APRIL 1931

Sri Gopal Bhatta Goswami Part I


The province of Dravida is one of the holiest lands of India. She is literally the mother of jewels in every sense just as Sri Gaur Sundar, Embodiment of magnanimity by manifesting Himself with His realm and paraphernalia sanctified the country of Gauda (Bengal) which has since become the objective of pilgrimage, so the Vaishnava acharyyas who are founders of the four Vaishnava-sects, by appearing in the province of Dravida scattered broadcast the rays of devotional service throughout the world. Eternal and everlasting by its nature the principle of transcendental devotion first of all dawned upon this world to the mind of Vedavyas in its exclusive state, in the grassy land of Brahmmabarta on the bank of the Saraswati and passed through the stages of infancy and boyhood on the holy plains of the Naimisha forest on the bank of the Gomati. By the fostering service of the four founder-acharyyas, the process manifested its adolescence on the banks of the holy streams of the province of Dravida finally displaying its full maturity on the bank if the most sacred Ganges, in the town of Nabadwip in the country of Gauda by the touch of the holy feet of Sriman Mahaprabhu, in its perfect manifestation as the mellowing principle of higher (spiritual) amorous love (unnata ujjvala rasa).

Sree Rangakshetra lies on the beautiful bank of the Koliron, and arm of the Kaveri in the province of Dravida. The place has been designated as Sri Rangam or Rangakshetra after Vishnu or Sree Ranganath. Tirumongoi Alwar, a great saint in the order of preceptorial succession anterior to Sree Ramanuja Acharyya, made his appearance in the province of Dravida in the remote antiquity. In the Tamil language, the great Vaishnava saints go by the name of Alwar or Dibyasuri. Etymologically the word ‘Alwar’ means administrator hence it shows that the Vaishnavas are really the universal Gurus and as such all Jivas should come under their Divinely authorized spiritual jurisdiction as Guides.

Once upon a time in course of travels with his disciples, when Tirumongoi came to the temple-yard of Sree Ranganath he was mortified to find the ruined condition of the temple which was encompassed by flourishing jungles on all sides. Finding the temple turned into an abode of bats and the haunting ground of ferocious wild animals, Tirumongoi said to his disciples, ‘You see, volptuos people by misappropriation and misapplication of their Master’s money are getting steeped in luxury, but the master or Lord, who has manifested Himself in the form of the Sree Bigraha, stands here utterly neglected and abandoned.’. Therefore, to collect funds for the restoration of the temple, Tirumongoi, with his disciples, went from door to door of all well-to-do people and accosted them thus—‘Wealthy people, don’t you see, your wealth has become productive only of your selfish enjoyments. It should not be so, but service to Godhead alone should be rendered by the instrumentality of all your wealth’.

But all the advice fell flat on deaf ears and in some instances, Tirumongoi had to meet with harsh rebuffs from people intoxicated with the arrogance of wealth. Finding the people to be in such abnormal condition Tirumongoi determined to collect by hook or by crook, from the opulent people, money which is meant for the enjoyment of it sole Enjoyer viz. Godhead alone. Although this extraordinary conduct of Tirumongoi may appear condemnable to certain schools of empiric thinkers, yet it is symptomatic of the exclusive devotion of one who has surrendered himself body and soul to the Feet of Krishna. Having collected large funds by the method of apparently heartless exploitation he finished the work of the complete restoration of the temple of Sree Rangan, a structure on such a gigantic scale that it remains incomparable and inimitable example of its kind among the whole range of edifices dedicated to religious purposes in India.

In the month of Ashada of 1433 of the Saka era, corresponding to 1514 A.D., the sky with dark clouds lit up by occasional flashes of lightning, wore a beautiful appearance. The eleventh day of the moon from which the period of vow of continence for four months (chaturmasyabrata) commences every year, was near at hand. A young ascetic of golden hue with hands extending to the knee shedding all round the wonderful halo of His bright person, was passing along one of the roads of the country of Dravida fully absorbed in contemplation, chanting with His mouth, “Rama! Raghava! Rama! Raghava! Rama! Raghava! Pahi mam, Krishna! Keshaba! Krishna! Keshaba! Krishna! Keshaba! Raksha mam,” and a Brahmana carrying a water-pot used by ascetics following Him. This Sannyasin passed through many holy places of pilgrimage sanctifying them by His touch. On the way He had held many discourses about Sree Hari with one of His most loved favourites, Ramananda Ray, in Vidyanagar on the bank of the Godavari. From Vidyanagar, passing through Gautami Ganga, Mallikarjuna, Ahobala Nrisingha, Siddhabat, Skandakshettra, Trimath, Briddha Kasi, Bauddhastan, Tripadi, Trimalla, Pana Nrisingha, Siva Kanchi, Vishnu Kanchi, Trikalhasti, Bridhaka, Siali Bhairabi etc, He now reached the beautiful bank of the Kaveri and performed His bath in her sacred water. Being most highly favoured by the touch of the holy Feet of that Sannyasin, in token of her gratitude the Kaveri showed the effusion of her delight by the deep agitation of her high-heaving waves. After bath the Sannyasin had the sight of Sree Ranganath and danced and sang before Godhead with rapturous love. The effulgent beauty, splendour and majesty of the young Sannyasin struck unforeseen wonders into the hearts of the beholders who stood in silent awe like painted picture and gazed at Him without taking off their eyes. Reader, have you been able to recognise this young travelling Sanyassin of golden colour? He only wears the disguise of a sanyassin. He is an Object incomprehensible to the yogins and the rishis. Even the devas are unable to have the sight of His form and are apt to get bewildered in the attempt. He is the self-revealing supreme Reality. Non-devotees over-powered by His deluding Energy cannot obtain the sight of His incomprehensible actual form. He is unique and there is none who is either equal or superior to Him. He is Godhead Himself and all visible and invisible things are His servants, the ‘Brahman’ of the Upanishads and the ‘Paramatman’ of the yogins are the lustre of His All-holy Person and His partial Manifestations respectively. This Sannyasin is Sree Krishna Chaitanya, the same as the Son of the chief of Braja (Brindaban), the only Saviour of this Iron Age, Who appeared in this world to give away to all souls the treasures of His Own Name and Love for Himself Who are identical with Himself.

The Magnanimity of Sree Gaursundar, the Embodiment of Divine Pity in His fullness captured the attention of a fortunate Vaishnava belonging to the theistic community which follows the Consort of Vishnu viz., Sree Devi. Venkatta Bhatta who hailed originally from Northern India but was then a sojourner in Sree Rangakshetra, was the name of the Brahmana who now prostrated himself at the Feet of the Supreme Lord and invited Him to his home for the high favour of accepting his hospitality. He had two older brothers, Trimalla or Tirumalaya Bhatta and Tridandi Swami Prabodhananda. The latter was a sannyasin of the school of Sri Ramanujacharyya. Sree Prabodhananda’s vast knowledge of the Scriptures had earned for him the scholastic title of ‘Saraswati’. Venkata Bhatta was a pious householder devoted to the service of Sree Narayan. He has a jewel-like son named Gopala.

(To be continued)