[Posted January 27, 2006]
Kunj, Vrindaban - 1535
by Vaiyasaki das
Excerpt from Radha-Damodara Vilasa
this story to a friend
I offer my respectful obeisances
unto the six Goswamis, namely Sri Rupa Goswami, Sri Sanatana Goswami,
Sri Raghunatha Bhatta Goswami, Sri Raghunatha dasa Goswami, Sri Jiva
Goswami, and Sri Gopal Bhatta Goswami, who are very expert in
scrutinizingly studying all the revealed scriptures with the aim of
establishing eternal religious principles for the benefit of all human
beings. Thus they are honored all over the three worlds, and they are
worth taking shelter of because they are absorbed in the mood of the gopis
and are engaged in the transcendental loving service of Radha and
Krishna.—Sad-goswamy-astaka of Srinivas Acharya, verse 2
All the followers
of Lord Chaitanya are glorious, but the Six Goswamis of Vrindavana are
especially acclaimed for their sublime literature that substantiates
the conclusions of the super excellence of prema-bhakti in the
mood of the Vraja gopis. They also uncover the lost sites of
Lord Krishna’s pastimes and establish beautiful temples for His
Srila Jiva Goswami, the nephew of Rupa and Sanatana, is the last of the
six to arrive in Vrindavana. At an early age he is attracted to the
ascetic life of renunciation. When his mother passes away in 1535, Jiva
leaves home to join his uncles in Seva Kunj.
Seva Kunj is the most sacred spot in Vrindavana, being the site of the rasa-lila,
where Sri Sri Radha-Shyamasundara eternally enjoy ecstatic loving
pastimes. Taking shelter of Rupa Goswami, Jiva renders menial service
and helps him prepare manuscripts. He will become Sri Rupa’s foremost
The Goswamis soon begin to install Deities for worship. In 1542, two of
the most important Deities of Vrindavana make Their appearance. First,
the self-manifested Deity, Sri Radha-Raman, appears to Gopal Bhatta
Goswami out of a
shalagrama-shila that he had obtained from the Gandaki River. Then,
during the month of Kartik, Rupa Goswami presents Jiva with a beautiful
Deity carved by his own hand from a piece of black marble from the
Vindhya Hills. He is Lord Damodara, the ishta-deva of Jiva
Since the Six Goswamis are eternally liberated souls, we understand
that the Deities appearing to them are their eternally worshippable
Lords, not simply murtis to help them advance in sadhana-bhakti.
Lord Damodara is installed by Rupa Goswami at Seva Kunj, where He
quickly becomes the life and soul of both Sri Rupa and Sri Jiva. The
temples of Vrindavana have yet to be built, so the Deities accept
worship in the tree under which each Goswami lives. Rupa Goswami
completes his most celebrated work, Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu,
in 1552 under the tree where Sri Damodara is worshipped.
Many exalted Vaishnavas come to hear Sri Rupa speak on the elevated
topics of prema-bhakti at Seva Kunj. In 1558, Jiva Goswami
purchases a large tract of land surrounding Seva Kunj, with the idea to
preserve the sacred site for the Gaudiya Vaishnavas. In this holy place
Sri Jiva establishes a prominent temple for his Lord Damodara. Although
Rupa Goswami is renowned for establishing a temple for Radha-Govinda,
his bhajanashrama is at Seva Kunj.
In his final days, Sri Rupa hands over all his manuscripts to Jiva
Goswami, requesting him to write commentaries on them. Rupa Goswami
enters maha-samadhi in 1564, and Jiva Goswami solemnly places
the transcendental body of Sri Rupa into his samadhi mandira,
where it remains today in the courtyard behind Radha-Damodara temple.
Before long, Jiva becomes recognized as the Acharya due to his vast
learning and missionary mood; “the most authoritative
acharya in the Gaudiya sampradaya,” says Srila Prabhupada (Teachings
of Lord Chaitanya, Chapter 31).
Writing prodigiously, Sri Jiva quickly attracts a great deal of fame as
a scholar and a saint. Even the Moghul ruler, Emperor Akbar, arrives in
Vrindavana in 1570 to have an exclusive darshan with the
distinguished saint. Moved by a genuine religious experience, Akbar
begins to patronize the work of the Goswamis, offering Jiva Goswami a
grant to erect a library housing the Vaishnava scriptures. Jiva also
oversees the construction of beautiful temples for the worship and
glorification of the Deities of the Goswamis.
In particular, Sri Jiva directs Raja Man Singh of Ajmer to build a
temple to properly worship his Lord Damodara. The temple becomes the
classic Radha-Damodara Mandir, celebrated for its vast library of the
original works of the Goswamis. Understanding Lord Chaitanya’s mood to
save the conditioned souls, Jiva Goswami founds the Vishva Vaishnava
Raja Sabha to train up preachers for the sankirtana mission.
The Radha-Damodara temple becomes the mission’s headquarters where the
Vraja Vaishnavas meet to discuss the propagation of Lord Chaitanya’s
teachings. It is here, also, that Srila Prabhupada will later spend
years formulating his attack on maya in pursuance of the
mission of Jiva Goswami under the shelter of Sri Sri Radha-Damodara.
Due to his vast erudition, Sri Jiva attracts adherents from all over
India who flock to Vrindavana to study under him. His most outstanding
students are Narottama dasa Thakur, Srinivas Acharya, and Shyamananda
In 1582 Jiva calls a meeting at Radha-Damodara Mandir to formally
announce his intention of sending out these three preachers with the bhakti-shastras
of the Goswamis for the benefit of humanity. Srinivas Acharya accepts
West Bengal as his preaching field. Shyamananda prefers to preach in
Orissa, while Narottama dasa Thakur chooses East Bengal (present-day
Bangladesh) to spread the glories of prema-bhakti. Jiva Goswami
arranges a bullock cart and loads it with a chest full of the writings
of the Goswamis.
The first traveling sankirtana party (TSKP) leaves
Radha-Damodara Mandir as a padayatra heading East. Ten soldiers
accompany the party to guard the precious scriptures. Crossing the
breadth of India without any incident, the party finally arrives in the
province of West Bengal. They pass the night on the bank of a lake on
the outskirts of Vana Vishnupur, rejoicing to be back in the holy land
of Sri Chaitanya’s appearance.
Unknown to the party, their entrance into Bengal is being tracked with
great interest. A rascal astrologer has informed a band of thieves
about a party traveling East bearing a great treasure. Seeing the chest
guarded by ten soldiers and three sadhus, the thieves are
convinced that this must be the treasure and succeed in stealing it
during the night.
The next morning Srinivas discovers the theft. The three devotees are
in complete shock. Narottama and Shyamananda are so distraught they
want to end their lives immediately by drowning themselves in the lake.
Srinivas, however, encourages them to carry on to their respective prabhu-datta
desha. He will remain behind and will not rest until he has
recovered the precious books. Embracing each other with heavy hearts,
they part ways.
Srinivas Acharya decides to seek the help of the local ruler, Raja Bir
Hambir, to trace out the theft. It is the king himself, however, who
has been sending out raiding parties to rob wealthy travelers in order
to maintain his treasury. When his astrologer had predicted a great
treasure was coming, the king thought his financial problem was solved.
Instead, he is devastated to find the Goswami literature in his
possession. Realizing he has committed a grave sin, the king sponsors a
daily reading of Srimad-Bhagavatam for the public, hoping
to mitigate his offense by this
Srinivas begins to attend these public recitals and is soon recognized
by that assembly as an elevated scholar of the Bhagavatam.
This attracts the attention of the king, who admits to being in
possession of the stolen writings, and results in Srinivas recovering
the bhakti-shastras. The king becomes a disciple of Srinivas
and decrees Gaudiya Vaishnavism to be the state religion. In one stroke
Srinivas delivers the mercy of Lord Chaitanya to Vana Vishnupur.
At his ancestral home in East Bengal, Narottama dasa Thakur receives
the good news by messenger. He is devoting himself to writing
transcendental songs describing the glories of Radha-Krishna lila
and Chaitanya lila. His music soon attracts attention all over
Bengal, and a constant stream of people come to Kheturi to have his
Feeling separation from all the followers of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu,
Narottama decides to honor the appearance of Sri Chaitanya with a huge
festival to bring the Vaishnavas together. Months in advance he sends
out messengers with invitations, as preparations are made at home to
facilitate all the guests.
Thousands of Vaishnavas travel overland by foot from as far away as
Vrindavana and Orissa to join the celebration in the association of
many exalted sadhus. Narottama’s chanting at the festival is so
divinely inspired that the entire Pancha Tattva, who had long since
departed this world, appear in the middle of his kirtan,
dancing in ecstasy. This miracle is observed by thousands of
eye-witnesses, who become mad in ecstatic love of God. Thus, the first
Gaura Purnima celebration becomes one of the most glorious events in
Vaishnava history, and one of the great miracles on earth.
Narottama’s style of kirtan is gradually adopted as the
standard for all Gaudiya Vaishnavas. His preaching is also responsible
for the conversion of the entire country of Manipur into a Vaishnava
state. Again, by converting the king, Vaishnavism becomes the state
religion. Soon all the citizens take up the chanting of the maha-mantra.
Shyamananda is successful spreading the sankirtana movement all
over Orissa, which had since fallen into the hands of Pathan
iconoclasts. By his vigorous preaching and saintly qualities, he
rejuvenates the lives of the devastated Vaishnavas. Along with Raja Man
Singh, the military commander who defeats the Pathans and drives out
the invaders, Shyamananda reestablishes Gaudiya Vaishnavism throughout
the region bringing spiritual sustenance and inspiration to the people.
(For a detailed history of Srinivas, Narottama, and Shyamananda, see Lives
of the Vaishnava Saints by Satyaraja dasa.)
© 2004 -
World Sankirtan Party