Sri Ramacandra Kaviraja, the son of Khandavasi Ciranjiva and
Sunanda, was a disciple of Srinivasa Acarya and the most intimate
friend of Narottama dasa Thakura, who prayed several times for his
association. His youngest brother was Govinda Kaviraja. Srila Jiva
Gosvami very much appreciated Sri Ramacandra Kaviraja’s great
devotion to Lord Krishna and therefore gave him the title Kaviraja.
Sri Ramacandra Kaviraja, who was perpetually disinterested in
family life, greatly assisted in the preaching work of Srinivasa
Acarya and Narottama dasa Thakura. He resided at first in Srikhanda
but later in the village of Kumara-nagara on the bank of the
Govinda Kaviraja was the brother of Ramacandra Kaviraja and
youngest son of Ciranjiva of Srikhanda. Although at first a sakta,
or worshiper of Goddess Durga, he was later initiated by Srinivasa
Acarya Prabhu. Govinda Kaviraja also resided first in Srikhanda and
then in Kumara-nagara, but later he moved to the village known as
Teliya Budhari, on the southern bank of the river Padma. Since
Govinda Kaviraja, the author of two books, Sangita-madhava and
Gitamrita, was a great Vaishnava kavi, or poet, Srila Jiva Gosvami
gave him the title Kaviraja. He is described in the
Bhakti-ratnakara (Ninth Wave). (A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
Prabhupada. Sri Chaitanya Charitamrta Adi-lila 11:51.
Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja took pleasure in writing the
infrequent passages which glorified Gopala Bhatta, and he never
told Sri Bhatta how he had written them. (Bhakti-ratnakara.
I cannot write extentively about the depth of knowledge of Sri
Gopala Bhatta during his life in Vrndavana for fear the book will
become too large. (Bhakti-ratnakara. KHA227.)
Sri Bhatta had given many comments on the book
”Krsnakarmamrta• which gave much pleasure to all the Vaisnavas.
Sri Gopala Bhatta, a remarkable person in the path of pure
devotion had performed many supernatural activities.
At a much later time, Srinivasa met him and got his desires
fulfilled. (Bhakti-ratnakara. KHA230.)
On the order of Prabhu, Srinivasa took his initiation from
Gopala Bhatta and later propagated the Gosvami scriptures in Gauda.
Prabhu empowered Sri Rupa and others to write and compile
scriptures on Vaisnava religion, for the propogation of those
scriptures he empowered Srinivasa. (Bhakti-ratnakara.
Acarya and Sri Thakura Mahasaya were of the same soul in their
devotion to Prabhu. Thakura Mahasaya had revealed the powers of
both Rupa Gosvami and Srinivasa in his slokas. (Bhakti-ratnakara.
The slokas by Thakura Mahasaya say: "When shall I be able to
find Sri Caitanya deva, the ocean of kindness, within the range of
my vision? His aim was to create many Vaisnava scriptures through
the intellect of Sri Rupa and others to later disseminate those
scriptures to the people of the world through the efforts of
Srinivasa." (Bhakti-ratnakara. KHA234.)
Srinivasa Acarya was a grea scholar who benedicted the world
by distributing those valuable Vaisnava books.(Bhakti-ratnakara.
”The favor of Lokenatha to Narottma" At that time Narottama
arrived in Vrndavana and immediately engaged himself in the
continous service of Sri Lokenatha. (Bhakti-ratnakara.
Lokenatha was satisfied with Narottama's attitude and gave him
Diksha mantra. (Bhakti-ratnakara. KHA346.)
Sri Gopala Bhatta and the other Vaisnavas accepted Narottama
as an intimate friend. (Bhakti-ratnakara. KHA347.)
Narottama got the title Thakura Mahasaya along with the
affection of Sri Jiva Gosvami. (Bhakti-ratnakara. KHA348.)
Srinivasa Acarya met narottama in Vrndavana and gradually a
dynamic new circle of Vaisnavas was established
Srinivasa also met Shyamananda in Vrndavana.(Bhakti-ratnakara.
The Embodiment of Lord Caitanya’s Love
by Satyaraja dasa
[From The Lives of the Vaishnava Saints © 1991 by Steven Rosen
(Satyaraja Dasa). All rights reserved. Order from Folk Books, P.O.
Box 400716, Brooklyn, NY 11240.]
It was the middle of the sixteenth century. Aspiring for
perfection in spiritual life, young Srinivasa had tried to meet
Lord Caitanya and His disciple Gadadhara. But Srinivasa came too
late—they passed away before he could become their student. And so
too did the great Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami. But as
Srinivasa journeyed to the holy town Vrindavana, Rupa and Sanatana
appeared to him in a dream. Go on to Vrindavana, they told him, and
learn from the great gosvamis Jiva and Gopala Bhatta.
SRINIVASA ACARYA is one of the most important personalities in
the religious history of Bengal, perhaps the most important
Vaishnava teacher in the generation immediately following Sri
Caitanya Mahaprabhu. He is chiefly remembered as the illustrious
disciple of Gopala Bhatta Gosvami and Jiva Gosvami. His
achievements include delivering the writings of the Gosvamis from
Vrindavana to Bengal, converting King Birhambir to Vaishnavism, and
originating the Manohar Shoy style of kirtana. At Kheturi, Bengal,
he co-organized the first Gaura Purnima Festival (celebrating the
anniversary of Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s appearance in this world),
which Narottama, Syamananda, and thousands of other Vaishnavas
Srinivasa Acarya’s parents—the brahmana Gangadhara Bhattacarya
and his wife, Lakshmi Priya—lived in the small village of Cakhandi,
on the bank of the Ganges in the Burdwan district of Bengal. They
longed to raise a child who would be a great devotee, but until the
birth of Srinivasa, they were child-less for many years.
Gangadhara was himself a great devotee of the Golden Avatara,
Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the incarnation of Sri Sri Radha and
Krishna predicted in the scriptures. Lord Caitanya had appeared in
Navadvipa and was currently in the world. Gangadhara spent much of
his time hearing and retelling the stories of Lord Caitanya’s
pastimes (lila) with the Lord’s intimate associates. He wanted to
see Lord Caitanya, but social and familial obligations kept him at
home, so he resolved to meditate on the Lord in separation. In
1510, however, he could not tolerate the separation any longer. He
set out for Navadvipa to see the Lord of his life. After only seven
miles, as far as the village of Katwa, he learned that Nimai of
Nadiya—Caitanya Mahaprabhu—was in that very village taking
sannyasa, the renounced order of life.
“What?” cried Gangadhara. “Why must my Lord take the renounced
order? This austerity is reserved for human beings like me so we
can overcome our attachments to this world. Certainly there is no
need for Sri Nimai, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, to live the
harsh life of an ascetic.”
But Gangadhara’s reservations were mixed with excitement: he
would soon see his Lord face to face. When he approached the
sacrificial area where Sri Nimai was taking sannyasa, he saw the
Lord’s intimate associates—Nityananda Prabhu, Candrasekhara Acarya,
Mukunda Datta, and many others. He saw Madhu Sila, the barber,
preparing to cut Nimai’s beautiful locks of raven black hair.
“No!” the onlookers were saying. “Please stop!” They, like
Gangadhara, could not conceive of the Lord in the renounced order
of life. Even Madhu, who had the good fortune to touch the Lord’s
head, could cut His hair out of duty only, weeping profusely. Madhu
and the others knew that the Lord had decided to set an example for
the entire religious world and stress the importance of
renunciation. There was nothing they could do.
Kesava Bharati, the sannyasa-guru, gave Nimai His new sannyasa
name, “Sri Krishna Caitanya.” The crowd was in shock: “Beautiful
Nimai is really taking sannyasa!” They couldn’t believe their eyes,
from which tears were flowing incessantly. But the deed was
Madhu fainted. Why had he shaved the Lord’s head? It was as if
he had been controlled by the Lord’s own hand to fulfill the Lord’s
own desire. “Caitanya! Caitanya!” said Gangadhara Bhattacarya to
himself. “Caitanya! Caitanya! Caitanya!” he repeated again and
again. His eyes pleaded with everyone there: he wanted to
understand what had just happened, but all he could do was mutter
in a stupor of mixed emotions.
Gangadhara found himself calling the Lord’s names aloud with
uncontrollable enthusiasm—“Caitanya! Sri Krishna Caitanya! Sri
He returned to Cakhandi, half mad with ecstasy, unable to stop
repeating the Lord’s names. He told his wife what had happened, and
she too was overcome with ecstasy. As the days passed, their
ecstasy increased, and the whole town of Cakhandi marveled at
Gangadhara’s transformation. Seeing Gangadhara’s absorption in Sri
Caitanya’s name, his wife and the other villagers began calling him
Journey To Puri
Caitanya Dasa and his wife went to Jagannatha Puri, where Lord
Caitanya had gone after accepting the renounced order. When the
couple arrived, they went to Sri Caitanya and surrendered at His
“Lord Jagannatha is very happy that you have come here,” the
Lord said. “Go to the temple and see His Deity form. The lotus-eyed
Lord is extremely merciful, so please go see Him.”
Govinda, Lord Caitanya’s personal servant, accompanied
Caitanya Dasa and his wife to the temple, where they offered many
prayers at the feet of Lord Jagannatha. Weeping tears of divine
love, the happy brahmana couple were soon escorted to the luxurious
accommodations Lord Caitanya had arranged for them. They spent
several happy days with Sri Caitanya in Jagannatha Puri.
One day Lord Caitanya told His servant of His plans for the
couple. “Govinda,” the Lord said, “although Caitanya Dasa and his
wife have not mentioned it to Me, I know they would like to have a
child. They said so in front of Lord Jagannatha, who is
nondifferent from Me. They have prayed sincerely, and I know their
hearts. Their desired offspring will soon appear. His name will be
Srinivasa, and he will be a greatly beautiful child. Through Rupa
and Sanatana I will manifest the bhakti-sastras, and through
Srinivasa I will distribute them. Caitanya Dasa and his wife should
quickly return to Chakandhi.”
The Appearance of Srinivasa
In Cakhandi the couple had a beautiful baby boy, whom they
named Srinivasa. He was born in the second or third decade of the
sixteenth century on the auspicious full-moon day of the month of
Vaisakha (April–May). Lakshmi Priya’s father, Balarama Vipra, a
learned astrologer, told the happy couple that their son was a
mahapurusha, a divinely empowered soul.
The boy had a broad chest and a long, elegant nose, and his
beautiful eyes extended like lotus petals. Like Lord Caitanya, he
had a bodily luster resembling molten gold and arms that extended
down to his knees. According to custom, Caitanya Dasa and Lakshmi
Priya gave charity to the brahmanas, and the brahmanas blessed the
Lakshmi Priya would constantly sing the glories of Lord
Caitanya into the child’s ears, and the melodious sounds made him
joyful. As Srinivasa grew, he learned to chant the names of
Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Radha-Krishna. Soon this small crescent
moon known as Srinivasa grew full and was known as the brightest
and most beautiful boy in Cakhandi. He studied under the famed
Dhananjaya Vidyavacaspati, who taught him all branches of Vedic
learning, including religion, logic, poetry, political science,
grammar, and Ayurveda.
According to the Prema-vilasa, Dhananjaya Vidyavacaspati said
that he had nothing to teach Srinivasa. The Prema-vilasa also
relates that the goddess of education appeared to Srinivasa in a
dream and told him she would make him proficient in all areas of
learning, especially the scriptures. Still, Srinivasa became known
as Dhananjaya Vidyavacaspati’s prize pupil, and as such he was the
pride of Cakhandi. He was loved by all the townspeople, who saw him
as a precious gem.
Narahari Sarakara Thakura
Because of Srinivasa’s popularity, he met Narahari Sarakara,
an intimate associate of Lord Caitanya from nearby Srikhanda.
Narahari Sarakara’s intense devotion had pleased Lord Caitanya, and
Narahari had the distinction of being allowed to sing the Lord’s
glories in the Lord’s presence, although the Lord, out of humility,
would not let anyone else do so. This distinction impressed young
Srinivasa, and he accepted Sri Narahari as his first instructing
After meeting Narahari Sarakara, Srinivasa began to show signs
of ecstasy. Narahari told Srinivasa to go to Puri to see Sri
Caitanya Mahaprabhu. While Srinivasa was considering how to execute
the instruction, his father passed away from this mortal world
after seven days of fever. It was a shock to the family, and
Srinivasa did all he could to console his mother.
Meanwhile, the omniscient Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was
preparing His associates for Srinivasa’s arrival. He had already
written to Rupa, Sanatana, and Gopala Bhatta Gosvamis requesting
them to teach Srinivasa spiritual life. And He asked Gadadhara
Pandita in Jagannatha Puri to teach Srinivasa the
Narahari Sarakara advised Srinivasa to see to his mother’s
care in Jajigram, where her father and brothers had moved from
Cakhandi. Then Srinivasa was to proceed to Puri to associate with
Lord Caitanya. Srinivasa asked Narahari to initiate him into the
chanting of Krishna's name, but Narahari told him that Lord
Caitanya wanted him to take initiation from Gopala Bhatta
Meeting with Gadadhara Pandita
Still a boy, Srinivasa set out with a companion for Puri. On
the way, he learned that Sri Caitanya had left this world. Then
Lord Caitanya—along with Nityananda Prabhu, who had also passed
away—appeared to Srinivasa “on the pretext of a dream” and consoled
him. The phrase shopna chaley (“on the pretext of a dream”) appears
frequently in Bengali literature of the period and is usually taken
to mean “in a spiritual vision.”
Still, Srinivasa remained grief-stricken. He went to the
Gopinatha temple in Puri to take shelter of Gadadhara Pandita. The
Pandita was overcome with separation from Lord Caitanya, and tears
always flowed from his eyes. Srinivasa bowed at Sri Gadadhara’s
feet and introduced himself.
Gadadhara Pandita became joyful. “I’m glad you have come and
introduced yourself,” he said. “Just before passing away, Caitanya
Mahaprabhu told me to teach you the Bhagavatam. He knew you would
arrive in Puri one day, and He asked me to explain Krishna-lila to
Gadadhara Pandita’s joy—he could now fulfill this order of the
Lord—again turned to sadness. “I cannot teach you Bhagavatam at
this time, O young Srinivasa,” he said, “for the manuscript in my
possession has become illegible from the tears I have cried onto
Srinivasa touched the sacred book to his head and felt ecstasy
arise within himself. Nonetheless, the problem of studying a book
that had been rendered illegible remained. But Sri Gadadhara and
Srinivasa would not be swayed from their purpose. The will of
Mahaprabhu could not be obstructed. Sri Gadadhara sent a message to
Narahari Sarakara in Bengal asking him to secure another manuscript
of Srimad-Bhagavatam. Narahari replied that another copy was
available and that a messenger should be dispatched immediately.
Gadadhara sent Srinivasa himself and told him to hurry. The
separation from Lord Caitanya was intolerable, he said, and he
didn’t know how long he could stay in this world.
Before leaving, Srinivasa fulfilled a long-cherished desire to
see Lord Caitanya’s associates. He went to the homes of Ramananda
Raya, Sikhi Mahiti, Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya, Vakresvara Pandita,
Paramananda Puri, Gopinatha Acarya, and many others. He also went
to see King Prataparudra, but according to the Bhakti-ratnakara the
king had gone away in solitude to lament the Lord’s passing.
Srinivasa as Gaura Sakti
Srinivasa reminded the great personalities in Puri of Lord
Caitanya. Seeing his intense and unprecedented love of Godhead, the
devotees could understand that he was Gaura Sakti, the embodiment
of the energy of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. According to the
Prema-vilasa, Srinivasa is an incarnation of Lord Caitanya’s
ecstasy. The Lord’s intimate associates could naturally perceive
this and could understand that through Srinivasa the eternal
message of Lord Caitanya—the message of the Vedic literature—would
be widely distributed.
Lord Caitanya had broken open the storehouse of nectarean love
of God, and the Gosvamis, by writing books, had taken that nectar
and placed it in tangible vessels. Srinivasa would see that these
vessels were circulated among all sincere souls. The intimate
associates of the Lord gave Srinivasa instructions and advice for
carrying on the mission.
When Srinivasa arrived in Bengal and received the copy of the
Bhagavatam from Narahari Sarakara Thakura, he learned that
Gadadhara Pandita had passed away. The news was a terrible blow,
and Srinivasa lamented. Then Gadadhara Pandita appeared to him on
the pretext of a dream and encouraged him to go forward.
Srinivasa reflected on the inconceivable will of the Lord. Why
had He taken away the person who was to teach him the Bhagavatam?
Was there a new plan? Was someone else to teach him the sacred
scriptures? Some say that Srinivasa fell despondent at this time,
but not much is known about the years that followed Sri Gadadhara’s
passing from this world. It is generally assumed that Srinivasa
spent this time at first in a heartbroken state and then in serious
meditation. He probably continued his studies, as he was still in
When Sri Jahnava Devi, the wife of Nityananda Prabhu, went to
Vrindavana, Rupa Gosvami asked her to send Srinivasa to Vrindavana
as soon as possible. On her return to Bengal, she relayed the
message to Narahari. Sri Caitanya had told the Gosvamis of Vraja to
train Srinivasa, and Narahari advised him to hasten to Vrindavana
so that the Lord’s command should not be violated.
The request heightened Srinivasa’s desire to study bhakti
literature with Rupa and Sanatana. Had he gone to Vrindavana then,
he would have met Rupa and Sanatana. But he decided to visit the
homes of Lord Caitanya’s principal associates on the way, stopping
at Navadvipa to visit Sri Caitanya’s home.
Association with The Navadvipa Devotees
This was the second time Srinivasa delayed a journey: first
the journey to see Gadadhara Pandita, and now Rupa and Sanatana.
Perhaps Srinivasa’s enthusiasm to associate with Lord Caitanya’s
direct followers in Puri and Navadvipa was so overwhelming that he
was unable to heed the advice of his forebears. Some say that all
of this was the will of providence, so that Srinivasa would take
initiation from Gopala Bhatta Gosvami. Others say that Srinivasa,
by his example, was teaching the importance of pilgrimage and
association with devotees.
Srinivasa was enthralled with the home of Sri Caitanya in
Navadvipa (Mayapur), where he met Vishnupriya Devi, the Lord’s
revered widow, and her esteemed servants, Vamsivadana Thakura and
Isana Prabhu. They all blessed Srinivasa, and he stayed with them
for several days, hearing the pastimes of Lord Caitanya.
During those days he watched Vishnupriya Devi perform severe
austerities. For example, she would chant the maha-mantra—Hare
Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare
Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—over each grain of rice she was to eat.
When she was finished with her daily chanting, she would eat only
the grains she had set aside.
"Truly," Srinivasa said, "this is a wife who was worthy of Sri
Srinivasa also met Damodara Pandita, Suklambara, Murari Gupta,
and other early friends and intimates of Lord Caitanya in
Navadvipa. From there Srinivasa went to nearby Santipura, where he
was warmly greeted by Sri Advaita’s wife, Sita Thakurani, and her
sons Acyuta and Gopala.
Srinivasa Meets Jahnava Devi
Then Srinivasa visited the house of Nityananda Prabhu in
Khardaha, where Jahnava Devi, her son Birabhadra, and others
greeted Srinivasa as if he were part of their own family. But
Jahnava Devi encouraged him to start for Vrindavana without delay
because Rupa and Sanatana would soon rejoin the Lord in the
On the way to Vrindavana, Srinivasa stopped at the well-known
Abhirama Thakura’s house in Khanakul Krishnanagar to deliver a
letter from Jahnava Devi. The Thakura greeted him with three loving
lashes from an extraordinary whip, but this unusual greeting was a
benediction. The whip, known as Jai Mangala, would bestow love of
God on anyone it touched. Sri Abhirama and his wife, Malini, showed
deep affection for Srinivasa. Not only did they bless him with
their famous whip, but they gave him valuable instructions and
reiterated the importance of going to Vrindavana as soon as
While continuing his journey, Srinivasa stopped in Katwa,
where his father had seen Lord Caitanya adopt the renounced order.
Next he passed through Agradvipa, where the three famous Ghosh
brothers—Vasudeva, Govinda, and Madhava—had established their
temple, and then he proceeded to Ekacakra, the birthplace of
Nityananda Prabhu. Finally, Srinivasa made one last stop in
Jajigram to say farewell to his aging mother and to visit Narahari
Sarakara, his beloved guru. Narahari was concerned about
Srinivasa's delay in going to Vrindavana and asked him to leave
And so, without further delay Srinivasa set out for Vraja. By
this time he had achieved adulthood.
The Journey to Vraja
Meanwhile, Sanatana Gosvami had left this mortal world, and
Rupa Gosvami could not bear the separation. Sri Rupa felt that he,
too, might not survive to instruct Srinivasa, so he asked his
distinguished disciple (and nephew) Jiva Gosvami to care for
Traveling in those days, mostly by foot, was difficult.
Nonetheless, Srinivasa was making determined progress, stopping
briefly on the way in Benares to visit the house of Candrasekhara
Acarya, where Lord Caitanya had lived for two months. Here
Srinivasa met an elderly disciple of Candrasekhara who invited him
for a meal and showed him the places associated with Sri
Next, Srinivasa reached Prayag (known today as Allahabad) and
spent the night there. Four days before arriving in Vrindavana, he
heard that Sanatana had passed away four months earlier. And when
he reached Mathura, he learned that Rupa Gosvami had passed away
only three days earlier. Srinivasa fell to the ground, crying like
a madman. He felt himself the most unfortunate person in the
universe. He had failed to meet Lord Caitanya and to study the
Bhagavatam with Gadadhara Pandita. Now he had failed to meet Rupa
While Srinivasa sat beneath a tree wishing for his own death,
Rupa and Sanatana appeared to him on the pretext of a dream and
told him he was the embodiment of Lord Caitanya's love. They
encouraged him to proceed to Vrindavana to take shelter of Gopala
Bhatta Gosvami and to study under Sri Jiva with all his life and
Jiva and Gopala Bhatta Gosvamis
THE WORDS OF Sri Sanatana and Rupa somewhat relieved
Srinivasa’s heavy heart. He could travel again, and soon he felt
the dust of Vrindavana beneath his feet. He approached Rupa
Gosvami’s Govindadeva Temple hoping to find more solace at Lord
Govinda’s lotus feet.
As Srinivasa sat before the Deity, Jiva Gosvami and his many
followers entered the temple. Srinivasa introduced himself, and Sri
Jiva greeted him with warmth and loving hospitality. Srinivasa
spent the night in comfortable quarters at Sri Jiva’s temple, Sri
Sri Radha-Damodara. The next day, Srinivasa offered his homage at
the tomb of Sri Rupa in the temple courtyard.
Then Jiva introduced Srinivasa to Gopala Bhatta Gosvami, who
greeted him with kind words and expressed his disappointment that
Srinivasa had not arrived sooner, as Rupa and Sanatana had been
anxious to meet him. Gopala Bhatta took Srinivasa to his
Radha-Ramana Temple and asked the Deity there to bless him. Gopala
Bhatta Gosvami and Jiva Gosvami gradually introduced Srinivasa to
the inhabitants of Vraja.
Narottama and Duhkhi Krishnadasa
Gopala Bhatta Gosvami initiated Srinivasa and taught him. And
as Jiva Gosvami was the preeminent Vaishnava philosopher of the
period, Gopala Bhatta directed Srinivasa to him for higher
instruction, all in accordance with the desires of Lord Caitanya
and Rupa and Sanatana Gosvamis. The Prema-vilasa states that Sri
Jiva took care of Srinivasa and gave him a thorough spiritual
Another young scholar, the illustrious Narottama, had been
studying under Jiva for one year when Srinivasa arrived in
Vrindavana. Narottama had been initiated by Lokanatha Gosvami, who
had sent him to Sri Jiva for additional spiritual instructions.
Then young Duhkhi Krishnadasa came, sent by his guru, Hridaya
Caitanya. The three young devotees studied under Jiva Gosvami with
the utmost enthusiasm and became his best students. They were
widely known as inseparable friends. Jiva Gosvami ordered them to
study the forests of Vrindavana with Raghava Pandita, who knew all
the sacred groves and their significance.
Eventually Srinivasa, Narottama, and Duhkhi Krishnadasa were
given a special mission. They were to distribute the books of the
Gosvamis—the bhakti-rasa scriptures—in Bengal and other areas.
Vaishnavism was widely embraced in Bengal, but literature
explaining the Vaishnava philosophy was wanting. Nityananda
Prabhu’s wife, Jahnava Devi, had visited Rupa and Sanatana in
Vrindavana some years earlier and was well aware of the prolific
spiritual literature the Vrindavana Gosvamis were producing, so she
contacted Jiva Gosvami and suggested that the books be sent to
Bengal. To comply, Sri Jiva summoned his three best men.
The Mission Begins
In a large assembly of Vaishnavas, Sri Jiva called forth
Narottama Dasa: “From this day forward, you will be known as
Narottama Thakura Mahasaya.” Then he called Srinivasa: “You will be
known as Srinivasa Acarya.” And finally, Duhkhi Krishnadasa:
“Because you have brought so much pleasure [ananda] to Radharani
[Syama], you will now be called Syamananda.” Then Sri Jiva told
them of their mission to Bengal, Orissa, and other provinces of
Srinivasa, Narottama, and Syamananda did not want to leave
Vrindavana, but they understood the importance of their mission.
They went to their initiating gurus, who gave their blessings,
instilling in them the necessary enthusiasm for the task.
Sri Jiva began the preparations for the long and arduous
journey. These devotees were his best students, and he would spare
no pains for their welfare. He had a rich merchant disciple from
Mathura supply a large cart, four strong bullocks, and ten armed
guards. The manuscripts—original works by Rupa, Sanatana, Gopala
Bhatta, Raghunatha Dasa, Jiva, and others—were placed in a large
wooden chest, which was bolted and covered with a waxed cloth. Sri
Jiva also secured a special passport from the king of Jaipur that
his three students would need to show as they traveled to eastern
India. Then Srinivasa, Narottama, and Syamananda left
The Journey to Bengal
As they began traveling, Sri Jiva and several other devotees
accompanied them, unable to bear being separated. As the caravan
neared Agra, the well-wishers stayed behind. Now the journey was
underway. There could be no turning back.
After many months, the party reached a small village named
Gopalapura, just within the boundaries of the Malla kingdom of Vana
Vishnupura, in Bengal. When they retired that night, they felt
confident that their mission was almost complete.
Vishnupura is in the district of Birbhum, bounded on the north
by the Santhal Pargannas and on the south by Midnapura. The king of
Vishnupura, Virhamvir, was the leader of a strong group of bandits
who were the terror of the adjoining countries. He had employed a
large number of thugs and assassins who infested the highways and
killed and robbed wayfarers. The astrologers of the court were ever
ready to submit to him confidential reports as to what fortunes the
stars would grant him if he carried on robberies in particular
Stealing the Books
The king’s dacoits had been following the cart from afar. This
cart was especially interesting because the king’s astrologers had
said that it held a great treasure. Although the dacoits had been
following the cart for quite a distance, they thought it wise to
wait until the cart reached their own kingdom.
The dacoits saw only fifteen men escorting the cart—ten armed
soldiers, two cartmen, and three holy men. The band of dacoits,
numbering over two hundred, inflamed one another’s imaginations
with the astrologers’ words: “This cart is filled with jewels more
valuable than gold.” They almost overtook the party in a village
named Tamar, but circumstances did not permit it. They followed the
party through the towns of Raghunathapura and Pancavati.
Finally, in Gopalapura, the party spent the night near a
beautiful lake. All fifteen men slept soundly, tired from the
journey. When they awakened, their worst nightmare had come to
pass: the manuscripts had been stolen.
They could not contain their tears. Srinivasa, the leader of
the party, advised Narottama and Syamananda to proceed to Bengal
and Orissa with the teachings of the six Gosvamis. He would take it
upon himself to retrieve the manuscripts. He wrote to Jiva Gosvami
and told him all that had happened.
The King’s Regret
Meanwhile, as King Virhamvir was rummaging through treasures
stolen from various travelers, his servants appeared with the
court’s most recent acquisition—Srinivasa’s carefully wrapped chest
of “the most precious jewels.” Virhamvir dropped everything else
and feverishly unwrapped his latest prize. Having heard the
prophesies, he could scarcely imagine what splendors awaited him.
In one suspenseful moment, he removed the cloth covering and opened
the trunk to reveal—manuscripts.
Where was the priceless treasure? Lifting out the top
manuscript in disbelief, the king saw the signature “Sri Rupa
Gosvami” written on a palm leaf. When he examined further and began
reading Sri Rupa’s beautiful exposition of Vaishnava philosophy, he
felt something change deep within. He reverentially returned the
book to the trunk and retired for the evening, aware of the grave
sin he had instigated.
Srinivasa Appears in a Dream
That night, the king had an unusual dream. He saw a beautiful
and effulgent person whose body was filled with divine energy. “Do
not worry,” the person said with a loving smile. “Soon I will come
to Vishnupura and we will meet. I will retrieve my manuscripts, and
you will be relieved of all sinful reactions. Your joy will be
boundless. Know for certain that you are my eternal servant and I
am your eternal well-wisher.”
The next morning the king awoke and started his life anew,
waiting for the day when the mysterious prediction of his dream
would come to pass.
Meanwhile, Srinivasa Acarya made his way to the outskirts of
Vishnupura, where he met a brahmana resident named Sri Krishna
Vallabha. The two became friends, and Krishna Vallabha invited
Srinivasa to be a guest in his home. Gradually, Krishna Vallabha
realized Srinivasa’s exalted position and surrendered to him as a
disciple. In due course, Krishna Vallabha mentioned that the king
regularly convened a Bhagavatam study group for all who were
interested. Srinivasa was curious about the nature of the
Bhagavatam presentation and asked Krishna Vallabha to take him to
the next meeting.
When they arrived, Vyasacarya, the court pandita, was reciting
and commenting upon the Bhagavatam. Srinivasa was unimpressed but
said nothing. The next day, they found Vyasacarya pontificating in
the same fashion. After two weeks of the court pandita, Srinivasa
could not contain himself, and after the meeting he spoke to
“You, sir, do not follow the text,” said Srinivasa, “nor are
your commentaries in line with Sridhara Svami or the other standard
exponents of Bhagavata philosophy.”
Vyasacarya listened to Srinivasa’s comments but ignored his
advice. The king, however, who was nearby, overheard what was said
and found it interesting.
The next day at the recital Vyasacarya again attempted to
elucidate the esoteric section of the Bhagavatam that delineates
Sri Krishna's rasa-lila.
Respectful but firm, Srinivasa interrupted with a question:
“Sir, how can you comment on such confidential subjects without
referring to the statements of Sridhara Svami? You are obviously
unfamiliar with his work.”
Vyasacarya became angry. He disliked being challenged in front
of his sycophantic assembly, who were accustomed only to his
peculiar rendition of Bhagavatam commentary.
Before another word was said, however, the king began to
defend Srinivasa’s position: “How is it that this brahmana scholar
finds fault with your explanations? Perhaps your interpretations
“Who can interpret the texts better than I?” the arrogant
Vyasacarya replied. “This newcomer is an upstart, and he dares to
question me in the presence of Your Majesty.”
Then he turned to Srinivasa. “If you are such an authority on
the Bhagavatam,” he said, “why don’t you come sit here and explain
these verses in a better way?”
Srinivasa rose to the challenge. He sang the Bhagavatam verses
beautifully and then commented upon them with great verve and
authority. He drew upon existing Vaishnava explanations and yet
offered his own unique presentation. No one had ever heard such a
masterly enunciation of Bhagavata philosophy.
The king encouraged him to go on, allowing him to speak for
several hours. When he finished, the whole assembly applauded,
ecstatic with Srinivasa’s contagious love for Krishna. Vyasacarya
could not believe his ears. He was defeated, but he was
King Virhamvir was greatly moved. “No one has ever come to
this kingdom and shared so much love and scholarship in the way you
have,” he said to Srinivasa. “Please, tell me your name and where
you come from.”
“My name is Srinivasa and I am a native of this country,” said
Srinivasa. “I came here to see your magnificent court and to relish
The king then gave him the best accommodations in the palace
and asked him to stay as long as he liked.
The King Surrenders
Later that evening, the king asked Srinivasa to dine with him,
but Srinivasa said that he took only one humble meal per day and
had already eaten. Nonetheless, Virhamvir encouraged him to have
some fruit, and he complied, not wanting to offend his
As Srinivasa ate his fruit, the king sat at his side like a
humble servant. The king had never felt this way about anyone:
Srinivasa was that effulgent person he had seen in his dream—his
guru—and he wanted to render some menial service.
That night, he heard Srinivasa repeating the name of Krishna
in his room. It seemed as if Srinivasa did not sleep. “Here is a
genuine saint,” thought the king. “He is simply absorbed in the
name of God.” With this pleasant idea, the king fell asleep,
listening to Srinivasa Acarya’s blissful voice in the next
The following day in the great assembly Srinivasa again spoke
from the Bhagavatam. Once again, the eager, expectant audience
relished every word. Srinivasa astonished all who listened.
Chroniclers of the event have reported that “even the stone walls
of the hall seemed to melt with emotion.” Srinivasa spoke with
erudition, sensitivity, and devotion, honoring his Vaishnava
predecessors, and everyone present agreed that the wisdom of the
orator far exceeded his years. One by one, people came and bowed at
Srinivasa’s feet, hoping to become his disciples.
Later, the king submitted himself to Srinivasa as a lowly
beggar: “You are the real king,” he said, “for you have love for
Krishna. I am not even worthy to be in your presence.”
Srinivasa, with all humility, merely shook his head; he was
not able to accept his own exalted position.
But the king persisted: “Allow me to be your servant. Please!
How can I serve you? My entire kingdom is at your disposal.”
“I came from the holy city of Vrindavana with a mission from
Gopala Bhatta Gosvami and Jiva Gosvami,” Srinivasa replied. “I was
to bring their writings to Bengal. But unfortunately this treasure
was robbed within your kingdom. If I cannot retrieve these books, I
would prefer to lose my life. Can you help me get them back?”
The king burst into tears. “A poor worm am I,” he said, “lost
hopelessly in this land of birth and death. My own men pillaged for
years and years under my order, and then they came upon your party.
We were told you carried the greatest treasure in the universe, and
we naturally pursued it. I cannot express my sorrow.”
Reflecting for a moment, the king said, “But there is a
positive side to all of this. Our meeting would not have otherwise
occurred. I would commit these sins again and again for but a
moment of your association.”
Srinivasa laughed and reassured the king that sinful life was
unnecessary for attaining his association. Srinivasa then forgave
the king for all his sins and asked him to sin no more.
The Books Are Safe!
The king led Srinivasa to the room where his treasures were
kept, and Srinivasa saw the trunk with the Gosvamis’ literature.
Srinivasa felt ecstasy and took the garland of flowers from his own
neck and placed it on King Virhamvir. Srinivasa asked the king to
bring him tulasi leaves, flower garlands, sandalwood paste, and
other items to worship the sacred books. The king brought
everything, and his own initiation ceremony followed. By reciting
into the king’s ear the maha-mantra—Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna,
Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare
Hare—Srinivasa initiated him.
According to the Prema-vilasa, Srinivasa gave him the name
Haricarana Dasa. Jiva Gosvami later showed the king special mercy
by writing a letter in which he renamed him Caitanya Dasa. The
king’s wife, Queen Sulakshana, and their son, Prince Dhari Hamvir,
also became Srinivasa Acarya’s surrendered servants. The queen’s
initiated name is unknown, but the boy was named Gopala Dasa.
Krishna Vallabha and Vyasacarya also became dedicated
Vishnupura as a Vaishnava Center
The initiation of the king and his loyal subjects was an
important event in the history of the Gaudiya tradition. Vishnupura
soon became a great center of Vaishnavism. In all of India, only in
Vana Vishnupura did Gaudiya Vaishnava culture and art develop
without foreign or distracting influence. Even the Muslim intrusion
was minimal. Consequently, the architectural and sculptural art of
Bengal, from the beginning of the seventeenth century onwards, is
nowhere found in such abundance and in such pristine form as in the
Vaishnava monuments of Vishnupura. This is one of the many virtues
of royal patronage.
King Virhamvir reigned from 1596 to 1622 and in that time
wrote many songs in praise of Krishna, Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu,
and Srinivasa Acarya. Much of his exquisite poetry can be found in
the Bhakti-ratnakara and the Pada-kalpataru. The king’s beautiful
voice, reflected in his literary work, helped him in his mission of
spreading Vaishnavism throughout his domain.
Srinivasa had thus accomplished his mission in Vishnupura. He
wrote to Jiva Gosvami that not only had the books been retrieved
but the main bandit, a king, had taken up Gaudiya Vaishnavism. All
of Vrindavana rejoiced and sang the glories of Srinivasa Acarya.
King Virhamvir and his entire kingdom were now converted to
Vaishnavism, and Srinivasa was developing an important center
PART III (Conclusion)
Thieves working for the king of Vishnupura stole priceless
manuscripts Srinivasa and his friends were bringing to Bengal.
Srinivasa therefore sent his companions ahead while he stayed in
Vishnupura. He recovered the manuscripts, made the king his
disciple, and inspired him to spread Krishna consciousness
throughout the kingdom.
NOW SRINIVASA needed to see his dear friends Narottama and
Syamananda again. He had written them of the developments in
Vishnupura, but he knew little of what his friends were doing. He
had heard that his teacher Narahari Sarakara Thakura was ill and
getting ready to die, so he wanted to go to Srikhanda to see him
and to nearby Jajigram to see his own aging mother.
Srinivasa Returns to Jajigram
Bidding farewell to King Virhamvir, Srinivasa took the chest
of books to Jajigram. Upon arriving there, he told the devotees
what had happened. All the holy town’s people, especially his
mother, rejoiced in his company. But they had heart-breaking news
for him as well: Srimati Vishnupriya had left this world. Srimati
Vishnupriya was Sri Caitanya’s widow, an important person in the
preaching mission of Bengal. On hearing of her passing, Srinivasa
fainted, and the devotees had to revive and console him.
A few days later, a message came from Narahari Sarakara and
Raghunandana Thakura asking Srinivasa to come to Srikhanda.
Srinivasa left at once to see these two well-wishers who had guided
him in his youth. During this meeting, Narahari suggested that
Srinivasa get married.
“Your mother is a great devotee,” Sri Narahari said. “She has
been rendering valuable service in Jajigram for many years. You
should fulfill whatever small desire she might have. I know she
would be happy to see you married. Since she is a great devotee,
you should comply.”
Hearing this, Srinivasa resolved to marry and raise a
After a few more days in Srikhanda, Srinivasa left for Kanthak
Nagara to visit the great Gadadhara Dasa, one of the personal
associates of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. When Srinivasa arrived,
Gadadhara Dasa embraced him with affection. He asked Srinivasa
about the devotees of Vrindavana, especially the Gosvamis: How were
they able to live in separation from the Lord and His confidential
devotees? Where were they living and under what conditions?
Gadadhara Dasa and Srinivasa talked about Caitanya Mahaprabhu and
the plight of His devotees in His absence.
After several days, Srinivasa was to return to Jajigram.
Before he left, Gadadhara Dasa blessed him: “One day you will taste
the nectar of congregational chanting in the company of the Lord
Himself, and in the company of His intimate associates. For now,
you have my blessings to marry. May it bring you all good
Srinivasa Gets Married
The words of Gadadhara Dasa touched Srinivasa. Meditating on
their import, he returned to Jajigram, where he met Gopala
Cakravarti, an elderly brahmana with a beautiful and devoted
daughter named Draupadi. Observing that Srinivasa and Draupadi were
attracted to each other, Sri Raghunandana Thakura arranged the
After the marriage, Draupadi was called Isvari (some say it
was her initiated name), honoring her devotion to God and
acknowledging her marriage to a great saint. Her father, Gopala
Cakravarti, soon accepted Srinivasa as his spiritual master, as did
her two brothers, Syama Dasa and Ramacandra. Srinivasa quickly
became one of the most prominent gurus in all of Bengal.
After some time, Isvari bore a son, and when Srinivasa wrote
about the event to Jiva Gosvami in Vrindavana, Jiva sent back an
exuberant reply and named the boy Vrindavana Vallabha. Some time
after, Srinivasa married again (polygamy was common then). His
second wife, Padmavati, was also a great devotee, and after
initiation she was known as Gauranga Priya.
One may wonder why Srinivasa took a second wife. Most of the
standard biographies do not elaborate, stating merely that the
second marriage followed the first by a few years. But the
Anuragavali informs us that his most intimate disciples asked that
he remarry upon the death of his two sons from Isvari. They are
said to have died young.
Isvari had three daughters—Hemlata, Krishna-priya, and
Kancana, also known as Yamuna. Gauranga Priya had a son, Gati
Govinda. Both Isvari and her daughters later had many disciples,
and Srinivasa’s bloodline is still said to continue in Vrindavana
from Gati Govinda.
The Passing of Narahari Sarakara
Some time after Srinivasa’s marriage, Narahari Sarakara
Thakura left the world, having seen Srinivasa one last time.
Srinivasa organized a massive festival to honor Narahari’s memory.
Everyone from Srikhanda and neighboring villages attended, and
Vaishnava festivals soon spread throughout the region. Ceremonies
to install Deities of Krishna took place with elaborate
festivities, including singing, dancing, and sharing of sacred food
(prasadam). By such festivals the Hare Krishna movement spread
In due course, Srinivasa decided to return to Vrindavana.
Ramacandra Kaviraja, one of his most renowned followers, went with
him on this trip. Ramacandra was considered Srinivasa’s “other eye
and other arm.” Ramacandra and his brother, Govinda, who was also
Srinivasa’s disciple, were the sons of an intimate associate of
Lord Caitanya. Both Ramacandra and Govinda were celebrated
scholars, artists, and poets, but Ramacandra came to be widely
accepted as Srinivasa’s most noteworthy disciple. This was in some
measure due to Narottama Dasa Thakura, who at Srinivasa’s request
took charge of Ramacandra and forged an intimate friendship with
him while schooling him in all the details of Vaishnava
With the help of King Virhamvir of Vishnupura, Srinivasa
spread his preaching in Bengal to the districts of Birbhum,
Bankura, Burdwan, and as far as Tripura in the East. He taught all
over Bengal and made hundreds of disciples.
To the list of his prominent disciples, Hemlata Thakurani, his
daughter, is often added. Although as a blood relation she is not
properly counted a disciple, she was one of his most notable
followers. A highly educated and vigorous preacher, she has been
compared to the revered Jahnava Devi in spreading the movement
throughout Bengal. She was a gifted and devoted leader, initiating
both men and women into the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition. One of her
disciples, Yadunandana Thakura, became a famous scholar and poet.
He composed simple Bengali versifications of Gaudiya literature,
some at her personal request.
In time she married a great devotee and had several children.
Today her descendants live in the villages of Maliati and
Budhaipad, in the Murshidabad district of Bengal, where she
revolutionized the preaching of Gaudiya Vaishnavism.
Srinivasa Returns to Vrindavana
Srinivasa had not been to Vrindavana since recovering the
stolen books. The Gosvamis were eager to show their appreciation,
and when Srinivasa arrived they did so gloriously. And now
Srinivasa had come to Vrindavana with Ramacandra Kaviraja. Such a
worthy disciple showed Srinivasa’s merit as a preacher. So Gopala
Bhatta Gosvami, who had wanted Srinivasa to take over the worship
of the Radha-Ramana Deity in Vrindavana, gave the duty to his other
disciple, Gopinatha Pujari, and insisted that Srinivasa keep
preaching in Bengal. The descendants of Gopinatha’s brothers are
still in charge of the Radha-Ramana temple.
Syamananda Pandita returned to Vrindavana about the same time
as Srinivasa, so they were able to deepen their friendship.
Together they resumed their studies. Gradually, Srinivasa began to
reveal his mystic potency, and it became apparent he was fully
absorbed in the most intimate love of God.
Back to Vishnupura
But the missionary work was incomplete, and after several
months Srinivasa and others returned to Bengal, encouraged by the
Vrindavana Gosvamis. On the way, they stopped in Vana Vishnupura to
see King Virhamvir, who was delighted by the presence of his guru
and the other devotees.
The king’s devotion showed throughout the kingdom. In the
words of D.C. Sen:
Raja Vira Hamvira would not do anything without the advice of
his guru [Srinivasa Acarya], even in political matters. His
[Srinivasa’s] voice prevailed alike in the court and in the
domestic circles of Vishnupura. We find that repeating the name of
God a fixed number of times was made compulsory by penal law in the
State. Sacrifice of animals at the altar of the gods was also
discountenanced, though not actually prohibited by law. Worldly
dignity attended the guru who had brought spiritual glory to the
country. We find that on every occasion of Vaishnava festivities of
any importance, valuable presents were given to Srinivasa, while
Raja Vira Hamvira was ever ready to minister to his physical
comforts in every possible manner. But true to the traditions of a
brahmin scholar and saint, Srinivasa contented himself with living
in a strawroofed hut, though he might have built palaces with the
help of the Raja and other influential disciples. The money he
received was mainly spent in feeding his disciples, of whom there
was always a large number residing at his house. 1
The Glories of Vishnupura
The pervasiveness of Krishna consciousness in Bengal,
especially in Vishnupura, lasted well after the time of Srinivasa
and into the following centuries. King Virhamvir’s successor,
Raghunatha Singh I, built Vaishnava temples in many distant
villages to make Krishna consciousness popular with the tribal
people. In fact, the kings of Vishnupura from the time of Virhamvir
onward assumed great responsibility for the material and spiritual
wellbeing of their subjects.
According to Dr. Sambidananda Das:
In short, the Vaishnava kings, from Vira Hamvira downwards,
developed Vaishnava culture in all its branches. The practical
religious lives of the kings … made the people of Vishnupura
God-fearing, virtuous, humble, and courteous in manner and pure in
heart. It is not an easy matter to make the whole population happy
and pious. [But] the people regarded their kings as their gurus. To
this day it is their custom to offer edibles to Sri Caitanya’s
altar in the name of the king, on the occasion of public worship.
Thus did Srinivasa, through Raja Vira Hamvira, start a new epoch in
the religious life of the country.2
Srinivasa’s Daily Activities
The activities of Srinivasa Acarya can fill volumes, and they
have. Several books offer details of his daily life in Vishnupura
In the early morning he would read from scriptural books,
explaining and interpreting them for his disciples. The study of
these books would occupy him until ten o’clock in the morning.
Then, till two in the afternoon, he would chant on beads in
solitude, occasionally worshiping Krshna according to his inner
meditation. From four o’clock to six in the evening he would
perform congregational chanting with his disciples. The form of
kirtana for which he became famous is called Manohar Shoy. Some say
it is the only authentic classical style that has survived. At
night he used to instruct his disciples and talk with them of
His Literary Work
It is said that Srinivasa composed only five songs. He also
wrote a commentary—studied and respected to this day—on the four
essential verses of the Srimad-Bhagavatam. His other works include
the famous Gosvamy-ashtakam (“Eight Prayers to the Six Gosvamis”).
Though his literary work is spare, its content and style are
nectarean. It has left a unique mark on the Gaudiya
Just as the authorized biographers of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu
leave aside the details of His passing from this world, Srinivasa’s
followers are silent about Srinivasa’s disappearance. But although
his divine ascension remains a mystery, his life remains an
1. D. C. Sen, The Vaishnava Literature of Mediaeval Bengal
(Calcutta University, 1917), pp. 156–157.
2. Sambidananda Das, The History and Literature of Gaudiya
Vaishnavas and Their Relation to Medieval Vaishnava Schools,
Unpublished Ph. D. Thesis (Calcutta University, June 1935), p.
Satyaraja Dasa is a disciple of Srila Prabhupada and a regular
contributor to Back to Godhead. He has written several books on
Krishna consciousness. He and his wife live in New York City.