3.10.86-7) They call each other brother. (CBh 3.10.114, 116) If this is true, then Swarup Damodara must necessarily have been much older than Gadadhar. Yadunandana indicates in the Gadādhara-śākhā-nirṇaya that Damodar was a disciple of Gadadhar himself, but there is no proof other than that. Jagadananda and Gadadhar were both slightly younger than Mahaprabhu. It seems more reasonable to think of Svarupa Damodar as of a similar age, but there is nothing to contradict Vrindavan Das’s statement.

At any rate, if all Gadadhar delivered were readings of the stories of Dbruva and Prahlada, then it’s not too surprising that Mahaprabhu was more entranced when Svarupa and Ramananda sang or recited the Kṛṣṇa-karṇāmṛta, Gīta-govinda, Chandidas and the Tenth Canto of the Bhāgavata. Gadadhar moved to the lonely sands of the Chataka Parvata where he stayed alone with Tota Gopinath, the black Krishna; the golden Krishna was lost in rādhā-bhāva in the Gambhira. What would Radha do there? Like Rupa Goswami’s Radha in the New Vrindavan of Dvaraka, he (she) worshiped his lonely deity, even though he was living with a Krishna he no longer recognized.

Gadadhara’s Failure to Hold the Lord

When Mahaprabhu desired to go to Vrindavan, he was beld back by the sorrowful pleas and the various tricks of the devotees in Puri. When Gadadhar also expressed a desire to go, the Lord objected that his commitment was to a life in Puri, or kṣetra-sannyāsa.

Gadadhar replied, “Wherever you go, that is Nilachala. As far as I am concerned, my commitment to a permanent life of renunciation in Puri can go to hell.”

Mahaprabhu said, “You have your service to Gopinath that has to be taken care of.”

“Seeing your feet is worth a million such services.”

“You will give up your service to Gopinath and I will have to accept the sinful consequences. If you want to please me, then stay here and don’t abandon Gopinath.”

“Don’t worry about the sins,” said Gadadhar. “I will take the responsibility for that. If you do not want me to go with you, I will just go alone.” Saying that, Gadadhar followed some distance behind Mahaprabhu’s party. When they got as far as Cuttack, the Lord made him join the group. Who can describe the glories of Pandit Goswami’s love for Chaitanya, for whom he gave up his vows to Gopinath as if they were straw.

Although externally the Lord expressed displeasure, internally he was pleased. He said; “If your intention was to give up your vows then you’ve been successful. You have left Puri and come to a distant land. You want to stay with me for your own happiness. Seeing you break your religious principles like this, I am very unhappy. If you want to see me happy then return to Nilachala. I swear that I will not hear any more about this.”

Having made his unswerving decision, the Lord got on the boat to cross the Mahanadi leaving Gadadhar on the bank. The boat set off and Gadadhar fell to the ground in a swoon. Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya had him lifted up. He said, “Get up, Pandit. The Lord’s līlās are like this. He suffers, even breaks his own word to fulfil his devotee’s promise, just as in the case of Bhishma. So now he is suffering separation from you so that your promise will not be broken.” (CC 2.16.130-146)

Mahaprabhu criticized Gadadhar’s selfishness in wanting to remain with him as though this was his vow in this life. Ultimately, for this or whatever reason, the Lord left him. Could Krishna leave Radha? In prakata-līlā, Krishna sometimes does leave. That is only a show. When the Lord returned after failing to reach Vrindavan his conclusion was; “I left behind Gadadhar giving him a great deal of pain. As a result, I was unable to reach Vraja. Now you all please be kind to me and think of a way in which I can freely go there.”

Hearing this Gadadhar became overwhelmed with love for the Lord and falling at his feet humbly said; “Wherever you are, that is Vrindavan. The Yamuna, the Gahga, all the places of pilgrimage are there. Still, if you want to go to Vrindavan just to teach the world, then go. You are free to do as you please.”(CC 2.16.278-81)

Vallabha Bhatta and Gadadhar

The last incident involving Gadadhar Pandit in the Caitanya-caritāmṛta is the one in which he became the spiritual master of Vallabha Bhatta. (CC 3.7.86-162) Here is a summary of that account:

The whole of Puri was well aware that Sri Krishna Chaitanya was giving the scholar Vallabha Bhatta the cold shoulder and not listening to any of his explanations of the Bhagavata. Feeling slighted. Vallabha went to Gadadhar and, finding him less tough-skinned, tried to persuade him to listen to his writings. Gadadhar became confused by Vallabha’s request, but being weak, he was ultimately forced to hear the brash scholar’s explanations. Because of his own noble nature, he was too polite to deny him; internally, he took shelter of Krishna knowing that Mahaprabhu would be displeased. He knew, though, that the Lord within his heart would recognize the purity of his intention. Thus, even though Gadadhar was not at fault, Mahaprabhu’s associates were unhappy with him.

Strengthened by the Gadadhar’s apparent cooperation, however, Vallabha once again tried to establish a position amongst the Gaudiyas led by Sri Chaitanya and Adwaita. His efforts were to no avail. Finally Chaitanya brought about the surrender of Vallabha’s ego through various measures of neglect and chastisement. Thus, although Vallabha was originally a worshiper of the baby Krishna, in Gadadhar’s association his mind was turned to the worship of the youthful and romantic Krishna. He even asked Gadadhar for initiation.

The effete Gadadhar was once again reluctant to act without Mahaprabhu’s approval. Here Krishna Das Kaviraj compares the character of Gadadhar to that of Rukmini, reminding us that the brasher of Krishna’s queens, Satyabhama, was present in Mahaprabhu’s līlā as Jagadananda Pandit. Satyabhama made Krishna fight with Indra and the demigods to bring back the heavenly Panrijata tree. Rukmini, however, was mild and dedicated, unable to tolerate any harsh words from Krishna. Unkind words spoken even in jest caused her to faint and fall like a banana tree in a windstorm. Similarly, Jagadananda was forward and argumentative in his relationship with Mahaprabhu whereas Gadadhar was mild. Even if the Lord was desirous of seeing him lovingly angry, Gadadhar was unable to muster up any such audaciousness before his Lord because he was too conscious of the his divinity.

Gadadhar answered Vallabha’s request for initiation by saying, “I am not independent. Gauranga is my master. Without his order I can do nothing. You came to see me and for that the Lord has been critical of me.” But when Mahaprabhu eventually came around and began to look favorably on Vallabha and accepted his invitation for prasad, then Gadadhar was also invited.

As Gadadhar walked to Vallabha’s residence with Swarup Damodar, Jagadananda and Govinda, Swarup asked him why he did not go and reprove the Lord for his neglect of him in a matter where he was without fault. Gadadhar’s answer was, “The Lord is all-knowing and completely independent. I don’t think it is good to try to force him to act against his will. Whatever he says I must accept and tolerate. He will act mercifully after he has judged my faults.”

When they arrived at the Lord’s residence, Gadadhar fell down at the Lord’s feet crying. The Lord smiled and embraced him. Speaking sweetly, he said so that all could hear; “I tried to provoke you but you remained unmoved. You tolerated everything I did without becoming angry. You have purchased me with your unswerving and yet unaffected behavior.”

Who can understand the emotional character of Gadadhar Pandit? The Lord has been called Gadadhar’s life (prana). Who can estimate how much mercy the Lord had upon him, for the world sings of the Lord as “Gadai’s Gauranga.” Who can understand the unfathomable activities of the Lord? He showed everyone Gadadhar’s brahminical qualities, his mercy and his deep love for the Lord.

Unlike earlier writers, Kaviraja Goswami never called Gadadhar Radha. He felt more comfortable comparing him to Rukmini because his nature seemed closer to hers. Radharani had full power over Krishna. How could Gauranga so easily turn his back on Gadadhar and send him back to Puri from Cuttack when going to Vrindavan? Radha is famous for rebuking her omnipotent lover in complete disdain for his opulence. Such a possessive love (vama-svabhava) was more visible in Jagadananda than in Gadadhar (dakṣiṇā-svabhāvā). Thus a full acceptance of Gadadhar’s Radha-hood was resisted by the Vrindavan school. They were willing to call him Mahaprabhu’s shakti, his antaranga bhakta, etc. Following this path, some even call him Radha’s shakti, her effulgence or a variety of other things (CBh 2.18.115), but never, it seems, Radha herself.

V. Sādhana-dīpikā

It appears that Kaviraj Goswami’s analysis of Gadadhar did not satisfy all the Vrindavan devotees. Rupa and Sanatan emphasized Radha Krishna līlā almost exclusively. Rupa Goswami’s three aṣṭakas about Mahaprabhu do not mention Gadadhar anywhere. Neither did Raghunath Das in his verses about Sri Chaitanya. To show that the Vrindavan section of devotees did accept Gadadhar as Radha was the work of Radhakrishna Goswami. Radhakrishna Goswami appears to have taken up the mantle as the leader of the society of Gaudiya Vaishnavas in Vrindavan some time after the departure of Jiva Goswami and before the advent of Vishwanath Chakravarti. He was the disciple of Haridas Acharya who is mentioned in the Caitanya-caritāmṛta as the priest of the Govinda temple who requested Kaviraj to write the Caitanya-caritāmṛta. Radhakrishna Goswami became the chief servitor of Rupa Goswami’s deity, Govindaji, after Haridas. Two works of his have survived. The first is the Daśa-ślokī-bhāṣya, in which he establishes the pārakīya-rasa as eternally present in the aprakaṭa-līlā on the basis of the ten verses which form the nucleus of the Govinda-līlāmṛta. His second book is the Sādhana-dīpikā, which discusses a number of different subjects including, Radha Govinda’s temple service, Rupa Goswami’s glories and rāgānugā-bhakti.

One thing Radhakrishna Goswami states his understanding of Gadadhar He quotes verses, which he attributes to Rupa Goswami, stating that Gadadhara is Radha and that all the Goswamis of Vrindavan are his followers. According to him, Svarupa Damodar and all the other worshipers of Mahaprabhu in madhura-rasa were considered followers of Gadadhar. (ata eva tār gaṇa jata brajer gosāi, Cml).

Radhakrishna Goswami argues that one has to enter the līlā of the Lord through subservience to the Lord’s associates. One must follow Radha to attain Krishna in his fullest aspect. Similarly, whatever Krishna’s altered mood in his golden form may be, Radha remains with him, though as a male and a renunciate, and one must follow that renunciate in order to attain the sweeter aspects of Gaura-Krishna worship.(NOTE 15)

Radhakrishna Goswami adds that Rupa and Sanatan gave the service of their deities, Govindaji and Madanamohana, to disciples of Gadadhar. Paramananda, the servant of Gopinath, was also Gadadhar’s disciple. Their reason: they knew Gadadhar’s glories. (NOTE 16) The verse attributed to Rupa Goswami is

avani-sura-varaḥ śrī-paṇḍitākhyo yatīndraḥ
sa khalu bhavati rādhā śrīla-gaurāvatāre
narahari-sarakārasyāpi dāmodarasya
prabhu-nija-dayitānāṁ tac ca sāraṁ mataṁ me

The best of the earthly gods (brahmins), who, in this incarnation of the Lord of golden complexion, was known as the most fortunate seliolar (Gadadhar Pandit) and who was a great renunciate, is certainly Radha. Narahari Sarkar, Damodar and all those who dear to the Lord hold this opinion, as do I.

Regardless of whether or not the verse is actually Sri Rupa’s, it shows that the worship of Mahaprabhu as the all-attractive Krishna, which was started by Gadadhar and preached by Narahari, had attained a status even in the eyes of the Vrindavan devotees.

VI. Conclusion

Acceptance of Vishwambhar Mishra as the supreme god Krishna was a sudden occurrence which led to many complications as his followers tried to equate his activities and associates with those of Krishna in Vrindavan. The success of the sect in doing so was in great part due to the Vrindavan Goswamis, who followed the now famous verses attributed to Swarup Damodar upon which Kaviraja Goswami based his whole explanation of Mahaprabhu’s reason for appearing in this world. As the combined form of Radha and Krishna, i. e. Krishna endowed with the mood or love that Radha had for him, Gaura came to be accepted as an avatar by all varieties of people. He had three desires: to know his own sweetness as Radha alone could know it, to experience the unique love Radha felt for him and, finally, to know the happiness she felt in loving him.

In this incarnation Krishna did not come with weapons to destroy the wicked; by showing the perfection of devotional love, he cleansed everyone’s heart. He weaved a garland of the names of God, the sweet-smelling flowers of love, and placed it around the necks of the people of a world forgetful of him. Just as he himself tasted Radha’s love, it was Radha-prema that was the ultimate object of the devotional path his followers delineated. The goal of Gaudiya sādhanā (practice) is not the service of Krishna directly but of Krishna through Radha. Radha is a more important object of worship than even Krishna. The devotees of Vrindavan call out; “Jai Radhe,” as their greeting. Shyama himself always follows Radha. That is the glory of this particular līlā of Krishna.

Even Balaram desires Radha’s mercy. Radha perhaps formally has to show respect to her lover’s older brother but ultimately she has full control over her Lord. Balaram has to accept her ultimately as his mother and goddess.(NOTE 17) Gadadhar’s later līlā with Mahaprabhu is no longer available for scrutiny.

Jayadeva in his Caitanya-maṅgala says that Gaura Hari went to Tota Gopinath when it was time to leave this world and from there ascended into his eternal abode. Others say he entered into the body of Tota Gopinath, thus giving himself entirely to Gadadhar as his final act on this earth.

Today worship of Gadadhar or Gadai-Gauranga has faded into the background, probably due to the overwhelming dominance of the followers of Nityananda. Bhaktivinoda Thakur, however, though initiated among the followers of Jahnava-Nityananda (through the descendents of Ramachandra Goswami), was an ardent devotee of Gadadhar whom he would see turn into Radha while Gaura in his naṭa-vara-veśa turned to Krishna. He imagined Ananga Manjari taking him by the hand and giving him over to the Supreme Couple.

None of the Pancha Tattva is to be neglected, for all are participants in a līlā that is Radha-maya. Radha’s glories are spread everywhere. One cannot divorce Nityananda entirely from that spirit for that would ultimately eliminate him from having any real importance in Mahprabhu’s līlā. Mahaprabhu tastes Radha-bhava and gives it to everyone; why not to his dearest brother Nitai? But, if one wishes to enter fully the mysteries of madhura-rasa, one should follow Rupa, Swarup and the chief among the energies of Gauranga, Srila Gadadhar Pandit. The extent to which discomfort with the homoerotic overtones in some of the earlier accounts of Gadadhar's relation to Mahaprabhu played a role in this relegation is worthy of consideration.


NOTE 11. Whatever Gadadhar Das’s internal moods were, externally he showed spirit. He apparently went and told the magistrate (Musimi) of his village to say Krishna’s name otherwise he would “tear off his head.”

NOTE 12. I haven’t been able to track down a reference to this song.

NOTE 13. H. K. Mukhopadhyaya’s Vaisnava-padavali, p 497.

NOTE 14. CBh 3.10.41. Sannyasa carries with it the significance of taking a female identity in relation to God. In the Sadhana-dipika, renunciation from household responsibility is said to be the prerequisite for entering into the mysteries of manjari-bhajana and līlā smarana. Lochan Das addresses the significance of Gadadhar’s sannyasa as proof of his identity with Radha. Nityananda and Adwaita had wives, shaktis. Thus they were automatically cast as śaktimān (possessors of power). Mahaprabhu eluded the trap of becoming a purusha (male) again and adopted the sannyasa order. Another uncertain book, the Samskara-dipika gives gopī-bhāvāśrayāya svāhā as the incantation used when donning the kaupin. Although there are exceptions, many orthodox branches of the school still follow the rule that one’s manjari identity is given only to renunciates.

NOTE 15. Sadhana-dipika, 7th Kaksa, p. 166; iti hetor gaura-līlāyām api tathaiva śrī-rādhā-gadādharasyaivānugatye śrī-gaura-govindasya bhajanaṁ sarvotkṛṣṭam.

NOTE 16. ibid., 1st Kaksa. p. 4; tataḥ sarvasva-rūpaṁ jānatā śrīla-rūpeṇa śrī-sanātanena ca mūla-svarūpa-śakti-śrī-rādhā-gadādhara-parivāre śrīman-mahāprabhor ājñānusāreṇa sva-sva-sthāne sva-sva-sevā samarpitā | tatrāpi śrī-paṇḍita-gosvāmi-śiṣyaḥ premi-kṛṣṇa-dāsa-gosvāmine samarpitā śrī-rūpeṇa | tathā hi śrīmad-gadādharasyāsya svarūpaṁ pūrva-lakṣaṇam | jānatā śrīla-rūpeṇa sevā tasmai samarpitā ||
See also 1st Kakṣā, p. 1: śrī-caitanya-priyatamaḥ śrīmad-rādhā-gadādharaḥ |
tat-parīvara-rūpasya śrī-govinda-prasevanam ||

NOTE 17. Krishna-bhajanamritam, pp. 15-16. tarhi baladeva-lakṣmaṇayor api śrī-kṛṣṇa-patnyo janaki-rukmiṇī-rādhādyā mātara īśvaryaḥ| evaṁ cet śrī-rādhādīnāṁ balaratnādayopy anugraha-vāñchakāḥ.



Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Vrindavan Heat, Yoga and Breath

There has been a heat wave in most of Northern India with new record temperatures being set for May. The papers announced 46C the other day and two deaths attributed to the weather in Mathura district.

I will be honest and tell you that other than buying fruit and vegetables in the evening, I have not been out of the house at all. I am enjoying my bhajan and writing so much that I find it hard to leave my station.

Just now I was thinking, though, that Vikram yoga probably has it wrong with their heat it up and sweat it up yoga. I won't criticize because I really don't know who it's for or what it is attempting to accomplish. But as the heat sinks deeper and deeper into the days, it comes to me that Vikram is right about this: yoga was indeed born in the heat.

Most of the Western people who come to India come in the cool season and run away when the weather starts to bear down. Those who stay are hiding behind fans and coolers and A/C if you can afford it or get it. And that is all perhaps a big mistake.

I do jala neti every day. Yesterday for some reason I missed. Most of the day I was lethargic and unproductive, even in terms of bhajan. But as soon as I did it a few minutes ago, it had an immediate and incredibly beneficial cooling effect on my mind and body.

Your sinuses are cleared, which is really important because it seems the heat makes it a bit harder to breathe fully. And all that is very invigorating, in a sattvika way.

When your sinuses and entire face have cooled and slowed down, your head has cleared, you relax and feel like meditating, doing light stretching exercise, being in the pleasure of self-existence. And that is in fact what the heat does to you when you are adapted to it.

You reduce your calorie intake, increase hydration through drinking water and sorbet. [In this heat, you drink a couple of liters of water before bedtime and you wake up and produce only a few milliliters of urine -- if any at all!]

And then you sit and chant japa and meditate. This is not weather for running around changing the world. You go inward and the heat becomes an oven to bake your introspection and calm.

Maybe if the world gets hotter and hotter and hotter, people will start slowing down a bit. Maybe it's getting hotter because people are just moving too damn fast. Maybe global warming is Gaia's way of saying, "Time to slow down!"

Just slow your breathe, sit down and relax. Chant the Holy Names and reflect on the beauty of the Divine Couple.


A few days ago I did the Vrindavan 5-kos parikrama in the mid-afternoon, probably the hottest part of the day. I think I got a little bit of sunstroke, even though I kept my head covered. Even so, I am OK today. 

Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun. But I didn’t see any dogs. The ones I did see were lying in the open gutters trying to get a little moisture. Most of the dogs in town -- all street dogs, a real curse in fact -- have legs and bellies black from lying in the muck. I don’t know what relief they get from the heat, since that gutter water must be pretty darn close to boiling itself.

The town has changed so much, but in the heat you can feel the old Vrindavan still there, radiating in the sunshine. By Indian standards, the paved road is pretty nice. Still many trees line the road, some were even left standing in the middle of the road, as tree cutting has become verboten. The government is trying to make Vrindavan a tourist spot and so they really do want it to look nice, though God knows, making India look nice is not always easy.

Here and there you see village India, slum India, neglected India, falling into piles of rubble even before it has been built. But walking past the ruined temples that were abandoned when the princely states came to a sudden end in 1947, which someone has painted pink in an effort to put back a little bit of shine on the exposed brick, past all the ashrams and shrines, the Yamuna River, this special thing known as Vrindavan comes glowing through, exposed. 

Near the end of my walk, I started to realize that even after all these years, my breathing was not proper. I have always had the tendency to hunch forward a little, stooped, rounded shoulders, which I suppose goes well with my white-haired, bespectacled, absent-minded professor look. But what I began noticing is that after walking for a couple of hours in the heat, I was starting to get short of breath.

I noticed that the forward stoop actually caused my ribs to make pressure on my abdomen, which did not allow it to expand fully when inhaling. Although I have been practicing abdominal breathing for years, it was being blocked and I hadn't noticed it. Perhaps it had been aggravated due to the walk and being tired, what to speak of the unsightly bulge of superfluous fat, but I countered by deepening the abdominal breathing, which in turn allowed my chest and lungs to draw in the breath naturally, more fully.

Now I realize that proper abdominal breathing improves posture also. I think that finally I have found the key to countering the stoop, which no amount of backward stretches seemed able to do. By deep abdominal breathing, the vertebral column seems to straighten naturally, but it will in all likelihood require a period of great attentiveness to get full results.

Nevertheless, it feels like new steps forward are still being made.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Gadadhar Pandit :: Bhakti Shakti (Part II)

The first part of this article can be found HERE.

Part II. Comparing the Four Synoptic Accounts

a. Vastra-haraṇa-līlā

One of the questions raised in the previous section is that of the extent to which Mahaprabhu and his companions actually reenacted some of the pastimes that Krishna performed and became enshrined in the Gaura-candrikā songs.

Acting out the lives and līlās of the different incarnations has always been part of the Hindu devotional scene, particularly for Vaishnavas. In the Hari-bhakti-vilāsa, it is mentioned as a duty for one initiated in Krishna-mantra (HBV 2.159). If the purpose of devotional rules and regulations is to come to the point of remembering God, then such plays can certainly help. That Nimai and his devotee followers performed plays is clear from all his biographies. The most famous such occasion took place at the house of Nimai’s maternal uncle, Chandrashekhara Acharya or Acharya Ratna, which we will examine further down. There were several other occasions, in which Gauranga may well have appeared differently to different devotees, so that when Gadadhar and Narahari were present, one type of līlā would be enacted or perceived, another when Nityananda and his friends were present.

The first of these is the vastra-haraṇa-līlā, which is described in most detail in Murari Gupta’s account.
One evening after all bathing and worship duties had been completed the devotees assembled at the house of Shrivas Pandit in hope of getting the Lord’s association. The Lord embraced all his devotees and taking hold of them with his lotus hands, tumbled to the ground; he created an overwhelming wave of joy as he rose and began to dance with the gait of a lion.

At one point in the dance, he suddenly took hold of Shrivas’s hand and led him far from the group of devotees. When all these great servants of Lord Hari were no longer able to see him, they became disturbed and astonished. They searched everywhere but could not find him.

The fully independent and unborn Lord, seeing them disturbed, reappeared and stood before them. They eagerly surrounded him on all sides. Then, being overwhelmed by the fullness of the devotion born of their nature as gopis (gopī-svabhāvāpta-samasta-bhaktyā), and seeing him as the forest-flower-garlanded Krishna, they prayed; “May the Supreme Lord (maheśvara) be merciful to me so that I may have bhagavān (the opulent and beautiful one) as my lover.”

Then, that very same Krishna, being always true to his natural attraction for the devotional mood of the gopis, became filled with rasa. He made the desire of these surrendered devotees for the perfection of gopī-bhāva come true. He performed the līlā of the stealing of clothes [for which Krishna is so notorious].

Later, at some time in the late evening, Mahaprabhu came, pulled at their clothes with his lotus hands and made his servants naked. He is the knower of rasa and the giver of rasa to mankind. Thus having made mere puppets (krīḍanaka) of them, he returned all their clothes to them a few moments later. When they had their clothes back, all the devotees felt the thrill of joy of being with the Lord Murari.

The Lord sang the names of Hari and danced along with them, whose hearts were now in a normal state [of purity] (antaḥkaraṇair yathārthaiḥ). The Lord of effulgent golden color, who enjoys going from one diversion to another, thus destroyed the sins of the world.
(KCC 2.10.10-19)

Understandably, the authors who followed Murari felt somewhat uncomfortable with the story as told in the above passage, which is calqued from two incidents in the Bhāgavata-purāṇa (10.22 and 10.30). The original Krishna’s naughty līlās with the gopis have been a problem to explain from the start, but Mahaprabhu, both as a householder and later as a sannyasi, brought respectability to what many perceived as immoral, and hardly religious at all. Vaishnava theologians have gone to great trouble to explain the extramarital antics of Krishna and the gopis in acceptable ways. Gauranga’s līlā (to the agreement of everyone) was to taste and give the love of the gopis, but surely this was not the way he did so.

Other Versions of the same story

Our other authors have all followed the same order of events as Murari, so even though they have described quite different pastimes in this “slot,” they are in fact presenting their own alternative version of activities to which Murari was presumably an eyewitness, or at least, very close to the actual event.

Kavi Karnapur, when tracing Murari Gupta’s steps, avoids mentioning anything about gopis in this context. He even goes so far as to mention that Shrivas is Narada, implying that he is nowhere identified with Radha, and so the acted-out disappearance from the rasa dance could not have any truth to it. There is no mention of stealing clothes. (CCMK 7.59-63)

Vrindavan Das, though elaborately following Murari in describing the prior event (the distribution of Nityananda’s kaupin) and the subsequent one (the giving of Nityananda’s foot-bath water), leaves no trace of this departure into the mood of the gopis.

Lochan Das’s description of the same incident takes a rather surprising turn. Also eliminating any mention of the gopis, Vrindavan, or any relationship to the incidents from the Bhāgavata, Lochan writes that when Nimai disappeared suddenly from the assembly of devotees, Mother Sachi went looking for him, totally distraught. The Lord, always subject to the love of his eternal associates, came and put an end to her distress and that of all his other devotees. Clearly, stealing of clothes does not fit in this particular account. Nevertheless, it is almost certain that the passage is no interpolation, as there is enough of a trace of the story in at least two of the later versions to accept that KCC text is genuine. Lochan, who translates most portions of Murari’s book almost literally, seems self-conscious of his rearrangement of the līlā, while Karnapura seems to want to brush it away. Yet Karnapur leaves some traces of what was there before snipping away at the narrative.

Perhaps a more legitimate question is whether Murari made the story up in order to embellish the Gaura-candrikā approach to Mahaprabhu’s pastimes. However, though Vasudeva Ghosh wrote Gaura-candrikās corresponding to a great many Krishna līlās, there are none about the stealing of the clothes, quite probably because there is no separate Radha Krishna līlā-kīrtana that is exclusively about it. (Most kirtaniyas include this story as a prelude to their performance of the rāsa-līlā.)

b. Gadadhar Pandit sleeps with Nimai

The first mention of madhura-rasa (the erotic devotional sentiment) in Murari Gupta’s Kaḍacā actually precedes the abovementioned incident of clothes-stealing as well as the arrival of Nityananda. Murari says that not long after Mahaprabhu’s return from Gaya,
Gadadhar Pandit, a brahmin of a respectable family and a devotee of the highest calibre, remained always in the most intimate association of the Lord. One night when he was with him, Mahaprabhu spoke these auspicious words; “In the morning you should give this prasad to the devotees!” Saying this, he gave the garlands decorating his body to Gadai (Gadadhar).

The next morning, all the devotees came. Gadadhar then distributed the garland-prasad to all of them according to Mahaprabhu’s request.

Everyday Gadadhar would bring sandalwood paste and make garlands, which he would then place on the Lord. He would also prepare the Lord’s bed and then sleep beside him.

Now listen with faith to some nectarean words about Gadadhar. Just as previously, in Vrindavan, Radha prepared a flower bed for Krishna in the jeweled forest pavilion and then slept with him drenched in love....
(KCC 2.3.10-17)
Kavi Karnapur’s description of the same incident portrays Gadadhar in the following way (CCMK 6.12):

śrīmān gadādhara-mahā-matir atyudāra-
śīlaḥ svabhāva-madhuro bahu-śānta-mūrtiḥ |
ūce samīpa-śayitaḥ prabhunā rajanyāṁ
nirmalyam etad urasi pratisāryam ebhyaḥ ||

…indicating that he was of a very sweet and beautiful disposition, cool, peaceful and generous. In this account, Gadadhar suggests that the prasad garlands be distributed to the devotees. Otherwise Karnapur has followed Murari closely, with the exception that the broken reference comparing Gadadhar and Gauranga to Radha and Krishna has been dropped, along with its introductory enunciation of uniqueness.

Vrindavan Das’s Account

Neither Vrindavan Das nor Lochan Das were eyewitnesses of the happenings in Nabadwip in 1510, yet their revisions of Murari’s anecdote no doubt reflect the perspectives of their associates. Vrindavan Das was the grand nephew of of Shrivas Pandit and very close to Nityananda, and thus able to gather a great deal of information about the Lord’s life from these sources.

In his version of this pastime, Gadadhar is one of the first devotees to see the Lord’s amazing and theretofore completely unheard of symptoms of prema in the house of Shuklambar Brahmachari. Not being invited to the meeting of the Lord with the Brahmachari, Shrivas and others, he hid within the house; Gadadhar became moved when the Lord tearfully explained to the devotees how he had seen Krishna but had then lost him again. As the Lord’s anxiety and disturbed state became more and more intense, Gadadhar himself fainted. (CBh 2.1.88)

Adwaita, at one point, went to perform some formal worship of Nimai, but Gadadhar stopped him saying; "You shouldn’t do this, Gosai. He’s just a young child." (NOTE 6) Adwaita answered; "You will see what sort of child this is soon enough." Gadadhar thought in amazement; "Perhaps the Supreme Lord has become incarnate, if the respected old scholar has such an idea." (CBh 2.2.140-142)

Vrindavan Das then gives an explanation of why Gadadhar would sleep with Gauranga.
One day Gadadhar was bringing pan leaves for Mahaprabhu. He came before him in a mood of great excitement. When the Lord saw him, he asked, "Where is my Krishna in his yellow dress?"

Gadadhar was speechless. What could he answer? Seeing the Lord’s anxiety and perplexity, his own heart was torn apart. Gadadhar carefully said; “Krishna is residing in your heart always." Upon hearing this, the maddened Lord suddenly began to tear at his chest with his fingernails. Gadai hurriedly took hold of his hands and tried to calm him down with a variety of pacifying statements. He said, "Krishna is coming right now. Now please calm yourself."

Nimai’s mother was watching the scene and became very pleased with Gadai’s expert handling of the difficult situation. She thought, "This mere child has been able to pacify my son, whereas I have been unable to even go near him because of my fear."

Aloud she said to Gadadhar, "Dear child, stay always by Nimai’s side. Don’t ever leave him or go anywhere else."
(CBh 2.202-11)
According to some worshipers of Gaura-Gadadhar, this request of Sachi’s was the reason for Radha’s taking a male body. In one song written by Narottam Das,(NOTE 7) Radha is seen praying for a male body so she could remain with Krishna without fear of her elders or of society’s criticism. This desire had to find an avenue for fulfilment, and actually came about in Gauranga līlā. God is obliged to fulfill the wishes of all his devotees, what to speak of the foremost among them, Srimati Radharani.

Lochan Das’s Version

Lochan Das, however, has clearly seized this as an opportunity to glorify Gadadhar. It is almost as if this example of Murari’s is the foundation of the Gauranga Nagara school. Lochan starts by saying that in previous incarnations, the Lord’s different associates came and joined him, and that it is the same associates who appear with him again and again in different forms, just as the Lord himself accepts different forms. So too, in this incarnation, these eternal devotees began to come to him. The first among them were Gadadhar and Narahari, of course.(NOTE 8)
The scholar Gadadhar, the abode of all good qualities, would remain by the Lord, chanting his holy name. One night he was lying by the Lord’s side when, seeing his eagerness, the Lord said to him; “In the morning, by the mercy of the Vaishnavas, you shall attain a loving devotion rare in this world.”

He then took off the garland he was wearing and placed it around Gadadhar’s neck. In the morning, when all the devotees came to see the Lord, he spoke to them of his previous night’s conversation with Gadadhar. As he recounted his promise to give Gadadhar prema, the Pandit became overwhelmed with ecstatic emotion just from the sound of his words. In this thrilled state he went to take his bath in the Ganges.

Despite being almost immobilized by the divine feeling and the trembling of his body, he somehow managed to execute his worship duties to the Shalagram Shila. Then he came to worship the Lord again, directly. He anointed him with sandalwood paste, gave him garlands and offered prayers to him.

Gadadhar would regularly serve the Lord in this way. He would also prepare his resting place in the bedroom. There he would sleep at the Lord’s feet, his mind always filled with faith and piety. The Lord would take great pleasure in Gadadhar’s sweet words, hearing which he would take him by his hand off to dance in the kirtan. He would place his other band on Narahari’s arm and they would dance in the house of Shrivas Pandit in the mood of the Rāsa dance (the circle dance of Krishna and the gopis).

The devotees would see Gaura’s form turn black like that of Krishna and simultaneously Gadadhar would transform into Radharani. Narahari became Madhumati. Seeing this, all the devotees called out the names of Hari (“Haribol! Haribol!”). Vrindavan manifested in that very place; the son of Sachi (Mahaprabhu) began to enjoy his līlā just as he previously had done in the association of the cows and cowherd boys and girls. Those devotees had come again to help the Lord in this līlā of relishing rasa.

Sri Raghunandan, as the new Cupid, the one who is known as the transcendent erotic principle, as well as the other devotees, began to reveal their previous forms to them, and one by one they joined the dancing. Seeing this, the associates from other incarnations began to cry, for the moon of Vraja (Krishna) had appeared in Nabadwip. Sometimes he would play his own līlā in the association of Gadadhar and sometimes the līlā would transform into that of Vrindavan where he enjoyed his loving affairs with Radharani. Seeing such amazing scenes, all the devotees called out the names of Hari and loudly glorified the Lord.
(CML, Madhya, pp. 129-130)
In Lochan’s account, though the identity of Gadadhar with Radha is unambiguous, the homoerotic overtones that jump out at one in Murari’s account have been subdued. The implication is that Gaura and Gadadhar’s love had no physical consummation in their male bodies; such consummation took place in another dimension of existence where they had been transformed into their male and female forms of Krishna and Radha.(NOTE 9)

c. The Play at the House of Chandrashekhar Acharya

Nityananda arrived in Nabadwip some three or four months after Nimai’s return from Gaya. A strong nucleus of local devotees had already formed around Mahaprabhu, and Shrivas and Adwaita Prabhu had started worshiping him.

Nitai (Nityananda) was a brash and dominating, outspoken and unrestrained individual. He was wild and unbound, yet often as innocent as a child. His mood was that of a cowherd boy of Vrindavan. Imitations of Krishna līlā continued with greater enthusiasm after his arrival. However, his dominant personality seems to have changed the nature of the līlā. He was soon recognized by everyone as Balaram, Krishna’s older brother, and Lakshman, Rama’s younger brother. He was also identified with the ancient Sankarshan, the ādi-vyūha, or original expansion of the supreme deity.

The play in Candrashekhara’s house took place with all the Nabadwip Vaishnavas participating. This seems to have been a major event in the development of Mahaprabhu’s devotional life and the public preaching of gopī-bhāva or Rādhā-bhāva. The incident is described extensively by all the biographers, though as with the previous examples, from substantially different points of view.

The first portion of Murari Gupta’s version directly concerns Gadadhar Pandit Goswami, yet raises further problems when examined from the theological standpoint of the Goswami school. Significantly, Shrivas Thakur, dressed as Narada Muni, comes on stage first:
One day, the great Lord (vibhu), his moon-like face brightened with a smile, adorned himself in the beautiful dress of a woman and danced in the association of those most intimate with him. That best of the brahmins, the older brother of Sripati (Shrivas), put on the dress of Narada.

The seer of the Gods, Narada, fell prostrate at the feet ot the undefeated Lord. He said to all, "Listen for a moment." Then, turning to Gadadhar, he said; "O Gopika! Once, long ago, you met the sage Narada and, after paying respects, with your head and shoulders lowered, you said, ‘I have given up the service of my father and mother so that I may attain the service of Krishna’s lotus feet. You are an ocean of mercy, therefore please fulfil this desire.’

“Upon hearing these words, the muni answered, ‘O danseuse of the demigods (apsarā)! Take a bath in the pure waters of the river of the gods in every month Magh for one hundred years. Do this with single-minded devotion and you will surely attain Krishna’s service.’

“After the muni blessed you, you followed his instructions and attained birth in Gokula. You acquired that most rare type of devotion, higher than any other, filled with the waves of the taste of love for God. That devotion that was glorified by Shukadeva in the Bhāgavata Purāṇa (Uddhava’s prayer to the gopis):

vande nanda-vraja-strīṇāṁ
pada-reṇum abhīkṣṇaśaḥ
yāsāṁ hari-kathodgītaṁ
punāti bhuvana-trayam.
I worship the dust of the feet of the gopis of Vrindavan for their spontaneous songs of the Lord purifies the three worlds. (BhP 10.47.63) 
Shrivas as Narada continued: “What can I say to properly glorify devotion? That brahmin’s son, Ajamila, committed all types of sins, yet when he left his body thinking only of his son, he traversed the uncrossable material ocean. What then of those who are dear servants of the Ocean of Mercy? They surely attain the abode of the Lord."

As soon as the best of the brahmins finished speaking, all the devotees felt as if they had been drenched in an ocean of prema. They all felt divinely fulfilled and were very blissful."
The episode ends with the following verse--

yad-aṅghri-nakha-candrikā-kiraṇa-mātram etad vṛtaṁ
surendra-muni-puṅgavaiḥ sahacarair hi brahmādibhiḥ
kṛtaṁ sakala-nirmalaṁ gopa-gopī-nāmāmṛtais
tad apsarāḥ-kathādikaṁ manuja-bhāvam eva sphuṭam

Brahma, the best among the sages and demigods, and others pray for but a single moonray coming from the nails of the lotus feet of the Lord, and yet that Lord’s human nature has been made obvious by this story of the apsarās and others, which is purified by the ambrosia of the cowherd boys and girls." (KCC 2.15.19)
Although stories of cursed and blessed demigods, apsarās, demons, humans and kings are none too rare in Hindu mythology, and especially not in the Bengali maṅgala genre of literature, presenting Gadadhar (or Radha for that matter, or any eternally perfect cowherd girl who is a direct energy of the Lord) as an apsarā would not have been particularly pleasing to Vaishnavas who were aware of the Goswami’s writings.

Similarly, in another place (KCC 1.12.13-15), Murari mentions that after Nimai Pandit returned from East Bengal, he learned his first wife Lakshmi had passed away. He consoled his mother with a story about how Lakshmi had previously been an apsarā who Indra had cursed for missing a step while dancing. Thus she had taken birth, and now the term of her curse having expired, she had returned to the heavenly abode. Although Lochan Das follows the story practically verbatim in the Caitanya-maṅgala, to most devotees the story isn’t considered appropriate. How can a mere heavenly dancing girl attain the company of the Supreme Lord, especially by Indra’s curse? After dying, her return to heaven is hardly an elevation, but a step down from the association with supreme bliss.

Stories like this have been dealt with by different commentators in the same way that the Bhāgavata Purāṇa tale of Drona and Dhara was by Sanatan Goswami. In the Bhāgavata, Parikshit inquires about the cause of Krishna’s stepfather and stepmother’s (Nanda and Yashoda’s) good fortune. Shukadeva answers that previously Brahma had given the austerity-withered Vasu couple, Drona and Dhara, a boon that the Supreme Lord would become their son. (BhP 10.8.48-52)

Krishna was bound to his devotee’s promise and thus appeared as their son when they were born as Nanda and Yashoda. Later, however, Shukadeva says that neither Brahma nor Shiva nor even the goddess of fortune could ever attain the same grace that Yashoda did. (BhP 10.9.20)

The explanation of this verse is that Brahma has no power to give what he has no experience of. Krishna’s līlā is eternal; so are his associates, Nanda and Yashoda. How can a mere demigod play such big role in the līlā of svayam bhagavān is the question that arises in the devotee’s mind. The solution offered by Sanatan Goswami in his Vaiṣṇava-toṣaṇī is that Drona and Dhara were portions (expansions of Nanda and Yashoda), who once took birth as demigods and then later reintegrated into Nanda and Yashoda after receiving the boon from Brahma. The apsarā stories can be understood in the same way.

For example, there is a story in Padma Purana of Chandrakanti, an apsarās who spent the whole night dancing before a deity of Krishna in order to attain him as her exclusive lover.(NOTE 10) Such a prize, however, is available to no one other than Radharani and is certainly not available by even millions of baths in the Ganga. Through such following of scriptural rules one can never reach the Krishna of Vrindavan, who is available only to raganuga devotees. Therefore, according to Sri Jiva, Radha’s portion (expansion) appeared as Chandrakanti, and she thus attained that kind of exclusiveness that is available only to Radha’s sakhis. Sri Rupa gives her as an example of perfection in rāgānugā bhakti. (BRS 1.3.14, ṭīkā)

In summary, although Murari’s story might have such an explanation, it is not an account that would be dear to any devotee familiar with the way of thinking of the Vrindavan goswamis. Therefore Haridas Das expresses bewilderment about the meaning of the word apsarā in this context. (KCC 4th ed., Intro.) The verse quoted above (yad-aṅghri, etc.) supports the idea that Murari had some idea of the perfection of the Lord’s manuja-bhāva (human-nature) and the story of the apsarā proves the glory of the gopis. Nevertheless, only one of the later writers followed Murari in describing this incident and that is the young Kavi Karnapur. According to him Shrivas says:
"You went to Devarshi Narada, fell at his feet and said; ‘I wish to remain serving my Lord’s feet in the age of Kali.’ In answer, the sage of the demigods said; ‘Every Magh you must bathe daily in the Ganga. By such piety you will attain the lotus feet of your Lord. O beautiful-faced one! Don’t you know that by this blessing you have become dear to the Lord in this birth?" (CCMK 11.9.10)
Returning to Murari’s description of the play in Candrashekhara’s house, the Lord first danced in the dress of Krishna, he was accompanied by Nityananda (Murari openly calls him Balaram) dressed as a gopi, who desired to taste “some unique devotional mellow.” “As he (Nityananda) held the soft sapling hand of the lord of his life, his eyes rained tears that drenched his body." (KCC 2.16.6)

Then Mahaprabhu himself danced as a gopi. On that night in Candrashekhara’s house, however, Mahaprabhu’s mood changed. He took the mood of the mother goddess Durga, and even took Haridas on his lap and breastfed him. The dancing and acting, as well as the manifestations of divine opulence in his acceptance of the form of Durga went on all night, leaving an indelible memory in the minds of all the devotees.

Vrindavan Dasa’s description of the play is the longest and most enjoyable from the literary point of view. He depicts Nityananda in the role of an old woman (the barai buri). Gadadhar's role is also very pronounced and described with some feeling, though Vrindavan Das avoids identifying him with Radha. Mahaprabhu himself is sometimes Rukmini, sometimes Lakshmi and sometimes Durga, but never Radha in this play. Gadadhar enters after Shrivas’s (Narada's) introduction accompanied by Brahmananda (as his barai) and Ganga Das. There is some joking, flirtation and Adwaita finally reminds Ganga Das to watch his words, for other men's wives should be treated as one's mother.

Then Adwaita says, "My lord is very fond of song and dance--if you dance nicely he will surely give you many gifts." At this, Gadadhara begins to dance in the mood of Ramâ (Lakshmi) while the other devotees sing appropriate songs.

Vrindavan Das writes,
Who would not be overwhelmed and start to cry upon seeing the dancing of Gadadhar? A river of love flowed from his two eyes. The earth became wet and thought herself blessed by the descent of these holy waters. Gadadhar became the Ganga personified. Verily, it is the truth that Gadadhar is Krishna's prakriti (wife). Chaitanya himself has announced again and again that “Gadadhar is a part of my Vaikuntha family.” Those who sang and those who watched all floated away in a river of prema. By the grace of Sri Chaitanya, all lost external consciousness. The devotees also cried the name of Hari, calling out in ecstasy. Hearing the crying on all four sides, Gadadhar danced in the mood of the gopis. (CBh 2.18.113-119)
Then Mahaprabhu enters as the ādyā śakti or creative energy and adopts the roles of a whole gamut of śakti forms, including the bewildering Mohini who aroused desire even in Shiva.(NOTE 11)

In the Caitanya-maṅgala, Lochan Das follows Murari closely, but Narada’s speech is presented a little differently. There, Narada says to Gadadhar; "You are a gopi. I will speak to you of your previous lives. You are rare in this world! Listen carefully, for what I have to say is most amazing. Listen, for I will describe everyone’s glories. Each one of you formerly took birth in Gokula. Giving up your service to your own husbands, you served Krishna constantly and thus attained the perfection of your choice in Vrindavan. You are the chief amongst the energies of the Lord. You are Radha. What do I know about how to glorify you? That no one knows. You are the foremost of womankind, the chief of Krishna’s beloved. You performed such devotion to him that no one can equal it; yet it remains a secret in the three worlds. ..." Nityananda’s dancing in gopī-bhāva is omitted entirely. (CML, Madhya, pp. 176-179)


Though we have so far been confining our discussion to the four “synoptic” biographies, i.e., those based on Murari’s original work, it is necessary to introduce the Caitanya-candrodaya-nāṭaka here, since the play in Chandrasekhar’s house is also described as a “play within in a play” in this work.

I consider this work significant for several reasons: It is the last of the five biographies of the Bengali school, but was written by a more mature Kavi Karnapur more than 30 years after his first attempt at a biography, the CCMK. This work was written at about the same time as the Kheturi festival, though no doubt begun well before it. Four years later, Karnapur completed his GGD, in which he finalized his assessment of the equation of roles in the Nabadwip and Vrindavan līlās.

Karnapur’s account of the play at the house of Mahaprabhu’s maternal uncle is more formalized according to the rules of Sanskrit drama. (CCN, Act 3) Each role has been given a little footnote through comments by two allegorical observers, Maitri (Friendship) and Premabhakti (Loving Devotion).

How seriously Karnapur takes the characters is stated by Premabhakti. Maitri asks how it is that though Shrivas was to have taken Narada’s role, it appeared that Narada himself had come to play himself (so realistic was his guise). Premabhakti’s answer is: "Shrivas is always naturally absorbed in the mood of Narada, and by this it is revealed that he is Narada. The other characters in the play from Adwaita on, however, simply assume their different roles. Anyway, you should believe in the play as you see it."

Nevertheless, when Premabhakti herself sees Adwaita in the role of Krishna, she thinks that Krishna himself has appeared before them. After consideration, she says, "One who is not Krishna can never become Krishna, whereas Krishna can take any form, just as a person can do the tasks of any of his body’s limbs, but a limb can never assume the functions of the complete person. Therefore, this is not Adwaita. Neither is this just the cleverness of the make-up artist. Krishna himself has become incarnate here." (CCN 3.37)

Upon seeing Mahaprabhu, Premabhakti says; "The Lord formerly took the form of Mohini and bewildered the demons. He also created desire in the heart of Shiva, the chief of all gods, who is entirely satisfied in himself. Thus, it is not the least bit amazing that Vishwambhar, who is Krishna incarnate, has taken the form of Radha with his own body. (CCN 3.42) Just as a single bean his two halves, so the Lord is complete as the potent and the potency. Because he has both, he can manifest separately either male or female nature according to his desire." (CCN 3.43)

Then, looking again, she says, "This one also seems to be Radhika’s girlfriend Lalita and not Gadadhar, the best of the brahmins. Either that, or the Lord has divided himself in three ways: once as himself, once as Radha, and once again as her girlfriend." (CCN 3.44)

Karnapur’s example of the two-in-one bean is one of the first clear attempts to formulate the milita-tanu (“joined body”) theory. Yet he does not want to exclude Gadadhar, who here, as Radha’s sakhi, Lalita, is non-different from her. Karnapur’s final conclusion about Gadadhar, though, is given in Gaura-gaṇoddeśa-dīpikā. There, Karnapur makes decisive statements on the original Vrindavan identities of all the different devotees. He is unequivocal about Gadadhar Pandit, "She who was previously prema incarnate, the goddess of Vrindavan, Sri Radha, is Gadadhar, the beloved of Gaura, who bears the title ‘Pandit.’ Swarup Damodar ascertained him to be Vraja’s goddess of fortune (Lakshmi). So she who was previously the goddess of fortune in Vrindavan, the beloved of Syamasundara (Krishna), is now the goddess of fortune of prema for Gaura, Gadadhar Pandit.” (GGD 147-149)

Karnapur then cites the opinion that Mahaprabhu possessed the mood of Radharani and accepts it. Using his own verse cited above, he identifies Lalita as a third entity integral to the dyad. (CCN 3.44)

The purport is that whenever Krishna happens to take any particular mood, it is Radharani’s duty as his hlādinī-śakti to see to his pleasure. The problem is that, in Mabaprabhu’s līlā, he is not in the mood of Krishna, but that of Radha. Nevertheless, can Radha desert her Krishna even if he is maddened into thinking that he is she? That madness too is her creation; will she not follow her own performance in whatever way she can? Radha’s sakhis (friends) are non-different from her, therefore when Mahaprabhu is in the mood of Radha, Radha takes the role of a sakhi.

d. Nimai Sannyasa

Dramatically speaking, all our synoptic writers depend primarily on the incident of Nimai’s entering the renounced order of life. The Bhāgavata Purāṇa Eleventh Canto verses the Vaishnavas believe indicate the Lord’s gaura (golden) incarnation mention renunciation as the first major point of his līlā:

tyaktvā sudustyaja-surepsita-rājya-lakṣmīṁ
dharmiṣṭha ārya-vacasā yad agād araṇyam |
māyā-mṛgaṁ dayitayepsitam anvadhāvad
vande mahā-puruṣa te caraṇāravindam ||

I worship your lotus feet, O Great One; you gave up a kingdom and the goddess of fortune that were so difficult to renounce for they are desired even by the gods. Being most dutiful (religious), you went to the forest on the word of a brahmin (father or guru) and ran after the illusory deer that was desired by your beloved one. (BhP 11.5.34)
For most commentators, this verse is taken as describing the incarnation of Ramachandra. Indeed, at first glance, their reading seems correct. The word maya mriga, for instance, clearly recreates the picture of Rama running after the trickster Maricha’s illusory deer after the repeated requests of Sita to capture him. But this interpretation seems out of place in the discussion of the avatar of the age of Kali, its religion and glories, which both precedes and follow it. A verse about Ramachandra appears nowhere in the Bhāgavata Purāṇa in such an uncontextual way. The Bhagavata shows practically no bias towards Rama whatsoever, duly mentioning him in his place as a matter of course.

The Mahābhārata says sannyāsa-kṛt, the Supreme Lord takes the renounced order; who can deny that Nimai had built himself a little kingdom in Nabadwip? He led thousands of persons in a demonstration to the house of the magistrate of the district to demand religious freedom. He had converted great sinners and had charmed the entire town with his beauty and intelligence. The leading citizens accepted him as an incarnation and worshiped him. He had received his abhiṣeka or coronation bath; yet he deserted it all.

Mahaprabhu’s Lakshmi was Vishnupriya, his young wife, in the full blossom of adolescence, clinging to him with a love, simple, refined and uncompromising. Yet he left her.

Though none of the authors have quoted the Bhāgavata verse, they all mention the curse of a brahmin who became angry with Nimai for reasons that vary in each biography. The result is the same, however: the brahmin tore apart his sacred thread in the ancient process of cursing practiced by the “gods of the earth” (brahmins) and announced that Mahaprabhu was never to have happiness in family life. Mahaprabhu, in good puranical tradition, accepted the curse.

The word māyā-mṛga is given various interpretations culminating in the idea of prema which is to be given to the jivas (living beings) out of his mercy. There is another interpretation of the verse as referring to Krishna giving up Goloka to taste the love which is so desirable to Radha. The central theme of Mahaprabhu’s līlā is his sannyāsa.

Take, for instance, Narahari’s beautiful verse;

gopīnāṁ kuca-kuṅkumena nicitaṁ vāsaḥ kim asyāruṇaṁ
nindat-kāñcana-kānti-rāsa-rasikāśleṣeṇa gauraṁ vapuḥ
tāsāṁ gāḍha-karābhibandhana-vaśāl lomodgamo dṛśyate
āścaryaṁ sakhi paśya lampaṭa-guroḥ sannyāsa-veṣaṁ kṣitau

Has the saffron fallen from the breasts of the gopis made his cloth yellow like the morning sun? Has the embrace of the wives of the cowherds, whose luster is like molten gold, made his body pale? Can you see how the tight grip of their hands has made his bodily hair stand erect in joy? How strange, my friend! Look! The guru of the licentious is on the earth in the dress of a sannyasi. (Śacīnandanāṣṭakam, 1)
Tragedy is the basis of both Rama’s and Krishna’s līlā, and that tragedy, in both cases, is in the Lord’s leaving the place of his childhood, the place where he was already established as the object of everyone’s love and adoration. The similarity between those līlās and Gauranga līlā is obvious, and the dramatic effect caught the minds of Bengal. Even today, a play about the life of Gauranga usually ends with him going into the distance singing "Haribol," while Vishnupriya and Mother Sachi lead the Nabadwip devotees in crying for their devotion-maddened hero.

These līlās are said to have two aspects, external and internal. (CC 1.10.97) The external aspect refers to the world-saving activity and the internal to the tasting of rasa. Just as Krishna left Vrindavan and went to Mathura to execute his duties as an avatar, and that duty kept him from ever returning to his beloved devotees, even his dearest Radha, so too Mahaprabhu left Nabadwip for a similar purpose.

For dramatic reasons, even though Lochan Dasa carefully compares Gadadhar with Radha in Caitanya-maṅgala (as shown above), he cannot use him for the dramatic addition of madhura-rasa (the devotional erotic sentiment). The heroine instead is the young wife Vishnupriya. For this reason, Lochan gives a lengthy description of the last night Mahaprabhu spent with her in which he (for perhaps the first time in their short married life) really plays the role of a husband.

Murari and Kavi Karnapur focus neither on Gadadhar nor Vishnupriya, concentrating on Sachimata as the figure evoking karuṇā (compassion). In his play Karnapur shows Gadadhar lamenting in shock for a departed Nimai, whereas Vrindavan Das shows him spending the last night with the Mahaprabhu and leaving with him for Katwa to witness the shaving of his bead and his formal initiation into the renounced order. In Vrindavan Das’s Caitanya-bhāgavata, the external cause of the renunciation was an incident involving some of the students of Nabadwip.
"One day the Lord of the universe satin a mood of jealous anger toward Krishna. Rather than chant Krishna’s name, as was his wont, he was muttering; ‘Gopi, Gopi, Gopi.’ Some students came nearby and, puzzled by this contradictory behavior, challenged the Lord. They said; ‘Nimai Pandit, why have you given up chanting of the names of Krishna which are all auspicious and begun to chant the word “gopi”? The scriptures have instructed all to chant his names.’ ‘Nimai answered; "Why should I chant Krishna’s name? He is not worthy of glorification. What gain can be had from it? He shot Vali from behind like a crow; under the domination of one woman, he cut off another’s nose. He tied up Bali and despatched him to the lower planets after taking everything he had. What’s the use of remembering such a person!"(CBh 2.25.89-92)
When the scholars insisted on berating him for his breach of scriptural norms, Nimai turned upon them in anger. Threatening them with physical punishment, he drove them away. The foolish students had no comprehension of the elevated state of the Lord’s devotional mood. They grumbled amongst themselves that he should be taken care of; Nimai had become too arrogant and needed to be deflated.

When Mahaprabhu became conscious of what had taken place he said; "I took rock candy to reduce the phlegm, but it has had the opposite effect." (CBh 2.25.93) People would not respect him if they knew him as a mere householder. Were he a sannyasi, everyone would give him respect and thus his preaching work could go on unhindered. Murari has him say to Shrivas, "Just as merchants travel abroad to bring back wealth, so I am leaving home to bring back a wealth of prema." (KCC 2.18.19-20)

At any rate, the Chaitanya mystique took a new form with his entering sannyasa.

e. Gadadhar Pandit in Puri

There are numerous differences in the lists of those devotees who accompanied Mahaprabhu from Katwa after his sannyasa and travelled with him for three days in Rarha before he arrived in Shantipur, and again of those who accompanied him from Shantipur to Puri. Murari Gupta mentions only Nityananda’s presence in Rarha; Kavi Karnapur adds Gadadhar and Mukunda; Vrindavan Das includes Chandrashekhara and Brahmananda. In the Nāṭaka, however, Karnapura changes his opinion and excludes Gadadhar, retaining only Nitai and Chandrashekhara. Kaviraj Goswami adds Mukunda.

Similar confusion surrounds Mahaprabhu’s trip to Puri. Only Murari mentions Gadadhar. Vrindavan Das has Jagadananda and Nityananda accompany him. Karnapur states clearly that Adwaita provided four men: Nityananda, Jagadananda, Mukunda and Damodar Pandit. Kaviraj Goswami accepts this version.

We can only be sure that Nityananda was a travelling companion on those first days of Nimai’s sannyasa. Whether or not Gadadhar went on that first trip, he definitely arrived in Puri within a short time. He also took sannyasa and is the only member of the Pancha Tattva who remained an associate of the Lord in the latter portion of his līlā.

Vrindavan Das, like all the other Bengal-based biographers, is all-too-brief on the events of the Lord’s life after his going to Puri. All the authors stress his journeys to the south and to Vrindavan; only Krishna Das Kaviraj gives a vivid picture of his ecstasies in Radha’s mood. No other author has mentioned Gadadhar in the later līlā, except in one incident briefly described by Murari and elaborated by Vrindavan Das. Murari says that after returning from his trip to Gauda in 1513 A. D., Mahaprabhu first went to visit the temple of Tota Gopinath where Gadadhar was staying. (KCC 3.18.22-29)

Followed by Gadadhar and Nityananda, Krishna (Sri Chaitanya) came to see Gopinath, whom he saw as the son of the King Nanda playing his flute. Hari, amusing himself by experiencing the same desires as the gopis, embraced Gopinath suddenly and remained motionless. Seeing the golden Lord and knowing him to be Krishna, Gadadhar became happy. Being directly Radha himself, Gadadhar took him to his own chest and, helping him down, pacified him. Then Gadadhar cooked and offered food to Gopinath, after which he fed Sri Chaitanya and Nityananda. After the meal Gauranga sat comfortably along with Gadadhar. Being the knower of rasa, he became eager for the rasa līlā. Fully absorbed in that he stayed in the garden with the other enjoyer of rasa, Balaram (rasa-rāma-rāme).

Without referring to Gadadhar as Radha, Vrindavan Das tells the same story a little more elaborately, giving Nityananda a more important role. (CBh 3.7) Nityananda brings rice from Bengal to the Gopinath temple where Gadadhar stayed alone with his deity. Gadadhar cooks the rice along with a vegetable of tamarind leaves, and offers everything to Gopinath. Without any notice Mahaprabhu bimself arrives and wonders why he was not invited. "Nityananda has brought the food, Gadadhar has cooked it. Everything has been offered to Gopinath. Certainly I also have a share." The three Prabhus (lords) then sit down together and eat.

Vrindavan Das’s conclusion is that one can know Nityananda only if one has Gadadhar’s mercy, and that Gadadhar will never be merciful to the one who has even the slightest bit of enmity towards Nitai. Such defenses of Nityananda are common in the Caitanya-bhāgavata. It is an indication that at the time of its writing, some persons felt that Nityananda was a less significant associate of Mahaprabhu than Gadadhar.


NOTE 6. In the Advaita-prakāśa (M. K. Ghosh’s 3rd ed., p. 57) it is stated that Mahaprabhu and Gadadhar were both Adwaita’s students in Shantipur for two years, studying Veda and the Bhāgavata respectively. This has no corroboration elsewhere and many scholars are suspicious of the AP.

NOTE 7. Prārthanā, Atirikta pada.

NOTE 8. The only people mentioned before Gadadhar in KCC 2 are Sachi, Shuklambar and Shrivas Pandit, but Lochan puts Gadadhar even earlier, right after Sachi.
NOTE 9. See H. M. Shiromani, Gadādhara Sandarbha (1927), p. 29.
NOTE 10. Quoted in BRS, 1.4.7-8. See also BRS 1.3.14.

NOTE 11. In Vrindavan Das’s description, Chaitanya warned that only those whose senses were fully controlled would be eligible to see him dance in the mood and dress of a woman. Sinvas and Adwaita pleaded that if this were the case, then they would also be ineligible. At this the Lord laughed and assured them that by his grace everyone in the audience would remain unperturbed. Thus they were able to see even the form of Mohini without losing their composure.

Gadadhar Pandit :: Bhakti Shakti (Part I)

Bhaktivinoda Thakur's Gaur Gadadhar deities in Svananda Sukhada Kunj

This article appeared in its original form in Nitai Das’s little publication, Gifts of Sacred Wonder (Calcutta: Subarna Rekha, 1985), where it was given the title “The Role of Shakti in Gaura Lila.” This title was somewhat misleading as the article does not fully answer the questions implicit in it.

This was my first real publication, and that book is quite a wonderful little collectors’ item, with two article by Nitai, one by Advaita Das, and another by Gadadhar Pran Das, with a lot of nectar in it, despite its many flaws. The follow article was meant to research the various Vaishnava texts for a more complete understanding of Gadadhar Pandit Goswami. The train of thought and the goal of the text were not always clear, so I thought that I would revise it and make it public again. That was done on Gaudiya Discussions in 2004, where the article is still being archived.

I am posting it in view of recent requests. Since I am redoing the diacritics, I will post it in three parts as was originally done in 2004. 


Part I. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and his biographies.


Vishwambhar Mishra, then generally known as the scholar Nimai, was suddenly and surprisingly accepted by a set of sober, educated and pious men as God incarnate. In a matter of months, he who had been not only the talented new protégé of Nabadwip’s prestigious academic circle, but its enfant terrible became equated with Sri Krishna, the svayam bhagavān of the Bhāgavata school.

According to Kavi Karnapur in his Mahākāvya, “The Lord, pacifier of the pains of the embodied, returned from Gaya at the end of the month of Paush. Then, from the beginning of Magh, he became absorbed in daily kirtan with his devotees, displaying unique mystical wonders." (CCMK 4.76, p. 133)

From those cool winter nights until the end of the month of Magh of the following year (1510 A. D.), Nimai Pandit attained religious superstardom, something that he never lost. The intense mystical emotions that racked his mind and body became the inspiration of hundreds of poets, philosophers, musicians and artists. Countless devotees surrendered their very souls to his feet and wondered in amazement at what God had wrought for men in this form. Who and what was this amazing manifestation of humanity? Was it not one of superhumanity? For most of Bengal the answer very quickly became yes.

Although Nimai became a devotee of Krishna upon meeting his guru, Ishwara Puri, in Gaya, and though it was of Krishna’s name alone that he spoke or sang, and although it was Krishna that he pined for, cried for and eventually sacrificed everything for, still he became identified with Krishna in the minds of the devotees. How this took place is certainly worth examining.

Over the years, theological developments took place that established Mahaprabhu’s ontological status to his devotees, and this was accompanied by developments in understanding related to his closest companions. In this article, we are particularly interested in the developments surrounding Gadadhar Pandit.

Srila Gadadhar Pandit Goswami was born in the village of Beleti in the Chittagong district of modern Bangladesh in 1408 of the Shaka era (1486 AD) on the dark moon day of the month of Vaishakh. His father was Madhava Mishra, a Varendra Brahmin in the Kashyapa gotra, and his mother Ratnavati Devi. He also had a younger brother named Baninath. The family remained in Beleti Gram until Gadadhar was twelve when they moved to Nabadwip.

Gadadhar was one of Chaitanya’s childhood friends and one of the very first to become aware of Chaitanya’s spiritual transformation in 1509. A lifelong celibate, he accompanied Chaitanya to Jagannath Puri when he took sannyasa and remained with him there through the rest of his life, leaving this world a mere eleven months after Chaitanya did in 1534.

When the Pancha Tattva doctrine was enshrined at the Kheturi festival, Gadadhar was recognized as bhakta-śakti, and the main purpose behind this article is to assess exactly what this means. For some, Gadadhar is none other than Radha. It seems that others found this an uncomfortable conclusion. Ramakanta Chakravarti, for instance, writes, “But the so-called Gadai-Gauranga subsect remained unhonored because the theory of Radha-Krishna conjugality in Chaitanya militated against the idea that Gadadhar Pandit was the incarnation of Radha.” (Vaishnavism in Bengal, 237)

A brief survey of the biographies

Between 1513 and 1612, portraits of Mahaprabhu (Nimai) were painted in ever increasing detail by several of his followers. Seven principal biographies of Mahaprabhu have survived to the present. The abbreviations given here will be used throughout this article.(NOTE 1)
  1. Śrī-Kṛṣṇa-caitanya-caritāmṛtam (Sanskrit) Murari Gupta (1535). (KCCM)
  2. Śrī-Caitanya-caritāmṛta-mahākāvyam (Sanskrit) by Kavi Karnapur (1542). (CCMK)
  3. Śrī-Caitanya-bhāgavata (Bengali) by Vrindavan Das Thakur (c. 1550). (CBh)
  4. Śrī-Caitanya-maṅgala (Bengali) by Jayananda (c. 1560). (CMJ)
  5. Śrī-Caitanya-maṅgala (B) by Lochan Das (c. 1572). (CML)
  6. Śrī-Caitanya-candrodaya-nāṭakam (S) by Kavi Karnapur (1572). (CCN)
  7. Śrī-Caitanya-caritāmṛta (B) by Krishna Das Kaviraj Goswami (1612). (CC)
These, plus a large number of songs written by other contemporaries and found in the Gaura-pada-taraṅgiṇī (GPT), provide the principal materials for understanding the life of Mahaprabhu.(NOTE 2)

I shall not go into a detailed discussion of the historicity of the above texts. However, I should like to make a few important observations that are essential to understanding this article. Murari Gupta’s KCCM is the first account of Mahaprabhu’s life. Three of the others, CCMK, CBh. and CML, all are directly based on Murari’s work, which is sometimes known as his kaḍacā (karcha). Since only two copies of the KCCM have ever been found, the work is somewhat controversial and questions have been raised about its authenticity. In my opinion, however, there is sufficient reason to accept its value as authoritative. I have written about this elsewhere (article currently not available on line). Nevertheless, one of the results of the research that went into this article is the discovery of possible reasons why Murari’s account fell into disfavor, despite the great debt the other authors felt toward him.

On the other hand, though Jayananda is purported to be a disciple of Gadadhar, he seems to have been something of an outsider. His Caitanya-maṅgala is thus the least authoritative or interesting of the biographies. It seems so completely out of step with the other biographies, and Jayananda’s character so completely absent from any other source text of the time, that with the exception of a few curious bits of information, it is not taken with much seriousness by any scholar of Mahaprabhu’s life. It has not, therefore, been a source of any importance in deepening our understanding of the questions under study here.

Of these seven biographies, two (CML and CCN), plus an important third work dealing with Chaitanya’s life, Gaura-gaṇoddeśa-dīpikā (GGD), were written in the 1570’s. The historical significance here is the proximity of these productions to the Kheturi festival. The Kheturi festival, some details of which shall be given in another article shortly, was a significant event in Gaudiya Vaishnava history, and it is possible to assume some relation between that event and these works.

A comparative analysis of the four “synoptic” biographies of Mahaprabhu gives us some insight into the different pre-Kheturi visions of Gadadhar. Kheturi can be said to signify the rebounding of the Vrindavan Goswami school of thought into Bengal, and the cementing of its influence there, in particular in terms of the theology of Chaitanya. It was another forty years, however, before the Vrindavan vision attained complete dominance.

Thus, though the Caitanya-bhāgavata was the most popular and widely read of Mahaprabhu’s biographies, it was ultimately the more philosophically consistent, symbolically charged and most aesthetically pleasing Mahaprabhu of Caitanya-caritāmṛta that became the "official Chaitanya" for the centuries of devotees that followed its creation.

In these two foremost biographies, much of what is found in the other works has been incorporated. However, they can be broadly said to represent the first and second parts of Mahaprabhu’s divine life, describing the external and internal aspect of his mysticism. All the biographies agree that he is Krishna, but what kind of Krishna is he? As the Six Goswamis honed the Gaudiya philosophy in Vrindavan, these biographies had to show that Gauranga was at the very highest pinnacle of spiritual status, i.e. the supreme person.

In the two pictures of Mahaprabhu presented by Vrindavan Das and Kaviraj Goswami, we find, in the first, one who willingly and almost in trance displays godly majesty and who demands his praises be sung. By contrast, in the second, we find a devotee to whom the idea of being identified with God is worse than poison. The consolidation of these two conflicting sides of Mahaprabhu’s character was the work of the above writers (the Six Goswamis). It was concluded that Sri Krishna Chaitanya (Mahaprabhu) is Krishna himself come to relish his own devotional service. He was God come to taste love for himself and to distribute it. The distribution was the external aspect of his life, and the internal aspect, the tasting. He was Krishna, yet he was not Krishna. As these different perspectives on Chaitanya developed, the understand of who his companions were also changed.

The Pancha Tattva Doctrine

The theological understanding that developed among Chaitanya’s followers was this: Wherever Krishna goes, he is both preceded and followed by his devotees who are called his eternal associates. Narottam Das sang :
"Those who were with Gauranga are eternally perfected souls.
One who knows this attains the company
of the son of the King of Vraja." (Prārthanā; verse 5, p. 20)
Ram Das Babaji used to sing, erā tārā, tārā-i erā, "These are those, those there (in Vraja) are these here (in Nabadwip)." (Guru Kṛpāra Dāna) The pastimes of Vrindavan and Nabadwip are not two separate lilas, but one contiguous entity. Everyone who had been in Vrindavan remained in Nabadwip, which was simply Vrindavan somehow transformed for his inscrutable purpose.

Swarup Damodar Goswami, an associate of Gauranga from the beginning of his manifestation, who accompanied him through his sannyasa life and who Vrindavan Das says was foremost amongst renounced disciples (CBh. 3.10.41), was responsible for the first formulation of the Pancha Tattva doctrine that established the orthodox view of the identity of Mahaprabhu’s principle companions.

In this formulation, the members of the Pancha Tattva, namely Sri Krishna Chaitanya, Prabhu Nityananda, Sri Adwaita, Sri Gadadhar and Srivas Thakur, were identified respectively as Krishna himself, Balaram, Sadashiva or Mahavishnu, Krishna-shakti and Narada Muni, the respective followers of each member had different ideas and biases which were not fully worked out until after the Caitanya-caritāmṛta.

Kavi Karnapur’s  Gaura-gaṇoddeśa-dīpikā (GGD, written in 1576) is an attempt to equate each individual of Gaura-lila with those of Vrindavan-lila. There he states that he is writing what has been described by Swarup Damodar in his book, what different devotees of the three mandalas (Gauda, Vraja, and Nilachala) have opined, and what he himself has been able to ascertain.

Swarup Damodar’s view is this:

pañca-tattvātmakaṁ kṛṣṇaṁ 
bhaktāvatāraṁ bhaktākhyaṁ 
namāmi bhakta-śaktikam

I bow in reverence to Krishna who is manifest completely in five tattvas. One is the form of a devotee, one the manifestation of a devotee, the third, the devotee incarnation, the fourth, a devotee, the fifth, the devotional energy.

Of these the first is Mahaprabhu (“the great master”); the second and third are also Prabhus (“masters”), Nityananda and Adwaita; Srivas represents the unlimited devotees and Gadadhar, the unlimited energies. All, however, in this lila, follow Mahaprabhu, the Supreme Lord, in adopting the guise of mortal devotees of Krishna in this world. (GGD 10-17)

According to Kaviraj Goswami in the Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Swarup Damodar wrote other verses in his Kadaca (which as yet remains undiscovered) in which Mahaprabhu was defined further as Krishna, covered by the bhava or emotions and bodily luster (dyuti) of Radha, the transformation of God’s love and his pleasure potency. Where previously there had been two, Radha and Krishna, now there was only one, Krishna Chaitanya. (CC 1.1.5)

Sri Krishna Chaitanya, as the plenary manifestation of the Godhead, containing within himself in full both masculine and feminine dimensions, became the highest truth (na caitanyāt kṛṣṇāj jagati para-tattvaṁ param iha). ( CC 1.1.3) Kaviraj Goswami could exult in that discovery because his predecessors the Six Goswamis had developed a sound, philosophically consistent case for the supremacy of the divine pair, Radha and Krishna, as the ultimate object of pure devotional worship. Equating Sri Chaitanya with both Radha and Krishna made him something more than just Krishna alone.

In order to establish this tattva (principle), Krishna Das Kaviraj had to reduce the importance of the Pancha Tattva altogether. Though his work starts with a glorification of these members of Mahaprabhu’s entourage and their “branches,” his real focus is on Mahaprabhu in his devotional or “inner” aspect. Although it can be shown that Kaviraj Goswami also had some tendency to ornament the stories given by his predecessors about the master and showed a penchant for the miraculous, still his descriptions of such divine events decrease as Mahaprabhu becomes more fully involved with his own ecstatic devotional activities.(NOTE 3)

For Kaviraj, Nityananda, Adwaita, Gadadhar and Srivas are predominantly involved in what he regards as the “external” features of Mahaprabhu’s lila. Nityananda is busy saving the poor and lowly; Adwaita is responsible for the Lord’s descent to save the world; Srivas and Gadadhar are devotees whose mercy is a prerequisite for attaining Mahaprabhu’s mercy. But where the “internal” purpose of Chaitanya’s activities—namely relishing the mood of Radha—is concerned, even these five personalities are left out. In the latter days of the Lord’s life, Ramananda and Swarup Damodar are the only ones who are truly privy to his inner state of mind, and a few others, like Rupa and Raghunath, are their privileged confidantes.

Although Kaviraj Goswami’s book is accepted by all ranks of Gaudiya Vaishnavas, followers of a particular school of thought called Gauranga-nagara proceeded towards Radha and Krishna through a somewhat different and perhaps more direct route. Of the “synoptic” biographers of Mahaprabhu, only Vrindavan Das was averse to this approach.

Murari Gupta’s authority

If we examine Murari Gupta’s Kaḍacā we can get a good introduction to the first days of Mahaprabhu’s mahā-prakāśa or great revelation of himself to the devotees of Nabadwip. It should be pointed out that Murari’s Sanskrit poem, though used as an outline for all the following biographies, never achieved a major status itself as a devotional scripture. The printed edition was based on only two old manuscripts and no others have been found.(NOTE 4) Certain passages of Murari’s work were perhaps considered misleading and following authors changed his descriptions when it suited them and their masters. These changes are most revealing.

Lochan Das and Karnapur both tell stories in which Murari’s ideological purity is put under suspicion. Vrindavan Das Thakur has to come forward to defend Murari’s honor in the same way that he defends Nityananda’s: "If anyone blasphemes Murari Gupta even slightly, he will not be saved even if he bathes in the Ganges ten million times. I will destroy him through the Ganges and through my Name." (CBh 2.10.29-33) Yet even Vrindavan Das rejected some of Murari’s versions of the Lord’s lilas.

In the Caitanya-candrodaya-nāṭakam, Kavi Karnapur elaborates on a story Murari himself describes in seed form. According to Murari, one day Mukunda Datta was accused before Mahaprabhu of reading Yoga-vasistha and of being attached to the four-armed form of Vishnu rather than the two-armed form of Krishna. (KCC 2.4.12-20) Karnapur tells the story pretty much in the same way, except he also puts Murari into the accused box.

Elsewhere, Murari also mentions that the Lord chastised him for singing songs of the adhyatma-vada and told him to write verses about Krishna. (KCC 2.4.21-23) When Karnapur describes the same incident, however, his words are a little harsher. According to him, Mahaprabhu criticizes Murari sharply, saying, "The taste of devotion has not found a place in Murari’s mind. Rather, it is filled with eagerness to accept the conceptions of adhyātma-vāda, which has the harsh smell of garlic. Yet even now, he still regularly studies the Vāsiṣṭha." (CCN 1.74)

Lochan has also written a rather lengthy account of a story that is supposed to have taken place in Nimai’s early childhood when he was still a dust-covered, naked urchin playing in the streets of Nabadwip. The story is not told in Murari’s own book (though he has included many other incidents concerning himself and the Lord). There is no indication of where Lochan gathered this story, but perhaps it reflects a general commentary on Murari and his Kaḍacā. It goes like this.
Murari was returning from the pandit’s tol with a friend along one of Nadia’s streets. The two were discussing the subject of their studies, the Yoga-vasistha, when one of the many little children playing in the road suddenly began to imitate Murari’s gestures and speech in a mocking way. Murari became angered by the cheeky urchin, who was none other than Nimai, and tried to send him on his way. Nimai also displayed anger and said threateningly, "I’ll show you! Just wait until meal time!”

Murari returned home and, becoming absorbed in his daily duties, forgot the incident. Meanwhile Nimai, dressed in a Bengali infant’s Sunday best, his eyes highlighted with thick mascara, wearing pearl necklaces, silver ankle and waist bells, a tiger-tooth charm and a bright yellow silk cloth, made a sudden appearance in Murari’s house just as he sat down to his noonday repast.

Nimai said, "I have come. Don’t get up; finish your meal." The enchanting child walked over and, standing before Murari as he ate, passed urine on his rice. Murari watched, flabbergasted. Then, when he stood up, understandably upset, Nimai explained to him the conception of worship of the personal god, Krishna, the lover of the gopis (cowherd girls). At this, Murari became convinced of Nimai’s avatarhood and was filled with an otherworldly delight.
(NOTE 5)
The factual truth of this story is doubted by more than one scholar. If its purpose is to demonstrate the infant Nimai’s divinity, then it is certainly a strange effort. Were it true, it seems surprising that Murari himself would not mention it. In short, this comment and others of the same type appear to be an attempt, if not to entirely discredit Murari, at least to marginalize his authority.

Some of Murari’s philosophical sallies in his book are weak and smack of non-devotional ideas. (KCC 2.4.7-9; 2.5.27-28) In one place, for instance, he quotes Mahaprabhu as saying, "If one has knowledge of undifferentiated Brahman, then everything becomes intelligible." (KCC 2.5.26, nirbheda-brahma-jñanād dhi sarvam eva sulakṣaṇam) In another, he writes that Mahaprabhu came to give brahma-svabhāva-bhagavad-bhajanāmṛtam. (KCC 3.1.5)

This is not to say that the devotional mood is not present in Murari's biography. Thus, when Mahaprabhu receives the sannyasa mantra in a dream and becomes distraught that he will have to give up the worship of his dear Lord Hari, Murari tells him to interpret the mantra in a way favorable to his devotional frame of mind. (KCC 3.18.5) Similarly, there are many other statements favorable to devotion throughout the book as well as indications that madhura-rasa, devotion in the mood of the gopis, is the highest of all.

Murari himself writes that Srivas Pandit told him to recount Mahaprabhu’s lilas sometime relatively soon after the Lord had returned from Gaya.(Kcc. 1.1.8-13) He also blessed Murari when the latter expressed the desire to write about Mahaprabhu’s lilas. Srivas apparently approved of his work, saying, "Whatever the doctor writes will be true." (KCC 3.4.26, yad vadiṣyaty asau vaidyas tai susatyam bhaviṣyati)

Vrindavan Das equated Murari with Ramachandra’s monkey-servant Hanuman, and this reputation stuck.(CBh, 2.10.14) Murari nowhere mentions such an identification himself, even though he does say that Chaitanya once wrote “Rama Das on his forehead after hearing his verses in praise of Rama.” (KCC 2.7.15) Karnapur officially establishes this identification with Hanuman in  Gaura-gaṇoddeśa-dīpikā  (91). In Caitanya-caritāmṛta it is even recounted that the Lord tested Murari’s devotion to Rama by telling him to worship Krishna, but that Murari’s allegiance to his worshipable deity was unbreakable.(CC 3.4.45) Kavi Karnapur saw him only as Hanuman, without providing any alternative identification as he did for others such as Achyutananda.

Though Hanuman is highly revered by devotees of Rama, this identity and the repeated references to Murari’s affection for the Yoga-vāsiṣṭha awaken suspicions that not all the Vaishnavas in Mahaprabhu’s entourage were entirely satisfied with his interpretation of the Master’s life.


In view of this, it is rather surprising to come across evidence from both the KCC and songs written by Murari that indicate quite strongly that he worshiped Mahaprabhu in the mood of a nadiyā-nāgarī, or woman of Nabadwip. Not only Murari, but a fairly significant group of Mahaprabhu’s very first devotees talked of him as Krishna and were attracted to his beauty and charm.

Mahaprabhu’s dancing in kirtan was more than spiritually moving--it attracted the eyes of the maidens, too. The picture of Gauranga in his naṭa-vara-veśa, the dress of the dancing actor, transformed the minds of even the men who saw him into those of women. Murari gives his own description of Mahaprabhu in the naṭa-vara-veśa in his book. (KCC 2.7.4)

Narahari Sarkar and his follower Lochan Das led the devotees of this sect, but Shivananda Sen, the father of Kavi Karnapur, another biographer, also showed tendencies to this approach to Gaura bhakti. To these devotees, Nimai’s sannyas (renunciation) effectively marked a termination in the way that they conceived of him, just as the relation of Krishna with Vrindavan ended when he went to Mathura. Though these devotees may have gone to Puri to see him, they never returned satisfied. Seeing him in the fire of separation from Krishna, paying back his debt to Radharani, they found their own hearts tearing. They themselves remembered him the way they had seen him for that flickering moment in Nabadwip when he was "the best of the dancers." His sannyasa was a deception, or kapaṭatā.
Dances the Lord, purified golden Gora,
Without cessation, in every aspect full.
His face is the orb of the moon.
Is it not the pink lotus that his eyes defeat,
The irises of which are black as bees?
As though upon an earth of gold flows the river of the gods,
Tears of love wash upon his chest. (Madhava Ghosh, GPT, p. 103-4)
Vasudeva Ghosh and Narahari write of Gauranga appearing to them in dreams and fulfilling their romantic desires for him:
At the end of the night, I was still sleeping deep,
When that playboy Gaura came and embraced me.
He gave me a kiss upon my cheek.
He drank the juice of my lips with his.
My sleep broke and that man of the town was gone!
I had been unconscious, now consciousness came.
Ashamed, I left the room where I had been lying;
Vasudeva Ghosh says; “Your love is a deception.”(Vasudeva Ghosh, GPT p. 131)

Vrindavan Das’s comment on Nāgari-bhāva

Worship of Gauranga as a paramour, playboy, man-about-town or nāgara did not meet with favor amongst all of Chaitanya’s followers. In fact, it appears that for followers of both Adwaita and Nityananda, it was rejected quite strongly. Vrindavan Das, perhaps out of a desire to protect Mahaprabhu’s character from possible or existent criticism, denies the validity of that worship in the Adi-khaṇḍa of his Caitanya-bhāgavata. There, in describing the prodigious scholar Nimai’s dauntless polemic spirit and his chiding of his peers and elders alike, Vrindavan Das states categorically that Nimai’s naughtiness never extended to the ladies, at whom he would not look, not even out of the corner of his eyes.

Since Nimai was indifferent to the association of the fair sex, those who are maha-mahima (of greatest repute) would never praise him by calling him a nāgara or playboy. Vrindavan admits that Gauranga is God. Yes, he is Krishna, and so all types of praises of him are valid. Yet those who are intelligent worship him according to his mood and nature. In other words, if God has incarnated for the purpose of being worshiped, one should try to understand the nature of his mood and worship him accordingly. Then one will please him the most. If Chaitanya is an avowed follower of abstemiousness, then how can someone praise him by calling him a playboy and lover of the women of Nabadwip?

Of course, if Mahaprabhu is Krishna, he has a right to all the lilas that Krishna displayed. Krishna, the god that Mahaprabhu himself worshiped, is the fickle and irresponsible charmer of the cowherd maids. The last word of the Six Goswamis is that the Lover of Radharani is the ultimate object of worship:

ataḥ sarvato’pi sāndrānanda-
śrī-vṛndāvane’pi paramādbhuta-prakāśaḥ 
śrī-rādhayā yugalitas tu śrī-kṛṣṇa iti.

Thus the ultimate object of worship (ascertained after progressive analysis through the first four sandarbhas, namely the Tattva, Paramatma, Bhagavat and Krishna) is to be found in that place known as Vrindavan, which is the abode of the most intensely ecstatic and wonder-creating form of Sri Krishna and where he remains eternally joined with Sri Radha. This is God’s most amazing [and therefore mystically satisfying] form.

The Gauranga Nāgaras know this. But they feel they know it because they saw Krishna in Gauranga. Narahari says in his Bhajanāmṛtam that by seeing Gaura, all varieties of persons fell into an ocean of prema. They lost their demoniac propensities; in short, “they attained feminine natures.” Being enchanted by the emotional varieties and artistic nature of Sri Krishna Chaitanya, even dry Vedantic scholars as well as materialistic and sensual persons, what to speak of those who were already Vaishnavas, would dance in a feminine mood. They became imbued with gopī-bhāva through watching the moods of Gadadhar Pandit.

The Gaura-candrikā

The Gaura-pada-taraṅgiṇī is an anthology of poets who wrote about Mahaprabhu, mostly in the Gauranga Nagara spirit. The foremost among them are the contemporaries and direct associates of the Lord, such as Narahari, Vasudeva Ghosh and his brothers, Shivananda Sen, and indeed Murari himself.

These poets all had immense attraction for Gauranga’s physical beauty as well as for his incomprehensible moods. His imitations of the lilas of Krishna specially stuck in their minds. Sometimes he was in the mood of Radha and sometimes in the mood of Krishna. These poets make no mention of six-armed or “universal” forms (viśva-rūpa), nor of the various appearances as Varaha, Nrisingha or other avatars. Nor do they touch on his being the savior of the world to any great extent. Their main interest was in expressing wonder at Chaitanya’s physical beauty and his amazing religious experiences.

Vasudeva Ghosh and the other poets show their best in ākṣepānurāga, pūrva-rāga and other moods that can be written from a purely subjective point of view, moods that require no practical fulfillment and therefore imply no controversy.

Later on, to accommodate the wave of Gaura devotion, the system of singing the Gaura-candrikā, or tad-ucita-gaura (the appropriate corresponding mood of Gaura), prior to Radha Krishna lila was introduced in order to instill the proper devotional mood by which Radha and Krishna’s lila could be understood and enjoyed. One of the significant events of the Kheturi festival was this legitimization of the Gaura-candrikā.

Though Chaitanya’s mood as a devotee is often described, Gadadhar in the role of Radha is often one of the themes to which these songs return. Indeed, Gadadhar taking Radha’s part is the crucial moment that turns Chaitanya lila into Krishna lila. Take for instance the following song by Narahari—
Gauranga rode on the horns of dilemma.
Absorbed in some feeling he calls out "Radha! Radha!"
Seeing the Ganga, he thinks "the Yamuna."
Seeing a flower garden, Vrindavan falls into his mind.
In his previous spirit, he stood in three bends;
He asks for his yellow cloth and flute.
Taking the dear Gadadhar to his side,
he asks: "Where were you? Where were you?”
his words choked with emotion.
Understanding his mood, Gadadhar stands to his left.
Narahari Das cannot understand these amusements. (Pada-kalpa-taru, 2122)
Some artificial stories also had to be created; after all, Mahaprabhu didn’t do every thing that Krishna did, though he certainly may have sung about it. Even so, in one pada (song) describing the appropriate mood of Gauranga corresponding to Radha-Krishna’s swinging on a flower swing, Vasudeva Ghosh states,
With Gadadhar the Lord has his sports,
Vasudeva Ghosh is simply revealing them.
The implication here is that all of God’s activities are eternal. Although Nimai Pandit became Gaura Hari and then later on Krishna Chaitanya, each phase of his life has its eternal state in some spiritual world. We also see Krishna travel from Vrindavan to Mathura and then to Dwaraka, changing continuously through the acquisition of power and wealth, but the Gaudiyas have zeroed in on Vrindavan as the most perfect of his eternal abodes. Krishna spent at best fifteen years there in his manifest lila, (most commentators say a little less than eleven), but because of its blissfulness it is considered the most perfect. The Gauranga Nagaras similarly saw the lightning flash of the eternal abode, Vrindavan, in the sudden, impromptu involvement of Gaura and Gadadhar in that world. Narahari, Raghunandan and others followed them.


NOTE 1. Less important biographies not mentioned here are Gauranga-vijaya by Chudamani Das, which has survived only in part, and Govinda’s Kadaca, the authenticity of which is doubted.
NOTE 2. Edited by Mrinala Kanti Ghosh. There are more than 1500 songs collected in this volume.
NOTE 3. Caitanya-cariter Upadana, 2nd Ed., pp. 393-4.
NOTE 4. Introduction to the Fourth Edition, p. 1.
NOTE 5. KCC Intro., 3rd ed., p. 8-10. Lochan Das, CML, p.66-69