Gauri Dasa Pandita
In Shri Chaitanya Charitamrita, Krishna dasa Kaviraja Goswami has written:
tasya shri krishna chaitanya
sat premamara shakhinah
shakharupan ganan numah
“Shri Nityananda Prabhu is the topmost branch of the indestructible tree of eternal love of Godhead, Shri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. I offer my respectful obeisances to all the sub-branches of that topmost branch.” Gauridasa Pandit is one of the most important sub-branches of the Nityananda branch of the Chaitanya tree of bhakti. Of this particular sub-branch of Nityananda, Shri Krishna Dasa Kaviraja Goswami has written: gauridasa pandit yara premoddanda-bhakti, krishna-prema dite, nite, dhare mahashakti. nityananda samarpila jati kula-panti, shri chaitanya-nityananda kari pranapati. “Gauridasa Pandita, the emblem of the most elevated devotional service in love of Godhead, had the greatest potency to receive and deliver such love. Making Lord Chaitanya and Lord Nityananda the Lords of his life, Gauridas Pandit sacrificed everything for the service of Lord Nityananda, even the fellowship of his family.”
Shri Gauridasa Pandit’s father’s name was Shri Kamsari Mishra. His mother’s name was Shri Kamala Devi. He had five brothers: Damodara, Jagannatha, Suryadasa, Krishnadasa, and Nrishinga-Chaitanya. Previously, in Vrindvana, Gauridasa Pandit was Subala Shakha, one of the twelve most important cowherd-boy friends of Krishna who were known as the dvadasha-gopals.
In the Bardhaman district lies the town of Ambika-kalna, not far from the city of Shantipura. In Ambika-kalna lived Gauridasa Pandit. At present, in the house of Shri Gauridasa Pandit there is a temple where the deities of Gaura-Nityananda are installed. In that temple there is an ancient manuscript, which is said to be a copy of the Bhagavad-gita written in Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s own hand, although this is not accepted by some authorities. Hearsay has it that Shriman Mahaprabhu crossed the Ganges in a boat with an oar. Giving the oar to Gauridasa Pandita, Mahaprabhu is supposed to have said, “With this oar, you may help the fallen souls cross over the ocean of material existence.” That oar is still found at the temple of Gauridasa Pandit.
Gauridasa Pandit had an elder brother named Suryadas Sarakhela. Suryadasa Sarakhela lived a few miles from Navadwipa in a place called Shaligram. At that time he accepted employment as a secretary in the Mohammedan government. He had two daughters: Shri Vasudha and Jahnava Devi. These two daughters later married Shri Nityananda Prabhu. Of Gauridasa Pandit’s brothers, Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami has written: “Suryadasa Sarakhela and his younger brother Krishnadasa Sarakhela both possessed firm faith in Nityananda Prabhu. They were a reservoir of love of Godhead. ”
Regarding Gauridasa Pandita, Bhaktivedanta Swami translates the comments of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura i as follows: “It is said that Gauridasa Pandit was always patronized by King Krishnadasa, the son of Harihoda. Gauridasa Pandit lived in the village of Shaligrama, which is situated a few miles from the railway station Muragaccha, and later he came to reside in Ambika-kalana. It is stated in Gaura-ganodesha-dipika, verse 128, that formerly he was Subal, one of the cowherd boy friends of Krishna and Balarama in Vrindavana. Gauridas Pandit was the younger brotehr of Suryadasa Sarakhela, and with the permission of his elder brother he shifted his residence tot he bank of the Ganges, living there in the town known as Ambika-Kalna….The eldest son of Gauridasa Pandita was known as big Balrama, and the youngest was known as Raghunatha. The sons of Raghunatha were Mahesha Pandita and Govinda. Gauridasa Pandit’s daughter was known as Annapurna.” According to Bhaktivinoda Thakura, some of the descendants of Gauri Dasa Pandit are living today in the village of Shaligram.
Bhaktivedanta Swami gives the location of Ambika-kalna as follows: “The village Ambika-kalna, which is situated just across the River Ganges from Shantipura, is two miles east of the Kalakanorta railway station on the Eastern Railway.” It may be noted that Ambika-Kalna may be visited by catching to train to Nabadwip–dham at Howrah station in Calcutta and getting off at Ambika-Kalna. Bhaktivedanta Swami writes: “In Ambika-Kalna there is a temple constructed by the Zamindar of Burdwan. In front of the temple there is a big tamarind tree, and it is said that Gauridasa Pandita and Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu met under this tree. The place where the tempole is situated is known as Ambika, and because it is in the area of Kalna, the village is known as Ambika-kalna. It is said that a copy of Bhagavad-gita written by Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu still exists in this temple.”
When Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, after performing different kinds of pastimes in Navadwipa, wanted to take sannyasa, at that time he went to bid goodbye to Gauridasa Pandita. At that time, Gauridasa Pandita felt great separation from Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
This is described in a song by a devotee named Krishna dasa:
thakura panditera bari, gora nache phiri phiri,
nityananda bole hari hari
kandi gaurdasa bole pori prabhur padatole
kabhu na charibe mora bari
amara vachana rakha ambika nagare thako
ei nivedana tuwa pai
yadi chari yabe tumi nischoya maribo ami
rahibo se nirakhiya kai
tomara ye duti bhai, thako mora ei thai
tabe sabara hoy paritran
punah nivedana kori na chariho gaurahari
tabe jani patita pavan
prabhu kahe gauridasa charaho emata asha
pratimurti seva kari dekha
tahate achaye ami, nischaya janiho tumi
satya mora ei vakya rakha
eta shuni gauridasa chari dirgha nihshvasa
phukari phukari punah kande
punah sei dui bhai prabhodha karoye tai
tabu hiya khira nahi vandhe
kahe dina krishnadasa, chaitanya carane asha
dui bhai rahilo tathaya
thakura panditer preme, vandi hoila dui jane
bhakata vatsala teni gaya
akula dekhiya tare, kahe gaura dhire dhire
amara thakilam tora thai
nischaya jani-i tumi, tomara ei ghare ami
rahilam ei dui bhai
eiteka pravodha diya dui prati murti loiya
aila pandita vidyaman
chari jana danrailo pandita vismaya bhelo
bhave ashru bahaye nayana
puna prabhu kahe tanre tora iccha hoy yare
sei dui rakha nija ghare
tomara pratita lagi tora thai khavo magi
satya satya janiha antare
shuniya pandita raja korila randhana kaja
chari jane bhojana karila
padma malya vastra diya tambuladi samarpiya
sarva ange chandana lepila
nnana mate paratita karyarya phirala chita
dehare rakhila nija ghare
panditera prema lagi dui bhai khaya magi
donhe gela nilachalapuri
pandita karaye seva yakhana ye iccha yeba
seimata karaye vilasa
heno prabhu gauridasa
tara pad kari asha
kahe dina hina krishnadasa
“Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, dancing, with Nityananda who was chanting, “Hari Hari” arrived at the house of Gauridasa Pandita to bid farewell. Weeping and weeping in separation, Gauridasa fell at the feet of the Lord and said, ‘You must never leave my house! Please heed my words. Stay here in Ambika Kalna. This is my humble submission. If you leave me, I shall surely die. You must stay here. And I will always stay here and view your divine form. You are two brothers. Stay here at my place, and everyone will be delivered just by seeing you. Again I submit—don’t leave, O Gaurahari: you are the savior of the fallen.’
“The Lord said, ‘Gauridasa, allow me to fulfill your hope in this way: I shall give you an exact copy of Gaura and Nityananda, a murti that you may worship. By seeing this murti you can think of us. My murti is as good as I am. Know it for certain that my words are true.’
“Hearing this, Gauridasa, let out a deep breath and began sobbing and sobbing, wept and wept. Again, the two brothers tried to console him. Still, nothing they did could steady or pacify him. Thus sings the fallen Krishna dasa who aspires for the lotus feet of Shri Chaitanya, of how those two brothers stayed in Ambika Kalna. In ecstasy, Gauridasa Pandit begged the two brothers to stay, and because Chaitanya and Nityananda are bhakta-vatsala—always affectionate to his devotees—they were captured by Gauridasa Pandit. He imprisoned those two Lords in a temple of divine love from which they could not escape.
“Seeing the great anxiety of Gauridasa Pandita, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu said, with great gravity, ‘We will stay here at your place. Know for certain that we two brothers will always stay here in your home.’ Consoling him with these words, those two brothers manifest themselves in the form of two perfect deity forms.
“The four of them stood there: Gaura-Nityananda and the exact replicas of Gaura-Nityananda. Gauridas Pandit was stunned. Tears of divine love filled his eyes. Again the Lord told him, ‘Your wish is fulfilled. These two will stay here in your home forever. You will always internally realize that in this way, at your home we shall eternally stay and beg to eat the offerings you cook.’
“Hearing this, Gauridasa the king of pandits, began to cook. When the preparations were ready, he offered everything before his four guests. After this he offered them garlands made of lotuses and fresh cloth, along with tambula and other fine things. Then he decorated their limbs with sandalwood pulp.
“After all these various things were realized, it was time for the two Lords to go. The two Lords left the two Lords standing at the home of Gauridasa Pandita and left for Jagannatha Puri. To the great satisfaction of Gauridasa Pandita, Gaura and Nityananda in their replica form stayed at his house and ate the rice he offered them. In this way, Gauridasa Pandit rendered service to his heart’s delight and enjoyed the pastimes of Gaura and Nityananda. My only hope is to take shelter at the lotus feet of Gauridasa Pandita. Thus says the fallen Krishnadasa.”
One day, just to increase the divine love of Gauridasa Pandita, the murtis of Shri Gaura-Nityananda decided to revive in Gauridasa Pandita the Vrindavana conception. At that time they smiled sweetly and said, “O Gauridasa! You were formerly Subal Shakha. Don’t you remember? Together we used to have many pastimes on the banks of the Yamuna in Vrindavana. While acting in this way, Shri Gaura and Nitayananda caused Gauridasa to conceive of them in the forms of Krishna and Balarama. In this way, they appeared in the dress of cowherd boys, with a stick for driving cows in their hands. Krishna held a flute in his hands and a peacock feather in his hear. Their necks were decorated with garlands of forest flowers. Their lotus feet were ornamented with anklets. In this way, they brought Gauridasa into the mood of his previous conception. In this mood they revealed different pastimes to Gauridasa Pandit for some time. After this, it was the Lord’s wish that Gauridasa be returned to external consciousness. At that time, Krishna and Balaram returned to the altar in their forms as Gaura and Nityananda.
Every day, Gauridasa Pandit used to prepare various wonderful edibles for the pleasure of his deities and offer it to Gaura and Nityananda. He was always engaged in serving them. He was so absorbed in service that he was completely unaware of the pleasures and pains of his own body. Gradually, he approached old age and became feeble and infirm. In this way, although it was difficult for him to do, he did not cease working hard to cook for his deities. One day, seeing his hard labor at cooking, Gaura and Nityananda externally appeared very angry, and refused to eat. At that time, Gauridasa Pandit embraced them affectionately, saying: “If you don’t want to eat this, tell me what you would like me to cook. I’m ready to cook whatever will make you happy.” Saying this, Gauridasa Pandita fell silent. Smiling, the Lord then said in great seriousness, “There is nothing wrong with your cooking. But there is no need, at your advanced age, to cook so many preparations. We can’t tolerate seeing you go to such a great effort on our behalf. We would be happier if you would exert less effort and just do something simple.”
Gauridasa Pandit said, “Eat what I have cooked today. In the future, I won’t take such great steps. Everything will be kept simple. I will only cook a little shak and offer it on a fresh banana leaf.” Hearing the words of the Pandit, the brothers, Gaura and Nityananda, smiled and laughed and ate everything on their plates.
Once Gauridasa Pandita wanted to decorate Gaura and Nityananda lavishly with beautiful ornaments. Knowing his mind, Gaura-Nityananda decorated themselves with ornaments and then got back up on their throne on the altar. When the pandit entered the temple, he was speechless with delight. He thought, “Where did they get these ornaments?” In this way, Gaura and Nityananda were involved in many different kinds of pastimes in the home of Gauridasa Pandita.
Shri Gauridas Pandit’s dearmost disciple was Shri Hridaya Chaitanya. Once around the time of the appearance day of Shri Gauranga, Gauridasa went to the house of one of his disciples. At that time, he entrusted the service of Shri Gaura and Nityananda in the care of Hridaya Chaitanya. Hridaya Chaitanya, in great ecstasy, rendered service to those deities. The festival of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s appearance day drew near. When only three days remained before the big festival that was to take place, Gauridas Pandita still had not returned. Hridaya Chaitanya became very worried. Acting on his own, he arranged to send a written message to the different devotees and disciples inviting them to the festival that would soon be held. Just at that time, Gauridasa Pandita arrived at his ashram. Hridaya Chaitanya told his guru about how he had sent out invitations of his own, worried that Gauridasa Pandit would not return in time to do so. Although Gauridasa Pandit was internally very happy, externally he showed himself to be very angry with Hridaya Chaitanya’s acting independently.
Gauridasa scolded his disciple, saying, “In my presence you are acting independently, sending invitations here and there as you please and summoning my disciples at your will. This cannot go on. You cannot stay here.”
Hearing this, Hridaya Chaitanya fell at the feet of his guru and offered his pranams. He went to stay under a tree on the banks of the Ganges. A short time later a rich merchant came by on a boat and gave a large donation to Hridaya Chaitanya, saying, “Give this to your guru, Gauridas Pandit.” After he went to Gauridasa and gave him the donation, Hridaya Chaitanya was told by his guru to hold a big festival on the banks of the Ganges. Taking the order of his guru on his head, Hridaya Chaitanya began a big festival on the banks of the Ganges. Gradually all the Vaishnavas in the surrounding areas began to assemble there. Taking those great souls with him, Hridaya Chaitanya began a wonderful and superexcellent performance of dancing and chanting the holy name. In the midst of this kirtan Gaura and Nityananda Themselves appeared, singing and dancing. Hridaya Chaitanya saw it with his own eyes. In this way Gauridasa Pandita arranged for a great festival to be held. When the pujari back at the temple, Big Ganga Dasa Pandit, entered the temple he saw that Gaura and Nityananda were not on the simhasana, the deity throne on the altar. He went immediately to Gauridas Pandit to report this incident. The pujari could understand that to increase the prema of Hridaya Chaitanya, Gaura and Nityananda had gone off and joined the kirtan. Seeing the amazement of his pujari, Gauridasa Pandit smiled sweetly. Then, to stop the two brothers from getting away, he took a club in his hand and went off to the banks of the Ganges to the place where Gaura and Nityananda had joined in the great kirtan that was going on there. He soon arrived at the banks of the Ganges where the kirtan was going on. He could see the two brothers dancing in ecstasy. But when the two brothers, Gaura and Nityananda saw the angry mood of Gauridas Pandita, they became invisible.
Shri Gauridas Pandit could see that Gaura and Nityananda had entered into the temple of Hridaya Chaitanya’s heart. Beholding this in great wonder and ecstasy, Gauridasa Pandit could not hold himself back—he began crying tears of ecstasy. He forgot his external show of anger at the two brothers, and holding his disicple Shri Hridaya Chaitanya Prabhu in his arms, he said, “You are truly fortunate. From today on your name will be will be “Hridaya Chaitanya:” one who has Shri Chaitanya within his heart. He drenched Hridaya Chaitanya Prabhu with the water of his tears.
In great humility and overwhelmed with Krishna-prema, Shri Hridaya Chaitanya fell at the feet of Shri Gauridasa Pandit. After this, Gauridasa took Hridaya Chaitanya back to his house where they danced and chanted in the courtyard in the ecstasy of sankirtan. The devotees filled the ten directions with the loud chanting of “Hari! Hari!” In this way the great festival of the appearance day of Shri Gauranga came to a close. After this, Shri Gauridasa Pandita blessed Shri Hridaya Chaitanya with the adhikara or qualifications for divine seva.
On the Shukla Ekadashi in the month of Shravana, Shri Gauridasa Pandita passed away from this earth and entered into the eternal unmanifest pastimes of Shri Gauranga and Nityananda. His most important disciple was Hridaya Chaitanya, whose most important disciple was Shri Shyamananda prabhu. Shri Narahari Chakravarti Thakura records all the history of Gauri Das Pandit’s life and extolls his glories in the seventh taranga or wave of his book,