Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Authenticity of the Caitanya-Caritāmṛta-Mahā-Kāvya, Part II

Go to Part I.


Mukherjee's arguments can be met as follows:

(i) Whatever Krishnadasa Kaviraja may have written of Rupa's handwriting, and whatever beauty it may have possessed, it was inevitable that Rupa's handwriting would be an object of interest for the devotees in the sampradaya. There can be no doubt that relics still excite a great deal of respect among devotees of all persuasions in India. That so few movable relics remain is probably due to this very interest. While I was in Vrindavan, there was a great to-do about the prayer beads, supposedly Rupa's own, that had been stolen from his bhajan kutir at Radha Damodara. Nevertheless, it is hard to see that Rupa's handwriting has anything to do with the argument that has been presented here. Vishnudasa's comments make no mention of Rupa's calligraphy. It is Rupa's authority as the helmsman of the 'official' course of devotional practice in the post-Chaitanya period that is important here and not the quality of the calligraphy.

Many reputed scholars were known to copy manuscripts. To give just one well-known example, the poet and court scholar Vidyapati of Mithila made a copy of the Bhāgavata-purāṇa which is still extant.(30) Mukherjee has argued that the manuscripts that do seem to be written by Rupa's hand are all ones which he copied in order later to quote from them in his other works. Why then would he personally copy this one since he never refers to or quotes from it anywhere? It could be argued from the words sundara-rūpam in the Vaiśākha-māhātmya colophon that he actually took pleasure in his calligraphic abilities. If he was as good as Chaitanya himself seems to have said, could he not have thus enjoyed the employment of his talents?

Nor is the date of the Vaiśākha-māhātmya of any great relevance, except that it supports the idea that Rupa sometimes wrote the date at the end of a book that he had simply copied. This was not an unheard of practice; scribes were known to write the date at the end of manuscripts they had copied. The Vidyapati manuscript too has a date of completion. That there is an absence of consistency should not surprise us and we should not draw too many conclusions from it. Yet we cannot argue that because Rupa neglected to put the date on certain of his own books that he never put the date on manuscripts he had simply copied, especially when we have evidence to the contrary. Indeed, the fact that these manuscripts had been found in the Radha Damodar library does increase their credibility. If the forgery of the CCMK was a great plot, did the plotter also go to these other manuscripts and write verses on them giving the copying date to increase the credibility of his own claims? If so, he was further-sighted than any of the forgers who have been discussed above. Even the twentieth-century counterfeiters did not go to such lengths!

Mukherjee has presented an argument about the word Monday in the colophon of the CCMK, presumably as a type of sthūna-nikhana-nyāya, an attempt to add more fuel to the fire. Unfortunately, the absence of the weekday in the copyist's date makes the whole argument completely pointless. Other than “the dark fortnight of Ashadh” there is no absolute correlation of one date to the other. If the date was an intentional forgery with devious purpose, then it certainly would have been counterproductive to make it too similar to the original date of composition. But there is little point in pursuing this argument because of the lack of correlation.

(iii) Would Rupa Goswami have copied a copy of a manuscript written by a mere boy from a far-off land? Would he have had the time? Could he have been bothered while engaged in more important matters?

First of all, we must understand that Rupa Gosvami considered Chaitanya to be God incarnate. He was the object of his and his associates' spiritual lives. Although Rupa and his followers gave priority to the Vṛndāvana-līlā, they still worshipped Chaitanya. It is sometimes said that Rupa only perfunctorily mentioned Chaitanya in his books, but we must remember that he wrote three aṣṭakas to glorify him, in the phala-śrutis of which he states unequivocally the importance of hearing about Chaitanya's activities. (31) Even today, we find that disciples of a powerful spiritual master spend a great amount of time talking about their guru, much as members of a fan club discuss their hero, if I may use the example. Why should we think that Rupa, etc. were any different? Radha and Krishna may have been the object of study, but Chaitanya was surely the topic of conversation.

In view of this, if there were a mahā-kāvya written by a young devotee who had received 'special mercy' from the Lord, who by this special mercy had developed a prodigious poetic talent, who in the rich zamindari atmosphere of his family home in Kanchrapara had every opportunity to develop that talent, and who in the association of his father, of Srivasa (the fifth member of the Pancha Tattva) who lived nearby in Halisahar, and of Nityananda who lived only five or six miles away in Khardaha, had first-hand accounts of the early and middle events of Chaitanya's life, would not such a major work have excited the interest of Rupa, his brother Sanatana and their friends? Remember CBh had still not come on the scene.

Shivananda was undoubtedly proud of his son's talents. He was also an important man in the sampradāya, both as a devotee and as a donor. When his son wrote a book that displayed his formidable talents, what would such a parent have done, if not send it to the highest authority for his approval? We have noted above some of the external difficulties with the MGK. It seems that MGK did not meet with universal approval amongst Chaitanya's devotees. In some ways CCMK even seeks to 'correct' portions of MGK. (32) Would not Shivananda have sought the approbation of the person who had succeeded Svarupa Damodara as the supreme arbiter in the sampradaya of not only theological correctness but also poetic good taste? By 1542, none of the Pancatattva was left alive, Svarupa Damodara was dead--to whom else could one have turned but the famed Rupa and Sanatan?

Even if the copy were not sent for judgement or approval, it might have been just sent as a present. In either case, it is hard to imagine Rupa ignoring it. If it had been sent to Sanatan, who was after all, the elder brother and Rupa's spiritual master, then it would have been up to Rupa to have a copy made of the book if he wanted one for himself. The copy itself seems to have been written in more than one hand. For what reason, we do not know. Perhaps Rupa did not approve, or perhaps he did not have the time to complete it. Ultimately, for our argument's sake it is not important whether Rupa wrote it at all. What is important is the date of copying which has been given as 1545 and remains perfectly plausible.

(iv) It is true that we know of many Vishnudasas and that we cannot be sure which one this is. Like Krishnadasas or Gopaladasas, we have so many that we are hopelessly lost. There are fewer Vishnudasa Gosvamis, however, and the disciple who refers to him in this way has helped us to recognize this person as a disciple of Krishnadasa Kaviraja who lived in Vraja with him at the time that he was writing the CC, and probably for some time before that. The proposition that Vishnudasa means Krishnadasa is untenable.(33) If for devious motives someone wished to increase the credibility of a manuscript, why would he disguise the name of the very person through whom he wished to gain such benefit? Does such a contrivance not defeat its very purpose by expecting too much subtlety on the part of its audience?

Vishnudasa was known as Gosvami to his followers (rather than Prabhu, Prabhupada, Maharaja, Mahashaya, Acharya, Thakura, Bhatta, or any of the other honorifics commonly used by disciples to refer to their spiritual masters). He was a Vrajavasi who knew how to write Sanskrit verses, and was close enough to the senior devotees to refer to them in the way our mysterious Vishnudasa did in the verses that follow CCMK.

At the end of the Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi commentary (Svātma-prabodhinī) our known Vishnudasa Goswami has written five verses. Unfortunately, he does not refer to himself by name anywhere in these verses or in the text of his commentary. For his identity we are dependent on a note found on the title page of a manuscript of it found in the Jaipur library of the Govinda temple: śrī-viṣṇu-dāsa-gosvāmi-krtā ujjvala-ṭīkā (34) Here too, the writer of this note identifies Vishnudasa as Goswami.

I have quoted those five verses below, so that the reader can see their stylistic resemblance to the verses quoted from the CCMK manuscript. In particular, I call attention to the use of the words prabala-karuṇa which fills the same position in a mandākrāntā metre (verse 4) as pracura-karuṇa in the CCMK verses, both of them in reference to Rupa. Other points of similarity are in references to Rupa as mat-prabhu-varaiḥ śrī-rūpāṅghri-yugāśritāḥ (v.3) and rūpaika-dhāmnā (v. 5), the use of the word kenāpi as a humble reference to himself in both works, and the attention to dates in which word codes are used for numbers.

na hi para-mata-khaṇḍanāya vādair
na ca nija-mata-saṅgrahāya loke |
api tu nija-mano'valambanārthaṁ
param iha kila naḥ prayatna eṣaḥ ||1||

so'haṁ yasya kṛpāmṛtena sucirāt puṣṭaḥ suduḥsāhase
yasyājñā-madhu-dhārayā ca nitarāṁ mattaḥ pravṛtto'tra hi |
tasya śrī-kavirāja-sad-guṇa-nidher mat-sarva-śiksā-guroḥ
karṇānanda-bharāvahaṁ tu bhavatāt saivāsakṛn mat-kṛtih ||2||

kṣudreṇāpi mayā yad atra viduṣām apy asphuṭādhvany aho
svālambāya paraṁ yathāmati mudā vyākhyātam ātmeccayā |
śrī-rūpāṅghri-yuga-śritah kṛta-dhiyas tuṣyantv iha svair guṇair
mat-prauḍha-śrama-sat-phalaṁ param idam nānyan mamāpekṣitam ||3||

śrī-rūpeṇa prabala-karuṇā-śālinā darśitam yan
mādṛṅ-mugdha-prakṛti-janatā-śreyase rāga-vartma |
tasmin yeṣāṁ ratir atitarāṁ vartate sāra-bhājāṁ
teṣāṁ pādāmbuja-nati-matī koṭiśah syāj janir me ||4||

saṁvatsare bāji-rasa-rtu-candre
vṛṣastha-sūryāsita-pañcadaśyām |
kenāpy asau rūpa-padaika-dhāmnā
vyalekhi ṭīkā sva-manorathāptyai ||5|| (35)

The date given here is 1667 Samvat or AD 1610.

We cannot say with absolute certainty that these two Vishnudasas are one and the same person. Even if they were, it does not free us from the doubts in question. Could not this disciple of Krishnadasa have had access to the library at Radha Damodara? Affer all, Krishnadasa probably wrote his CC seated there, taking advantage of the library in order to write this resumé of all the works of the six Gosvamis. His samadhi is there, beside that of Jiva. Vishnudasa would have thus been able to forge and place his manuscript of CCMK in the library as well as effect the numerous changes that would have been necessary to provide supporting evidence.

On the other hand, he would also have had the chance to find a genuine manuscript of CCMK, become genuinely excited about a book that had fallen into disuse and yet seemed to have received the holy attention of Rupa. He would have been in a position to make some inquiries about it ftom the highest living authorities of the sampradāya and finally, to make his own copy and add his exultant comments. He would undoubtedly have known the legend of Karnapura from Kaviraja and thus the same appreciation of a prodigious talent would have awakened in him, just as it had in Rupa before him.

(v) What books were read publicly in Vrindavan in the early years of the Goswamis' residence there? Certainly we should be prepared to accommodate a certain amount of variety here. In CBh, Gadadhar Pandit is said by Vrindavan Dasa to have read Dhruva and Prahlada stories to Chaitanya and it is said that these were his favourites. (36) On the other hand, Krishnadasa prefers to think that besides the BhP (rāsa-līlā), Chaitanya listened to five famous texts: that is, Gīta-govinda, Kṛṣṇa-karnāmṛta, Jagannātha-vallabha-nāṭaka and the songs of Vidyapati and Chandi Dasa.(37) At any rate, the reading of one book does not preclude the reading of another. We know from CC that upon arrival in Vrindavan, Raghunatha Dasa used to recite Chaitanya's līlā to Rupa and Sanatan. After all, even though the two brothers were Chaitanya's associates, they had not been with him in Nabadwip and later had only spent a few months with him in Puri. Since these latter pastimes were more important to them and more revelatory of the purpose of the incarnation than those related to Nabadwip, they were naturally more interested in the accounts of Raghunatha Dasa when he came to join them in Vrindavan sometime after 1534. In CC, Adi 10, Krishnadasa writes that after the death of Svarupa Damodara, Raghunatha Dasa decided to come to the holy land of Vrindavan and commit suicide by jumping from Govardhan. Rupa and Sanatan did not let him die, but adopted him as a third brother and kept him as their companion. "From his mouth they heard all the activities of Mahaprabhu, both private and public... Night and day he performed the mental service of Radha and Krishna, but for three hours a day he would speak about the deeds of Chaitanya."(38)

In the face of such evidence, it is hard to see how Mukherjee can suggest that "during the period when the direct and intimate associates of Chaitanya were alive they did not have assemblies to discuss the pastimes of Chaitanya, but rather they discussed the Bhāgavata which Raghunatha Bhatta recited for them."

Since Raghunatha Dasa arrived in Vrindavan not long after 1534 after some seventeen years of living in close association with Chaitanya in Puri, there is some validity to the question of whether Rupa, etc. would concern themselves with another work on the life of Chaitanya at all, especially if the new work were neither completely original nor particularly superior, being subject to faults attributable to the author's youth and inexperience. My answer to this is simply that the statement śāśvatam in Vishnudasa's verses need not be taken at face value. The great 'Church fathers' may not have read the work constantly, but why not a few times? Even though to read through the whole work with commentary might only take a few sessions, that is enough to qualify for śrutvā śrutvā. Hyperbole and exaggeration are not absent from Gaudiya writings. The CCMK became less interesting with the arrival of the vernacular works CBh and the Caitanya-maṅgala of Locanadasa (CM), and was reduced to only peripheral interest with the completion of the CC. The reasons for this will be given below.

(vi) If attention to dates was rare, then how much more rare was critical historical judgement! If someone wrote the CCMK in the seventeenth century, he would have to have been possessed of extreme discernment to have been able to do the following: (a) extract from the finely woven web of Kaviraja Gosvami's account of CC the original elements which were absent from MGK; (b) add others of his own imagining, not in CC: AND (c) yet to avoid using any material which was unique to works post-dating the hypothetical date of 1542 to which he had attributed CCMK's composition. Mukherjee has implied that Vishnudasa, or the other members of this clique, must have been possessed of such historical awareness if they put such emphasis on the date of the copying of the manuscripts by Rupa, but this conclusion is over-extended.

Another unanswered question which needs serious consideration is why would such a plot be hatched in the first place? One simply cannot believe that anyone in Vrindavan would go to so much trouble for no apparent reason. Furthermore, it must have been quite an important reason, for this person acted not as an individual, but as a member of a clique, for more than one hand has been involved in the various confirmations and copyings. Unless we can show a reasonable motive, we cannot accept any argument purely on the basis of suspicions arising out of a commentator's overly strong attestations.

We have three possible motives for such a forgery:

(a) Was it done for fame and fortune or personal aggrandizement? If so, Vishnudasa would have done better to write it in his own name. Indeed, if our two Vishnudasa's are one, then he is of such great humility that he does not even put his own name on a work (Svātma-prabodhinī) to which he had consecrated great efforts.

(b) Was it done to gain approval for an idea contained within it? This seems to have been Mukherjee's proposition. If so, we must first find what that idea was. Is there anything new in CCMK? There are certainly some new details if it is taken as a work written in 1542 and following the MGK, for the writer makes numerous emendations and additions to the accounts of Murari. On the other hand, from the point of view of the period following CBh, CM, CCN, CC, there is absolutely nothing at all that can be considered new or startling, nothing that could be seen as philosophically or theologically significant or supportive of any position in seventeenth-century debates on the life or nature of Chaitanya. Rather, it carries archaic characteristics that would affirm its early date. If the author wished to add a greater element of Vrindavan līlā to it, he did so, but even this has been done without any indication of a familiarity with the siddhāntas of the CC, or even the works of Rupa.

(c) Was it then written merely to confirm the Karnapura legend? The tone of amazement found in Vishnudasa's verses shows why he valued this book -- not for any new information found therein, but because it is the proof of Kavi Karnapura's young genius, and through that, a confirmation of Chaitanya's divine glories. Other than CCMK, however we have a sufficient number of works written by Karnapura, superior do it, which establish sufficiently his reputation. According to Kaviraja, it was Karnapura's āryā verses that were his earliest. These were apparently available to him at that time. What need was there of anything further to prove that Karnapura was a child prodigy? Kaviraja's personal reputation was sufficiently high that no necessity for such a special work, purely for the sake of supporting his statements in CC, could possibly have been felt.

(vii) Now we come to the difficult question of why this book was not mentioned in the CC. First, we should note that Krishnadasa Kaviraja, despite using twenty-eight different incidents from Karnapura's CCN as well as several from the CCMK never states unequivocally that Karnapura is one of the authoritative sources for the life of Chaitanya. He has recognized only Murari Gupta, Vrindavan Dasa, Svarupa Damodara and Raghunatha Dasa in this way. In some places, his rejection of Karnapura appears to be an oversight, such as when he credits Vrindavan Dasa as being the source of a story which in fact can only be found in the CCN.(39) However, nowhere does Krishnadasa ever quote MGK or CBh literally, whereas much of what has been borrowed from Karnapura is literally translated, and is even quoted directly eight times, though he is nevertheless never given the same level of credit. Thus the problem to be resolved is not simply one of Krishnadasa's ignoring the CCMK, but of a general relegation of Karnapura to a secondary position as an authoritative source. (40)

It may well be possible that Kavi Karnapura, who apparently waited thirty years before completing his next known work, Caitanya-candrodaya-nāṭaka, in 1572, was perhaps ashamed of what he had done as a young lad. CCN is something of a revision of his earlier work. This is doubly possible if we know that the book did not meet with the response that had been hoped for. We know this sensation amongst authors; it is not uncommon. CCMK was eventually superseded by the Chaitanya Bhāgavata, which also drove Murari Gupta's kaḍacā into oblivion. The CCMK is decidedly an immature work, though not entirely without charm, yet Rupa knew of the boy's reputation and was interested in this composition about the life of Chaitanya. Thus at first it could have been an object of great interest, but later became less so amongst the Vaishnavas in general for the reasons discussed. Along with Muran Gupta and Locanadasa, Karnapura's views are not strictly in line with that of the Vrindavan school that Chaitanya was a combination of Radha and Krishna rather than simply Krishna himself.


Ultimately, the only way in which the question of the authenticity of CCMK can truly be settled is by a critical comparative reading of it, examining it in the light of other texts on Chaitanya's life. This is the method by which it might be established that the CC could only have borrowed from CCMK and not vice-versa. Although a thorough execution of this procedure will have to await a later occasion, I should like to point to at least three instances in which I believe it possible to establish exactly this conclusion, all taken from passages dealing with Chaitanya's pilgrimage to the South.

Example (i)

(a) When Chaitanya left Puri, Murari Gupta pictures him singing:

kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa he
kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa pāhi mām |
kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa he
kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa rakṣa mām || (3.14.9)

(b) In the CCMK, Karnapura has him chant:

kṛṣṇa keśava kṛṣṇa keśava kṛṣṇa keśava pāhi mām |
rāma rāghava rāma rāghava rāma rāghava rakṣa mām || (12.120)

(c) In his presumed second version of the story, Karnapura pictures the same Chaitanya singing the following in the CCN,

kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa jaya kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa he
kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa jaya kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa he |
kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa jaya kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa he
kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa jaya kṛṣṇa pāhi mām ||(7.5)

(d) Krishnadasa Kaviraja has the following:

kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa he
kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa he |
kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa pāhi mām
kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa rakṣa mām ||
kṛṣṇa keśava kṛṣṇa keśava kṛṣṇa keśava pāhi mām |
rāma rāghava rāma rāghava rāma rāghava rakṣa mām ||

(Madhya 7, p. 141)

This serves as a typical example of Krishnadasa's procedure. He has used all sources as completely as possible. Where there is a confiict between accounts, he has been selective. Where there is none, he has combined them as far as possible.

In this case, the only source for the second stanza in his version of Chaitanya's song is CCMK. If the author of CCMK were borrowing from CC then he would have deliberately rejected the portion that was common to the MGK, CCN and CC to select only that portion that was unique.

(ii) As Chaitanya departs from Puri, Murari describes Kashi Mishra, Chaitanya's host, lamenting at his departure, saying that he felt more distress at the loss of his guest than at the death of his own son. In CCMK and CC it is Sarvabhauma who says these words.(41) Furthermore, other than the CC only the CCMK and CCN versions contain Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya's advice to Chaitanya to visit Ramananda Raya.

yady evaṁ gantāsi tadā kṛpālo
godāvarī-tīra-bhuvaṁ samīyāḥ |
tatrāsti kaścit paramo mahātmā
śrī-kṛṣṇa-pādāmbuja-matta-bhṛṅgaḥ |
nopājihīthā viṣayīti rāmā-
nandaṁ bhavānanda-tanūja-ratnam ||
"Oh merciful one, if you must leave, then please go to the land on the banks of the Godavari River. There lives a great soul who is a maddened bee at the lotus-like feet of Sri Krishna. Do not reject Ramananda, the jewel amongst the sons of Bhavananda, thinking him to be a materialistic person." (CCMK, 12.74-5)
(b) In the CCN (Act 7, p. 231) Karnapura writes:

sārvabhaumaḥ : gantavyam iti niścaye kṛte mayokta-godāvarī-tīre rāmānando vartate so'vaśyam evānugrāhyaḥ||| sa khalu sahaja-vaiṣṇavo bhavati| pūrvam asmākam upahāsa-pātram āsīt| samprati bhagavad-anugrahe jāte tan-mahima-jnatā no jātā.

"If you have decided that you must go then you must definitely be mercîful to Ramananda who lîves by the Godavari of which I have spoken. He is reputed to be a 'natural' Vaishnava. Previously he was the object of my ridicule, but by your mercy I have come to know of his greatness."

(c) If we compare Karnapura's two accounts to the one found in the CC (Madhya 7, p. 140), we see that Krishnadasa has made a selective mixture of them:

tabe sārvabhauma kahe prabhura caraṇe |
avaśya karibe mora ei nivedane ||
rāya rāmānanda āche godāvarī tīre |
adhikārī hoyen teṁho vidyānagare ||
śūdra-viṣayi-jñāne tāṁre upekṣā na karibe |
āmāra vacane tāṁre avaśya milibe ||
tomāra saṅgera jogya teṁho eka jana |
pṛthivīte rasika bhakta nahi tāṁra sama ||
pāṇḍitya āra bhakti-rasa duṁhāra teṁho sīmā |
sambhāṣile jānibe tumi tāṁhāra mahimā |
alaukika vākya-ceṣṭā tāṁra na bujhiyā |
parihāsa kariyāchi vaiṣṇava baliyā ||
tomāra prasāde ebe jānilo tāṁra tattva |
sambhāṣile jānibe tāṁra jemana mahattva ||
Then Sarvabhauma said to the Lord, "You must grant this request of mine. On the banks of the Godavari lives the governor of Vidyanagara named Ramananda Raya. Do not ignore him on the grounds that he is of a low caste and a materialistic person, but be sure to meet with him on my word. He is someone who is worthy of your association for there is no rasika devotee in the world equal to him. He possesses the ultimate in scholarship and in devotional sentiment, and if you speak to him you will know his greatness. Not understanding his other-wordly utterances I mocked him, calling him a Vaishnava, but after receiving your grace, I now know the truth about him. If you speak with him you shall know the extent of his glories."
Krishnadasa appears to have started with a rough translation of the CCMK verses quoted above, but adds to it the word śūdra. He has also added details of Ramananda's occupation absent from all other editions and corrected his place of residence from the Kanchi found in MGK, CCMK and CM to Vidyanagar. The glories of Ramananda are expanded out of Krishnadasa's own imaginings based on his reputation and teachings as he knew them, particularly in the emphasis on rasa. The latter portions of Sarvabhauma's speech are taken from the CCN version from which Krishnadasa has noticeably dropped the word sahaja.(42)

Comparing the three readings above, we ask the following questions: If the author of CCMK had borrowed from CC rather than MGK, would he not have adopted Krishnadasa's correction of the place name? Why did he drop Krishnadasa's śūdra-viṣayi, Karnapura's sahaja-vaiṣṇava for simply viṣayī? Most strikingly absent to one aware of the far-reaching influence that Krishnadasa had on later Gaudiya Vaishnavism, is the concept of bhakti rasa. It seems impossible that any work from that school would show no consciousness at all of Rupa's doctrines, particularly not one by a Vishnudasa who had written a commentary on the Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi.

(iii) Of course, the Ramananda episode is much longer and contains many other complications and discrepancies, a few more of which we will now deal with.

(a) According to MGK, 3.14.1-5, Chaitanya leaves Jiyada Nrisingha and arrives at Kanchinagara to see Ramananda. He comes to Ramananda's house, finding him engaged in meditation on Krishna at the end of his daily worship. Ramananda sees the golden form of Chaitanya three times during the course of his meditation and then opens his eyes to see the Lord in the form of a sannyāsin before him. Ramananda then pays obeisance to Chaitanya and Chaitanya embraces him, calling him śrī-rādhikā-pada-saroja-ṣaṭ-pada. (Note the similarity to the vocabulary of CCMK, 12.75 quoted above.) Chaitanya then reveals the secrets of the Vrindavan sports of Krishna to Ramananda, and tells him to join him later in Puri. (43) Murari also describes one other meeting when Chaitanya makes his return to Puri, at which time they again conversed.

(b) The account of Ramananda's vision of Chaitanya as Krishna himself is confirmed by Lochana's CM (iv, 1.82-114), but this author omits almost all other details. He does relate that Chaitanya returned to Godavari to stay with Ramananda for the four months of the rainy season. (iv, 2.13)

(c) The CCMK departs from the MGK version considerably. Here, Chaitanya does not see Ramananda at all the first time he arrives at the Goda vari, being somewhat indecisive about whether he should do so or not (13.130):

tataḥ sa godāvarikām upetya
manasy athāndolitatāṁ jagāma |
sambhāṣitavyaḥ kim asau na veti
śrīmad-bhavānanda-suto mahātmā

This is perfectly in keeping with Sarvabhauma's warnings about Raman anda's reputation of being a materialistic person. He only sees Ramananda on his return trip at which time he engages him in the conversation which Krishnadasa has made so famous. Later on, however, after a short stay in Puri until Snanayatra (the bathing festival), Chaitanya, sad at not seeing Jagannath, went to Alalanath and then again to Kanchi where he stayed with Ramananda for the duration of the rainy season. (45)

(a) In the CCN, (46) Karnapura writes a very similar account of the meeting, with the difference that it took place on Chaitanya's first visit to the banks of the Godavari. Here he does not mention the return visit or the Chaturmasya sojourn at ail. Nevertheless, in the CC, Krishnadasa has followed the CCN version most closely. He does, however, admit that Chaitanya visited Ramananda on his way back to Puri, while omitting any mention of a stay for the rainy season.

The first question that arises upon a comparison of the above accounts of Chaitanya's meetings with Ramananda Raya is on the marked difference between the two attributed to Karnapura. Clearly, CC has adopted the CCN version in describing the first visit to the Godavari as being of prime importance. The CCMK is idiosyncratic in that it is the only version in which Chaitanya is indecisive about a meeting with Ramananda upon his first arrival there. If the forger of the CCMK had written his book with the intention of ascribing it to Karnapura, then why did he reject all the other accounts, particularly that of Karnapura's own CCN, to chalk out an entirely new course for the tale? Karnapura himself, rewriting this portion of Chaitanya's career, might have dared to rearrange some of the details, perhaps because of new information available to him, or more likely because of the restrictions placed on him by the dramatic medium he had adopted. Naturally, Krishnadasa would have inclined to the revised edition, but would a forger have dared to reject both the version of Karnapura in 1572--the one that had convinced Krishnadasa (possibly with Raghunatha Dasa's confirmation), as well as that of Murari himself, the original version that had been backed by Lochanadasa?

In the case of the change of names from Kanchi to Vidyanagara, if the author of CCMK had borrowed from CC rather than MGK, would he not have adapted his corrections about the place-name to MGK? If he was showing preference for MGK's version in this regard, then why does he reject other portions of MGK to take a limited part of Krishnadasa's version? Though Karnapura seems to have reconsidered his original position on these details, in many others the CCMK account is far closer to CCN than CC. Most importantly, CCMK shows absolutely no influence whatsoever of Rupa Goswami's theological doctrines, which permeate Krishnadasa's account of the conversation. (47)


Of particular importance to both Majumdar and Mukherjee is the colophon to the chapter of the CC where Krishnadasa daims that he has based his description of the meeting with Ramananda on the notes of Svarupa Damodara.(48) Since these notes are no longer extant, there is no way that we can verify this claim. Nevertheless, we are reasonably certain of Svarupa Damodora's intimacy with Ramananda in the later life of Chaitanya, so he must be considered an authoritative source of information on details of Ramananda's life. On the other hand, we find that there are significant similarities between the two Karnapura accounts and that given by Krishnadasa. We have already pointed out that Kavi Karnapura has recounted this story both in CCMK and CCN. CC has woven these two accounts together, making direct quotations from both works, adding another verse attributed to Ramananda in the Padyāvali and finally adding more sophisticated details based on the doctrines of Rupa Gosvami. (49)In this we find no statement which is attributable to any source other than those which have already been mentioned. What specific element in Krishnadasa's version of Ramananda's encounter with Chaitanya shows Svarupa Damodara's identifying stamp that would account for Krishnadasa's claim that he was the source for his account?

All we really know of Svarupa Damodara's contribution to the evolution of Gaudiya theology is that he was the originator of the milita-tanu doctrine of Chaitanya, a doctrine that plays such a significant part in Krishnadasa's work. Yet this one fact seems sufficient to answer the question that we have raised. In CC, Ramananda's vision of Chaitanya is exactly parallel to that outlined in Svarupa Damodara's famous verses used to introduce CC, (50) that of rasarāja mahābhāva du-i eka rūpa -- Radha and Krishna combined to make one, Krishna covered with the mood and golden colour of Radha. On the other hand, MGK and CM describe Ramananda's vision of Chaitanya somewhat differently. I summarize these passages here for scrutiny:

(a) MGK, 3.15.2-3: Here, while meditating on Krishna, Ramananda sees him three times as having a golden form. When he finally opens his eyes, he sees the same param brahma standing before him in the dress of a sannyAsin and he offers obeisance to him, etc. (51)

(b) CM, iv.11.106-111. Lochanadasa has elaborated directly along the unes in MGK. He goes to greater lengths to describe Ramananda's vision of Chaitanya, seeing him switching back and forth from the black Krishna form to the golden form of Chaitanya. (52)

(c) The CCMK contains nothing on the subject of visions. As in all the other accounts, Chaitanya embraces him, but this is all. Ramananda does not acknowledge that Chaitanya is his God in any way. In the CCN, Karnapura does not describe any vision either, rather Ramananda makes a simple statement of recognition that Krishna is playing the role of a renunciate, and since he has had so many other incarnations, this is not a matter for great astonishment.(53)

(d) CC, Madhya 8, 226-9, 280, 285-6 (pp. 155-6). This version seems to have adopted a great deal of the flavour present in CM above, with the further addition of Svarupa Damodara's theological vision.(54)Ramananda says:

"At first I saw you in the form of a monk, and now I see you as a black cowherd. In front of you there is a golden doll and your entire body is covered by its golden effulgence. Within that I see you with a flute against your lips, with lotus eyes that are constantly moving in many moods. Seeing you in this way I am astonished, please tell me honestly what is the reason for this?... . 'Then the Lord laughed and showed him bis real form, the king of rasa and the highest love (bhāva) together in one body'... 'The Lord embraced him and consoled him saying, "Other than you I have shown this form to no one. The pale skin colour is not my own, but (has arisen from) the touch of Radha's limbs. She touches no other but the son of the king of the cowherds. I have made my body and mind take on her sentiments, and now (through that) I relish my own sweetness."'
Within all the accounts of the encounter between Ramananda and Chaitanya, the importance of the former, especially his awareness of the highest devotional truths is emphasized. It may indeed be that he had a hand in the formulation of the rādhā-bhāva-dyuti-suvalita-kṛṣṇa-svarūpa theory of Chaitanya's nature. Nevertheless, no knowledge of that theory creeps into any of the accounts prior to CC. If Krishnadasa indeed felt this feature to be the essential fact of the Ramananda-Chaitanya encounter, then Karnapura's omission of it would no doubt have influenced him negatively and induced him to give full credit for his account to Svarupa Damodara.


I have concentrated here on certain aspects of the tale of Chaitanya's meeting with Ramananda, and that too somewhat superficially. This discussion is centred on an account that has been dealt with by nearly all of Chaitanya's biographers. It should be remembered, however, that the scope of CCMK as a whole is greatly limited in comparison not only to the CC but even to CCN. Krishnadasa did not concern himself greatly with the first part of Chaitanya's life, feeling that it had been adequately covered in the synoptic accounts. Of these, the first two were the most authoritative and so he referred only to them by name. Though none of these four books contain a great deal of information about the later events of Chaitanya's career, nevertheless, where they did serve Krishnadasa with original and valuable or even colourful data, no matter how trifling, Krishnadasa used them. Thus vestiges of idiosyncratic details of not only CM and MGK, but also the CCMK can be found throughout the CC. This is clearly seen in the above examples and a more thorough scrutiny would no doubt yield hundreds more in the same vein.(55)

In conclusion, the doubts raised by Dr. Mukherjee are insufficient to establish that Kavi Karnapura is not the author of CCMK. Although the MS evidence led him to understandable doubts, it seems equally understandable that Majumdar accepted its authenticity without question. Nevertheless, it remains true that Kavi Karnapura is unfortunately one of the major Gaudiya Vaishnava authors left whose works have not yet been critically edited or subjected to scholarly analysis. A more complete examination of ail bis work is necessary. It is hoped that this will be done in order to establish more about him personally and what his importance was to the sampradAya, both as a historian and as a theologian.


(30) See Mitra and Majumdar, Vidyāpatir Padāvali, 1952, Introduction, p. xlix. The MS is kept at the Darbhanga Govemment Library.

(31) These añöakas are to be found in Stavamālā. See also Stava-kalpa-druma, ed. Bhaktisaranga Gosvami (Vrindavan, 1959), 5964.

(32) cf. Das, 'The role of śakti in Gauralīlā', 1985. Some examples of expansions and changes are given in the later portion of this article. Other examples can be found.

(33) There is no record anywhere of Krishnadasa being so named. In fairness, however, such confusion of names is not altogether uncommon in the subcontinent.

(34) UN, 555.

(35) Translation:
1. This effort has not been made for the purpose of defeating the opinions of others by argument or to convince other people of my own position. It has simply been for my own personal education.

2. May this work of mine just once bring pleasure to the ears of Krishnadasa Kaviraja, who is my teacher in all subjects, by whose sweet orders I have dared to take up this difficult task, and by whose mercy I have been nourished for a long time.

3. Even though I am insignificant, I have joyfully written this commentary out of my own desire, according to my own understanding, etc. May those of mature intelligence who have taken refuge at the lotus feet of Rupa Goswami find satisfaction in it, out of their own good qualities. This will be the supreme fruit of my labours and I expect no other reward.

4. Furthermore, the path of spontaneous devotion was demonstrated by Rupa Goswami, who is possessed of powerful mercy for the benefit of people like myself who are of an ignorant nature. I pray that I may be born millions of times with an inclination to those persons who are wholeheartedly devoted to that path.

5. In the Samvat year 1667, on the dark moon day while the sun is in Taurus, someone whose only abode is the feet of Rupa Goswami has written this commentary to attain the fulfilment of his desires.

(36) CBh, iii. 10.32-34. prahlāda-caritra āra dhruvera carita | śatāvṛtti kariyā śunena sāvahita ||

(37) CC, Madhya 2, p. 105.

(38) tabe dui bhāi tāṁre marite nā dila |
nija tṛtīya bhāi kari nikaṭe rākhila ||
mahāprabhur līlā jata bāhira antara |
dui bhāi tāṁra mukhe śune nirantara ||
rātri dine rādhā kṛṣṇera mānasa sevana |
prahāreka mahāprabhura caritra kathana ||

(39) The story of the cleaning of the Gundicha temple described in CCMK, 10 and CC, Madhya 11.77-146.

(40) cf. Majumdar, op. cit., 1024, 338-9.

(41) MGK, iii, 13.17; CCMK, 12.97; CC, 7.47.

(42) The word sahaja is fraught with nuances, and its usage here has been a cause ot some controversy. It is thought by some that Ramananda was a Tantrik. Certainly CCMK 13.39 has some such overtones. However, O'Connell has argued persuasively that too much should not be made of this term when used about Ramananda.

(43) MGK, iii, 16.9-11.

(44) Note the use of the word sam|bhāṣ, found twice in the CC version.

(45) CCMK, 13.56-60.

(46) CCN, Act 7, pp. 236-43.

(47) Anyone interested in seeing how Krishnadasa has depended on CCMK and CCN for details of this conversation should look at Majumdar, op. cit., 332-8.

(48) Madhya 8.310, p. 156
dāmodara svarūpera kaḍacā anusāre |
rāmānanda milana līlā karila pracāre ||

(49) Padyāvali; vv. 11, 12. The first of these two is CCMK, 13.41 and CC, Madhya 8.69, p. 146.

(50) CC, Adi 1.6
rādhā-kṛṣṇa-praṇaya-vikṛtir hlādini-śaktir asmād
ekātmānāv api bhuvi purā deha-bhedaṁ gatau tau |
caitanyākhyaṁ prakaṭam adhunā tad dvayaṁ caikyam āptaṁ
rādhā-bhāva-dyuti-suvalitaṁ naumi kṛṣṇa-svarūpam ||

sa sva-gṛhe kṛṣṇa-pūjāvasāne dhyāyan
param brahma vrajendra-nandanam |
dadarśa vāra-trayam adbhutam mahat
gaurāṅga-mādhuryam atīva vismitaḥ ||
unmīlya netre ca tad eva rūpaṁ
dṛṣṭvā paraṁ brahma sannyāsa-veśam |
praṇamya mūrdhnā vihitaḥ kṛtāñjaliḥ
papraccha kutratya bhavān iti prabho ||

je cila sekhāne kṛṣṇa-śveta-rakta-dyuti |
sakala dekhāya eka gaura-mūrati ||
kaṣita e daśabāna kāñcana-varaṇa |
tāhā cāḍi hailā prabhu śyāma-sucikkana ||
kānaḍā kusumākṛti aṅgera varaṇa |
mayūra śikhaṇḍa śire muralī-vadana ||
nānā ābharaṇa aṅge cikanīya kālā |
pīta-vastra paridhāna gale vana-mālā ||
tāhā dekhi mahārāja ānandita-mana |
punar api hailā prabhu gaura varaṇa ||
paśu pakṣi vṛkṣa āra yata latā pātā |
gaura-aṅga-chaṭā jhalamala kare tathā ||

(53) CCN, 7.17
mahā-rasika-śekharaḥ sarasa-nāṭya-līlā-guruḥ
sa eva hrdayeśvaras tvam asi me kim u tvām stumaḥ |
tavaitad api sāhajam vividha-bhūmikā-svīkṛtir
na tena yati-bhūmikā bhavati no'tivismāpanī ||

pahile dekhila tomā sannyāsi-svarūpa |
ebe tomā dekhi muñi śyāma-gopa-rūpa ||
tomāra sammukhe dekhoṁ kāñcana-pañcālikā |
tāra gaura-kāntye tomāra sarva-aṅga ḍhākā ||
tāhāte prakaṭa dekhi sa-vaṁśī-vadana |
nānā-bhāve cañcala tāhe kamala-nayana ||
ei mata tomā dekhi haya camatkāra |
akapaṭe kaha prabhu kāraṇa ihāra ||
tabe hāsi tāre prabhu dekhāila svarūpa |
rasarāja mahābhāva dui eka rūpa ||
āliṅgana kari prabhu kaila āśvāsana|
tomā vinā ei rūpā nā dekhe kona jana ||
gaura aṅga nahe mora rādhāṅga-sparśana |
gopendra-suta vinā teṁho nā sparśe anya-jana||
tāṁra bhāve bhāvita āmi kari ātma-mana |
tabe nija-mādhurya rasa kari āsvādana||


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Rūpa Gosvāmī. Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi [UN], with Sanskrit commentary of Viṣṇudāsa Gosvāmī, ed. and Beng. transl. Haridās Dās. 2nd edition ed. Kanailal Adhikary, Nabadwip, 1963.

Yadunandana Dāsa. Karṇānanda, in Vaiṣṇava Sāhitya o Yadunandana, Shantilata Roy, Calcutta University, 1976, 457-89.

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1 comment:

ndas said...

great article. you are super historically.
I seem to recall a Vishnudas as being a mahant of Radha damodar temple, with that jaipur manuscript as a date. makes sense that it wasnt too popular and then Vishnu das happended to find it and promote it a bit. The 17th c catalouging of the library was probably when it was found and that Vishnudas was probably the one cataloguing and thsu found it. dont remember the source of the radha damodar temple lineage and dates - but that should clarify it.