Within the present state of Bengal, lies what was once the kingdom of Sri Naresh Narayana. King Naresh Narayana had a daughter named Saci. From early childhood, Saci was a topmost devotee of the Lord. Within a short time, Saci began her education. At first she absorbed herself in grammar and poetry, but having become expert in these, she gradually became completely immersed in endlessly studying the scriptures. Even as a young girl, she was always fascinated with Krishna consciousness. As Saci came of age, all the young boys were charmed by her beauty. But within Saci's mind there was not the least attraction for any of the young men, no matter how handsome or rich they were. Her mind was always filled with thoughts of Madana Gopala.
Sri Naresh Narayana began to think of arranging for his daughter's marriage. Upon understanding her father's intentions, Saci told him, "I will not marry a mortal man, born of this world of death." The king and queen wanted to make arrangements to give her hand in marriage. But Saci did not want to be wed. Always regretting their failure to arrange for their daughter's wedding, in due course of time, the king and queen grew old and passed away.
After the passing of the king and queen, the royal succession fell to Saci. Saci accepted the responsibilities of governing the kingdom. One day, on the plea of seeing more of the kingdom Saci left to visit the holy places of pilgrimage, after appointing some relatives to govern in her place. Although she wandered here and there, nowhere could her heart find satisfaction. She decided to seek out a bonafide spiritual master. After much travel, she arrived in Jagannatha Puri. One day, after taking darshan of the Jagannatha deities, she received an inner message and was inspired to go to Vrindavana.
With this Saci felt that the moon of her good fortune had arisen. In Vrindavana, she chanced to meet Haridas Pandit, whose single-minded devotion to Gauranga and Nityananda was unsurpassed. Upon seeing the spiritual power and austerity of his divine form, Saci became filled with ecstasy. After meditating deeply for several days, Haridas Pandit gave Saci shelter. Sri Saci fell at the lotus feet of Haridas Pandit with her eyes pouring tears and prayed for his mercy.
The Caitanya Caritamrita gives Haridas Pandit's preceptorial ancestry as follows, "Ananta Acarya was a disciple of Gadadhara Pandit. His body was always overwhelmed by the ecstasy of Krishna-prema. He was magnanimous and advanced in all respects. Ananta Acarya was a reservoir of all good qualities. No one can estimate how great he was. Pandit Haridas was his beloved disciple."
In order to examine Saci's qualifications as a disciple, Haridas Pandit said: "It is not possible for the daughter of a king to go to Vrindavana and live as a poor devotee, constantly absorbed in bhajan with little to eat and no comforts. It will be better for you to stay at home and worship than to go to Vrindavana."
Sri Sacidevi could understand what all this talk was for. She paid no attention to all these words of discouragement. With fierce determination, renunciation, and austerity, she went on with her bhajan, and her service to her guru. As she absorbed herself in her austere service, step by step she renounced her opulent dresses and fine ornaments.
One day, Haridas Pandit Goswami said to Sacidevi, "If you like, giving up all pride and fear, you may wander throughout Vraja and practice begging from place to place as a renounced devotee. You have my blessings." Upon hearing the words of her gurudeva, Saci's joy knew no bounds. Thereafter, freed from all false ego, her body covered only with rags, she went house to house in Vrindavana, begging alms in the fashion of a bumblebee who takes only a little pollen from each flower. In this way she showed the intense renunciation and austerity of a highly advanced devotee. All the devotees in Vrindavana were astonished by her severe renunciation.
Gradually, Saci's body became frail and weak. She grew thin, and was covered with soot. Still, she took no notice of her condition, and continued following her austere regimen. Physically exhausted from her diligent service she would sleep on the banks of the Yamuna, and then rise again the next day to cleanse the Lord's temple. She would regularly circumambulate some holy places, see the aroti of the Deity, and listen to the lectures on Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Seeing the intense renunciation of Sacidevi, Haridas Pandit Goswami's heart was filled with pity. His mercy towards her increased. Smiling, he called Sacidevi and said to her, "You are a princess, and yet you have made such an intense effort to worship Krishna that seeing your renunciation and austerity in the cause of devotion I have become supremely happy. Soon I shall give you initiation into the mantra."
Haridas Pandit had one disciple named Sri Laksmipriya, toward whom he was very affectionate. Just at that time she arrived in Vrindavana. Sri Laksmipriya used to chant three hundred thousand names of Krishna daily. When she arrived, Haridas Pandit sent her to live near where Sacidevi performed her daily bhajan on the banks of the Radhakunda. Taking the order of her guru on her head, Laksmipriya went to the Radha-kunda to be with Sacidevi and help her with her bhajan. Every day Sacidevi and Lakshmipriya would circumambulate Govardhan hill. In this way, in the company of Lakshmipriyadevi, Saci continued her worship of Krishna with great determination, living on the banks of the Radhakunda, until one day Haridas Pandit called for her to return. He instructed her to quickly return to Jagannatha Puri, to continue with her bhajan and to preach what she had learned of Sri Caitanya's teachings. At that time almost all of Caitanya Mahaprabhu's personal associates had gone back to Godhead, and had entered into their eternal, unmanifest pastimes.
Sri Sacidevi left Vrindavana and returned to Jagannatha Puri. On the order of her gurudeva, she went to the house where Sarvabhauma Pandit had once stayed. There she engaged in bhajan and began giving classes on the Srimad-Bhagavatam. The old house of Sarvabhauma was dilapidated and crumbling. For a long time no one had lived there. No one remained there to worship the Damodara Salagram that had once been worshiped by Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya himself. Sacidevi established first-class worship of the Shalagrama according to the traditional rules and regulations of the Shastra. In order to hear her wonderful siddhantic interpretations of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, faithful devotees would come to Sarvabhauma's house day after day. In a short time her Bhagavatam classes became very famous, and people would come from miles around just to hear her.
One day, the king of Jagannatha Puri, Mukunda Deva, came to hear the Bhagavatam from Sacidevi. Hearing her original explanations of siddhanta, the king was completely astounded. He thought to himself that he would like to make a nice offering to Sacidevi, out of appreciation for her devotion to Krishna.
That night he had a wonderful dream. Lord Jagannatha came to him in his dream and ordered him, "Offer Sacidevi a place on the banks of the Ganges."
The following day king Mukunda Deva went to Sacidevi. With great humility, Sacidevi offered the king a sitting place and asked him the reason for his visit. King Mukunda Deva explained about the vision he received from Jagannatha and how the Lord had instructed him to construct a place by the Ganges for Sacidevi. Sri Sacidevi was not disposed to accept any sort of wealth or comfortable situation and wanted to refuse. But the king kept pressing his wishes again and again. At that time, not wanting to violate Lord Jagannatha's order, King Mukunda Deva issued a decree naming a holy ghat by the side of of the White Ganges after Sri Sacidevi.
The decree let it be known that Sri Sacidevi was a princess who had left everything to come to Jagannatha Puri and preach the holy gospel of Sri Caitanya.
One day the day of Mahavaruni-snana approached and Sri Sacidevi wanted to go to the Ganges to bathe. But Sacidevi's gurudeva had forbidden her ever to leave Jagannatha Puri. Remembering the order of her gurudeva, Sacidevi gave up her desire to bathe in the Ganges. That night, Jagannatha came to her in a dream and said, "Saci, don't think like that - the day when Varuni will take bath that day you you must go and bathe in the White Ganges. Gangadevi has been praying for your association. So you must go to the White Ganges."
Having had such a divine vision from Jagannatha, Sacidevi was very joyful. The day of Varuni-snana came. In the middle of the night, Sacidevi went to the White Ganges to bathe. As she bathed at Sveta Ganga, the current of Gangadevi picked her up and began moving along. The waters of the Ganges overflooded the pond, and the current ran before her in a flood until she arrived at the Jagannatha Mandira. Seeing this, thousands and thousands of the dhambhasis in Jagannatha Puri became ecstatic and took their bath in the ganges. The four directions were filled with prayers that were shouted in great ecstasy, and there was a huge commotion. In the midst of great jubilation everyone bathed in the Ganges.
In the midst of the comotion the guards at the gate of the Jagannatha temple awoke. They were speechless at seeing the commotion going on in all directions. Hearing a great noise they went inside the temple. They began talking loudly amongst themselves. Hearing all the noise, the king had also awakened. Anxious to see that everything was all right, the king ordered the gates to the temple opened. At this, the gates were opened. By some miracle, Sacidevi was standing there, alone, inside the temple of Jagannatha. The servants and pujaris of Jagannatha concluded that she must be a thief who has come to steal the valuable ornaments of Jagannatha. Many people said, "This cannot be! There must be some mystery here." Immediately Sacidevi was imprisoned in the dungeons to stand trial for theft. Sacidevi's mind, however, did not become weak or confused. While imprisoned, she absorbed herself in constantly chanting the holy name of Krishna.
Late that night, King Mukunda Deva saw Lord Jagannatha in a dream. Jagannatha angrily told him: "Immediately release Sacidevi from your dungeons. It was because I wanted to personally arrange for washing her holy feet that I had the Ganges bring her to my temple. If you want your life to be auspicious, then you had better make the pandas and pujaris bow at her feet and pray for forgiveness. You yourself must take initiation from her."
Seeing this in his dream, the king was repentant, and right after taking his bath, he had the pandas and pujaris go to the place where Sacidevi was being held and immediately release her, falling at her feet and begging for forgiveness. They went there and payed full obeisances, falling down like rods before her feet. The king himself went before Sacidevi, and with great entreaties begged her to forgive him for his offenses at the holy feet of a devotee. At that time, he told Sacidevi of how Lord Jagannatha had ordered him to accept her as his guru and take mantra initiation from her.
Understanding all these things to be the pastimes of Lord Jagannatha, Sacidevi became extremely joyful. Her heart filled with divine love for Krishna. Placing her hand on the king's head, she gave him her blessings. Soon after this, on the order of Jagannatha, on an auspicious day, Sri Sacidevi initiated King Mukunda Deva into the eighteen syllable Radha-Krishna mantra. Along with the king, many pujaris also took shelter of her on that day. From that day forward, Sri Sacidevi was known as Gangamata Goswamini.
One day a smarta-brahmana named Mahidhara Sharma had come to the banks of the Sveta-Ganga to worship his ancestors. Having heard of the glories of Gangamata Goswamini, he was eager to have darshan of her holy feet. After showing great respect to the pandit, Sri Gangamata Goswamini offered him a place to sit. She asked him what his purpose in coming was. The brahmana pandit explained the righteous reason for his coming. Seeing his genuine earnestness and piety, Sri Gangamata Goswamini explained the siddhanta of Srimad-Bhagavatam to the brahmana. The brahmana pandit was astonished by her explanations of Srimad-Bhagavatam, and dived and surfaced in the nectar of her ambrosial words. After this, the pandit brahmana asked to take shelter at the lotus feet of Gangamata Goswamini. On an auspicious day she initiated him into the Radha-Krishna mantra of ten syllables. Mahidhara Sharma's birthplace is in Dhananjaya-pura. On the order of Gangamata Goswamini, he preached the message of nam-prema, and the teachings of Gaura-Nityananda throughout Bengal.
The king, Naresh Narayan began to think about his daughter's marriage. When she came to know of this she told her father that she wouldn't marry anyone who was subject to death. The king and queen put their hands to their heads and sat down - their only daughter refused to marry! Thus they passed on from this world, having no further work to do here.
The responsibility for governing the people now fell on Saci. For some days she attended to her duties and then, after appointing her representatives she set out to visit the holy places of pilgrimage. But she didn't feel satisfied within herself anywhere. Thus she began to search out a guru. She eventually came to Jagannath Puri, and after having darsana of Lord Jagannatha there for a few days, she set out for Sri Vraja Dham.
It was here that the benediction moon of her good fortune rose. Seeing the spiritual prowess and renunciation of Sri Haridasa Pandita Gosvami, who was a staunch follower of Sri Sri Nitai-Gaura, she became very happy within herself and thought, "After so many days I have finally found shelter." After falling at his lotus feet and offering her obeisances, with folded hands she prayed for his mercy.
"Ananta Acarya was the disciple of Sri Gadadhar Pandit Gosvami. He was extremely munificent in distributing love of Krsna. Who can describe his glories. His very dear disciple was Pandit Haridasa." [C.C. Adi]
Sri Haridasa Pandita Gosvami, in order to test Saci, told her that it wouldn't be possible for the daughter of a king to practice the renunciation that she required in order to serve the Lord in Vraja. Saci, however, could understand that this was simply a pretense. Thus she began her service in total indifference to the material world. Gradually she completely gave up wearing any ornaments or fine cloth.
One day Sri Haridasa told her, "If you can give up shyness, pride and fear and beg from door to door then you'll be qualified to receive my mercy. Hearing this Saci became very happy and covering her body with one soiled cloth she went from door to door of the residents of Braja, to beg something to eat. Her body became very thin and pale. But the Vrajabasis could understand that she was not an ordinary woman because of her bodily effulgence.
The Vaisnavas were astonished by her great austerities. Though she became quite thin, she took no notice of that and continued to regularly bath in the Yamuna, clean the temple of the Lord, go on parikrama, attend the arati ceremonies and hear discussions about Krsna.
Seeing her intense renunciation, Haridasa became eager to reward her. He called her and told her, "Though you are the daughter of a king, the exertion with which you have worshipped Sri Krsna and the degree of renunciation you have shown have pleased me very much. Now be pleased to accept the divine mantra."
Thereafter on the thirteenth day of the bright fortnight of the month of Caitra, Sri Saci was initiated in Radha-Krsna mantra by Sri Haridasa Pandita Gosvami. Having received the eighteen syllable mantra, Saci became completely imbued with love of Krsna. Though she was very destitute, she began to serve Sri Guru and Govinda with intense devotion. Every day she would listen to her guru explain the sastras. Within a short time she became quite conversant in the literatures of the Gosvamis, and this was very pleasing to everyone.
Around this time, one other lady disciple of Haridasa named Laksmipriya, who had a very pleasant demeanor, came to Vrindavana. Laksmipriya used to chant three lakhas of Holy Names every day. Haridasa instructed her to take Saci with her to Radha Kunda and worship the Lord there. Thus the two of them came there and began to circumambulate Govardhana hill every day. All at once Sri Haridasa Pandita called Saci back and instructed her to go to Puri to preach the message of Lord Gaurasundara to the pious people there.
At this time almost all of the associates of Mahaprabhu had given up their earthly pastimes in Puri. In accordance with the order of her guru, Saci came there and took up residence in the house of Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya. As no one had lived there for so many days, the place was very run down. Only the Damodara-sila that Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya used to worship was remaining there. Saci resumed the regular worship of the Lord and recite the Srimad-Bhagavatam daily. Many people were very impressed to hear her conclusive explanations of the sastras and thus they used to congregate there.
Saci's fame as an accomplished lecturer on the sastras began to spread far and wide. One day, the king Mukunda Deva came to hear her class. He was very pleased to hear such authoritative conclusions coming from the mouth of this titla mataji, so in his mind he wished to present something to her. That very night he had a dream in which Lord Jagannatha told him, "You should offer the place known as Sweta Ganga to Saci."
Early the next morning, the king came to see her, and Saci very meekly offered him a seat and inquired as to the purpose of the visit. The king thus related to her the order of Lord Jagannatha and requested her to accept the piece of land adjacent to Sweta Ganga . Saci, however, was not interested in acquiring property. She declined the offer. But the king insisted she accept this royal grant of land, and finally she agreed after considering that it was after all the order of Lord Jagannatha. Most pleased he could render her some service, the king presented her with the deed to the parcel of land.
After the royal grant of land became known to the public, gossip that Saci was previously the daughter of a king began to circulate around Puri. Once, shortly before Mahavaruni (a day very auspicious for bathing in the Ganga), Saci thought to herself how very much she would like to leave Puri and make a pilgrimage to the Ganga for this occasion. But after considering that it was her guru's order to remain in Sri Ksetra, she decided to abandon the idea.
But that night, Lord Jagannath spoke to her in a dream: "Saci! Don't worry. On the day of Mahavaruni you should bathe in the Sweta Ganga. Ganga Devi herself will personally come to join you there."
Having seen this dream, Saci was very jubilant. When the day of the Varuni bath arrived, in the middle of the night Saci went to the Sweta Ganga alone. As she entered into the water, a strong current suddenly gripped her and carried her inside the Jagannatha Mandira, which was now flooded, much to her amazement, by the sacred waters of the Ganges.
There she saw thousands and thousands of the residents of Sri Ksetra taking their baths. A great uproar resounded in all directions from the recitation of prayers and hymns. In the midst of these festivities, Saci very religiously performed the Varuni bath in the water of the Ganga.
Hearing the sound of what seemed to be a large crowd of people within the temple, the watchmen outside hurried to the temple superintendent who in turn informed the king. The king ordered them to enter the temple to investigate. To the astonishment of everyone, they found Sri Saci Devi, the reciter of the Bhagavatam, standing there alone. The priests of the temple surmised that she must have smuggled herself into the building in order to steal the ornaments of Lord Jagannatha. But others present felt it was impossible for her to have done this. "There must be some mystery behind it all," they said. So it was decided to confine her for trial and judgement.
Sacidevi didn't mind and very blissfully continued to chant the Holy Name. Meanwhile, the King had a dream in which Lord Jagannatha very angrily told him, "You should immediately release Saci. I personally caused the Ganga to flow from My own foot; it was this that brought her into the temple so that she could take bath on this auspicious day. If you are concerned for the welfare of your subjects and your own good fortune, then along with the temple priests you had better go and beg forgiveness at her feet and request to become her disciples."
After seeing this dream, the king awoke in very worried state. He quickly completed his morning bath and immediately called for the priests. They went to the place of Saci's confinement. The king opened the door and fell down at her lotus feet to offer his obeisances. He very humbly begged her forgiveness and submitted Lord Jagannatha's instruction that he become her disciple.
Seeing the wonderful behavior of the king, she placed her hand on his head that he might be benedicted. On the next auspicious day she initiated the king with Radha-Krsna mantra. Many of the priests also accepted the shelter of her lotus feet at this time. From that day she became known as Sri Ganga Mata Gosvamini.
The king wanted to donate some land to Sri Ganga Mata as guru-daksina, but she declined, saying that she only wanted the king should attain loving devotion to Lord Krsna's lotus feet. "I am not qualified to accept anything more then this," she told him.But the king repeatedly entreated her to accept something from him as guru-daksina. Finally - for the purpose of serving the Vaisnavas - she agreed. Thereafter, daily two pots of Mahaprasada, one pot of vegetables, one remnant of Lord Jagannatha's cloth and one hundred sixty kauris (small conchshells) were sent to the asrama each day. That service is still observed to this day, the articles are offered first to her samadhi.
On one occasion a pandita of the name Mahidhara Sarma came to the banks of the Sweta Ganga to offer oblations to his forefathers. He happened to hear of the wonderful qualities of Sri Ganga Mata and thus was inspired to have darsana of her lotus feet. He approached her and in turn Ganga Mata very respectfully received him, offered him a seat and inquired as to the purpose of his visit.
This brahmana, though a pandita, was a very simple and straight forward man, so he honestly stated that he'd come to have her darsana and to receive spiritual knowledge from her. She was very pleased with his simplicity and mercifully began to speak the philosophy of the Srimad Bhagavatam to him. The panditji listened very intently to her wonderful elucidation and thereafter accepted shelter at her lotus feet. On an auspicious day she initiated him with Radha Krsna mantra.
Mahindhara Sarma's birthplace was Dhananjaypur. On the order of Sri Ganga Mata he preached the glories of Sri Sri Nitai-Gaura at various localities in the district of Ganjam.
In the town of Jaipur within Rajasthan lived one devoted and religious-minded brahmana of the name Sri Candra Sarma. In his house was a deity of Krsna called Sri Rasika Raya. The brahmana however, was very poor and thus could not offer foodstuffs properly to the Deity. One night Lord Jagannath appeared to the brahmana in a dream and told him, "The service of Sri Rasika Raya, Who is present in your house is not being conducted properly. You should straightaway bring Him here to Sri Ksetra and deliver Him to Sri Ganga Mata, who resides on the banks of Sweta Ganga. Otherwise some misfortune will befall you."
Having received this order from Lord Jagannatha, the brahmana didn't delay but immediately set cut for Sri Ksetra. Arriving there, he inquired as to the whereabouts of Sri Ganga Mata and thus presented himself before her. Seeing the Deity of Sri Krsna, Ganga Mata became very happy. But when the brahmana explained to her the reason why he had come she replied, "But I am simply a beggar. I eat by begging at a few houses each day. How will I be able to serve this Deity? You had better take your Deity with you. Please don't make me an offender."
The brahman didn't know what to do. He thought deeply about it and finally saw no other recourse for him than to place the Deity of Sri Rasika Raya in the tulasi garden of Sri Ganga Mata and flee away. Sri Rasika Raya appeared that night in a dream to Ganga Mata and informed her, "I have come here to accept your service. That brahmana put Me in your tulasi garden and then left this place. I haven't eaten anything for a whole day. Please feed Me."
Sri Ganga Mata was struck with wonder. "The Supreme Lord Hari Himself is asking me to feed Him." Meditating on this, she became filled with ecstatic love. The hairs on her body stood on end. She quickly took bath and entered into the tulasi garden. There she saw Sri Rasika Raya, shining in His own effulgence. With her eyes full of tears, she fell down and offered her prostrated obeisances. "Here He is," she thought joyfully, "still hungry." She picked Him up and carried Him into her room, feeling very doubtful as to what she should do. Finally she bathed him and made a simple offering of foodstuffs.
Sri Rasika Raya immediately ate everything. Ganga Mata was floating in an ocean of happiness. She spread out a new piece of cloth and laid Him down to rest. In the morning, when the devotees came to Ganga Mata's house, they were astonished to see Sri Rasika Raya. When they heard the details of what had happened they all cheered and chanted "Hari! Hari!"
Every day, Sri Ganga Mata would lovingly prepare many varieties of vegetables and cakes to offer to Sri Rasika Raya. She would spend at least twelve hours every day serving her Deity. For some days she served Sri Rasika Raya by begging at peoples' houses but as she got on in years this became somewhat difficult for her. Noting this, Sri Rasika Raya by some trick or other would collect the necessary ingredients and paraphernalia from some rich merchants.
But when Ganga Mata saw that there were many deficiencies in the worship due to her advanced age, she went before Sri Rasika Raya to pray for His forgiveness and to inform Him that she was unable to serve Him nicely now. For this reason she didn't want to remain alive any longer. Sri Rasika Raya told her in a dream: "I am very pleased with your service. You shouldn't lament. For a few more days you should continue to serve Me." Some days passed, but again she told Him that she didn't want to remain any longer. Her only request was that she might leave this world while chanting His Holy Name. Sri Rasika Raya replied: "All right, don't worry any more. After handing over My service to one of your qualified disciples, you should come join Me in My eternal abode."
Thereafter, she entrusted the worship of Sri Rasika Raya to one very peaceful and self controlled disciple of hers called Vanamali Dasa. At the age of one hundred and twenty years, in the Christian year 1721, on the eleventh day of the bright fortnight of the month of Aswin, Sri Ganga Mata Gosvamini, while while seeing the graceful three fold bending form of Sri Rasika Raya and meditating upon His lotus feet, entered into His eternal pastimes.
Her appearance was in the Christian year 1601.
The Deity of Sri Rasika Raya is still present in the house of Sarvabhauma Bhatacarya, next to the Sweta Ganga.
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