Shri Ramachandra Kaviraja, the son of Khandavasi Chiranjiva and Sunanda, was a disciple of Shrinivasa Acharya and the most intimate friend of Narottama dasa Thakura, who prayed several times for his association. His youngest brother was Govinda Kaviraja. Shrila Jiva Goswami very much appreciated Shri Ramachandra Kaviraja’s great devotion to Lord Krishna and therefore gave him the title Kaviraja. Shri Ramachandra Kaviraja, who was perpetually disinterested in family life, greatly assisted in the preaching work of Shrinivasa Acharya and Narottama dasa Thakura. He resided at first in Shrikhanda but later in the village of Kumara-nagara on the bank of the Ganges.
Govinda Kaviraja was the brother of Ramachandra Kaviraja and youngest son of Chiranjiva of Shrikhanda. Although at first a shakta, or worshiper of Goddess Durga, he was later initiated by Shrinivasa Acharya Prabhu. Govinda Kaviraja also resided first in Shrikhanda and then in Kumara-nagara, but later he moved to the village known as Teliya Budhari, on the southern bank of the river Padma. Since Govinda Kaviraja, the author of two books, Sangita-madhava and Gitamrita, was a great Vaishnava kavi, or poet, Shrila Jiva Goswami gave him the title Kaviraja. He is described in the Bhakti-ratnakara (Ninth Wave). (A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Shri Chaitanya Charitamrta Adi-lila 11:51. purport.)
Shrila Krishnadasa Kaviraja took pleasure in writing the infrequent passages which glorified Gopala Bhatta, and he never told Shri Bhatta how he had written them. (Bhakti-ratnakara. KHA226.)
I cannot write extentively about the depth of knowledge of Shri Gopala Bhatta during his life in Vrindavana for fear the book will become too large. (Bhakti-ratnakara. KHA227.)
Shri Bhatta had given many comments on the book ”Krishnakarnamrta• which gave much pleasure to all the Vaishnavas. (Bhakti-ratnakara.KHA228.)
Shri Gopala Bhatta, a remarkable person in the path of pure devotion had performed many supernatural activities. (Bhakti-ratnakara.KHA229.)
At a much later time, Shrinivasa met him and got his desires fulfilled. (Bhakti-ratnakara. KHA230.)
On the order of Prabhu, Shrinivasa took his initiation from Gopala Bhatta and later propagated the Goswami scriptures in Gauda. (Bhakti-ratnakara.KHA231.)
Prabhu empowered Shri Rupa and others to write and compile scriptures on Vaishnava religion, for the propogation of those scriptures he empowered Shrinivasa. (Bhakti-ratnakara. KHA232.)
Acharya and Shri Thakura Mahashaya were of the same soul in their devotion to Prabhu. Thakura Mahashaya had revealed the powers of both Rupa Goswami and Shrinivasa in his shlokas. (Bhakti-ratnakara. KHA233.)
The shlokas by Thakura Mahashaya say: "When shall I be able to find Shri Chaitanya Deva, the ocean of kindness, within the range of my vision? His aim was to create many Vaishnava scriptures through the intellect of Shri Rupa and others to later disseminate those scriptures to the people of the world through the efforts of Shrinivasa." (Bhakti-ratnakara. KHA234.)
Shrinivasa Acharya was a great scholar who benedicted the world by distributing those valuable Vaishnava books. (Bhakti-ratnakara.KHA235.)
”The favor of Lokanatha to Narottma" At that time Narottama arrived in Vrindavana and immediately engaged himself in the continous service of Shri Lokanatha. (Bhakti-ratnakara. KHA345.)
Lokanatha was satisfied with Narottama's attitude and gave him Diksha mantra. (Bhakti-ratnakara.KHA346.)
Shri Gopala Bhatta and the other Vaishnavas accepted Narottama as an intimate friend. (Bhakti-ratnakara.KHA347.)
Narottama got the title Thakura Mahashaya along with the affection of Shri Jiva Goswami. (Bhakti-ratnakara.KHA348.)
Shrinivasa Acharya met Narottama in Vrindavana and gradually a dynamic new circle of Vaishnavas was established there. (Bhakti-ratnakara.KHA349.)
Shrinivasa also met Shyamananda in Vrindavana. (Bhakti-ratnakara. KHA350.)
The Embodiment of Lord Chaitanya’s Love by Satyaraja dasa.
It was the middle of the sixteenth century. Aspiring for perfection in spiritual life, young Shrinivasa had tried to meet Lord Chaitanya and His disciple Gadadhara. But Shrinivasa came too late they passed away before he could become their student. And so too did the great Rupa Goswami and Sanatana Goswami. But as Shrinivasa journeyed to the holy town Vrindavana, Rupa and Sanatana appeared to him in a dream. Go on to Vrindavana, they told him, and learn from the great goswamis Jiva and Gopala Bhatta.
Shrinivasa Acharya is one of the most important personalities in the religious history of Bengal, perhaps the most important Vaishnava teacher in the generation immediately following Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He is chiefly remembered as the illustrious disciple of Gopala Bhatta Goswami and Jiva Goswami. His achievements include delivering the writings of the Goswamis from Vrindavana to Bengal, converting King Birhambir to Vaishnavism, and originating the Manohar Shoy style of kirtana. At Kheturi, Bengal, he co-organized the first Gaura Purnima Festival (celebrating the anniversary of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s appearance in this world), which Narottama, Shyamananda, and thousands of other Vaishnavas attended.
Shrinivasa’s Parents :
Shrinivasa Acharya’s parents the brahmana Gangadhara Bhattacharya and his wife, Lakshmi Priya lived in the small village of Chakhandi, on the bank of the Ganges in the Burdwan district of Bengal. They longed to raise a child who would be a great Devotee, but until the birth of Shrinivasa, they were child-less for many years.
Gangadhara was himself a great Devotee of the Golden Avatara, Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the incarnation of Shri Shri Radha and Krishna predicted in the scriptures. Lord Chaitanya had appeared in Navadwipa and was currently in the world. Gangadhara spent much of his time hearing and retelling the stories of Lord Chaitanya’s pastimes (lila) with the Lord’s intimate associates. He wanted to see Lord Chaitanya, but social and familial obligations kept him at home, so he resolved to meditate on the Lord in separation. In 1510, however, he could not tolerate the separation any longer. He set out for Navadwipa to see the Lord of his life. After only seven miles, as far as the village of Katwa, he learned that Nimai of Nadiya Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was in that very village taking sannyasa, the renounced order of life.
“What?” cried Gangadhara. “Why must my Lord take the renounced order? This austerity is reserved for human beings like me so we can overcome our attachments to this world. Certainly there is no need for Shri Nimai, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, to live the harsh life of an ascetic.” But Gangadhara’s reservations were mixed with excitement: he would soon see his Lord face to face. When he approached the sacrificial area where Shri Nimai was taking sannyasa, he saw the Lord’s intimate associates Nityananda Prabhu, Chandrasekhara Acharya, Mukunda Datta, and many others. He saw Madhu Shila, the barber, preparing to cut Nimai’s beautiful locks of raven black hair.
“No!” the onlookers were saying. “Please stop!” They, like Gangadhara, could not conceive of the Lord in the renounced order of life. Even Madhu, who had the good fortune to touch the Lord’s head, could cut His hair out of duty only, weeping profusely. Madhu and the others knew that the Lord had decided to set an example for the entire religious world and stress the importance of renunciation. There was nothing they could do.
Chaitanya Dasa :
Keshava Bharati, the sannyasa-guru, gave Nimai His new sannyasa name, “Shri Krishna Chaitanya.” The crowd was in shock: “Beautiful Nimai is really taking sannyasa!” They couldn’t believe their eyes, from which tears were flowing incessantly. But the deed was done.
Madhu fainted. Why had he shaved the Lord’s head? It was as if he had been controlled by the Lord’s own hand to fulfill the Lord’s own desire. “Chaitanya! Chaitanya!” said Gangadhara Bhattacharya to himself. “Chaitanya! Chaitanya! Chaitanya!” he repeated again and again. His eyes pleaded with everyone there: he wanted to understand what had just happened, but all he could do was mutter in a stupor of mixed emotions.
Gangadhara found himself calling the Lord’s names aloud with uncontrollable enthusiasm “Chaitanya! Shri Krishna Chaitanya! Shri Krishna Chaitanya!”
He returned to Chakhandi, half mad with ecstasy, unable to stop repeating the Lord’s names. He told his wife what had happened, and she too was overcome with ecstasy. As the days passed, their ecstasy increased, and the whole town of Chakhandi marveled at Gangadhara’s transformation. Seeing Gangadhara’s absorption in Shri Chaitanya’s name, his wife and the other villagers began calling him Chaitanya Dasa.
Journey To Puri :
Chaitanya Dasa and his wife went to Jagannatha Puri, where Lord Chaitanya had gone after accepting the renounced order. When the couple arrived, they went to Shri Chaitanya and surrendered at His feet. “Lord Jagannatha is very happy that you have come here,” the Lord said. “Go to the Temple and see His Deity form. The lotus-eyed Lord is extremely merciful, so please go see Him.”
Govinda, Lord Chaitanya’s personal servant, accompanied Chaitanya Dasa and his wife to the Temple, where they offered many prayers at the feet of Lord Jagannatha. Weeping tears of divine love, the happy brahmana couple were soon escorted to the luxurious accommodations Lord Chaitanya had arranged for them. They spent several happy days with Shri Chaitanya in Jagannatha Puri.
One day Lord Chaitanya told His servant of His plans for the couple. “Govinda,” the Lord said, “although Chaitanya Dasa and his wife have not mentioned it to Me, I know they would like to have a child. They said so in front of Lord Jagannatha, who is nondifferent from Me. They have prayed sincerely, and I know their hearts. Their desired offspring will soon appear. His name will be Shrinivasa, and he will be a greatly beautiful child. Through Rupa and Sanatana I will manifest the bhakti-shastras, and through Shrinivasa I will distribute them. Chaitanya Dasa and his wife should quickly return to Chakandhi.”
The Appearance of Shrinivasa :
In Chakhandi the couple had a beautiful baby boy, whom they named Shrinivasa. He was born in the second or third decade of the sixteenth century on the auspicious full-moon day of the month of Vaishakha (April–May). Lakshmi Priya’s father, Balarama Vipra, a learned astrologer, told the happy couple that their son was a mahapurusha, a divinely empowered soul. The boy had a broad chest and a long, elegant nose, and his beautiful eyes extended like lotus petals. Like Lord Chaitanya, he had a bodily luster resembling molten gold and arms that extended down to his knees. According to custom, Chaitanya Dasa and Lakshmi Priya gave charity to the brahmanas, and the brahmanas blessed the child.
Shrinivasa’s Youth :
Lakshmi Priya would constantly sing the glories of Lord Chaitanya into the child’s ears, and the melodious sounds made him joyful. As Shrinivasa grew, he learned to chant the names of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Radha-Krishna. Soon this small crescent moon known as Shrinivasa grew full and was known as the brightest and most beautiful boy in Chakhandi. He studied under the famed Dhananjaya Vidyavachaspati, who taught him all branches of Vedic learning, including religion, logic, poetry, political science, grammar, and Ayurveda. According to the Prema-vilasa, Dhananjaya Vidyavachaspati said that he had nothing to teach Shrinivasa. The Prema-vilasa also relates that the goddess of education appeared to Shrinivasa in a dream and told him she would make him proficient in all areas of learning, especially the scriptures. Still, Shrinivasa became known as Dhananjaya Vidyavachaspati’s prize pupil, and as such he was the pride of Chakhandi. He was loved by all the townspeople, who saw him as a precious gem.
Narahari Sarakara Thakura :
Because of Shrinivasa’s popularity, he met Narahari Sarakara, an intimate associate of Lord Chaitanya from nearby Shrikhanda. Narahari Sarakara’s intense devotion had pleased Lord Chaitanya, and Narahari had the distinction of being allowed to sing the Lord’s glories in the Lord’s presence, although the Lord, out of humility, would not let anyone else do so. This distinction impressed young Shrinivasa, and he accepted Shri Narahari as his first instructing guru. After meeting Narahari Sarakara, Shrinivasa began to show signs of ecstasy. Narahari told Shrinivasa to go to Puri to see Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. While Shrinivasa was considering how to execute the instruction, his father passed away from this mortal world after seven days of fever. It was a shock to the family, and Shrinivasa did all he could to console his mother.
Meanwhile, the omniscient Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was preparing His associates for Shrinivasa’s arrival. He had already written to Rupa, Sanatana, and Gopala Bhatta Goswamis requesting them to teach Shrinivasa spiritual life. And He asked Gadadhara Pandita in Jagannatha Puri to teach Shrinivasa the Shrimad-Bhagavatam. Narahari Sarakara advised Shrinivasa to see to his mother’s care in Jajigram, where her father and brothers had moved from Chakhandi. Then Shrinivasa was to proceed to Puri to associate with Lord Chaitanya. Shrinivasa asked Narahari to initiate him into the chanting of Krishna's name, but Narahari told him that Lord Chaitanya wanted him to take initiation from Gopala Bhatta Goswami.
Meeting with Gadadhara Pandita :
Still a boy, Shrinivasa set out with a companion for Puri. On the way, he learned that Shri Chaitanya had left this world. Then Lord Chaitanya along with Nityananda Prabhu, who had also passed away appeared to Shrinivasa “on the pretext of a dream” and consoled him. The phrase shopna chaley (“on the pretext of a dream”) appears frequently in Bengali literature of the period and is usually taken to mean “in a spiritual vision.”
Still, Shrinivasa remained grief-stricken. He went to the Gopinatha Temple in Puri to take shelter of Gadadhara Pandita. The Pandita was overcome with separation from Lord Chaitanya, and tears always flowed from his eyes. Shrinivasa bowed at Shri Gadadhara’s feet and introduced himself. Gadadhara Pandita became joyful. “I’m glad you have come and introduced yourself,” he said. “Just before passing away, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu told me to teach you the Bhagavatam. He knew you would arrive in Puri one day, and He asked me to explain Krishna-lila to you.”
Gadadhara Pandita’s joy he could now fulfill this order of the Lord again turned to sadness. “I cannot teach you Bhagavatam at this time, O young Shrinivasa,” he said, “for the manuscript in my possession has become illegible from the tears I have cried onto its pages.” Shrinivasa touched the sacred book to his head and felt ecstasy arise within himself. Nonetheless, the problem of studying a book that had been rendered illegible remained. But Shri Gadadhara and Shrinivasa would not be swayed from their purpose. The will of Mahaprabhu could not be obstructed. Shri Gadadhara sent a message to Narahari Sarakara in Bengal asking him to secure another manuscript of Shrimad-Bhagavatam. Narahari replied that another copy was available and that a messenger should be dispatched immediately. Gadadhara sent Shrinivasa himself and told him to hurry. The separation from Lord Chaitanya was intolerable, he said, and he didn’t know how long he could stay in this world.
Before leaving, Shrinivasa fulfilled a long-cherished desire to see Lord Chaitanya’s associates. He went to the homes of Ramananda Raya, Shikhi Mahiti, Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya, Vakreshvara Pandita, Paramananda Puri, Gopinatha Acharya, and many others. He also went to see King Prataparudra, but according to the Bhakti-ratnakara the king had gone away in solitude to lament the Lord’s passing.
Shrinivasa as Gaura Shakti :
Shrinivasa reminded the great personalities in Puri of Lord Chaitanya. Seeing his intense and unprecedented love of Godhead, the Devotees could understand that he was Gaura Shakti, the embodiment of the energy of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. According to the Prema-vilasa, Shrinivasa is an incarnation of Lord Chaitanya’s ecstasy. The Lord’s intimate associates could naturally perceive this and could understand that through Shrinivasa the eternal message of Lord Chaitanya the message of the Vedic literature would be widely distributed.
Lord Chaitanya had broken open the storehouse of nectarean love of God, and the Goswamis, by writing books, had taken that nectar and placed it in tangible vessels. Shrinivasa would see that these vessels were circulated among all sincere souls. The intimate associates of the Lord gave Shrinivasa instructions and advice for carrying on the mission.
When Shrinivasa arrived in Bengal and received the copy of the Bhagavatam from Narahari Sarakara Thakura, he learned that Gadadhara Pandita had passed away. The news was a terrible blow, and Shrinivasa lamented. Then Gadadhara Pandita appeared to him on the pre text of a dream and encouraged him to go forward.
Shrinivasa reflected on the inconceivable will of the Lord. Why had He taken away the person who was to teach him the Bhagavatam? Was there a new plan? Was someone else to teach him the sacred scriptures? Some say that Shrinivasa fell despondent at this time, but not much is known about the years that followed Shri Gadadhara’s passing from this world. It is generally assumed that Shrinivasa spent this time at first in a heartbroken state and then in serious meditation. He probably continued his studies, as he was still in his teens.
When Shri Jahnava Devi, the wife of Nityananda Prabhu, went to Vrindavana, Rupa Goswami asked her to send Shrinivasa to Vrindavana as soon as possible. On her return to Bengal, she relayed the message to Narahari. Shri Chaitanya had told the Goswamis of Vraja to train Shrinivasa, and Narahari advised him to hasten to Vrindavana so that the Lord’s command should not be violated. The request heightened Shrinivasa’s desire to study bhakti literature with Rupa and Sanatana. Had he gone to Vrindavana then, he would have met Rupa and Sanatana. But he decided to visit the homes of Lord Chaitanya’s principal associates on the way, stopping at Navadwipa to visit Shri Chaitanya’s home.
Association with The Navadwipa Devotees :
This was the second time Shrinivasa delayed a journey: first the journey to see Gadadhara Pandita, and now Rupa and Sanatana. Perhaps Shrinivasa’s enthusiasm to associate with Lord Chaitanya’s direct followers in Puri and Navadwipa was so overwhelming that he was unable to heed the advice of his forebears. Some say that all of this was the will of providence, so that Shrinivasa would take initiation from Gopala Bhatta Goswami. Others say that Shrinivasa, by his example, was teaching the importance of pilgrimage and association with Devotees.
Shrinivasa was enthralled with the home of Shri Chaitanya in Navadwipa (Mayapur), where he met Vishnupriya Devi, the Lord’s revered widow, and her esteemed servants, Vamshivadana Thakura and Ishana Prabhu. They all blessed Shrinivasa, and he stayed with them for several days, hearing the pastimes of Lord Chaitanya. During those days he watched Vishnupriya Devi perform severe austerities. For example, she would chant the maha-mantra Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare over each grain of rice she was to eat. When she was finished with her daily chanting, she would eat only the grains she had set aside. "Truly," Shrinivasa said, "this is a wife who was worthy of Shri Chaitanya." Shrinivasa also met Damodara Pandita, Shuklambara, Murari Gupta, and other early friends and intimates of Lord Chaitanya in Navadwipa. From there Shrinivasa went to nearby Shantipura, where he was warmly greeted by Shri Advaita’s wife, Sita Thakurani, and her sons Achyuta and Gopala.
Shrinivasa Meets Jahnava Devi :
Then Shrinivasa visited the house of Nityananda Prabhu in Khardaha, where Jahnava Devi, her son Birabhadra, and others greeted Shrinivasa as if he were part of their own family. But Jahnava Devi encouraged him to start for Vrindavana without delay because Rupa and Sanatana would soon rejoin the Lord in the spiritual world.
On the way to Vrindavana, Shrinivasa stopped at the well-known Abhirama Thakura’s house in Khanakul Krishnanagar to deliver a letter from Jahnava Devi. The Thakura greeted him with three loving lashes from an extraordinary whip, but this unusual greeting was a benediction. The whip, known as Jai Mangala, would bestow love of God on anyone it touched. Shri Abhirama and his wife, Malini, showed deep affection for Shrinivasa. Not only did they bless him with their famous whip, but they gave him valuable instructions and reiterated the importance of going to Vrindavana as soon as possible.
While continuing his journey, Shrinivasa stopped in Katwa, where his father had seen Lord Chaitanya adopt the renounced order. Next he passed through Agradwipa, where the three famous Ghosh brothers Vasudeva, Govinda, and Madhava had established their Temple, and then he proceeded to Ekachakra, the birthplace of Nityananda Prabhu. Finally, Shrinivasa made one last stop in Jajigram to say farewell to his aging mother and to visit Narahari Sarakara, his beloved guru. Narahari was concerned about Shrinivasa's delay in going to Vrindavana and asked him to leave immediately. And so, without further delay Shrinivasa set out for Vraja. By this time he had achieved adulthood.
The Journey to Vraja :
Meanwhile, Sanatana Goswami had left this mortal world, and Rupa Goswami could not bear the separation. Shri Rupa felt that he, too, might not survive to instruct Shrinivasa, so he asked his distinguished disciple (and nephew) Jiva Goswami to care for Shrinivasa.
Traveling in those days, mostly by foot, was difficult. Nonetheless, Shrinivasa was making determined progress, stopping briefly on the way in Benares to visit the house of Chandrashekhara Acharya, where Lord Chaitanya had lived for two months. Here Shrinivasa met an elderly disciple of Chandrashekhara who invited him for a meal and showed him the places associated with Shri Chaitanya.
Next, Shrinivasa reached Prayag (known today as Allahabad) and spent the night there. Four days before arriving in Vrindavana, he heard that Sanatana had passed away four months earlier. And when he reached Mathura, he learned that Rupa Goswami had passed away only three days earlier. Shrinivasa fell to the ground, crying like a madman. He felt himself the most unfortunate person in the universe. He had failed to meet Lord Chaitanya and to study the Bhagavatam with Gadadhara Pandita. Now he had failed to meet Rupa and Sanatana.
While Shrinivasa sat beneath a tree wishing for his own death, Rupa and Sanatana appeared to him on the pretext of a dream and told him he was the embodiment of Lord Chaitanya's love. They encouraged him to proceed to Vrindavana to take shelter of Gopala Bhatta Goswami and to study under Shri Jiva with all his life and soul.
Jiva and Gopala Bhatta Goswamis :
The Words of Shri Sanatana and Rupa somewhat relieved Shrinivasa’s heavy heart. He could travel again, and soon he felt the dust of Vrindavana beneath his feet. He approached Rupa Goswami’s Govindadeva Temple hoping to find more solace at Lord Govinda’s lotus feet.
As Shrinivasa sat before the Deity, Jiva Goswami and his many followers entered the Temple. Shrinivasa introduced himself, and Shri Jiva greeted him with warmth and loving hospitality. Shrinivasa spent the night in comfortable quarters at Shri Jiva’s Temple, Shri Shri Radha-Damodara. The next day, Shrinivasa offered his homage at the tomb of Shri Rupa in the Temple courtyard.
Then Jiva introduced Shrinivasa to Gopala Bhatta Goswami, who greeted him with kind words and expressed hi/pnbsp; s disap pointment that Shrinivasa had not arrived sooner, as Rupa and Sanatana had been anxious to meet him. Gopala Bhatta took Shrinivasa to his Radha-Ramana Temple and asked the Deity there to bless him. Gopala Bhatta Goswami and Jiva Goswami gradually introduced Shrinivasa to the inhabitants of Vraja.
Narottama and Duhkhi Krishnadasa :
Gopala Bhatta Goswami initiated Shrinivasa and taught him. And as Jiva Goswami was the preeminent Vaishnava philosopher of the period, Gopala Bhatta directed Shrinivasa to him for higher instruction, all in accordance with the desires of Lord Chaitanya and Rupa and Sanatana Goswamis. The Prema-vilasa states that Shri Jiva took care of Shrinivasa and gave him a thorough spiritual education.
Another young scholar, the illustrious Narottama, had been studying under Jiva for one year when Shrinivasa arrived in Vrindavana. Narottama had been initiated by Lokanatha Goswami, who had sent him to Shri Jiva for additional spiritual instructions. Then young Duhkhi Krishnadasa came, sent by his guru, Hridaya Chaitanya. The three young Devotees studied under Jiva Goswami with the utmost enthusiasm and became his best students. They were widely known as inseparable friends. Jiva Goswami ordered them to study the forests of Vrindavana with Raghava Pandita, who knew all the sacred groves and their significance.
Eventually Shrinivasa, Narottama, and Duhkhi Krishnadasa were given a special mission. They were to distribute the books of the Goswamis the bhakti-rasa scriptures in Bengal and other areas. Vaishnavism was widely embraced in Bengal, but literature explaining the Vaishnava philosophy was wanting. Nityananda Prabhu’s wife, Jahnava Devi, had visited Rupa and Sanatana in Vrindavana some years earlier and was well aware of the prolific spiritual literature the Vrindavana Goswamis were producing, so she contacted Jiva Goswami and suggested that the books be sent to Bengal. To comply, Shri Jiva summoned his three best men.
The Mission Begins :
In a large assembly of Vaishnavas, Shri Jiva called forth Narottama Dasa: “From this day forward, you will be known as Narottama Thakura Mahasaya.” Then he called Shrinivasa: “You will be known as Shrinivasa Acharya.” And finally, Duhkhi Krishnadasa: “Because you have brought so much pleasure [ananda] to Radharani [Shyama], you will now be called Shyamananda. Acharya and Shri Thakura Mahashaya were of the same soul in their devotion to Prabhu. Thakura Mahashaya had revealed the powers of both Rupa Goswami and Shrinivasa in his shlokas. (Bhakti-ratnakara. KHA233.) ; Then Shri Jiva told them of their mission to Bengal, Orissa, and other provinces of India. Shrinivasa, Narottama, and Shyamananda did not want to leave Vrindavana, but they understood the importance of their mission. They went to their initiating gurus, who gave their blessings, instilling in them the necessary enthusiasm for the task.
Shri Jiva began the preparations for the long and arduous journey. These Devotees were his best students, and he would spare no pains for their welfare. He had a rich merchant disciple from Mathura supply a large cart, four strong bullocks, and ten armed guards. The manuscripts original works by Rupa, Sanatana, Gopala Bhatta, Raghunatha Dasa, Jiva, and others were placed in a large wooden chest, which was bolted and covered with a waxed cloth. Shri Jiva also secured a special passport from the king of Jaipur that his three students would need to show as they traveled to eastern India. Then Shrinivasa, Narottama, and Shyamananda left Vrindavana.
The Journey to Bengal :
As they began traveling, Shri Jiva and several other Devotees accompanied them, unable to bear being separated. As the caravan neared Agra, the well-wishers stayed behind. Now the journey was underway. There could be no turning back. After many months, the party reached a small village named Gopalapura, just within the boundaries of the Malla kingdom of Vana Vishnupura, in Bengal. When they retired that night, they felt confident that their mission was almost complete. Vishnupura is in the district of Birbhum, bounded on the north by the Santhal Pargannas and on the south by Midnapura. The king of Vishnupura, Virhamvir, was the leader of a strong group of bandits who were the terror of the adjoining countries. He had employed a large number of thugs and assassins who infested the highways and killed and robbed wayfarers. The astrologers of the court were ever ready to submit to him confidential reports as to what fortunes the stars would grant him if he carried on robberies in particular localities.
Stealing the Books :
The king’s dacoits had been following the cart from afar. This cart was especially interesting because the king’s astrologers had said that it held a great treasure. Although the dacoits had been following the cart for quite a distance, they thought it wise to wait until the cart reached their own kingdom.
The dacoits saw only fifteen men escorting the cart ten armed soldiers, two cartmen, and three holy men. The band of dacoits, numbering over two hundred, inflamed one another’s imaginations with the astrologers’ words: “This cart is filled with jewels more valuable than gold.” They almost overtook the party in a village named Tamar, but circumstances did not permit it. They followed the party through the towns of Raghunathapura and Panchavati.
Finally, in Gopalapura, the party spent the night near a beautiful lake. All fifteen men slept soundly, tired from the journey. When they awakened, their worst nightmare had come to pass: the manuscripts had been stolen.
They could not contain their tears. Shrinivasa, the leader of the party, advised Narottama and Shyamananda to proceed to Bengal and Orissa with the teachings of the six Goswamis. He would take it upon himself to retrieve the manuscripts. He wrote to Jiva Goswami and told him all that had happened.
The King’s Regret :
Meanwhile, as King Virhamvir was rummaging through treasures stolen from various travelers, his servants appeared with the court’s most recent acquisition Shrinivasa’s carefully wrapped chest of “the most precious jewels.” Virhamvir dropped everything else and feverishly unwrapped his latest prize. Having heard the prophesies, he could scarcely imagine what splendors awaited him. In one suspenseful moment, he removed the cloth covering and opened the trunk to reveal manu scripts.
Where was the priceless treasure? Lifting out the top manuscript in disbelief, the king saw the signature “Shri Rupa Goswami” written on a palm leaf. When he examined further and began reading Shri Rupa’s beautiful exposition of Vaishnava philosophy, he felt something change deep within. He reverentially returned the book to the trunk and retired for the evening, aware of the grave sin he had instigated.
Shrinivasa Appears in a Dream :
That night, the king had an unusual dream. He saw a beautiful and effulgent person whose body was filled with divine energy. “Do not worry,” the person said with a loving smile. “Soon I will come to Vishnupura and we will meet. I will retrieve my manuscripts, and you will be relieved of all sinful reactions. Your joy will be boundless. Know for certain that you are my eternal servant and I am your eternal well-wisher.”
The next morning the king awoke and started his life anew, waiting for the day when the mysterious prediction of his dream would come to pass. Meanwhile, Shrinivasa Acharya made his way to the outskirts of Vishnupura, where he met a brahmana resident named Shri Krishna Vallabha. The two became friends, and Krishna Vallabha invited Shrinivasa to be a guest in his home. Gradually, Krishna Vallabha realized Shrinivasa’s exalted position and surrendered to him as a disciple. In due course, Krishna Vallabha mentioned that the king regularly convened a Bhagavatam study group for all who were interested. Shrinivasa was curious about the nature of the Bhagavatam presentation and asked Krishna Vallabha to take him to the next meeting.
Bhagavatam Recitation :
When they arrived, Vyas Acharya, the court pandita, was reciting and commenting upon the Bhagavatam. Shrinivasa was unimpressed but said nothing. The next day, they found Vyas Acharya pontificating in the same fashion. After two weeks of the court pandita, Shrinivasa could not contain himself, and after the meeting he spoke to Vyas Acharya.
“You, sir, do not follow the text,” said Shrinivasa, “nor are your commentaries in line with Shridhara Swami or the other standard exponents of Bhagavata philosophy.”
Vyas Acharya listened to Shrinivasa’s comments but ignored his advice. The king, however, who was nearby, overheard what was said and found it interesting.
The next day at the recital Vyas Acharya again attempted to elucidate the esoteric section of the Bhagavatam that delineates Shri Krishna's rasa-lila.
Respectful but firm, Shrinivasa interrupted with a question: “Sir, how can you comment on such confidential subjects without referring to the statements of Shridhara Swami? You are obviously unfamiliar with his work.”
Vyas Acharya became angry. He disliked being challenged in front of his sycophantic assembly, who were accustomed only to his peculiar rendition of Bhagavatam commentary.
Before another word was said, however, the king began to defend Shrinivasa’s position: “How is it that this brahmana scholar finds fault with your explanations? Perhaps your interpretations are questionable.”
“Who can interpret the texts better than I?” the arrogant Vyas Acharya replied. “This newcomer is an upstart, and he dares to question me in the presence of Your Majesty.”
Then he turned to Shrinivasa. “If you are such an authority on the Bhagavatam,” he said, “why don’t you come sit here and explain these verses in a better way?”
Shrinivasa rose to the challenge. He sang the Bhagavatam verses beautifully and then commented upon them with great verve and authority. He drew upon existing Vaishnava explanations and yet offered his own unique presentation. No one had ever heard such a masterly enunciation of Bhagavata philosophy.
The king encouraged him to go on, allowing him to speak for several hours. When he finished, the whole assembly applauded, ecstatic with Shrinivasa’s contagious love for Krishna. Vyas Acharya could not believe his ears. He was defeated, but he was happy.
King Virhamvir was greatly moved. “No one has ever come to this kingdom and shared so much love and scholarship in the way you have,” he said to Shrinivasa. “Please, tell me your name and where you come from.”
“My name is Shrinivasa and I am a native of this country,” said Shrinivasa. “I came here to see your magnificent court and to relish the Bhagavatam.”
The king then gave him the best accommodations in the palace and asked him to stay as long as he liked.
The King Surrenders :
Later that evening, the king asked Shrinivasa to dine with him, but Shrinivasa said that he took only one humble meal per day and had already eaten. Nonetheless, Virhamvir encouraged him to have some fruit, and he complied, not wanting to offend his distinguished host.
As Shrinivasa ate his fruit, the king sat at his side like a humble servant. The king had never felt this way about anyone: Shrinivasa was that effulgent person he had seen in his dream—his guru—and he wanted to render some menial service.
That night, he heard Shrinivasa repeating the name of Krishna in his room. It seemed as if Shrinivasa did not sleep. “Here is a genuine saint,” thought the king. “He is simply absorbed in the name of God.” With this pleasant idea, the king fell asleep, listening to Shrinivasa Acharya’s blissful voice in the next room.
The following day in the great assembly Shrinivasa again spoke from the Bhagavatam. Once again, the eager, expectant audience relished every word. Shrinivasa astonished all who listened. Chroniclers of the event have reported that “even the stone walls of the hall seemed to melt with emotion.” Shrinivasa spoke with erudition, sensitivity, and devotion, honoring his Vaishnava predecessors, and everyone present agreed that the wisdom of the orator far exceeded his years. One by one, people came and bowed at Shrinivasa’s feet, hoping to become his disciples.
Later, the king submitted himself to Shrinivasa as a lowly beggar: “You are the real king,” he said, “for you have love for Krishna. I am not even worthy to be in your presence.”
Shrinivasa, with all humility, merely shook his head; he was not able to accept his own exalted position.
But the king persisted: “Allow me to be your servant. Please! How can I serve you? My entire kingdom is at your disposal.”
“I came from the holy city of Vrindavana with a mission from Gopala Bhatta Goswami and Jiva Goswami,” Shrinivasa replied. “I was to bring their writings to Bengal. But unfortunately this treasure was robbed within your kingdom. If I cannot retrieve these books, I would prefer to lose my life. Can you help me get them back?”
The king burst into tears. “A poor worm am I,” he said, “lost hopelessly in this land of birth and death. My own men pillaged for years and years under my order, and then they came upon your party. We were told you carried the greatest treasure in the universe, and we naturally pursued it. I cannot express my sorrow.”
Reflecting for a moment, the king said, “But there is a positive side to all of this. Our meeting would not have otherwise occurred. I would commit these sins again and again for but a moment of your association.”
Shrinivasa laughed and reassured the king that sinful life was unnecessary for attaining his association. Shrinivasa then forgave the king for all his sins and asked him to sin no more.
The Books Are Safe! :
The king led Shrinivasa to the room where his treasures were kept, and Shrinivasa saw the trunk with the Goswamis’ literature. Shrinivasa felt ecstasy and took the garland of flowers from his own neck and placed it on King Virhamvir. Shrinivasa asked the king to bring him Tulasi leaves, flower garlands, sandalwood paste, and other items to worship the sacred books. The king brought everything, and his own initiation ceremony followed. By reciting into the king’s ear the Maha-Mantra Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare Shrinivasa initiated him.
According to the Prema-vilasa, Shrinivasa gave him the name Haricharana Dasa. Jiva Goswami later showed the king special mercy by writing a letter in which he renamed him Chaitanya Dasa. The king’s wife, Queen Sulakshana, and their son, Prince Dhari Hamvir, also became Shrinivasa Acharya’s surrendered servants. The queen’s initiated name is unknown, but the boy was named Gopala Dasa. Krishna Vallabha and Vyas Acharya also became dedicated disciples.
Vishnupura as a Vaishnava Center :
The initiation of the king and his loyal subjects was an important event in the history of the Gaudiya tradition. Vishnupura soon became a great center of Vaishnavism. In all of India, only in Vana Vishnupura did Gaudiya Vaishnava culture and art develop without foreign or distracting influence. Even the Muslim intrusion was minimal. Consequently, the architectural and sculptural art of Bengal, from the beginning of the seventeenth century onwards, is nowhere found in such abundance and in such pristine form as in the Vaishnava monuments of Vishnupura. This is one of the many virtues of royal patronage.
King Virhamvir reigned from 1596 to 1622 and in that time wrote many songs in praise of Krishna, Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and Shrinivasa Acharya. Much of his exquisite poetry can be found in the Bhakti-ratnakara and the Pada-kalpataru. The king’s beautiful voice, reflected in his literary work, helped him in his mission of spreading Vaishnavism throughout his domain.
Shrinivasa had thus accomplished his mission in Vishnupura. He wrote to Jiva Goswami that not only had the books been retrieved but the main bandit, a king, had taken up Gaudiya Vaishnavism. All of Vrindavana rejoiced and sang the glories of Shrinivasa Acharya. King Virhamvir and his entire kingdom were now converted to Vaishnavism, and Shrinivasa was developing an important center there.
PART III (Conclusion)
Thieves working for the king of Vishnupura stole priceless manuscripts Shrinivasa and his friends were bringing to Bengal. Shrinivasa therefore sent his companions ahead while he stayed in Vishnupura. He recovered the manuscripts, made the king his disciple, and inspired him to spread Krishna consciousness throughout the kingdom.
Now Shrinivasa needed to see his dear friends Narottama and Shyamananda again. He had written them of the developments in Vishnupura, but he knew little of what his friends were doing. He had heard that his teacher Narahari Sarakara Thakura was ill and getting ready to die, so he wanted to go to Shrikhanda to see him and to nearby Jajigram to see his own aging mother.
Shrinivasa Returns to Jajigram :
Bidding farewell to King Virhamvir, Shrinivasa took the chest of books to Jajigram. Upon arriving there, he told the Devotees what had happened. All the holy town’s people, especially his mother, rejoiced in his company. But they had heart-breaking news for him as well: Shrimati Vishnupriya had left this world. Shrimati Vishnupriya was Shri Chaitanya’s widow, an important person in the preaching mission of Bengal. On hearing of her passing, Shrinivasa fainted, and the Devotees had to revive and console him.
A few days later, a message came from Narahari Sarakara and Raghunandana Thakura asking Shrinivasa to come to Shrikhanda. Shrinivasa left at once to see these two well-wishers who had guided him in his youth. During this meeting, Narahari suggested that Shrinivasa get married.
“Your mother is a great Devotee,” Shri Narahari said. “She has been rendering valuable service in Jajigram for many years. You should fulfill whatever small desire she might have. I know she would be happy to see you married. Since she is a great Devotee, you should comply.”
Hearing this, Shrinivasa resolved to marry and raise a family.
After a few more days in Shrikhanda, Shrinivasa left for Kanthak Nagara to visit the great Gadadhara Dasa, one of the personal associates of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. When Shrinivasa arrived, Gadadhara Dasa embraced him with affection. He asked Shrinivasa about the Devotees of Vrindavana, especially the Goswamis: How were they able to live in separation from the Lord and His confidential Devotees? Where were they living and under what conditions? Gadadhara Dasa and Shrinivasa talked about Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and the plight of His Devotees in His absence.
After several days, Shrinivasa was to return to Jajigram. Before he left, Gadadhara Dasa blessed him: “One day you will taste the nectar of congregational chanting in the company of the Lord Himself, and in the company of His intimate associates. For now, you have my blessings to marry. May it bring you all good fortune.”
Shrinivasa Gets Married :
The words of Gadadhara Dasa touched Shrinivasa. Meditating on their import, he returned to Jajigram, where he met Gopala Chakravarti, an elderly brahmana with a beautiful and devoted daughter named Draupadi. Observing that Shrinivasa and Draupadi were attracted to each other, Shri Raghunandana Thakura arranged the wedding.
After the marriage, Draupadi was called Ishvari (some say it was her initiated name), honoring her devotion to God and acknowledging her marriage to a great saint. Her father, Gopala Chakravarti, soon accepted Shrinivasa as his spiritual master, as did her two brothers, Shyama Dasa and Ramachandra. Shrinivasa quickly became one of the most prominent gurus in all of Bengal.
After some time, Ishvari bore a son, and when Shrinivasa wrote about the event to Jiva Goswami in Vrindavana, Jiva sent back an exuberant reply and named the boy Vrindavana Vallabha. Some time after, Shrinivasa married again (polygamy was common then). His second wife, Padmavati, was also a great Devotee, and after initiation she was known as Gauranga Priya.
One may wonder why Shrinivasa took a second wife. Most of the standard biographies do not elaborate, stating merely that the second marriage followed the first by a few years. But the Anuragavali informs us that his most intimate disciples asked that he remarry upon the death of his two sons from Ishvari. They are said to have died young.
Ishvari had three daughters Hemlata, Krishna-priya, and Kanchana, also known as Yamuna. Gauranga Priya had a son, Gati Govinda. Both Ishvari and her daughters later had many disciples, and Shrinivasa’s bloodline is still said to continue in Vrindavana from Gati Govinda.
The Passing of Narahari Sarakara :
Some time after Shrinivasa’s marriage, Narahari Sarakara Thakura left the world, having seen Shrinivasa one last time. Shrinivasa organized a massive festival to honor Narahari’s memory. Everyone from Shrikhanda and neighboring villages attended, and Vaishnava festivals soon spread throughout the region. Ceremonies to install Deities of Krishna took place with elaborate festivities, including singing, dancing, and sharing of sacred food (Prasadam). By such festivals the Hare Krishna movement spread throughout Bengal.
Shrinivasa’s Disciples :
In due course, Shrinivasa decided to return to Vrindavana. Ramachandra Kaviraja, one of his most renowned followers, went with him on this trip. Ramachandra was considered Shrinivasa’s “other eye and other arm.” Ramachandra and his brother, Govinda, who was also Shrinivasa’s disciple, were the sons of an intimate associate of Lord Chaitanya. Both Ramachandra and Govinda were celebrated scholars, artists, and poets, but Ramachandra came to be widely accepted as Shrinivasa’s most noteworthy disciple. This was in some measure due to Narottama Dasa Thakura, who at Shrinivasa’s request took charge of Ramachandra and forged an intimate friendship with him while schooling him in all the details of Vaishnava philosophy.
With the help of King Virhamvir of Vishnupura, Shrinivasa spread his preaching in Bengal to the districts of Birbhum, Bankura, Burdwan, and as far as Tripura in the East. He taught all over Bengal and made hundreds of disciples.
Hemlata Thakurani :
To the list of his prominent disciples, Hemlata Thakurani, his daughter, is often added. Although as a blood relation she is not properly counted a disciple, she was one of his most notable followers. A highly educated and vigorous preacher, she has been compared to the revered Jahnava Devi in spreading the movement throughout Bengal. She was a gifted and devoted leader, initiating both men and women into the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition. One of her disciples, Yadunandana Thakura, became a famous scholar and poet. He composed simple Bengali versifications of Gaudiya literature, some at her personal request.
In time she married a great Devotee and had several children. Today her descendants live in the villages of Maliati and Budhaipad, in the Murshidabad district of Bengal, where she revolutionized the preaching of Gaudiya Vaishnavism.
Shrinivasa Returns to Vrindavana :
Shrinivasa had not been to Vrindavana since recovering the stolen books. The Goswamis were eager to show their appreciation, and when Shrinivasa arrived they did so gloriously. And now Shrinivasa had come to Vrindavana with Ramachandra Kaviraja. Such a worthy disciple showed Shrinivasa’s merit as a preacher. So Gopala Bhatta Goswami, who had wanted Shrinivasa to take over the worship of the Radha-Ramana Deity in Vrindavana, gave the duty to his other disciple, Gopinatha Pujari, and insisted that Shrinivasa keep preaching in Bengal. The descendants of Gopinatha’s brothers are still in charge of the Radha-Ramana Temple.
Shyamananda Pandita returned to Vrindavana about the same time as Shrinivasa, so they were able to deepen their friendship. Together they resumed their studies. Gradually, Shrinivasa began to reveal his mystic potency, and it became apparent he was fully absorbed in the most intimate love of God.
Back to Vishnupura :
But the missionary work was incomplete, and after several months Shrinivasa and others returned to Bengal, encouraged by the Vrindavana Goswamis. On the way, they stopped in Vana Vishnupura to see King Virhamvir, who was delighted by the presence of his guru and the other Devotees.
The king’s devotion showed throughout the kingdom. In the words of D.C. Sen:
Raja Vira Hamvira would not do anything without the advice of his guru [Shrinivasa Acharya], even in political matters. His [Shrinivasa’s] voice prevailed alike in the court and in the domestic circles of Vishnupura. We find that repeating the name of God a fixed number of times was made compulsory by penal law in the State. Sacrifice of animals at the altar of the gods was also discountenanced, though not actually prohibited by law. Worldly dignity attended the guru who had brought spiritual glory to the country. We find that on every occasion of Vaishnava festivities of any importance, valuable presents were given to Shrinivasa, while Raja Vira Hamvira was ever ready to minister to his physical comforts in every possible manner. But true to the traditions of a brahmin scholar and saint, Shrinivasa contented himself with living in a strawroofed hut, though he might have built palaces with the help of the Raja and other influential disciples. The money he received was mainly spent in feeding his disciples, of whom there was always a large number residing at his house.
The Glories of Vishnupura :
The pervasiveness of Krishna consciousness in Bengal, especially in Vishnupura, lasted well after the time of Shrinivasa and into the following centuries. King Virhamvir’s successor, Raghunatha Singh I, built Vaishnava Temples in many distant villages to make Krishna consciousness popular with the tribal people. In fact, the kings of Vishnupura from the time of Virhamvir onward assumed great responsibility for the material and spiritual wellbeing of their subjects.
According to Dr. Sambidananda Das:
In short, the Vaishnava kings, from Vira Hamvira downwards, developed Vaishnava culture in all its branches. The practical religious lives of the kings … made the people of Vishnupura God-fearing, virtuous, humble, and courteous in manner and pure in heart. It is not an easy matter to make the whole population happy and pious. [But] the people regarded their kings as their gurus. To this day it is their custom to offer edibles to Shri Chaitanya’s altar in the name of the king, on the occasion of public worship. Thus did Shrinivasa, through Raja Vira Hamvira, start a new epoch in the religious life of the country.
Shrinivasa’s Daily Activities :
The activities of Shrinivasa Acharya can fill volumes, and they have. Several books offer details of his daily life in Vishnupura and Jajigram. In the early morning he would read from scriptural books, explaining and interpreting them for his disciples. The study of these books would occupy him until ten o’clock in the morning. Then, till two in the afternoon, he would chant on beads in solitude, occasionally worshiping Krishna according to his inner meditation. From four o’clock to six in the evening he would perform congregational chanting with his disciples. The form of kirtana for which he became famous is called Manohar Shoy. Some say it is the only authentic classical style that has survived. At night he used to instruct his disciples and talk with them of Krishna's pastimes.
His Literary Work :
It is said that Shrinivasa composed only five songs. He also wrote a commentary studied and respected to this day on the four essential verses of the Shrimad-Bhagavatam. His other works include the famous Goswami-ashtakam (“Eight Prayers to the Six Goswamis”). Though his literary work is spare, its content and style are nectarean. It has left a unique mark on the Gaudiya tradition.
Divine Ascension :
Just as the authorized biographers of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu leave aside the details of His passing from this world, Shrinivasa’s followers are silent about Shrinivasa’s disappearance. But although his divine ascension remains a mystery, his life remains an inspiration.
1. D. C. Sen, The Vaishnava Literature of Mediaeval Bengal (Calcutta University, 1917), pp. 156–157.
2. Sambidananda Das, The History and Literature of Gaudiya Vaishnavas and Their Relation to Medieval Vaishnava Schools, Unpublished Ph. D. Thesis (Calcutta University, June 1935), p. 819.