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Durable Link to this BlogWednesday, July 07, 2010

Saint Chaitanya (1485 to 1534 CE)

Chaitanya usually referred to as Mahaprabhu (Great Lord) was born 500 years ago in Navdveep now in West Bengal to a Brahmin couple Jagannath Mishra and Sachidevi. He was extremely fair complexioned and was called Gourang. (Goura-white, anga-body) He was delivered under a Neem tree and was also named as Nimai.

He studied in a native school known as tol run by his father. Sanskrit language, grammar and shastras were taught in that tol. He was married to Laxmideve, daughter of Vallabhacharya at a very young age. She died eary and Nimai was married a second time to a beautiful girl called Vishnupriya. Soon after, Jagannath Mishra passed away. Nimai went to Gaya to offer pinda to his father and other ancestors. This pilgrimage was a turning point in his life.

Nimai showed spiritual tendencies from a young age and his restless mind was in search of a Guru. Chance meeting with Saint Ishvarapuri, showed him his future path. This Guru accorded diksha (bestowal) of Krishnamantra. Nimai got into a trance. After recovery he was a transformed person. Shri Krishna occupied his mind, thought and life itself. Singing glory of Krishna to the accompaniment of drum and hand beat (Kartal) he went back to Navdveep with a band of followers.

He became completely detached. He left his beautiful young wife and entreating old mother behind, in search of that eternal lover Lord Krishna. He sought all strength (Chaitanya) from Lord Krishna in this effort and came to be known as (Krishna) Chaitanya. Clad in ochre robes, he left for Jagannathapuri (now in Orissa) a famous Vaishnava center, singing and praising glories of Radha-Madhav. All his admirers followed.

He now undertook an all India tour, followed by disciples and devotees. Tradition mentions that he visited Gomati and Ganga rivers. Mallikarjuna, Ahobala, Nrisimha, Nagarjuna Tirupati (All five places in Andhra Pradesh), Shrirangam, Madurai and Kanyakumari (in Tamilnadu), and finally returned to Puri. He could not himself proceed to Brindavan-Mathura, associated with Lord Krishna. Battle was raging on. But he could send his brother Nityanand there. Mathura grew into a great Vaishnav center. It became a symbol of Radha-Krishna's affection, love, obedience, service, coaxing etc., virtues to be inculcated by a human being for humanity at large. For Chaitanya these helped to attain eternal bliss.

Chaitanya did not preach or write. His was only oral advice. But his followers wrote down his utterings. He did not insist on moksha or final liberation. He dwelt on sweet proximity of Lord Krishna. Radha was symbol of that infinite affection, and Gopis were her reflection. By singing dancing and meditating on Krishna's glory and forgetting oneself was a state of eternal bliss. His proximity could be attained through (Keertan). Krishna bhakti evokes pure virtues in man, he taught.

Organised group singing gained grounds under Chaitanya. Scattered religious groups performed Bhajans and Keertans under his guidance bhakti movement took a concrete shape in North India through worship of Radha-Damodar/Radha Madhav and Satsanga (meetings of devotees) frequently.

Record regarding Chaitanya's final departure is varied. Some say he entered the ocean, singing and dancing obviously in a trance. Some say he merged in the idol of Jagannatha. He was only 49 at the time.

Amma's Column by Jyotsna Kamat

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Jyotsna Kamat

Jyotsna Kamat Ph.D. lives in Bangalore.


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