pura vrindavane vira duti sarvash ca gopikah
ninaya krishna-nikatam sedanim janako mama
The go-between Vira, who previously brought all the gopis to Krishna, is my father.
Shivananda’s Home and Family
Shivananda Sena’s son, Paramananda Sena, also known as Kavi Karnapura, wrote this verse in his Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika. Just as Vira Duti acted to enrich the pastimes of Krishna and the gopis, Shivananda Sena appeared to enrich Gaura Hari’s lila. Shivananda Sena’s home was in the present day city of Halisahar, in Kumarahatta near Kanchariaparia. This is the same town in which Ishvara Puri, Mahaprabhu’s guru, was born. Mahaprabhu took the earth from Ishvara Puri’s birthplace. Ever since, Devotees have been taking earth from that spot, leaving a hole in the ground big enough to form a pool that has taken the name of Shri Chaitanya Toba.
After Mahaprabhu took sannyas, Shrivasa Pandit and his family found it impossible painful to remain in Navadwip and so moved to Kumarahatta. Other notable residents of the town were Vasudeva Datta Thakur, Khanja Bhagavan Das and others. The Gaura Gopal Deity installed by Shivananda Sena is still being worshiped in the Krishnaraya Temple in Kanchra Para.
Shivananda Sena was present when Mahaprabhu came to visit Shrivasa Pandit’s house in Kumaahatta:
Vasudeva Datta came immediately, as did Shivananda Sena and his family members. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 3.5.18)
A Vaishnava may take birth in any family. Shivananda Sena manifested his lila of being born in the Vaidya or physician caste for its glory.
Shri Shivananda Sena had three sons: Shri Chaitanya Das, Shri Rama Das and Shri Paramananda Kavi Karnapur.
All the Devotees went to Puri at the time of the Rathayatra in order to see Mahaprabhu. Shivananda Sena managed these trip, taking responsibility for the route the Devotees took, the costs of both coming and going, their lodgings, etc.
On the Lord’s orders, every single year all the Devotees came to see the Rathayatra…. Amongst them were Krishna’s own singer, Mukunda Datta and Shivananda Sena and others who were accompanied by their family members. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 3.8.5, 15)
Shivananda Sena took care of the paying the customs duties and ferry fees for the group. He took personal care of everyone in the pilgrimage. He care of all the Devotees’ necessities, especially making lodging arrangements. He knew the roads through Orissa and would show the way. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.16.19-20)
In the third year, when Mahaprabhu’s associates took their wives with them, Shivananda Sena also took his wife and son, Shri Chaitanya Das. The Chaitanya Charitamrita’s description of that trip is as follows:
Malini accompanied Shrivasa Pandit, Shivananda Sena’s wife travelled with him. Shivananda’s little boy named Chaitanya Das also jubilantly came along with them to see the Lord… Shivananda Sena dealt with customs officials and made eating and lodging arrangements, ecstatically going on the road to see Mahaprabhu. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.16.22-3, 26-7)
One of Mahaprabhu’s dear Devotees was Vasudeva Datta from Chittagong. He was very generous and somewhat prodigal in his spending. Mahaprabhu told Shivananda Sena to take charge of his affairs to help him cut back on his expenses, giving practical instructions on the necessity of earning money to run a household.
He respectfully said to Shivananda Sena, “Please take Vasudeva Datta to hand. He is too generous. He spends whatever he earns on the very same day. He is a householder, he has to save some money; if he doesn’t do so, he will not be able to maintain his wife and family. I want you to supervise his income and expenditures; be his manager and resolve his difficulties." (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.15.93-96)
Shivananda Sena and the Dog
In the Chaitanya Charitamrita, Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami has told an anecdote about the amazing relationship between Shivananda Sena and a dog.
One year, as the pilgrimage party was on its way to Puri, a dog began to tag along with it. When they had to cross a certain river, the ferryman refused to allow the dog to get on board the ferry. Shivananda Sena finally paid him 10 panas of cowry shells to get it across. One day, Shivananda’s servant forgot to feed the dog and it disappeared. He sent ten men to find the animal, but they had no success. Shivananda was so upset that he did not eat his meal that evening. In great anxiety, the Devotees reached Puri and met Mahaprabhu and then went to the Temple to see Jagannath. Mahaprabhu ate with the Devotees and at the end of the meal sent them all to their lodgings. The next day, the Devotees came to see Mahaprabhu and were amazed to see the dog there. Mahaprabhu was laughing and giving coconut Prasad to the animal and was saying, “Chant Hare Krishna, Hare Rama!” The dog was clearly barking out the names and eating the Prasad given him by the Lord. Everyone was completely astonished to see this extraordinary happening. Shivananda Sena prostrated himself on the ground in obeisances to the dog and begged him for forgiveness with all humility. After this, the dog disappeared and was never seen again. By Mahaprabhu’s mercy, the dog had received a spiritual body and gone to Vaikuntha.
The next day, no one saw the dog anywhere for it had obtained a spiritual body and gone to Vaikuntha. These are the transcendental pastimes of Lord Sachinandana: he made a dog say the names of Krishna and then he sent him to the spiritual world.
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.1.32-3)
Shivananda Sena and Nakula Brahmachari
During the period of Muslim rule, the county courthouse in the town of Kalna in the district of Burdwan was in the neighborhood named Ambika. This neighborhood was known then as Ambua Muluk, today as Pyari Ganj. A great Vaishnava named Nakula Brahmachari lived there. Mahaprabhu entered into Nakula’s heart out of his desire to deliver the people of Bengal, The brahmachari began to behave just like someone who was possessed by the planets and would dance, sing and shout in a deep mood of divine love. Both his inner attitude and his physical appearance took on Mahaprabhu’s nature.
When people heard about the miraculous occurrences surrounding Nakula Brahmachari, they flocked to see him. In his presence everyone would be influenced by his absorption in Mahaprabhu’s mood; they would sing Krishna’s names and begin to experience the taste of Krishna-prema.
When he heard about all this, Shivananda Sena could not at first believe that it was true and he decided to test Nakula Brahmachari to eradicate his doubts. He came to Ambika, but kept himself at some distance from the brahmachari. His idea was that if Nakula were truly possessed by Mahaprabhu, he would call out to him and tell him what his own secret mantra was. In spite of the fact that Shivananda was invisible in the great crowd of countless Devotees, Nakula called out his name and sent people to look for him. When he heard his name being called, Shivananda came forth and paid his obeisances to Nakula. The brahmachari said, “You doubted me, so listen carefully and I will put an end to your doubts. Your worshipable mantra is the four-syllable Gaura-Gopal mantra. Give up the uncertainty which you kept in your heart.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.2.30-31)
When he heard this, Shivananda became convinced that Nakula Brahmachari was indeed filled with the presence of Mahaprabhu. He paid his prostrated obeisances to him and acknowledged his faith and devotion to him. This is just one example of Mahaprabhu’s inconceivable potencies.
Shivananda Sena and Nrisimhananda Brahmachari
Shivananda Sena had a nephew, Shrikanta Sena, who was so eager to see the Lord that one year he went to Puri alone. Mahaprabhu treated him warmly and kept him for two months before instructing him to return to Bengal. He told him to convey the message to the Bengali Devotees that there was no need for them to come to Puri that year, for He Himself would be visiting Bengal in the month of Paush. He would then meet with them all and eat at Jagadananda’s house. When Shrikanta returned with the news, everyone was jubilant in expectation of the Lord’s visit. But when the time of Mahaprabhu’s expected arrival approached, Shivananda, Jagadananda and the others who had been waiting anxiously were distressed to see that He did not come.
At that time, Pradyumna Brahmachari (who had been given the name Nrisinghananda by Mahaprabhu) happened by and asked them why everyone was so unhappy. When he heard about their disappointment over Mahaprabhu’s non-arrival, he assured them that he would bring Mahaprabhu there within three days. Everyone knew of Pradyumna’s spiritual powers and so they believed him.
Pradyumna sat down in meditation. After two days, he said, “Mahaprabhu has arrived in Panihati. By midday tomorrow He will be at Shivananda’s house.” Without showing the slightest doubt, he ordered Shivananda Sena to start making preparations for a feast in honor of Mahaprabhu’s arrival. Nrisinghananda personally started cooking early in the morning, and made a large variety of preparations, which he distributed onto three plates to make offerings to Jagannath, Nrisinghadeva and to Mahaprabhu. As soon as he sat down in meditation for the offerings, Mahaprabhu personally appeared and ate all three offerings, without leaving any remnants.
Pradyumna was overjoyed to see the Lord accept his offerings. Nevertheless, though he well knew that on a higher level there is no distinction between Mahaprabhu, Nrisingha and Jagannath, in order to demonstrate the principle of devotion to one’s own personal worshipable Deity, he said, “Nrisinghadeva has not eaten anything today.” Shivananda asked why this was so and Pradyumna Brahmachari answered, “Mahaprabhu ate the offerings intended for all three Deities. Therefore Nrisingha and Jagannath have gone hungry.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.2.71)
When he heard this, Shivananda felt a twinge of doubt. Nevertheless, he furnished Pradyumna with more raw foodstuffs so that he could prepare another offering for Nrisinghadeva. The next year, when Shivananda came to Nilachala, Mahaprabhu one day started to glorify Nrisinghananda’s virtues to all the Devotees.
“Last year in the month of Paush, he gave Me such a nice meal. I have never tasted such delicious rice and vegetables!” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.2.77)
All the Devotees were struck with wonder at hearing this, and Shivananda himself became confident that the incident was true. This is another example of Mahaprabhu’s mercy to Shivananda.
Nityananda Prabhu’s Punishment of Shivananda
Shivananda Sena also received much mercy from Nityananda Prabhu. One day Nityananda kicked Shivananda who thus received the touch of his lotus feet, a rare attainment for even Brahma and the demigods. Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami has described this incident in the 12th chapter of the Chaitanya Charitamrita’s Antya-lila. After the disappearance of Hari Das Thakur, Mahaprabhu’s ecstatic transformations increased day by day. That year, the Devotees gathered in Navadwip as usual in preparation for the journey to Puri. Nityananda also joined the party, even though Mahaprabhu had expressly forbidden him to come. Shivananda was accompanied by his wife and three sons. Since he knew the roads of Orissa, he was in charge of the party and would take care of the customs agents, toll collectors, etc., along the way.
Normally, Shivananda would cross the tollgate last, after first insuring that all members of the party had gone through. On one occasion, the procedure took longer than usual and since Shivananda had not arranged for lodgings for the company in the nearby village, the Devotees were obliged to stand and sit about under a tree until quite late at night. While waiting for Shivananda to come through the tollgate, Nityananda Prabhu appeared to take on the mood of a cowherd boy from Vraja overcome by hunger. He made a pretense of being angry at Shivananda, complaining, “Shiva has still not come and arranged for a place for us to stay and I am dying of hunger. I curse his three sons to die.”
On hearing Nityananda make such a curse, Shivananda’s wife started to cry. When Shivananda finally returned from paying the toll collector, he had to calm his wife. He said, “Foolish woman! Why are you needlessly crying? Let our sons die for the inconvenience we have caused Nityananda Prabhu.”
He then went to speak to Nityananda, who kicked him in the head as he paid his obeisances. Shivananda was overjoyed to receive the merciful touch of the Lord’s foot and immediately went to arrange quarters for the night in the house of a milkman. When Shivananda had brought Nityananda Prabhu to his lodgings, he glorified him and prayed to receive the touch of his feet again and again. He said, “Today you have accepted me as your servant, for you have punished me appropriately as you would your own servant. You are so compassionate that even your punishments are a sign of your causeless mercy. Who in the three worlds can understand your personality? The dust of your feet is unattainable by even Brahma, yet it has fallen on my wretched body. My life, my family and my service have all become perfected today. Today I have attained devotion to Krishna, as well as all the other goals of human life.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.12.27-30)
Nityananda was so pleased by Shivananda’s prayers that he embraced him. However, Shrikanta, Shivananda’s nephew, had been upset by Nityananda’s behavior. He thought, “Shivananda is Mahaprabhu’s dear associate and respected by all the Devotees, and yet Nityananda has kicked him in the head.” He left the party and went ahead to Puri on his own. Upon his arrival, he went to Mahaprabhu and paid his prostrated obeisances. Mahaprabhu first told His servant Govinda to instruct Shrikanta to take off his upper garments when paying obeisances. Then, knowing his thoughts, he said to His associates, “Shrikanta has come on his own because of some great mental distress. Don’t say anything to him; let him do as he wishes.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.12.38)
From these words, Shrikanta could understand that Mahaprabhu is all-knowing and so said nothing about the incident to anyone. The Lord is so affectionate to His Devotees that even their friends and relations are also dear to Him.
aham bhaktaparadhino hy asvatantra iva dvija
sadhubhir grasta-hridayo bhaktair bhakta-janapriyah
I am under the control of My Devotees, O Brahmin, as though I were completely lacking any independence. The saintly Devotees have taken possession of My heart, for I am dear to them and they to Me. (Shrimad Bhagavatam 9.4.63)
Mahaprabhu’s Mercy on Shivananda’s Family
Due to their relation to Shivananda, his wife and three sons also received the Lord’s unlimited mercy. He named his youngest son Paramananda Das in accordance with Mahaprabhu’s instruction. Mahaprabhu would jokingly call him Puri Das. When Shivananda presented the little child to Him, the Lord affectionately allowed him to suck on His toe.
Who can find the limits of the ocean of Shivananda’s good fortune? The Lord accepted his entire family as His own. Then He sat down and ate with all the Devotees. As He washed His mouth and hands after the meal, He said to Govinda: “As long as Shivananda Sena, his wife and child remain in Puri, you should give them My remnants.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.12.51-3)
Mahaprabhu’s unlimited mercy on Shivananda’s youngest son, Puri Das, is described in the sixteenth chapter of the Antya-lila. One year, when Shivananda and his wife were in Puri for the Rathayatra, Mahaprabhu said to the little boy, “Say Krishna, say Krishna!” Though the Lord asked him to chant repeatedly, the boy refused to utter the Holy Name. His embarrassed father also tried to get him to chant, but the child was steadfast in his refusal. Mahaprabhu said that He had induced everyone in the universe, even including the lower forms of life, to chant the names of Krishna, but was unable to make this little child do so. What could be the reason? Svarupa Damodar realized what it was: “You have instructed him in the mantra consisting of Krishna’s name. Now that he has received the mantra, he will not reveal it publicly but only chants it mentally. That is my guess.”
In his Anubhashya, Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur has written: “The mantra which one has received from the guru is not to be revealed to anyone else, otherwise it will lose its potency. We have seen this previously from the story about Gadadhara Pandit.”
Another day, Mahaprabhu asked Puri Das to recite a verse. Puri Das broke his silence and recited a verse of his own composition that astonished all those who heard it. Even Brahma and the gods cannot understand the glories of Mahaprabhu’s mercy. Puri Das, or Kavi Karnapura’s verse:
shravasoh kuvalayam akshnor
aïjanam uraso mahendramanidama
mandanam akhilam harir jayati
All glories to Hari,
the ornament for all the beauties of Vrindavan,
who is a blue lotus for their ears,
black collyrium for their eyes,
and a necklace of blue sapphires
to decorate their breast.
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.16.74)
Shivananda and Raghunatha Das Goswami
When Raghunatha Das Goswami left home, using a service to his guru Yadunandana Acharya as a pretext, his father Govardhana Majumdar, sent ten men to Shivananda, who was already on his way to Puri, asking him to send Raghunatha Das back. They did not find Raghunatha Das, however, and so returned empty-handed. At the end of the rainy season, when Shivananda and the other Devotees returned from Puri, Govardhana Majumdar heard from some of them that Raghunatha Das was engaged in strict austere practices and begging near the Singha Dvara of the Jagannath Temple. His father and mother were greatly distressed by his departure and the next time that the Devotees went to Puri, Govardhana gave 400 rupees to Shivananda for his son. Raghunatha refused to accept this money for himself. Shivananda Sena’s son Kavi Karnapura glorified Raghunatha Das extensively in his play, Chaitanya Chandrodaya.
The dates of Shivananda Sena’s appearance and disappearance are not known, nor the names of his parents or wife.
[Excerpted from “Shri Chaitanya: His Life & Associates” by Shrila Bhakti Ballabh Tirtha Maharaj]