Nandana Acharya is a branch of the Chaitanya tree that is celebrated throughout the world because two of the Prabhus hid in his house. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.10.39)
In the Gaudiya Vaishnava Abhidhana, a different family tree is given for Nandana Acharya. The author of that dictionary writes: “Nandana Acharya came from a family of astrologer Brahmins. His father’s name was Lakshmi Narayan. Lakshmi Narayan had two sons: Nandana Acharya and Bhagavan Adhikari Sarvabhauma. Lakshmi Narayan had a reputation as a seer and astrologer. He was present when Mahaprabhu was born. Nandana Acharya is included as a branch of the Chaitanya tree. He was lame. When Mahaprabhu returned from South India, all the Devotees were overjoyed to see Him. Even though Nandana Acharya was lame, he went ahead of everyone else to perform puja to the Lord.
Nandana Acharya came forward with a deep attachment. Though lame, he went to the front of the group of Devotees.
Shri Nandana Acharya came from a family of Shakadvipi Brahmins descended from Shanti Muni, the son of Parashara. He belonged to the Bharata branch of the Vatsya gotra from Rarha. He lived for some time in Bahirkhanda village near Tarakeshvara in present-day Birbhum before moving to Navadwip where he made his home in Shrihatiya or Dakshin Para.”
It is also written in the Gaudiya Vaishnava Abhidhana: “The Nandana mentioned in the Chaitanya Charitamrita as the brother of Ganga Das and Vishnu Das is a different person. He is counted as a branch of Nityananda Prabhu. He is a writer of poetry and songs, but little else is known about him. He is not Nandana Acharya.”
Nityananda Prabhu in the House of Nandana Acharya
When Shriman Nityananda Prabhu was in a mood of separation from Krishna, so he wandered all over India looking for him until finally he came to Vrindavan. There he heard that Krishna had already appeared in Navadwip Mayapur. The son of Nanda, Shri Krishna, had appeared as Gaurahari, the son of Sachi. Nityananda Prabhu, who is none other than Balaram himself, quickly came to Navadwip and started to live incognito in the house of Nandana Acharya. Nandana Acharya felt that his life had been fulfilled once he had laid eyes on Nityananda and gained the opportunity to serve him. Mahaprabhu knew of Nityananda’s coming through a dream. He told the other Devotees that Nityananda Prabhu had arrived in town and sent Shrivasa Pandit and Hari Das Thakur out to look for him. These two searched through the entire town but could not find him anywhere. When Mahaprabhu heard from Shrivasa Pandit and Hari Das Thakur that Nityananda was not in Navadwip, He slightly smiled in His omniscience and took the Devotees with Him to Nandana Acharya’s house.
barhapidam nata-vara-vapuh karnayoh karnikaram
vibhrad-vasah kanaka-kapisham vaijayantim ca malam
randhran venor adhara-sudhaya purayan gopa-vrindai-
rvrinaranyam sva-pada-ramanam pravishad gita-kirtih
Krishna, whose glories are sung to the world by the cowherd boys, dressed as a dancing performer, a peacock feather decorating His topknot, karnikara flowers behind His ears, a golden cloth covering His body and a victory garland around His neck, entered Vrinda’s forest, the pleasure garden of His auspiciously marked feet, while filling the holes of His flute with the nectar of His lips. (Shrimad Bhagavatam 10.21.5)
As soon as he heard this verse, Nityananda Prabhu uttered the words “Ha Krishna!” and fainted, the eight ecstatic symptoms manifesting in his body. Mahaprabhu became anxious to be reunited with His brother and He clutched Nitai to His bosom while glorifying him to the assembled Devotees.
Shri Nandana Acharya was fortunate, indeed. Just look, Shrinivas, this is his house. The Lord came to this house with all the Devotees and found Nityananda sitting here in meditation. The Devotees stood here gazing upon his incomparable beauty. (Bhakti-ratnakara 12.2422-4)
Advaita Acharya Hiding in Shri Nandana Acharya’s House
When the Vyasa Puja at Shrivasa Angana had been completed, Mahaprabhu, Nityananda Prabhu and their other associates became fully absorbed in the ecstasies of sankirtan.One day, Mahaprabhu was absorbed in the mood of the Divinity, and ordered Ramai Pandit to go to Advaita’s house and tell him of His manifestation. He also said to Ramai, “In order to bring the Lord of Goloka down to this earth, Shri Advaita Acharya called to Him while performing puja with Ganges water and Tulasi leaves. This Lord has now appeared in Navadwip along with Nityananda Prabhu. Therefore, Advaita should immediately come to Shrivasa Angana with his wife and all the paraphernalia for worship.”
Ramai acted according to Mahaprabhu’s instruction and went to Advaita Acharya’s house. Advaita asked him why he had come. When he heard from Ramai that Mahaprabhu had manifested in Navadwip, he and his wife Sita Devi, his son Achyutananda, and a number of his other followers all became excited and shed tears of joy. Advaita did as he had been instructed, gathering up the paraphernalia for worship and made for Navadwip with his entourage. Nevertheless, he wished to test Mahaprabhu first, and so he stopped at Nandana Acharya’s house and remained there. He sent Ramai ahead but told him to keep his presence there secret and to tell Mahaprabhu instead that he had refused to come.
As the Supersoul, Mahaprabhu could understand exactly what Advaita was trying to do. He revealed a majestic divine form on the altar of Shrivasa’s house. He indicated to Nityananda Prabhu to hold the parasol over His head and the other Devotees to engage in various services. Mahaprabhu then announced to all the Devotees, “Advaita Acharya has decided to test me. He is hiding at Nandana Acharya’s house with all the paraphernalia for My puja.” He again sent Ramai to tell him that He was aware of his plan and to tell him to quickly come. When Advaita got the direct order from Mahaprabhu a second time, he joyfully went to Shrivasa’s house. As soon as he saw the Lord, he fell to the ground at some distance to pay obeisance to His lotus feet and began to recite hymns of glorification. Seeing the Lord’s opulent form, Advaita became motionless and then began to glorify the unequalled mercy of the Lord Gaurahari everywhere. He then washed the Lord’s lotus feet and then worshiped Him with the five ingredients (panchopachara), using the following mantra to do so:
namo brahmanya-devaya go-brahmana-hitaya ca
jagad-dhitaya krishnaya govindaya namo namah
I pay my obeisances to Krishna Govinda, the Lord of the brahminical society, to Him who is the source of the cows’ and the Brahmins’ welfare, and who is the source of the welfare of the entire universe.
Mahaprabhu then commanded Advaita Prabhu to get up and dance. Advaita started to dance madly until he became completely intoxicated, immersing all the watching Devotees in a flood of ecstasy.
Mahaprabhu Hiding in the House of Nandana Acharya
The local atheists started to plot against Mahaprabhu after having been beaten in debates by His talent and learning. They fabricated complaints and went to the local administrator. That day, when he returned home, Mahaprabhu started sankirtan in order to put an end to the atheists’ blasphemous ways. However, on that day, Mahaprabhu noticed that He was not feeling the usual emotion in the divine names and made public His distress. Advaita Acharya gave the following reasons for His lack of ecstasy on that day: “You have made Nityananda the keeper of the storehouse of love. You have deprived Shrivasa and myself of this love. On the other hand, You have given it to everyone else, even to those in the lower castes. So, I have dried up the ocean of Your prema. That is why You are not feeling anything today.”
When Mahaprabhu heard this, He decided that He could not bear to live another minute in a useless body devoid of prema, and so He went and jumped into the Ganges, intending to drown Himself. Nityananda and Hari Das immediately jumped in after Him and pulled Him out. Mahaprabhu then revealed to these two His intention to go and stay out of the sight of the other Devotees for a while at the house of Nandana Acharya. They were thus the only ones to know that He was there.
The other Devotees found no sign of Mahaprabhu anywhere and began to feel intense separation from Him. Advaita Prabhu even undertook a fast. Meanwhile, Mahaprabhu sat down on the Deity’s throne in Nandana Acharya’s house and engaged its owner in various kinds of service. Mahaprabhu also instructed him not to tell anyone that He was at his place, but Nandana answered, “You are the wealth of the Devotees’ hearts. The Devotees are the ones who reveal You. How will You possibly be able to remain hidden from them?”
Indeed, the Lord was aware that the Devotees were unable to tolerate the pain of His absence, and so He asked Nandana Acharya to bring Shrivasa Pandit there. Shrivasa recounted to Him that Advaita was extremely upset and that he was fasting. Mahaprabhu immediately accompanied Shrivasa to Advaita’s residence and when He saw him lying faint and weak on the floor, He felt Himself to be a great offender. Advaita himself rose up from his faint and prayed the Lord again and again for forgiveness for his rash statements and asked that he be allowed a place at the Lord’s lotus feet so that he could serve Him birth after birth. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.17)
Nandana Acharya’s Participation in Other Lilas
After taking sannyas in Katwa, when Mahaprabhu was brought to the house of Advaita in Shantipur by Nityananda’s trickery, then Sachi and other residents of Navadwip came to see Him there. Amongst these residents of Navadwip was Nandana Acharya. The year that Raghava Pandit first brought his famous bags of food (Raghavera jhali) to Mahaprabhu in Puri, Nandana Acharya also gave Him some food preparations which pleased the Lord greatly. Nandana Acharya was also among those Devotees whose invitations to lunch were accepted by the Lord at Puri. His name is also mentioned by Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya when he described the Lord’s Devotees to King Prataparudra. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.11.89)
Nandana Acharya was also amongst the participants in the nightly kirtan at Shrivasa Angan and in the procession to the Kazi’s house. In Puri, he participated in the cleaning of the Gundicha Temple and the Nrisingha Temple and the Lord’s bathing pastimes in Indradyumna Sarovara. He also took part in the feast in the Ai Tota gardens and, of course, the Rathayatra festival.
Shrila Bhakti Saranga Goswami Maharaj, the founder of the Gaudiya Sangha and who has now entered the eternal activities of the Lord, constructed a Temple at the site of Nandana Acharya’s house in Ishodyan, Mayapur. The Temple houses Deities of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Nityananda Prabhu.
The date and place of Nandana Acharya’s appearance and disappearance are unknown.
[Excerpted from “Sri Chaitanya: His Life &∓ Associates” by Srila Bhakti Ballabh Tirtha Maharaj]