In Gaur-Ganoddesh-Dipika it is stated that they are the expansions of Baruni and Revati the eternal consorts of Lord Balaram and Suryadas Sarkhel, was an expansion of Kakudmir, the king of Raivat. (In the image: Lord Balarama with His wives Varuni and Revati, Tota Gopinath Mandir).
Shri Suryadas Sarkhel was a resident of Shaligram. He had five brothers – Damodara, Jagannatha, Gaura das, Krishna das and Nrsimha Chaitanya. He received the title “Sarkhel” because he used to keep the accounts for the king of Gaur desh. He had two daughters named Vasudha and Janhava, who was the youngest.
In Gaur-Ganoddesh-Dipika it is stated that they are the expansions of Varuni and Revati the eternal consorts of Lord Balaram and Suryadas Sarkhel, was an expansion of Kakudmir, the king of Raivat.
Once Mahaprabhu drew Prabhu Nityananda aside said to him, “If you also confine yourself to the austere life of a renunciate, then who will deliver the people who are immersed in maya? How will our work continue in this world? Therefore, please return to Gaudadesha and accept the householder way of life. You can continue to preach bhajan sankirtan and be the living example of love and devotion for materialistic people.”
Mahaprabhu urged Nityananda Prabhu to enter wedlock because He knew that Nityananda’s Shaktis had appeared and were waiting for him. One of them would play a critical role in keeping the movement alive in the future when They would disappear.
Nityananda arrived at the home of Suryadas along with his favourite disciple, Uddharan Dutta. “I wish to marry; please give your daughter’s hand in marriage to me” he said to Suryadas. But Suryadas did not agree as Nityananda had abandoned his Varna. Being rejected by Suryadas, Nityananda went back.
But what happened to Vasudha? Knowing that the omniscient Godhead wanted to espouse her, she became lovesick. And when He was turned away by the father, she lost consciousness. The doctor was called in, but she did not revive and soon after, went into a coma and died.
On getting this tragic news, Gouridas came and fell at the feet of his elder brother Suryadas. He asked Suryadas to call Prabhu Nityananda back as He alone could bring Vasudha back to life.
Vasudha’s body had been taken to the banks of the Ganga for the last rites. Nityananda appeared there and Suryadas fell flat at his feet. “Please bring my daughter back to life” he sobbed.
Nityananda said, “Only if you agree to give her in marriage to me, I will bring her back to life.” Suryadas agreed.
The gentle breeze from the transcendental body of Prabhu Nityananda touched the body of Vasudha. The divine fragrance of His body entered through her nostrils. Vasudha regained consciousness and gazed at Prabhu Nityananda will wide open eyes.
“Now arrange the marriage,” commanded Nityananda Prabhu. Suryadas replied, “Please undergo the Vedic purificatory rites and adorn the sacred thread.” Nityananda complied saying, “As you wish. I remain uninvolved. Today the only supreme ruler is Chaitanya Goswami.”
After the marriage, one day Nityananda Prabhu was taking his meal. Vasudha’s younger sister Janhava was serving the food. The veil covering Janhava’s head slipped and Nityananda saw her and realized that Janhava Devi was his complete energy – his shakti.
Thus the marriage ceremony was very auspiciously performed and Nityananda Prabhu remained at Shaligram with his two newly wedded wives for a few days. (In the image: Wedding of Devotees in Carpinteria).
He told Suryadas, “Please give your younger daughter to me also as my wife.” Suryadas said, “I have nothing that I cannot give you. My wealth, caste, household and even my very life – everything is yours.”
Thus the marriage ceremony was very auspiciously performed and Nityananda Prabhu remained at Shaligram with his two newly wedded wives for a few days.
Thereafter He came to Shri Krishna das’s house at Borgachi, where He remained for a couple of days. Next He went to Navadwip. Along with his two wives He offered His obeisance at the feet of Sachi mata. Sachi Ma was extremely pleased to see them and showered her affection the new brides.
Then taking leave of Sachi mata, Nityananda went to Advaita Acharya’s house in Shantipur. Shri Sita Thakurani began to float in the ocean of bliss on seeing Vasudha and Janhava devi. Taking them in her lap she blessed the new brides.
Vasudha gave birth to eight sons and one daughter. Seven sons died one after the other. Only the daughter Ganga and the youngest son Virchandra or Virbhadra survived.
Soon after the birth of her two children, Vasudha passed away, and Janhava vowed to raise them as her own. Janhava did not bear any children. Virchandra was her special favourite.
As time passed, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu passed away and soon thereafter Nityananda Prabhu, Advaita Acharya, Shrivas Pandit and other associates of Mahaprabhu also disappeared. Janhava Ma continued their work and developed a reputation as a superlative Vaishnavi, embodying the ideals of devotion in the Gaudiya sampradaya.
She initiated her son Virbhadra as well as many other members of the Vaishnava community. Major figures in Mahaprabhu's lineage took shelter at her lotus feet, and personalities like Narottama Das Thakur, Shrinivas Acharya, and Shyamananda Prabhu accepted her as the most prominent Vaishnava in Bengal.
She was invited to the great festival of Kheturi and accorded the highest honour. On the first day of the Kheturi festival, the Devotees requested Janhava Ma to take charge of all the festivities. This she did, making sure that kirtan was going on with full enthusiasm that the Deities were being worshiped with elaborate splendor, and that devotional games commemorating Krishna’s pastimes were being enjoyed by the mass of participants – and there were thousands.
Janhava said, “This is the grace of Mahaprabhu on Narottam and Shrinivas. He has fulfilled His promise. Wherever there is naam sankirtan, there He appears. (In the image: Kids are chanting the Holy Names and honoring Prasadam, South Africa).
On that grand occasion, the first recorded observance of the birth anniversary of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu after His disappearance, six Deities were installed. After the installation of the Deities Janhava Ma asked Shrinivas Acharya to distribute garlands and sandalwood paste amongst the Devotees. Thereafter, she also accepted a garland and sandalwood paste. Then she directed the kirtan to begin.
Kheturi was flooded with waves of divine love ! Shriman Mahaprabhu was a lover of hymns and He appeared at the scene with His associates. For a minute, everyone beheld a lightening flash of the divine halo of Godhead. Then it disappeared.
The sankirtan party was filled with grief as Mahaprabhu disappeared. Where have they all gone? Everyone was there, Advaita, Nityananda, Shrivas, Murari, Haridas, Gadadhar, Vakreshwar. Even Swarup Damodar, Ramananda, Sarvabhauma and Narahari !! Where did they go?
Janhava said, “This is the grace of Mahaprabhu on Narottam and Shrinivas. He has fulfilled His promise. Wherever there is naam sankirtan, there He appears. Now start the smearing of Phagu (colour).
Janhava entered the Temple and smeared the Deity of Mahaprabhu with Phagu. Everyone started throwing colour – not merely between human beings but between Devotees and God.
After the evening pooja and aarti, Janhava said to Shrinivas, “now please perform the birth anniversary of Shri Gauranga.”
Next morning after taking her bath and performing puja, Janhava Ma started cooking the Prasad. After offering the bhog she distributed it among all the Devotees and herself honoured the Maha Prasad only after everyone else was fed.
The following day she told Narottam Das Thakur, “Now I will go to Vrindavan.” Accompanied by relatives Krishna Sarkhel, son-in-law Madhavacharya, Gopal Parmeshwari Das and others, she set off to Vrindavan.
During the journey several miraculous events occurred. En route, some envious people of one village where the group halted wanted to harm them while they were sleeping in the night. The presiding Deity of their village Goddess Chandi appeared in their dream and chastised them severely for even thinking of harming Janhava Ma. “Janhava is a Goddess. Beg forgiveness and take refuge of her or else, I will destroy all of you” said the Goddess. The repentant men fell at Janhava’s feet and pleaded for mercy.
One day at noon, Janhava heard the enchanting melody of the flute on the bank of Shri Radha kunda. Thrilled, she looked around. And behold, she saw the graceful three-fold bending form of Shri Krishna beneath the Kadamba tree playing on His sweet Murali, and surrounding Him was Shrimati Radharani and the Gopis. Beholding this beatific vision, Janhava Ma fell into a trance. (In the image: Shri Shri Radha Krishna and Gopis, Radha Kund, Vrindavan).
On another occasion during the journey some dacoits wanted to rob them. They waited till the night and started walking to the river bank where the pilgrims’ party was asleep. As they walked, the path kept stretching endlessly but they could not reach the sleeping Devotees. Finally at dawn they realized what had happened and ran and fell at Janhava Ma’s feet. These dacoits were converted into Vaishnava Devotees.
Although Janhava Ma journeyed to Vraja after the Kheturi festival, she did go to Vraja one or two times before. On her first trip it is said that Rupa Goswami himself explained the literature to her at this time. Gradually, she developed a methodical plan to create solidarity between the Vaishnavas of Bengal and those of Vraja, and she accomplished this quite effectively during her few visits to the land of Krishna’s pastimes.
Janhava Ma converted Muslims to Mahaprabhu's Vaishnavism and endeared herself to the Gaudiya Devotees throughout India. The Six Goswamis treated her with the utmost respect, and Raghunath Das Gosvami, in particular, was grateful for her association. He spent a good deal of time showing her the area of Radha-kunda, and the two of them took every opportunity to dance in ecstasy.
Once, in a vision, she saw the Gopinatha Deity and His little Radha companion, who told her to replace the Radha Deity with one that was larger. This mission she took back with her to Bengal and finally journeyed back to Vrindavan with the new Deity of Shri Radha. When the Deity reached Vrindavan, it had to be decided where the original smaller Deity would be placed. The king of Jaipur took charge of the original Deity. The new Deity was installed on the left of Shri Gopinatha and the new one was called “Janhava Radhika”. (In the image: Original Radhika Gopinath Ananga Manjari Deities, Jaipur).
One day at noon, Janhava heard the enchanting melody of the flute on the bank of Shri Radha kunda. Thrilled, she looked around. And behold, she saw the graceful three-fold bending form of Shri Krishna beneath the Kadamba tree playing on His sweet Murali, and surrounding Him was Shrimati Radharani and the Gopis. Beholding this beatific vision, Janhava Ma fell into a trance.
When Janhava Thakurani saw Rama Ghat, the area along the banks of the Yamuna where Balarama enjoyed a rasa dance of His own, her spiritual rapture knew no bounds. She had mystic visions throughout her life and received divine guidance from Nityananda Prabhu long after He left this world.
Once, in a vision, she saw the Gopinatha Deity and His little Radha companion, who told her to replace the Radha Deity with one that was larger. This mission she took back with her to Bengal and finally journeyed back to Vrindavan with the new Deity of Shri Radha. When the Deity reached Vrindavan, it had to be decided where the original smaller Deity would be placed. The king of Jaipur took charge of the original Deity. The new Deity was installed on the left of Shri Gopinatha and the new one was called “Janhava Radhika”.
When Janhava Ma saw the lovely form of Gopinatha with two Radhikas – one of either side of Him – it appeared as if a dark Tamal tree was being embraced by two loving creepers. She then dedicated all the offerings that she had brought from Gaud to Radha Gopinatha. She lovingly fed them preparing savoury items with her own hands.
One day she entered the Temple alone and the Temple door closed behind her. Shri Gopinatha caught hold of Janhava’s garment and pulled her making her sit on His left. When the Devotees opened the door of the Temple, they found Janhava transformed in a golden Deity manifest on Gopinath’s right side!
The Vamshishiksha says that Janhava Ma left this world by merging into the Deity of Lord Gopinatha in Vrindavan.
At the time of Janhava's departure from the mortal world, her beautiful manifestation as Ananga Manjari, standing in a dancing pose at Krishna’s right side, was emphasized by Nityananda Prabhu's most intimate followers. This "Ananga-Kanai-Rai," the worshipful devotion of Radha's younger sister along with Radha and Krishna together, remains the focus of Devotees coming in the line of Janhava Devi.
Shri Janhava Thakurani opened Vaishnavism up to women in a way that broke all boundaries, allowing them equal footing with men in terms of service, devotion, accomplishment and the ability to rise to the highest level of perfection.
Shri Janhava Thakurani opened Vaishnavism up to women in a way that broke all boundaries, allowing them equal footing with men in terms of service, devotion, accomplishment and the ability to rise to the highest level of perfection. (In the image: Harinaam Festival, Baltic Sea, Poland).