(The Moonlight of Loving Devotion)
Just as a crescent moon gradually becomes full the king's son grew more effulgent and beautiful with each passing day. His bodily luster was just like molten gold. His eyes were large and shaped like lotus petals. His arms extended to his knees and he had a deep navel. All these are the bodily symptoms of a mahapurusa, a great personality. All the local townspeople used to gather to take darshana of the beautiful and saintly child. Soon, the boy's anna-pradanna-samskara, or grain-eating ceremony was held. At that time, in order to insure auspiciousness and a bright future for his son, King Krsnananda gave much charity.
The king's wife's name was Sri Narayani Devi. Having given birth to such a wonderful son, she was floating in the ocean of ecstasy. She always kept the boy close to her and was always concerned for his well-being, caring for him constantly. The boy was extremely peaceful. Wherever his mother put him, he would quietly stay put. Within the ladies quarters, the ladies used to nurture and care for the child with great ecstasy. Gradually the day of his entrance into school (Hate-Khari) approached.
As his schooling went on, everyone was astonished at his amazing intelligence. Simply by hearing a subject once from his gurus he would commit it to memory. In only a short time, he mastered the study of Sanskrit grammar, poetry, rhetoric, and became expert in many different scriptures. But gradually he saw as useless any knowledge which did not promote Hari-bhajan, and soon lost interest in everything but Krishna consciousness. He found that in previous times the learned, who understood what real knowledge is, left everything, renouncing the world of birth and death, and went off to the forest in order to worship the Supreme Lord, Hari. Day after day, Narottama began to think of how he could become free from family life and constantly engage himself in the Lord's service.
He was indifferent to all material enjoyment; where most children usually like to play, he was uninterested in playing games. At this time, hearing the glories of Shri Nityananda and Shri Gauranga, from the lotus lips of the devotees of the Lord, his heart was filled with spiritual joy. As if he had been given new life, he felt great ecstasy. Within a few days of hearing the wonderful qualities of Gaura and Nityananda, he began to chant their holy names in japa day and night. One night the merciful Shri Gaurasundara, surrounded by his eternal associates appeared to Narottam in a dream and gave him darshan.
After this, in order to understand how to become free from family life, Narottam das Thakura began to think day and night of how he could go to Vrindavan. Narottama has prayed, "Hari Hari! kabe haba Vrindavanavasi?" "O Hari, when will I become a resident of Vrindavana? When will I serve the beautiful divine couple in Vrindavana with tears in my eyes?"
In this way, Narottama would constantly sing. Seeing Narottama's indifference to all sense pleasure and his intense renunciation, King Krishnananda and Narayani Devi began to think about what to do with him. Seeing that he was not inclined towards family life, and that he might soon leave home unexpectedly to go to Vrindavan they became very worried. They employed a guard to watch over him, so that he couldn't leave. Narottama Das saw that the difficulties involved in escaping were becoming more impassable than the Himalayas, and thought that he might never be able to go to Vrindavana and absorb himself in the worship of the holy feet of Sri Gauranga. Thinking only of how to get the mercy of Shri Gaura-Nityananda, he began to pray very earnestly for guidance from them. And so it came to pass that some messengers came from the Ruler of Bengal, informing King Krishnananda that the ruler of Bengal wanted to meet with him. In order to meet with the Ruler of Bengal, Raja Krishnananda and his brother Purushottama Datta set out on a long journey to the court of the Ruler of Bengal.
Narottama took advantage of the moment, thinking it to be a good opportunity to leave home. At that time, he secretly left his mother and his protectors, turned towards Vrindavan and began his journey to that holy land. It was on the full moon day in the month of Kartika that Narottama Thakura left his family behind.
Passing through Bengal in a short time, he soon found himself on the road to Mathura. All the other pilgrims he would meet were very affectionate toward Narottama, as they could recognize him as the son of the king. He would sometimes live by drinking milk and sometimes would eat the roots and fruits as he went along. His constant hankering to see Vrindavan made his hunger and thirst go away. As he moved from place to place, he would hear the glories of Gaura and Nityananda from the mouths of many devotees. In this way he was always thinking about their lotus feet, constantly absorbed in meditation. As he walked and walked, he prayed to the lotus feet of Sri Nityananda Prabhu, as he has written: "ara kabe nitai chand...." "When will Nityananda show his mercy to me and free me from the world of birth and death? By his mercy one may give up material enjoyment and purify his mind. In this way, by the mercy of Sri Nityananda Prabhu, one can attain Vrindavana."
In this way, walking and walking, Narottama das arrived in Mathura and, seeing the Yamuna, he offered many prayers. Remembering the names of the Six Goswamis headed by Sri Rupa and Sri Sanatana, he began to weep in ecstasy. Gradually he came to Vrindavan itself and entered into that holy land. He was sent by Sri Jiva Goswami to serve the lotus feet of Lokanatha Goswami.
Lokanatha Maharaj was very ancient, and was so deeply agonized by the pain of separation from Sri Gauranga that it was as if his very life had been taken away. Narottama offered his obeisances to the lotus feet of Sri Lokanatha and Lokanatha asked him, "Who are you?" Narottama said, "I am your fallen servant. I wish to serve your lotus feet." Lokanatha replied, "How can I, who am unable to serve Gaura-Nityananda, accept any service?"
After this, Narottama Thakura would secretly go in the middle of the night to the place where Lokanatha Maharaj would pass stool and urine, and cleanse the area, maintaining everything there very nicely. After a year of serving in this way, his service was recognized by Lokanatha Goswami, and bestowed his mercy upon Narottama Thakura. On the full moon day of the month of Sravana, he initiated Narottama Thakura as his disciple.
He used to eat by practicing madhukari, and would study the Goswami scriptures under the guidance of Shri Jiva Goswami. Srinivas Acharya was his dear friend, and together the two of them used to study under Jiva Goswami. At that time Shyamananda Prabhu arrived from Gauda-Desh; he also began studying the Goswami's scriptures under the guidance of Shri Jiva Goswami. These three with one mind performed their bhajan in Vrindavana and yet still they felt that their inner aspiration had not attained its complete fulfillment. One day Jiva Gosami called the three of them to him and said "In the future, you must preach the message of Sriman Mahaprabhu far and wide. Taking the literatures of the Goswamis you must quickly go to Bengal and begin preaching."
The three of them gave up their residence in Vrindavana and accepting the order of their guru on their heads. Taking the treasured scriptures of the Goswamis with them they started on their journey to Bengal. As continued on their way, gradually they came to Vanavishnupur. In Vanavishnupur lived a king of dacoits and thieves named Shri Birhambir. At night he had the scriptures stolen, thinking them to be treasure of some kind. Awakening in the morning and seeing the scriptures stolen, the three of them felt as if their heads had been hit by a thunderbolt. Miserable beyond description, the three of them began searching the four directions for the scriptures, until finally news came to them that King Birhambir had stolen the books and was keeping them hidden in his royal storehouse.
At this, Shri Shyamananda Prabhu headed for Utkala and Narottama started for Kheturigram, while Shrinivas Acharya stayed behind, thinking to somehow deliver the Goswami's books from the King's storehouse.
In order to see the holy birthplace of Shri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Narottama went to quickly visit Nabadwipa. Arriving there, he began chanting "O Gaurahari! O Gaurahari!" on the banks of the Ganges hundreds and hundreds of times and offered many prayers to the Lord. Sitting beneath the shade of a Tal tree, he began to wonder "Where is the actual place of Shri Caitanya's birth?"
He sat there for some time, thinking of what to see next. Just then, an old brahmana happened to walk by. Narottama rose to his feet to show respect to the brahmana. The brahmana said, "Baba, from where have you come? What is your name?"
Narottama introduced himself and expressed his desire to see the holy birthplace of Shri Chaitanya. The brahmana replied, "Today my life has become auspicious, for before my eyes is a dear devotee of Shri Chaitanya."
Narottama said, "Baba! You have seen Chaitanya?"
The brahmana replied, "What are you saying! Every day Nimai Pandit sits with his disciples at this ghat and discusses the shastra, and then, from a distance I watch him and wonder at the beauty of his divine form. Today I remember seeing that very form sitting beneath this tree here, where he sits every day."
As the brahman spoke, tears of ecstasy poured from his eyes. Narottama said, "Baba! It is the fortune of a lifetime that I have beheld you with these eyes."
Saying this, tears fell from his eyes also, and, falling to the ground, Narottama touched the brahmana's feet to his head. The brahman said, "Baba! I give you my blessings that soon you will attain devotion to the lotus feet of Govinda. At that time, you will preach the glories of Gaura-Govinda far and wide."
After this, the brahmana showed Narottama Dasa the path to where the house of Jagannatha Mishra was. Finding that path, Shri Narottama walked until he came to the house of Jagannatha Mishra. Arriving at the house of Jagannatha Mishra, he fell down at the door with tears in his eyes and offered his full obeisances, while reciting various prayers in glorification of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
Entering within the house he had darshan of the lotus feet of Shuklambara Brahmacari. Narottama offered his respects to his feet. From different signs, Suklambara Cakravarti could understand that Narottam was an agent of Sri Chaitanya's mercy. He asked, "Who are you?"
Narottama introduced himself, explaining that he had been living in Vrindavana under the care of Jiva Goswsami and Lokanatha Goswami, and that he had just arrived in Nabadwipa. Shri Suklambara Cakravarti said, "Baba, you have come from Vrindavan? You were with Lokanatha and Jiva Goswami?"
At length, he made Narottama rise, and embraced him heartily, barraging him with endless questions about the well-being, activities, and good health of the Goswamis. In this way he talked on and on with Narottama, as he wanted to hear all about Vrindavana and everything that was going on there.
Finally, Narottama got to meet Ishan Thakura, the old servant of Shri Shacimata, and upon meeting him, he offered his prayers of respect at his holy feet and introduced himself. Shri Ishan Thakura touched Narottama's head, bestowing his blessings upon him, and then embraced him affectionately. After this, Narottama met Shri Damodara Pandit and offered his respects to him. After this, Narottama went to the house of Shrivas Pandit and offered his respects to Shripati and Shrinidhi Pandit. All of them affectionately embraced Narottama. After staying for a few days in Mayapura, Narottama went to visit the house of Advaita in Shantipura. There he offered his respects at the lotus feet of Acyutananda. Acyutananda introduced himself and inquired after the health and wellbeing of the Vrindavan Goswamis.
After staying in Shantipura for two days, he went on to Ambika Kalna to the house of Gauridas Pandit. At that time, Shri Hridaya Chaitanya Prabhu was staying there. He was the disciple of Gauridas Pandit. Shri Narottama offered his respects to Hridaya Chaitanya. The two of them affectionately embraced and Narottama gave him news of the activities of the Goswamis in Vrindavan.
After staying in Ambika Kalna for a day, he went on to the place where the Ganges, Yamuna, and Saraswati meet - a village called Saptagram. In that place Uddharana Datta Thakura lived. Shri Nityananda Prabhu had previously given his mercy to the residents of Saptagram, and so all the people there were great devotees. After the disappearance of Uddharana Datta Thakura, the people in the village felt like they had lost their vision. Shri Narottama went to the house of Uddharana Datta Thakura and there, he found that the devotees were absorbed in separation from their guru, in great agony passing their days. Narottama Dasa offered his respects to all the Vaishnavas there and continued on his way to Kharadaha Gram.
In Kharadaha Gram Shri Nityananda Prabhu had a residence where his two energies, Shri Vasudha and Jahnava Devi lived. Shri Narottama went to the house of Nityananda and remembering the sublime holy name of Nityananda his voice choked up in ecstasy. Shri Parameshvari Das Thakura took Shri Narottama within the inner portion of the house reserved for women and brought him to the lotus feet of Shri Jahnava Mata and Shri Vasudha.
Having been introduced to Narottama, who they could understand had received the mercy of Lokanatha and Jiva Goswami, they bestowed their mercy upon him. It is said in the Bhakti-Ratnakara that both Vasu, who was the knower of all truths, and Shri Jahnava, who is the Supreme Mistress, bestowed their incomparable mercy upon Narottama.
Four days later, Narottama, after having spent much time discussing Krishna-katha in great ecstasy with Shri Jahnava and Vasu, bade them farewell and left for the town of Khanakula Krishna-nagara to see the place of Abhiram Gopal Thakura. Having met him, Narottam offered his respects to the holy feet of Abhiram Gopal. He was passing his days in the great pain of separation from Shri Caitanya and Nityananda. He had become extremely internal, barely spending any time in the plane of external consciousness.
Seeeing him in that condition, Narottam wept a great deal. The Gopinath Deity of Abhiram Thakura was wonderful to see. Narottam took darshan of the deity and recited many prayers and verses in praise of the Lord before the deity. The next day, after taking his leave of the house of Abhiram Gopal, Narottama had some inspiration from within and set out for Jagannatha Puri.
Constantly absorbed in thinking of the eternal associates of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, it seemed to Narottama that he reached in Jagannatha Puri in no time at all. Shri Gopinath Acharya and many other devotees, seeing Narottama on the path all went out to greet him on the road. In this way, surrounded by devotees, he arrived in Jagannatha Puri. After Shri Narottama had paid his obeisances at the lotus feet of Gopinatha Acarya and the Acarya had warmly embraced him, Gopinath Acarya said, "This very day I was hoping that you might arrive."
Soon Narottama and all the devotees from Vrindavan and Bengal began talking on and on about Krishna, Gauranga, the Goswamis and many other things. All the devotees were very happy to have Narottam in their midst, and they took him to have darshan in the temple of Jagannatha. While taking darshan of Jagannatha, Baladeva and Subhadra, Narottama offered many fine prayers in their glorification and bowed down before them again and again.
After this he went to the samadhi of Haridas Thakura and upon arriving there began to drown in the ocean of Shri Krishna Prema. After this he went to the house of Gadadhara Pandit, and began to shout at the top of his lungs in a loud voice, "O life and soul of Gauranga! O Gadadhara!"
Thereafter he took darshan of the Tota Gopinath deity and offered his respects at the lotus feet of Shri Mamu Goswami Thakur who was at that time engaged in the service of Shri Gopinatha.
Thereafter, Shri Narottama Dasa Thakura drew near to that part of the Gopinath deity where it is said that Mahaprabhu entered into, when he disappeared from this earth by entering into the deity in the presence of his devotees. This is recorded in Bhakti-Ratnakara: "It is difficult to understand the movements of that crown jewel of sannyasis, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Upon his disappearance, all of a sudden the earth became dark. He entered into the Gopinatha mandir and never came out. In this way he left the visible plane and entered into the invisible plane. (B.R. 8:357).
Hearing of the disappearance of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Narottama said, "O Sachinandana, O Gaurahari!" and fell unconscious on the ground. Seeing Narottama's bewildered state of separation from the Lord, all the devotees began crying tears of prema.
After this, Narottama went to the house of Kashi Mishra, took darshan of the generous lotus feet of Shri Gopala Guru Goswami and saw the deities at the Radha-Kanta math. After this he went to the Gundica temple for darshan, and remembered the Lord's pastimes in the Jagannatha vallabha gardens. Then he visited the Narendra Sarovara, and many other places.
After a few days, having experienced great transcendental bliss in the association of the devotees of Jagannatha Puri, and having visited all the places of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's pastimes, he took his leave of the devotees and left for Shri Nrishinghapura. Once there, he went to Shyamananda Prabhu's house. Seeing Narottama after such a long time, Shyamananda Prabhu was floating in the ocean of ecstasy. In the ecstasy of Krishna-prema the two of them joyfully embraced one another.
Shyamananda Prabhu, out of affection kept Narottama in Nrishingapura for many days, not allowing him to leave. Shri Narottama sanctified the town of Nrishingapura by drowning everyone there in a nectarine flood of Sankirtan. Together Shyamananda and Narottama would go on discussing Krishna-katha in great ecstasy, without any knowledge of whether it was day or night. After some time, Shri Narottama Thakurs bade farewell to Shri Shyamananda Prabhu and set out for Gaudadesh.
He quickly came to Shri Khanda. There he offered his respects to the lotus feet of Shri Narahari Sarakara Thakura and Shri Raghunandana. Shri Narahari Sarakara Thakura had great affection for Narottama's father, Shri Krishnananda. Offering his respects to Narottama in return, Narahari blessed him many times, touching him on the head with his hand. Shri Raghunandana embraced him affectionately. They asked him to tell them all about the devotees in Jagannatha Puri. In this way, Narottama went from one place to the next in Shri Khanda, his transcendental pleasure always increasing. Narottama spent many days in Shri Khanda in great happiness, performing Sankirtan and dancing in the association of the devotees there.
Bidding farewell to all the eternal associates of Mahaprabhu in Shri Khanda, he went on to Kanthak Nagara, to the house of Gadadhara Dasa Thakura. He fell before the house of Gadadhara Dasa, offering his respects, and Gadadhara Dasa affectionately embraced him.
The Bhakti Ratnakara says, "Seeing Narotttama, Gadadhara Das embraced him with great affection, wetting his body with tears of joy."
Shri Gadadhara Dasa Prabhu was passing his days in the pain of separation from Gaura-Nityananda. Narottama Thakura stayed there for two days, and then left to see the birthplace of Shri Nityananda Prabhu in the Radadesh. And so, Narottama went to Ekachakra Gram to visit the holy place of Nityananda's birth.
There, an old brahmana who was affectionately disposed towards Narottama showed him the different holy places where Nityananda had performed his lila. Remembering the holy names of Hadai Pandit and Padmavati Devi, Narottama fell to the ground, his voice choked up with ecstasy. After seeing the holy birthplace of Nityananda, Narottama started out for Kheturi Gram. As the Bhakti Ratnakara says, "After inquiring about the way to Kheturi Gram from the local people, he quickly came to the banks of the Padmavati. Crossing over the Padmavati, he arrived in Kheturi. Upon his arrival, all the people of the village wanted to be the first to meet him."
Since Narottam had been away for so long, there was a big welcoming celebration. Hearing of his arrival, the residents of Kheturi Gram all began making preparations to welcome him. Raja Krishnananda and Shri Purushottama Datta, the father and uncle of Narottama had already passed away, and had gone back to godhead, to the spiritual world. But Purushottama, Narottama's uncle had a son whose name was Shri Santosha Datta. After the passing of King Krishnananda and Purushottama, he was shown much wealth and material enjoyment. Santosh was the foremost of saintly persons in the village. And when he heard that Narottama Thakura was about to bless that town with his holy footsteps after such a long time, in order to be the first one to greet Narottama, he rushed out with the rest of the devotees to wait for him on the road outside Kheturi Gram.
After some time, Narottama could be seen in the distance. Upon seeing him, Santosh, after bowing prostrate with full obeisances, went forward with tears of ecstasy in his eyes, falling on the ground again and again to take the dust of Narottama's lotus feet. At this, Narottama affectionately embraced Santosh and asked how he had been faring all this time, asking him many questions about his health, happiness and well-being.
A few days later, Narottama Thakura initiated Santosh with the Radha-Krishna mantra. Raja Santosh Datta had previously wanted that a temple to be built and a deity installed. Now he begged at Narottama Thakura's lotus feet for his permission. Narottama gladly gave his approval.
Within a few months, Raja Santosh Datta had seen to it that a large temple was built. The temple compound included a big storehouse for food, a kirtan hall, a residence hall and ashram for devotees, a bathing pond, a beautiful flower garden, and a guest house.
On the full moon day of Phalguna on the festival day of Mahaprabhu's appearance the temple was dedicated and the deities were installed and a great festival, which can only be compared to the Rajasuya-yajna of Yudhistira Maharaja in its vast expasiveness began and was celebrated for miles around. Messengers were sent out for miles around Kheturi Gram, to near and distant lands, to invite kings, landowners, poets, pandits, Vaishnavas, authors, as well as many other illustrious guests. Some were sent far and wide to invite the topmost singers and orators. Preparations were made to install six deities at one time.
Gradually they all arrived in Kheturi Gram. King Santosh Datta arranged a colossal boat to carry everyone across the river. On the other side of the river, he had arranged for palanqins, oxcarts and other conveyances to carry the devotees into Kheturi Gram. Shrinivas Acharya, Narottama Thakura, and Raja Santosh, went forward to cordially meet the devotees, and after showing them all due respect, they offered the devotees flower garlands, congratulated and welcomed them with great affection. All the devotees were given separate houses and servants. All those great Vaishnavas, who are the saviors of the world graced the land of Kheturi Gram with the dust of their lotus feet, thus making transforming it into a great place of pilgrimage. The Sankirtan of those great souls created a thunderous sound that filled the heavens.
The gates of the temple and the doors of the houses were all well-decorated with banana leaves, waterpots, auspicious things like mango leaves, small waterpots decorated with auspicious signs, different kinds of flowers. All the big gateways and ornamental arches in the city, as well as all the doors of all the houses were decorated with colorful auspicious symbols like swastikas and six-pointed stars.
The whole effect was one of unprecedented beauty and enchantment. Just before the festival stage in different places were mountain of all kinds of earthen pots, all kinds of silver vessels, and gigantic containers filled with milk, ghee, and thousands of earthen pots filled with yogurt. All these waterpots, earthen pots, silver vessels and giant containers as well as giant heaps of vegetables, produce, and fruit that were to be prepared for the festival combined to give the appearance of a great and beautiful mountain.
The day before the installation ceremony, the devotees, on the order of Shri Jahnava Mata, began making the final preparations for the installation of the Deities on the holy appearance day of Shri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. That evening they began the preliminary celebratory ceremonies by performing Sankirtan after Narottama Thakura had first offered chandan and flower garlands to Shri Jahnava Mata and properly worshiped her. Thereafter all the devotees were decorated with garlands, and upon the request of Shri Narottama and Shrivinas Acharya, Shri Raghunandana Thakura sang the mangalacarana, the auspicious invocation.
On and on into the middle of the night they devotees performed Sankirtan in order to make the atmosphere auspicious for the great festival that was to follow the next day. After chanting and dancing into the middle of the night the Vaishnavas finally took rest. Many thousands of people honored maha-prasada that night, on the eve of the Great Festival of Kheturi Gram.
The next morning, the installation ceremonies and the celebration of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's appearance, began with all the Vaishnavas performing Maha-Sankirtan. Shrinivas Acharya presided over the auspicious abhishek ceremony for the six deities that were being installed.
About an hour before Shrinvas Acharya was to perform the abhishek, the six deities arrived within the temple. At that time, the local devotees, as well as those who had come from far away arrived there. The orators spoke, and the singers sang sweet songs. The expert dancers performed wonderful dances. The different devotees filled the four directions with the ecstatic sounds of the holy name of Krishna, and the glories of the Lord. In this way the four directions were filled with ecstasy.
According to the appropriate rules and regulations of the shastras, Shrinivas Acharya performed the abhishek ceremony, after which the deities were dressed in the finest cloth, and decorated with beautiful ornaments. After this different kinds of sweet rice and wonderful vegetable preparations and drinks and thousands of varieties of foodstuffs were offered to the deities.
The six deities, Shri Gauranga, Shri Vallabhikanta, Shri Krishna, Shri Vrajendramohan, Shri Radha Ramana, and Shri Radha Kanta, were offered all manner of wonderful preparations of bhoga in different pots. As the bhoga was offered, kirtan was performed, and then after the deities were satisfied in taking all the preparations to their heart's content, they were offered a soothing mouthwash, of Tambula, and then the deities were decorated with fragrant chandan and garlands.
After this there was a great arotik, during which, in great ecstasy all the devotees performed sankirtan. After performing kirtan and dancing in great bliss, all the devotees, forgetting their material bodies fell to the ground offering prostrated dandavats.
After this, Shrinivas Acharya offered the prasadam chandan and garlands to Jahnava Mata. Thereafter, he gave garlands and chandan to all the devotees present. Shrinivas, Shri Narottama, and Shri Shyamananda Prabhu distributed all the sandalwood and garlands to all the devotees present, and when they were finished, on the order of Jahnava Mata, Shri Nrishinga Chaitanya dasa decorated Shrinvas, Shyamananda and Narottama with flower garlands and sandalwood pulp. Gradually the devotees took their seats in the kirtan hall. Jahanava Mata was seated on an elevated chair at the front of the hall.
At that time, on the order of Jahnava Mata and Achutananda, Shri Narottama Thakura Mahashaya began to perform kirtan. Shri Gauranga Das, Shri Gokula Das, and Shri Vallabha Das responded and Devi das played the mrdanga.
Gauranga Das and the others were the most expert in the assembly gathered in that town of all the different kinds of singing and kirtan, and understood perfectly the different classical modulations of voice, performing music by ear, as well as fixed and unfixed melodies.
The sweet and wonderful kirtan of Narottama Thakura with its sweet tune and unique style of voice filled the four directions and the heavens above, causing all the men and women weep to tears of prem, and they all sported in the waves of the Vaikuntha ocean of ecstasy.
At that time, Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu, along with his own personal associates appeared there and joined in the sankirtan.
"Who can describe the wealth of happiness felt by the devotees when, in the midst of their kirtan, appeared the munificent Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu Himself. Like a flash of lightning in the midst of a mass of beautiful clouds, Shri Chaitanya Himself appeared within the crowd of devotees through divine manifestation." (B.R. 10: 572)
Mahaprabhu appeared in their midst along with Shri Narahari, Shri Mukunda, Shri Gaouridas Pandit, Shri Advaita Acharya, Nityananda, Madhava Ghosh, Vasughosh, Govinda Ghosh, Acharya Purandara, Shri Mahesh Shri Shankara, Shridhara, Shri Jagadish Pandit, Shri Yadunandana, Shri Kashishwara, and many of the other of the Lord's internal associates. They danced in a large company, with a cast of thousands, and in their midst, Shri Achyutananda, Shri Raghunandana, Shri Pati, and Shri Nidhi as well as many others joined together in the intense devotional ecstasy of that great kirtan of singing and dancing.
"How overwhelmed in ecstasy were Advaita and Nityananda! How wonderful was the a circle the devotees made around Shri Chaitanya, who danced in its middle. Shrinivasa Acharya and Narottama Thakura fully understood these pastimes as the wonderful manifestation of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's causeless mercy! It was an act of grace shown to Shrinivas Acharya and Narottama Thakura. With this their satisfaction was complete". (B.R. 10: 607)
When Mahaprabhu, who is most affectionate to all devotees, appeared with his own eternal assoicates Shrinivasa Acharya and Narottama Thakura felt complete joy and satisfaction. After the Sankirtan, Shri Jahnava Mata offered the deities some red powder which is usually thrown by Hindus at the time of the Holi festival. After this, upon her order, the devotees began to play with the dye powder by throwing it all over each other in great joy. Everyone's body was covered with the red powder as the devotees threw it on each other. In this way, after the fun they had with the red dye powder, the evening approached and the time came to celebrate the appearance of Shri Gauranga with an abhishek ceremony. When the twilight came, the bathing ceremony began and it was conducted by Shrinivas Acharya, as the devotees sang the abhishek song for Mahaprabhu's appearance ceremony and celebration.
The song went like this:
"At an auspicious time during the full moon evening of the month of Phalguna, Krishna, the Lord of Gokula made his appearance within the town of Nadiya as the ocean of ecstasy rose, flooding every house. At that time, everyone had great fun with one another. Sachidevi was healthy and happy as the baby played on her lap within the house of Jagannatha Suta.Everyone was fully absorbed in the ecstasy of kirtan day and night; no one could think of anything else. Finally it was time for mangal aroti, and the aroti began. When the dancing and singing for mangal aroti was finished, the vaishnavas offered obeisances to one another and returned to their kutirs to take their morning baths.
"Morning, noon, evening, and night everyone wanted to see the child, to touch him and hold him. Accepting all kinds of difficulties to get a chance to see the new child, unlimited numbers of people went to the house of Jagannath Mishra to visit.
"Everyone packed their eyes to the brim with the charming vision of that sweet boy and seeing that beautiful sight, they forgot their own bodies. Narahari says that the divine appearance of the son of Sachi, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, in this way increased everyone's affection and brought their hearts to the point of melting."
In this way, Shri Jahnava Mata quickly took bath, and in order to cook for the Deities, she entered the kitchen. Being expert in the science of cooking, Shri Jahnava Mata, within a short time had prepared various kinds of subjis and other vegetables dishes, sweets, cakes, and beverages. Shrinivas Acharya performed the abhishek and the puja and offered the bhoga to the deities.
After the bhoga was offered and the bhoga arotik was finished, all the great souls present there were seated for taking mahaprasada. Shri Jahnava Mata distributed prasadam with her own hand to the assembled devotees. A great sound of "Hari Hari!" filled the air from time to time as the great devotees assembled there honored prasada. After all the mahants were finished taking prasada, Shri Jahanava Mata requested Shri Narottama, Shrinivasa and Shyamananda Prabhu to take prasada. When everyone else was finished, Shri Jahnava Mata herself took prasada.
Outside the kirtan hall, King Santosh Datta distributed various kinds of mahaprasada to the full satisfaction of the thousands of people who had arrived for the festival. When all the friends and relatives of the brahmanas who were present there, as well as all the unexpected and uninvited guests finally finished taking prasada, then the King himself took mahaprasada at home with his personal entourage.
On the second day, Raja Santosha Datta especially requested all the devotees to cook within their kutirs all different kinds of prasada to be offered as before to the deities in a great feast.
On the third day, as the devotees in their places began to make preparations to leave, Raja Santosha Datta with tears in his eyes gave the devotees gold coins, cloth, different kinds of waterpots, and offered all the devotees his respects. All the devotees bestowed many blessings upon the king and embraced him with great affection, before bidding him farewell and beginning their journeys home.
Shri Jahnava Mata, accompanied by her own entourage began her journey to Vrindavana. Shrinivas Acharya, and Shyamananda Prabhu remained behind in Kheturi Grama for a few days longer, and then they too left for their own homes, and bade farewell to Kheturi Gram.
After the great festival in Kheturi, Shrila Narottama Thakur's fame spread to the four directions. Ram Krishna Acharya and Ganganarayana Cakravarti as well as many other learned devotees throughout the area soon took shelter of the lotus feet of Shrila Narottama Thakura.
In the town of Gopal Pur lived a brahmana named Shri Vipradas. One day, Narottama Thakura suddenly arrived at his home. Vipradas was extremely happy. He offered him a respectful welcome, offering him a seat and the hospitality of a humble brahamana, in accordance with Vedic tradition. In the place where Vipradas had his rice paddy stored a terrifying snake lived. Out of fear of the snake he didn't dare to go inside that storehouse. Vipradas told Narottama Das of his fear. Hearing this, Narottama Thakura smiled a little bit. He said, "Think nothing of it." And when the Thakura opened the door to the storehouse, the snake had vanished.
When Narottama came out of the storehouse, it could be seen that he had with him the deities of Vishnupriya and Shri Gaurasundara on his lap." (B.R. 10: 202) Everyone saw a great miracle -- out of the storehouse Narottama Thakura emerged holding deities of Shri Gauranga and Vishnupriya on his lap. Taking those deities of Shri Gauranga Nityananda with him, Shri Narottama Thakura went to Kheturi Grama, where he installed them to be worshipped. At present that deity is found in a place called Gambilat.
The next day, in the afternoon, the brahmana went with a piece of cloth tied around his neck to indicate great humility, and in complete submission, weeping and weeping, fell before the lotus feet of Narottama Thakur, begging his forgiveness. Gradually, as a result of his association with Narottama, his leprosy healed. Narottama Thakura advised him to engage himself in Krishna bhajan. Gradually he became greatly devoted to Narottama Thakura.
One day, Narottama Thakura and Shri Ramachandra Kaviraja went to the river Padmavati to take bath and at that time they saw two young bramahanas herding many goats and sheep. Narottama Thakura asked the two brahmanas if they were making their young lives successful by performing hari bhajan. The two young brahmana boys listened very attentively. Seeing the beautiful divine forms of Narottama Thakura and Ramachandra Kaviraj, and hearing their sweet words, they approached the place where they stood on the banks of the river and in a very humble mood offered their respectful prayers and obeisances.
Narottama Thakura asked them who they were and they introduced themselves, saying, "We come from the village of Goyasa Gram, and we are the sons of a Zamindar named Sivananda Acharya. Our names are Harinam and Ramkrishna. At our house, at present Durga Puja is being conducted, and on the order of our father we are bringing all these goats and sheep to be slaughtered. Please give us some advice as to what we should do."
Seeing the humble mood of the two sons of brahmanas, Shri Thakura Mahashaya smiled sweetly and began to speak as before on the truths of the Bhagavata, explaining what the Vedas say about how karma-kanda is often performed in the modes of passion and ignorance, and how those whose minds are contaminated by the lower modes are candidates for hell.
"The Vedas explain that the practitioners of karma receive some piety and as a result go to the heavenly planets for s short time, but having once gone to heaven for a short time, they fall into the hellish worlds to suffer. One who, being interested in material enjoyment, is captivated by the sweet words of the Vedas that promise material enjoyment has his intelligence covered. Spending his life in material pursuits, such a person becomes a killer of animals, or a killer of the soul, and after death falls down into hell.
"All souls are the energy of Krishna. One who sees the paramatma everywhere, who is free from violence to others, who has no false ego, and who always worships the Supreme Lord becomes free from repeated birth and death and attains the liberated position of divine service at the lotus feet of the Lord."
Hearing these words from the mouth of Shrila Narottama Thakura, the two brahmana boys fell before his holy feet and said, "Please bless these most fallen young brahmanas with the dust of your lotus feet." The Thakur then touched his hand to their heads, saying, "May you attain Krishna-bhakti."
At this, the young brahmana boys set the goats and sheep free, bathed in the Padma river, and went with Shri Ramachandra Kaviraja and Narottama Thakura to the temple of Shriman Mahaprabhu. That day, after taking prasada they again heard from Shri Narottama Thakura and Ramachandra Kaviraja about different aspects of the absolute truth. The next day, after shaving their heads, the two young brahmanas took initiation in the Radha-Krishna mantra. Harinam accepted the mantra from Ramchandra Kaviraja and Ram-Krishna from Narottama Thakura.
After some time, Shivananda Acharya began searching and searching for his sons until he found that they had been seen in Kheturi Gram where they were living as disciples in the ashrama of Narottama Thakura. Shivananda Acharya could not contain his anger.
A few days later, the two brothers returned home. Their foreheads were marked with the tilak of a Vaishnava, their throats decorated with tulasi mala, the twelve parts of their bodies marked with Vishnu tilak, their heads shaved, wearing the shikha of a devotee of Krishna.
Seeing all this Shivananda raged with the hot fury of an uncontrolled fire. He told them: "O fools! Where does it say in the shastra that the position of a Vaishnavas is greater than the position of a brahmana or that by becoming a Vaishnava one is better than a brahmana? You have neglected Durga for so long, but your life is useless without Durga. Moreover, if the Vaishnavas make disciples out of brahmanas it will lead to chaos in society; the brahmanas will lose their position, and if the pandits are defeated, religion will be destroyed and everything will be lost."
Hearing these words of their father, the two young brahamana boys spoke as follows: "On the other hand, that "religion" or "right work" which causes violence to others, and ends only misery, cannot properly be called religion or proper activity. Rather it must be called irreligion and wrong activity. O father! Giving up the worship of Shalagrama narayana, why have you established the worship of Durga-devi and other demigods? Giving careful thought to the conclusions surrounding the performance of Shri Narayana bhajana you should understand the worship of Shiva and Durga to be a useless waste of time."
Shivananda Acharya and smarta pandits there were thus defeated by the conclusions given by the brahmana boys. Shivananda began to deeply consider: "If a great pandit were here, he could defeat all this and belittle the position of Vaishnava dharma by counter-argument and word jugglery".
Shivananda Acharaya brought a great mahapandit from Mithila named Murari. At that time, for the purpose of having a debate, he called for his sons and told them that he wanted them to explain before a public assembly their conclusions that a Vaishnava is better than a brahmana.
Shri Harinam and Shri Rama Krishna remembering the lotus feet of their guru maharaja explained the siddhanta or conclusions of the Bhagavatam, and the arguments of the smartas were so utterly cut to pieces that when it was his turn to speak the great smarta Mahapandit Murari was unable to put forward any arguments in response. When it was all over, the mahapandit fled the assembly in great embarrassment with his head held low and accepted the occupation of a beggar.
That night, as he lay defeated, Shivananda Acharya began to meditate on Durga Devi. Gradually he fell asleep and Durga Devi appeared to him in a dream. At that time she said: "O Shivananda! Shri Hari is the master of everyone. He is the way, the truth and the light. Those whom he covers with ignorance turn to my worship. And I assure the destruction of those who worship me. Those who aren't Krishna-minded are demons. On the other hand those who are dear devotees of Krishna are really dear to me. For your own sake, if you want to become free from the offenses you have commited and attain auspiciousness, you had better go to Narottama Thakura and beg forgiveness from his lotus feet. Otherwise I will destroy you, you offender of Vaishnavas!" After speaking these words of chastisement to Shivananda Acharaya, Durga Devi disappeared.
Ganganarayana Chakravarti was a famous and highly learned brahmana living in Gambhila Gram. He heard from the lips of Narottama Thakura the siddhanta of the Goswamis with great attention and took shelter of the lotus feet of Narottama where he later studied very deeply the scriptures of the Goswamis.
There was another brahmana named Jagannatha Acharya who was a worshipper of Durga. One day in a dream Durga appeared to him and said, "O you simple brahmana. Go to Narottama Thakur. Take shelter of his lotus feet. Practice Krishna bhajan and you will achieve the highest good fortune. Krishna is my master and my guru. Not a blade of grass moves without his wish."
Jagannatha Acharya, after his afternoon bath, went to Kheturi Gram and offered his dandavats at the lotus feet of Narottama Thakura, explaining all that Durga had told him in the dream.
Hearing this, the Thakura smiled slightly and said, "You are very fortunate to have attained Krishna's mercy." On an auspicious day the Thakura initiated him in the Radha-Krishna mantra. Shri Jagannatha Acharya became a very dear and confidential disciple of Narottam Thakura.
Seeing the glories of Shrila Narottama Thakura, the society of smarta brahmanas roasted with envy. A large faction of them went to the Raja Nrishinga and petitioned him for redress. They told him: "Maharaja! If you don't rescue the brahmanas, your reputation will be ruined and your death will be assured. The son of Raja Krishnananda Datta, Narottama Thakura, is a shudra - and yet he dares to make disciples of the brahmanas. If this goes on, we shall all be drowned like the members of the Yadu dynasty."
Raja Narasingha said, "I shall protect you. But please tell me, what is to be done?"
The brahmanas said we shall all go to Kheturi Gram along with the great and famous, the world-conquering scholar Mahadigvijay Pandit Shri Rupa Narayana and defeat Narottama. With that great pandit as our leader, Narottama will not be able to say anything. You please assist us in all this."
The king, Raja Nrishingha said, "I myself shall accompany you every step of the way. In this way, that group of brahmanas along with the great and learned world-conquering pandit Rupa Narayana began their journey to Kheturi Gram. As they were traveling on the road someone heard the news and went to Kheturi Gram where he informed Shrila Ramachandra Kaviraja and Narottama Thakura. When Shri Ramachandra Kaviraja and Shri Ganganarayana Cakravarti heard all this, they became very disturbed. Thereafter, after some inquiry, the two of them came to know that the party of smarta pandits, were about to arrive in the marketplace of a town called Kumara Pura, and that after resting there for one day, they would reach Kheturi Gram the following day. Ramchandara and Ganganarayana quickly went to that marketplace in Kumarpura and the two of them set up two different shops. Shri Ramchandra Kaviraja set up a stall for selling clay pots and Ganganarayana Chakravarti set himself up in a stall selling pan and betel nut. In this way, along with Raja Narashinga, the smarta pandits arrived in the marketplace of Kumarpura and set up their camp near the shops. The disciples of the pandits went to buy some clay pots for cooking with and went to the pottery shop. The potter (who was Ramchandra Kaviraja) began speaking to them in pure Sanskrit. The disciples of the pandits began speaking in Sanskrit also, and soon they began arguing back and forth in Sanskrit and were defeated. In the same way, when the students went to purchase pan and betel nuts from the shop of the pan-walla (Ganganarayana Chakravarti) he spoke to them in pure Sanskrit. They also began to argue.
Gradually their teachers arrived at the place where the argument was going on and found themselves unable to reply to the arguments of the pan-walla and the clay pot walla. Finally the king, Raja Narasingha, arrived on the scene the great pandit Rupa Narayana. At that time a great uproar of argumentation filled the four directions. In the presence of the king, the potter and the pan-walla defeated all the smarta brahmanas, including Rupa Narayana. Raja Nrishinga made some inquries and came to know that the pan-walla and potter were disciples of Narottama Das. At that time he said to the pandits when you are unable to defeat a common, ordinary disciple of Narottama in the matter of siddhanta, how will you defeat Narottam himself?"
The smarta pandits were silent. Realizing their defeat, they made preparations to return to their own villages. That evening, King Raja Narasingha and Shri Rupa Narayana saw Durgadevi in a dream. She told them, "If you don't accept the shelter of Narottam'a lotus feet, I will cut you all to pieces with my sharpened sword." The following morning Raja Narasimgha and Rupa Narayana arrived at the place of Narottama Thakura. Narottama Thakura received them with great affection and with all due respect and cordiality, offering them a seat.
He said, "I am very fortuante to have the company of such highly learned and noble personages such as your good selves." Raja Narashinga and Rupa Narayana, were overwhelmed at Narottama's polite and gentle Vaishnva behavior and fell prostrate at his lotus feet begging forgiveness for their offenses. At length, upon being hearing of the pronouncement that Durga Devi had given them, Narottama smiled very sweetly. Thereafter, within a few days, he initiated them in the he initiated them in the Radha Krishna mantra. The disappearance of Shri Narottam Das Thakura Shrila Narottama Thakura was constantly absorbed in singing the glories of Shri Gauranga and Nityananda. Day after day many atheists, agnostics, offenders, Shiva worshippers, followers of Durga, dry logicians, mental speculators and karmis were purified by the touch of his holy lotus feet. Taking the blessings of Narottama, Shri Ramachandra Kaviraja went to Shri Vrindavana Dhama.
After a few months there, he entered into the eternal lila of Shri Radha and Govinda. This extremely terrible and unbearable news came to Shrinivas Acharya, and, unable to bear the separation from his dear disciple, he too passed away from this earth and entered into the eternal pastimes of Radha and Govinda. Hearing all this terrible news, Shrila Narottama plunged into the ocean of separation where he began to drown. In the great and unbearable agony of separation he wrote the song, "ye anilo premadhana". Barely able to keep afloat inthe ocean of separation, Shrila Narottam Thakura went near banks of the Ganges in the village called Gambhilaya and entered a temple of Mahaprabhu. Narottam ordered the devotees to perform kirtan. The devotees began performing Sankirtan. After Sankirtan, Narottam Thakura went to the river's edge, and with tears in his eyes took darshan of the Ganges, offering his obeisances again and again. At that time, he entered the waters of the Ganges.
After entering a short distance into the water he requested all the devotees to fill the four directions with the loud chanting of the holy name in Sankirtan. At that time, Shri Ramakrishna Acharya and Shri Ganganarayana Cakravarti began two kirtans in two different places. In the midst of all this, the Thakura told two of them, "Pour the waters of the Ganges over my body." Saying this, everyone was immersed in the waves of Sankirtan. As the kirtan went on they were just ready to take pour Ganges water over the body of Shri Narottama Thakura, when just at that moment Shrila Narottama Das Thakura, who was absorbed in chanting the holy name in Sankirtana, merged into the waters of the Ganges and vanished from worldly view. His disappearance day is celebrated on the Krishna Panchami day of the month of Karttika. In his Prema Bhakti Chandrika, Narottama Thakura has written:
jaya sanatana rupa prema bhakti rasa kupa jugala ujjwala rasa tanu janhara prasade loka pararila saba soka prakatala kalpa taru jana prema bhakti riti jata nija granthe su-byakata kariyachen dui mahashay jahara srabana haite parananda haya cite jugala madhura rasaraya jugala kishora prem, jini laksa bana hema hena dhana prakashila janra jaya rupa sanatana deha more sei dhana se ratana mora gela hara bhagavata sastra marma nava bidha bhakti dharma sadai kariba su sebana anya devashraya nai tomare kahinu bhai ei bhakta parama bhajan sadhu shastra guru vakya cittete kariya aikya satata bhasiba prema majhe karmi jnani bhakti hina ihare karibe bhina narottame ei tattwa gaje
ana katha ana byatha nahi jena jai tatha tomara carana smriti majhe abirata abikala tuwa guna kala-kala gai jena satera samaje anya brata anya dana nahi karon bastu jnana anya seba anya deba puja ha ha krishna bali bali bedera ananda kari mane ara nahe jena duja Jibane marane gati radha krishna prana pati donhara piriti rasa sukhe jugala bhajaye janra premanande bhase tanra ei katha rahu mora buke jugala carana seba ei dana more diba jugalete manera piriti jugala kishora rupa kama rati guna bhupa mane bahu o lila piriti dasanete trina kari ha ha kishor-kishori caranabje nibedana kari braja-raja-suta syama brishabhanu suta nama shri radhika nama manohari kanaka-ketaki rai shyama marakata tay kandarpa darapa karu cura nata bara shiromani natinira shikarini dunhun gune dunhun mana jhura abharana manimaya prati ange abhinaya tachu paye narottama kahe diba nisi guna gaya parama ananda paya mane ei abhilasa hay
"All glories to Sri Sanantan and Rupa Goswami who are fathomless wellsprings of prema-bhakti-rasa. They personify ujjvala-rasa. They are desire trees whose mercy frees everyone from pain and sorrow. The books of those two great souls clearly explain prema-bhakti. Hearing of them will bring one great joy for they are the ashraya-vigrahas of madhura-rasa. O Rupa and Sanatana, you are endowed with the greatest wealth of divine love - radha-krishna-prema - which in your hands is like thousands of cupid's golden arrows. O Rupa and Sanatana, bestow some of that treasure upon me by piercing my heart with those jeweled arrows. The essence of Shrimad Bhagavatam is the ninefold path of bhakti. I shall always follow that path, without taking shelter of any other god. O brothers! Krishna-bhakti is the supreme form of bhajan. Making the words of guru, shastra and the sadhus my mind's only meditation I shall dive and surface in the ocean of Krishna-prema. The karmis and jnanis have no bhakti. Bhakti is different - it is without any trace of karma, exploitation, or jnana, calculation. Thus sings Narottama of the truth."
"I have no other topic of discussion but your lotus feet. I worry my mind with nothing other than the thought of your lotus feet, O Lord. I can speak of nothing else but your holy qualities in the company of other devotees. I have no other vow but your service. I have no other object of charity. I am interested in no other kind of knowledge besides knowing how to please you. I have no other duties. I worship no other gods before you. Chanting, "O Krishna! O Krishna!" I shall wander in ecstasy, thinking of nothing other than You. Radha-Krishna are my goal in life and death and the masters of my breath. Performing my bhajan only for them I rise and fall in the ocean of prema, divine love. I pray that I may always maintain this conception within my heart as my highest ideal: Let me serve the lotus feet of Shri Shri Radha and Govinda. Let my mind be filled with dedication to their divine forms whose beauty surpasses that of Cupid and Rati. With a straw between my teeth I fall at their feet and present my humble petition: "O Kishora-Kishori! O son of King Nanda, Shyamasundara! And O daughter of King Vrishabhanu, Shri Radhika, you who enchant even Hari, you whose bodily complexion is the color of a golden lotus. O Krishna, whose bodily color is that of a blue jewel, whose beauty mocks cupid. O topmost dancer and danseuse, Shri Krishna and Shri Radha: Please dance within my mind. O you whose beauty increases the charm of your dazzling ornaments, my only wish is that day and night, in great ecstasy, I shall go on singing your glories."
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