The appearance and disappearance days of Gadadhar Bhatta Goswami, the disciple and successor of Raghunath Bhatta Goswami, come on successive days, the dwadashi and trayodashi of the dark fortnight in Bhadrapada month. This year that fell on August 28th and 29th.
Raghunath Bhatta (1505-1579) was especially noted for his sweet presentation of Srimad Bhagavatam and as the innovator of the Bhagavata vachak tradition in Vrindavan. Gadadhar Bhatta was his successor and to this day his descendants maintain the tradition of preaching from the Bhagavata Purana.
Gadadhar Bhatt was a reservoir of all virtues and a bringer of pleasure to all. He was naturally gentleman and a strict follower of the teachings of the acharyas. He was free of flaws like envy and desire, and an ocean of compassion to the less fortunate. It was as though he had taken birth only to awaken exclusive devotion to Radha and Krishna in the people of the world. Once he had come to stay in Vrindavan he never left, absorbed in speaking nectar from the Bhagavata Purana. When the Supreme Truth in the form of Shyama Shyam are present in one’s heart, all the other divine attributes come of their own accord to remain there.
The topics of the Shrimad Bhagwatam are nectar. But sometimes the narrative becomes distasteful because the speaker unnecessarily becomes argumentative and promotes one point of view while criticizing another with harsh words. A sadhu condems the Brahmins, a Brahmin condemns the Sadhus. Gadadhar Bhatta would always explain that Krishna is dear to everyone and though he would speak the scriptural conclusions, stating which position was superior or inferior, he always did it in a sweet manner so that everyone was pleased. Whenever he was speaking on the Bhagavatam, people came from even remote villages to hear him speak.
Once, there was a sant who lived nearby in Vrindavan. People urged him to come to listen to Gadadhar Bhatta’s Bhagavatam, but he never went. Finally, at someone’s insistence, he finally came to listen and sat in the audience, listening attentively. Bhattaji was recounting the story of Balaram’s destruction of the Dhenukasur demon. He told the story – how Krishna and Baladeva went grazing the cows with the cowherd boys, how they were tempted by the tal fruit and began to shake the trees to make the fruit fall. Dhenukasur came running and kicked Balaram with both hind legs. When he heard this, the sant’s heart was torn and he fell unconscious.
The people in the audience became anxious for the sant. Some physicians who were there felt his pulse and declared the sadhu dead. But Sri Gadadhar Bhatta calmed everybody down, telling them to listen to the story to the very end. One who hears the Bhagavatam does not die but becomes immortal. If the sant is revived then our faith in Hari katha will be forever fixed. Indeed, when the Bhagavata katha came to an end, the sant came back to external awareness, and Gadadhar Bhatta’s glories were spread far and wide as a result.
How Gadadhar Bhatta came to Vrindavan
Not much is known about Gadadhar Bhatta. The main source of information comes from Priya Das’s commentary on Bhakta-māla, which tells the popular story of how he came to stay Vrindavan.
Though Gadadhar Bhatta was originally from Telanga, he wrote songs in Braj Bhasha in the mood of a gopi. One of these songs became popular and was even sung in Braj, though he lived somewhere outside the holy land. That song was the following:
sakhi hauṁ syāma raṁga raṁgīOne day, Sri Jiva Goswami heard someone singing this song, he was simultaneously delighted and disappointed, for though the author had obvious devotion and talent, there was no mention of Srimati Radharani. Nevertheless he thought, I would like to have the association of such a devotee and hear more of his songs. When he found out that Gadadhar Bhatta lived somewhere outside of Braj, he thought that such a devotee belongs in Vrindavan Dham. So he sent him a letter with two confidantes. The letter contained only this one verse written by Raghunath Das Goswami.
dekhi bikāya gayī vaha mūrati sūrati māṁhi pagī
saṁga hutau apanau sapanau sau soī rahī rasa khoi
jāge huṁ āge dṛṣṭi para sakhi naiku na nyārau hoi
eka ju merī aṁkhiyana meṁ nisi dyausa rahyau kari bhauna
gāya carāvata jāta sunyau sakhi sodhauṁ kanhaiyā kauna
kāsauṁ kahauṁ kauna patiyāve kauna kare bakavāda
kaise ke kahi jāta gadādhara gūṁje kau guḍa svāda
Oh Sakhi! I have been transformed by the colors of Shyam.
On seeing his beautiful form, I sold my soul to him.
I lost myself in his beauty.
When I fall asleep I lose myself in dreams of him,
And when I awake, I don’t see anything as separate from him.
It is as though my eyes have been trapped by his form,
like a bumblebee trapped at night in a lotus flower.
When I hear that he has gone to graze the cows,
I don’t know of what Kanhai people are talking [for he is with me always].
Who will listen to me? Who will believe me when I say it is all nonsense.
How can Gadadhar explain any of this?
I am like a dumb person trying to explain the taste of gur.
anārādhya rādhā-padāmbhoja-reṇumAccording to Priya Das, Jiva Goswami’s message was, “I don’t know how you got this mood when you are living outside of Braj and have no association with the servants of Radha. It is no doubt the result of some previous lifetime of service to great bhaktas. But in order to perfect it, you must follow in the mood of Radha and live in the association of her devotees in Vrindavan. Otherwise, it will never attain its fulfillment.”
anāśritya vṛndāṭavīṁ tat-padāṅkām |
kutaḥ śyāma-sindhau rasyasyāvagāhaḥ ||
Not having worshiped even once the dust
that sprinkles from Śrīmatī’s lotus feet;
not having taken shelter even once
of Braja Dhām, marked with her dainty tread;
not ever having spoken with the souls
so laden with the weighty love for her,
how foolish they who think that they can plunge
into the secret sea of nectar that is Śyāma!
When the message came to Gadadhar Bhatta in his village, he was sitting next to a well brushing his teeth. He was overjoyed to see two sadhus early in the morning and when they told him they had come from Vrindavan with a message from Jiva Goswami, he fainted and fell to the ground. When he came back to consciousness and read the letter, he touched it to his forehead, dropped everything and returned to Vrindavan with the two associates of Jiva Goswami.
Gadadhar Bhatta in Vrindavan
Gadadhar Bhatta studied with Jiva Goswami and Raghunath Bhatta Goswami and when the latter left the world, then Gadadhar took over his permanent spot at Govindaji temple speaking the Bhagavatam. His reputation as a speaker of Bhagavatam was his main claim to fame and he has been mentioned in the writings of Dhruvdas (Bhakta-nāmāvalī), Nagaridas (Pada-prasaṅga-mālā), Bhagavat Rasik (Rasika Devajū kī Vāṇī) and Chacha Vrindavan Das (Bhakti-rasa phūṭakāra prasaṅga) for this reason. Some of these authors have also recounted other legends about him.
Raghunath Bhatta’s temple to Madan Mohan, whose seva is in the hands of the Gadadhar Bhatta’s descendants, stands next to the Radha Vallabha Ghera near Athkhamba Mahadeva.
Gadadhar and the thief from Mant
One night a burglar from Mant village came to Vrindavan. Gadadhar’s door was never locked, so the burglar went in. Gadadhar slept very little and even though it was late at night he was awake and chanting japa. When he saw that a thief had come into the house, he lay down a pretended to sleep while observing his activity. Actually, he became absorbed in thinking of child Krishna going into the gopis’ houses and stealing curds and butter. So rather than getting angry, he thought, “My Thakur Hari has come to my house to play at his lila of stealing.”
In the meantime, the thief had collected a great many items from the house and tied them with a sheet into a big bundle. There was so much there that he was having difficulty getting it onto his head to carry away. So Gadadhar came quietly up to him and helped him lift it up. When the thief saw this, he was astonished. “Who are you?” he asked. When he learned whose house he was robbing, the thief fell to the ground and begged forgiveness. Gadadhar said, “Don’t worry. This is how you make your living. Take the bundle with you. I am not concerned for myself. Krishna will send me ten times this much tomorrow.” The thief was so impressed by Gadadhar Bhatta’s kindness that he became his disciple and gave up his profession of burglary.
One of the thief’s companions from his village heard about this and chastised him. He said, “How can you be so stupid? You could have taken those items and he would not have stopped you. And to become a disciple on top of that!! I will show you how it’s done.”
That night he also went to Gadadhar’s house, filled a sack with valuable items from the household, but when he came into the street, he could not find his way. He wandered in the alleyways of the village all night, going back and forth until he found himself at the house of Gadadhar Bhatt the following morning. He too fell at Gadadhar Bhatta’s feet and prayed for forgiveness. “I did not know your power,” he said. “I am a thief and I came here to steal from you. But I seem to have gone blind and cannot find my way back home. Please be merciful to me and give me back my sight.”
So Gadadhar Bhatta was merciful to the second thief also. In this way, even those who came to him for some material benefit were blessed with spiritual insight.
The story of Kalyan Singh
One of Gadadhar Bhatta’s disciples’ name was Kalyan Singh. He was a Rajput who lived in a village in Braj called Dhaurhara. He was a regular attendee at Gadadhar’s Bhagavata lectures. Indeed, he became so influenced on hearing him that he became quite renounced and gave up amusing himself with his wife. She did not take kindly to the change in his personality and began plotting a way to bring down her husband’s guru.
She paid a sum of 20 rupees to a beggar woman who happened to be pregnant. She told this woman to publicly announce that Gadadhar Bhatt was her lover and the father of the expected baby and to ask him to take care of her and the child. This the woman did in the middle of Bhagavatam class. Some of the people in the audience became very angry with her, not believing her claim and worse yet accusing her of trying to blacken the name of a saintly person. Some were even ready to beat her. But Gadadhar himself surprised them all by remaining calm; he pacified them by saying, “Brothers, don’t be angry with this goddess. She has committed no offense. She is telling the truth.” Everyone fell into a shocked silence. In order to protect someone from danger it is sometimes necessary to tell a lie, and this is why he spoke like this.
Gadadhar turned to the lady and said, “Don’t worry, I have not forgotten you. Where have you been all this time? Of course I will take care of you. Just sit here and listen to the Bhagavatam and we will take care of this immediately afterward.”
Soon the truth came out. Kalyan Singh was furious that his wife would do such an evil deed. He drew his sword from its sheath and started running to his village with the intention of killing his wife. Gadadhar sent four of his disciples to stop him from committing such a crime in his name and to bring him back to the Bhagavata class to hear the Harikatha.
There Gadadhar gave the following discourse, “By giving these Bhagavata classes, I have become famous and my influence has increased. This influence is like a witch that has cursed me. There is a danger that my fame will become an obstacle to my bhajan. This woman has done me a great service by spreading this malicious rumor, which will help to keep me humble and keep people away from me.”
In the end, all the people involved in the story, Kalyan Singh, his wife and the beggar woman, all were astonished by Gadadhar Bhatta’s humble and compassionate nature and so they asked him for forgiveness and became regular listeners of the Bhagavatam and all increased their devotion to the Lord.
Another sadhu heard the glories of Gadadhar Bhatta’s Bhagavata recitals and came to listen. Being a Mahant, the devotees gave him a seat in the front of the assembly. When the katha began, the sadhu noticed that everyone around him was showing ecstatic symptoms — their eyes filled with tears and some were trembling and some even fainting in loving ecstasy. Everyone was so absorbed, but the sadhu felt nothing. This made him feel a great deal of regret, that he had somehow been deprived of the taste for hearing about Krishna. He felt like an outsider and an inferior. He was a mahant, after all, so he should be showing the symptoms of advanced love of Krishna like the ordinary people listening to Gadadhar Bhatta’s recital.
The next day he came with a concoction of pepper that he rubbed in his eyes at the appropriate moment to elicit tears. Tears came to his eyes, but his heart was still filled with anger and envy. Someone in the audience, however, saw the subterfuge and told Gadadhar Bhatta after the class. When everyone else had gone, Gadadhar Bhatta went to this sadhu and embraced him, tears pouring from his eyes, and he said, “If I desired to have tears pour from my eyes as much as you do, my life would have been successful long ago.” Gadadhar was crying so much that the sadhu’s clothes became wet. He could not resist the depth of feeling coming from Bhattaji and his heart began to melt and his eyes also filled with natural tears of love for the Lord.
Gadadhar Bhatta’s exact dates are not known. He was certainly alive in 1608 since he is one of the signatories on Jiva Goswami’s last will and testament, which is held in the Vrindavan Research Institute.