shaivyo yasid vraje candi sa Damodar-panditah
kutashcit karyato devi pravishat tam sarasvati
The terrible-tempered gopi named Shaivya became Damodar Pandit in Gaura lila, though occasionally the goddess Saraswati also entered into him for some special purpose.
Damodar Pandit is considered to be one of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s branches.
Damodar Pandit is another branch of the Chaitanya trunk. His love for the Lord was so intense that he even chastised Him. This verbal punishment so satisfied the Lord that he sent him to Nadiya. I will tell this story later.
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.10.31-2)
Damodar Accompanies the Lord to Puri
After the Lord took sannyasa in Katwa, Nityananda Prabhu tricked Him into coming to Advaita Prabhu’s house in Shantipur. Many people came from Navadwip to see Him there, one of whom was Damodar Pandit. Mahaprabhu stayed ten days in Shantipur, after which He was asked by His mother to stay in Puri where she could always have news of Him. Damodar Pandit was one of the Devotees who accompanied the Lord on His trip to Jagannath Puri. The others were Nityananda Prabhu, Mukunda Datta and Jagadananda Pandit.
Mahaprabhu took sannyasa during the fortnight of the waxing moon of Magh. He arrived in Puri in the month of Phalgun and delivered Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya in the following month of Chaitra. He departed alone on his pilgrimage to Southern India in the month of Vaishakh. Nityananda Prabhu and the other Devotees He left behind in Puri they suffered greatly in His separation. Nitai had tried to persuade the Lord to take one of them as a companion, but He refused. He then apparently criticized them, while in fact praising them. Of Damodar Pandit He said:
Even though I am a sannyasi and Damodar just a brahmachari, he is always telling me what to do, holding the rod of chastisement over me. He does not like me to act independently and so I do not know how to behave in front of him. By Krishna’s mercy, he does not care for public opinion whereas I cannot be indifferent to what people think.
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.7.25-7)
When Mahaprabhu returned from South India, getting as far as Alalanath, He sent His servant companion Krishna Das to inform Nityananda and the other Devotees that He had arrived. Damodar Pandit joined Jagadananda, Nityananda and Mukunda joyfully rushed onto the main road where they met Him.
As soon as he heard that the Lord had arrived, Nityananda got up and started off to meet Him, as nothing could hold back his love. Jagadananda, Damodar Pandit and Mukunda all danced down the road, bursting with joy.
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.9.339-40)
Once he had settled back in Puri, Mahaprabhu told Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya about the behavior of Krishna Das Vipra. While in the South, Krishna Das had been seduced away from his service to the Lord by a group of Bhattathari women. Mahaprabhu somehow managed to free him from their clutches and brought him back to Puri. He then told him that he was free to go wherever he liked as he was no longer welcome to stay in his company. Krishna Das started to cry at this rejection, and out of sympathy for him, Nityananda, Damodar Pandit, Jagadananda and Mukunda discussed what to do with him. Finally, they recommended to the Lord that he be sent to Navadwip with news of the Lord’s return from His pilgrimage. The Lord approved the proposal and Kala Krishna Das set off, delighting everyone in Bengal with the good news. Later, when Damodar Pandit went back to Bengal himself, he met Kala Krishna Das.
Damodar’s Brother Shankara Pandit
Mahaprabhu had a mixture of respect and affection for Damodar Pandit. Towards Damodar’s younger brother Shankara Pandit, however, he had pure affection unseparated by any distance. However, for his own good, he put Shankara in the care of his older brother because he knew that Damodar would keep him under strict discipline.
Seeing Shankara, the Lord turned to Damodar Pandit and said, "My love for you is mixed with reverence, whereas I love Shankara with all my heart. For this reason I am putting him under your care."
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.11.146-7)
Damodar answered, "Shankara is younger than me, but from this day on, by your grace, I will treat him as my elder." During Mahaprabhu’s later pastimes, Shankara stayed in His direct association, sleeping in the same room. The Lord would even sleep sometimes with His feet resting on Shankara’s body, as a result of which he received the nickname prabhu-padopadhana – "Mahaprabhu’s foot pillow".
Damodar’s Tendency to Criticize the Lord’s Behavior
One day, the Lord Himself began serving Prasad to His Devotees. Since He was engaged in serving, He was not eating. The other Devotees raised their hands and sat silently, refusing to eat until the Lord did so. Finally, Svarupa Damodar asked the Lord to sit down with Nityananda and to take Prasad. Svarupa Damodar, Jagadananda, Damodar Pandit and others then served. Only then did the Devotees feel capable of eating.
When the Lord returned from the South, Maharaj Prataparudra asked several times for permission to meet with Him. When Mahaprabhu refused, he became so distraught that he threatened to give up his kingdom and become a beggar. The Lord’s Devotees were all impressed by the King’s show of devotion and wished to intervene on his behalf. Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya suggested that instead of directly asking the Lord to meet with the King, they should simply praise his faith and devotion in the hope that this would change the Lord’s attitude. Following this policy, Nityananda told the Lord of the King’s intention to become a yogi beggar if he could not have a personal audience with him. Mahaprabhu was somewhat mollified upon hearing this, but nevertheless maintained a hardline attitude. He named Damodar Pandit as a reason for such strict behavior:
"It is your wish to take Me to Cuttack to meet with the King. Not only will my spiritual practice be affected by such an action, but people will criticize Me. If they do, that does not bother Me so much, but I am afraid that Damodar Pandit will chastise Me. I will not go to meet the King on your order alone. I will only go if Damodar tells Me to."
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.12.23-5)
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur comments on these verses in the following way: "Mahaprabhu said, 'I will not grant an audience to the King on your order alone. Only if Damodar Pandit commands Me shall I consider it.' These words had a particular significance: though the Lord appreciated Damodar’s devotion, his criticisms of the Lord’s behavior were often unnecessary. The Lord was thus hinting that Damodar should stop this tendency to unnecessary criticism."
Other Pastimes in Puri
Damodar Pandit was also the Lord’s companion during the Rathayatra festival. He was one of the chorus singers in one of the seven kirtan groups in which Svarupa Damodar was the lead singer. Advaita Acharya danced in the same group.
When Mahaprabhu set off for Vrindavan through Gaudadesha with many of His associates, including Damodar Pandit. On this occasion, the Lord did not make it all the way to Vraja, as He changed His mind on Sanatana Goswami’s advice.
The following year, Mahaprabhu traveled through northern India, going as far as Vrindavan. He then returned to Puri with Balabhadra on the path through Jhariikhanda. When they received the news of the Lord’s arrival in Atharo Nala, all the Lord’s Devotees rushed there to welcome Him back. The Lord’s affectionately embraced each one of them.
Mahaprabhu and the Widow’s Son
There was an Orissan widow living in Puri while Mahaprabhu was there. She had a handsome young son who would come to visit the Lord daily. He would pay his obeisances to the Lord and then engage Him in a lengthy, affectionate conversation. The boy came to love the Lord as he loved himself and was not able to go through a day without seeing Him. The Lord also treated the boy with great warmth. Damodar Pandit, however, could not tolerate seeing the affectionate relationship between the Lord and this boy. Though he repeatedly forbade him, the boy continued to come to see the Lord. A child will naturally go where he receives affection and the Lord was indeed very affectionate to him.
One day, Damodar Pandit finally exploded and said sarcastically to the Lord,
"Everyone says You are very learned because of the instructions You so generously give to others. I shall see what kind of master You really are. Now people will glorify You for being a great master and You will truly be famous as a master throughout Puri."
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.3.11-12)
The Lord did not understand at first what Damodar was getting at and made him explain himself. The Pandit made himself more explicit, "Lord, You do as You like. No one has the authority to dictate to You. Even so, this is a world full of gossips whose speech no one can stifle. You are learned, so why don’t You Yourself see the implications of Your acts? Why do You behave so affectionately towards a widow’s child? She may be an austere and chaste Brahmin woman, but she has the fault of being young and beautiful. You too are a young and handsome man. Such a close relationship with her son gives the world occasion to whisper. Do You think that this is intelligent behavior?" With that, Damodar fell silent. Mahaprabhu was satisfied with his sentiments and said:
"This is what I call a wave of pure love! No one is as intimate an associate as Damodar."
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.3.17)
Mahaprabhu Sends Damodar to Nadiya
One day Mahaprabhu called Damodar Pandit and asked him to go to Sachi Mata in Navadwip and to help supervise her material affairs.
"No one is more suited than you to act in her protection, for you have warned even Me. Amongst My associates, there is no one more impartial than you. Religious principles can only be defended by someone who is free from bias or prejudice."
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.3.22-3)
After telling Damodar to return to Navadwip, He then consoled him by telling him to return to Puri from time to time. He also told him to pay repeated obeisances to His mother and gave him a confidential message to deliver to her:
"In the condition of external separation, she again became bewildered, thinking that she had not offered any food to Lord Vishnu. She went back to the kitchen to look at the cooking pots and found that every one of them was still filled with food. So she cleansed the altar and made the offering once again. This is how I come again and again to eat everything she offers me, for I am attracted by her pure love. I reside in Nilachala only because she told Me to. Even still, she repeatedly pulls Me back to her out of her great love for Me."
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.3.19-39)
Mahaprabhu then gave some Jagannath Prasad to Damodar Pandit and told him to give it to Sachi Mata and the other Navadwip Devotees. Damodar set off and carried out the Lord’s instructions to the letter. With the Pandit there in Navadwip, the Devotees became very careful about their behavior. No one dared to act in an independent manner. If anyone of Mahaprabhu’s followers made even the slightest transgression in etiquette, Damodar Pandit would establish the standards of behavior by verbally punishing the offender.
The ignorance of atheism will flee from anyone who hears this history of Damodar Pandit’s chastisement of the Lord which has just been described.
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.3.46)
Damodar Pandit is thus one of the great Devotees through whose preaching, the glories of the Holy Name have spread throughout the universe. Mahaprabhu glorified these great souls when He said,
"I have come to possess devotion to Krishna through the grace of all these great Devotees who have preached love for the Holy Name throughout the world."
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.7.50)
In the Bhakti-ratnakara, Narahari Chakravarti says that Narottama Das Thakur met Damodar Pandit in Navadwip. Narottama paid his obeisances to his feet in excitement at meeting a direct associate of the Lord.
[Excerpted from “Sri Chaitanya: His Life & Associates” by Srila Bhakti Ballabh Tirtha Maharaj]