Gadadara Pandit was a childhood friend of Nimai and both were students in the same ‘Tol’ or school. Gadadhar’s parents Madhav Mishra and Ratnawati were natives of Chattagram district but later on moved to Navadwip. Gadadhar Pandit was born in Navadwip.
In the Gaura-ganodesa-dipika, verses 147 through 153, it is stated: "The pleasure potency of Sri Krishna formely known as Vrindavaneshvari Srimati Radharani is now personified in the form of Sri Gadadhara Pandit in the pastimes of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
Sri Swarupa Damodara Goswami has pointed out that in the shape of Lakshmi, the pleasure potency of Krishna, she was formely very dear to the Lord as Shyamasundara-vallabha. The same Shyamasundara-vallabha is now present as Gadadhara Pandit".
From his early childhood, Gadadhara was very serene, patient, calm, quiet, fond of solitude and very renounced. Nimai Pandit during the time of His precocious youth would ask his fellow students meaningless, fallacious questions in logic. Gadadhara however, was not especially fond of this pastime, and therefore he sometimes used to remain at some distance from Nimai.
On the way to their school, Nimai would catch hold of Gadadhara and chide him, “What do you think of yourself – you think you are a really great pandit? Tell me, what are the symptoms of a liberated soul?”
Gadadhara would give his explanation based on the scriptures. Nimai would then tell him that it was the absolutely wrong answer. “The display of acute misery and suffering is actually the symptom of a truly liberated soul” said Nimai. Gadadhara tried to argue further on the point. With a wave of his hand, Nimai dismissed all his logic and told him that he (Gadadhara) would understand the answer later on when he got home.
Gadadhara wondered why Advaita Acharya looked up to Nimai with such intense faith and devotion. Even Ishwara Puri seemed respectful of him. While there was no doubt that Nimai Pandit was exceedingly clever and intelligent, it seemed that Advaita Acharya glimpsed something beyond the mere intellectual prowess of the young man and beheld something at another level, which he could not understand or reach to.
Once while Gadadhara was plucking flowers at the home of Srivas Pandit, Srivas came up to Gadadhara with a basket for the flowers, beaming with joy. Gadadhara asked “What makes you so happy?” Srivas replied, “Nimai has returned from Gaya just yesterday. It is unbelievable that the cheeky and arrogant boy has changed so completely. He has turned into a compassionate, humble and meek person. Continuously shedding tears, he writhes in agony and cries pitieously, ‘Krishna, Krishna…’ He does not even look like a normal human being anymore – rather like someone from another realm.”
Srivas Pandit continued, “Our desire seems to be on the verge of fulfilment. He has called up to congregate at the house of Shuklambar Brahmachari. Perhaps he will share the reasons of his pain and suffering with us.”
Gadadhara instinctively exclaimed, “Even though I am not invited, I will also go. I also want to know the reason behind the incredible change in Nimai.” So he went but hid himself from the rest, as he was not invited to the secret congregation scheduled to take place in Shuklambar’s courtyard.
The beautiful, golden and effulgent Nimai stood in the middle of the courtyard, and passed his large lotus eyes over the gathering before Him. Losing control of Himself, he burst into tears and sobbed loudly, crying “Where is my Lord Sri Krishna? He was here just now, where has he disappeared, where has he hidden himself from me?
The heart wrenching sincerity and desperation of His cry stunned everyone present. Nimai then fell down unconscious with a great crash. When he regained consciousness, He could hear someone sobbing very loudly. The sound seemed to be coming from inside the house. He went into the house and asked who was it that was crying so pathetically. Shuklambar told him, “It is your Gadadhar.”
From his very childhood, Gadadhara had followed behind Nimai as if he were his shadow. Gadadhara was quite detached from the world, his only object of attachment was Nimai. Nimai called Gadadhara and told him, “My dear Gadadhara, since your early childhood, you have always been devoted to Lord Krishna. But I have simply wasted my time in false pursuits and achieved nothing.
At one time I too was close to Sri Krishna, but due to my own fault I have now lost this invaluable treasure. Please tell me, how can I find him again?” He wept inconsolably and lost consciousness again.
After some time, seeing Gadadhara alone, Nimai asked him again, “Where is my Lord Krishna? Please tell me.” Gadadhara answered, “Your Krishna is hidden within your heart.” At this, Nimai started digging into his chest with his nails. Gadadhara leapt forward and held Nimai’s hands tightly.
Mother Sachi happened to witness this incident and ran up to them and told Gadadhara, “You have just saved my Nimai.” She blessed him and said, “Stay with Nimai for your entire life so that my son may be protected.”
Sri Gadadhara Pandita was very affectionate towards Mukunda datta. Whenever any Vaisnava saint came to Navadwip, Mukunda would inform Gadadhara and they would both go to have darsana. One time Pundarika Vidyanidhi came from Chattagram to Navadwipa and Mukunda invited Gadadhara to come along and meet him. Gadadhara was very excited to meet a exalted Vaisnava and the two of them happily set out together to have darshan of the famous Pundarika Vidyanidhi.
However, Gadadhara was not prepared for the sight that met his eyes. He saw that Pundarika Vidyanidhi was dressed in fine silk, his lips red with the juice of betel-leaf and was reclining on a fine couch resting against velvet cushions. His servants were fanning him and spraying scented oil all around the room. Gadadhara Pandit was not impressed. How could this apparently sensual person be called a ‘great Vaishnava’ he wondered. He was disappointed and wanted to leave immediately.
However, Mukunda knew the real character of Pundarika Vidyanidhi, and he could also sense the doubts in the mind of Gadadhara Pandita. Thus he recited some slokas from the Srimad Bhagavatam in a very sweet voice. When Pundarika Vidyanidhi heard his beautiful recitation of these slokas, in a fit of ecstasy he began to cry while calling, "Krishna, Krishna", and rolled about on the bed, his clothes falling into disarray. Soon he fainted dead away on the floor. [Chaitanya Bhagavat. Madhylila 7.78-79].
Gadadhara now felt very remorseful in his mind. He thought to himself, "Because I have ignorantly considered this highly advanced soul to be an ordinary materialist, what an offense I have committed! In order that I might be saved from the reaction of this offense, I think the only solution is to accept initiation from him."
Gadadhara Pandita submitted his proposal to Mukunda, who presented it to Pundarika Vidyanidhi with a full account of the pandita's high qualifications. "Hearing this proposal, Pundarik became very happy. 'Providence has bestowed upon me a great jewel; certainly I will accept him. You shouldn't have any doubt about that. It is the result of many lifetimes of good fortune that one gets a disciple like this.'" On an auspicious day, Sri Gadadhara Pandita received the divine mantra from Pundarika Vidyanidhi.
Prior to taking initiation, Gadadhara Pandit discussed the matter with Nimai, asking if his offence would be forgiven by taking diksha from Pundarik Vidyanidhi. Nimai told him not to delay a single moment and take initiation as soon as possible.
When Nimai was to leave for Puri after his sannyas, Gadadhara put up a lot of arguments against his leaving home. Gadadhara told Nimai that one could practice any sort of spiritual sadhana even while staying at home. But Nimai told him that what He (Mahaprabhu) had come to say would be better accepted by the masses if He became a sannyasi rather than a grihasta. Gadadhara finally gave in.
Gadadhara then tried to persuade Mahaprabhu to take him also to Puri. But Nimai did not agree, despite all his cries and pleas. Gadadhara was left behind burning in the fire of separation. He wondered how he would survive without seeing the dear face of his beloved Gauranga.
After some time, Gadadhara accompanied some devotees from Navadwip to visit Mahaprabhu in Puri. He stayed on in Puri, not returning to Navadwip. Gadadhara started living in Jameshwar’s Tota (garden). Everyday, Gadadhara would read out aloud from the Srimad Bhagavatam for the pleasure of Mahaprabhu.
Once while sitting on the beach, discussing some topics on Krishna, Nimai decided to bestow his special grace on Gadadhara. He told Gadadhara to dig in a particular spot. After digging for sometime, Gadadhara discovered the beautiful deity of Sri Gopinath. The deity was established in a temple in the garden and came to be known as Tota Gopinath.
Mahaprabhu asked Sri Gadadhara Pandit to do three activities on His behalf:
1. Be the authoritative teacher of Srimad-Bhagavatam;
2. Give diksha (formal initiation) on behalf of Mahaprabhu to the true seekers on the path of pure Vraja-bhakti;
3. Worship the Deity of Sri Gopinath along with His eternal consort, Sri Radha;
Soon after, Gadadhara took a vow of “Kshetra Sanyas” (limiting oneself to one particular place only), so as to do uninterrupted seva of Lord Sri Gopinath.
When Mahaprabhu started on his pilgrimage to Sri Vrindavan, Gadadhara said he would accompany him. Mahaprabhu reminded him about his vow. Gadadhara replied that Mahaprabhu was his “Sri Kshetra” and his Gopinath as well. Mahaprabhu was not happy. “This is not proper” he said.
Gadadhara nearly fainted due to the sorrow of separation. Mahaprabhu told Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya to take him back to Sri Kshetra. He would not let him break his vow. On that particular occasion, Mahaprabhu’s Vrindavan trip was cancelled. Mahaprabhu told everyone that he felt his Vrindavan visit was cancelled because he had made Gadadhara unhappy.
Once Gadadhara asked Mahaprabhu for a mantra. He wanted to be re-initiated. He said that he had disclosed his mantra to some one and it seemed to have lost is efficacy. Mahaprabhu told him to ask Pundarik Vidhyanithi for a mantra once again. He also said that Pundarik would be arriving in Nilachal very soon. Sure enough, Pundarik came and Gadadhara was re-initiated.