August 02, 2001
By Indradyumna Swami
Today was the auspicious celebration of the appearance of Srila Narottama das Thakura. As Narottama das Thakura is one of my favorite acaryas, I rose early to read his biography, compiled by my god-sister Sitala dasi. She spent years researching his life in various sastras and will soon be publishing a book. She gave me the manuscript to edit and I keep it with me at all times.
Being a deeply realized lover of God and stalwart preacher, Narottama das Thakura embodies everything I would like to achieve in devotional service. The many songs he wrote guide us from the beginning stages of devotional service to the higher levels of pure love. Once Srila Gaura Kishore das Babaji was asked by a follower,
“What is the price one must pay for achieving love of God?”
He replied, “Five paise!”
Taken aback, his surprised follower said,
“Five paise! How is that possible?”
Srila Gaura Kishore das Babaji replied,
“Yes, you can understand everything about achieving love of Krsna by going to the marketplace and purchasing Srila Narottama das Thakura’s two books, Prema Bhakti Candrika and Prathana for five paise!”
At the temple this morning I spoke for over an hour and a half, and covered only half the life of Narottama das Thakura. I concluded by saying that I would continue the narration this evening at our second Moscow temple, located just outside the city. As evening approached we drove the 20km to the center, which is home for about 50 devotees. The complex comprises a large wooden building used for the temple room and four smaller buildings that house devotees. Upon arriving I went into the temple room and found more than 200 devotees eager to hear more about the glories of Srila Narottama das Thakura. I spoke for two hours, and still didn’t complete the narrations of his pastimes! At the end I promised I would continue “part three” tomorrow morning back at the city temple. Sri Prahlad concluded the program with a rousing kirtan.
On the way back to our apartment in the city, I reflected on the great mercy that I have received in relation to Srila Narottama das Thakura. Last year, in my wanderings through Vrindavan, I chanced upon a somewhat isolated building near the Gopiswara Mahadeva temple. The sign outside read, “Vraja Mohan Temple – Deities of Narottama das Thakura.” Curious, I entered the old temple and came before the altar. Just at that moment, the curtain opened and I beheld the beautiful forms of Srimate Radharani and Vraja Mohan . Vraja Mohan was personally installed by Srila Narottama das Thakura at the first Gaura-purnima festival that he organized in Kethuri (now Bangaladesh) some years after the departure of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Narottama had organized that great event to bring together the many Gaudiya Vaisnavas who were in some ways inactive after the departure of Lord Caitanya. Feeling the pain of separation from the Lord, they could hardly lift the karatalas or drums to spread the chanting of the holy names. Without strong leadership, various apasampradayas had also begun to spring up, deviating from the strict teachings of Srila Rupa Goswami. Narottama wanted to bring the Gaudiya Vaisnava community together in order to inspire them and organize the preaching of Lord Caitnaya’s teachings throughout India. Great devotees like Lord Nityananda’s wife, Jahnava mata, attended the grand festival.
Many thousands of devotes came from Vrindavan, Bengal, Puri and Orissa, and everyone relished the krnsa-katha and the kirtans, especially those of Srila Narottama das Thakura. Narottama installed six Deities of Krsna at that historic event, and several years later sent one of those Deities, Vraja Mohan, to Vrindavan, as he had many disciples there who were feeling his separation. Along with the Deity he also sent some of his personal effects. Standing before Radha-Vraja Mohan, I marveled at my good fortune to see the personal Deity of one of my great heroes in Krsna consciousness. The next evening I returned to the temple with a large kirtan party. We entered the compound roaring the holy names and dancing in great ecstasy. Before coming, I had narrated to the devotees many of the pastimes of Narottama das Thakur, including his installing Vraja Mohan. So the devotees entered the temple in great expectation. Grateful for such a special darsan, we continued chanting and dancing for hours. Several times we changed from the maha mantra to jaya Narottama, jaya Narottama, jaya Narottama, singing as loud as we could. Because the mood was so sweet having kirtan in front of such an amazing Deity, we returned each evening for several days. Each time the kirtan was more ecstatic. On the fourth evening at the end of the kirtan, we sat exhausted upon the ground drenched in sweat, but feeling great satisfaction in our hearts. At that moment, the Bengali pujari who had been watching us in amazement those few days came forward, begging if he could give me anything. I had noticed a number of beautiful salagram silas on a cushion on the altar and I said that if he desired, he could give me one of Them. He smiled and went towards the altar, but instead of taking one of the silas from the cushion he reached towards a special silver bowl, just next to Vraja Mohan’s feet, and took out a small govardhan sila. Coming back to me, he placed it in my hand and said softly, “This govardhan sila came with Vraja Mohan from Keturi. He was worshipped by Srila Narottama das Thakura!”
I was stunned, as were the many devotees around me. Everyone became silent as we stared at the govardhan sila in disbelief. Then the pujari returned to the silver bowl and took out a small salagram sila, the same size as the govardhan sila. Returning again to us, he placed that sila in my hand and said,
“He was also worshipped by Narottama!”
Then without pausing, he wheeled around and went back to the silver bowl one last time and brought back a small dwarka sila, the same size as the two previous silas.
“And he was also worshipped by the Thakura!”
All three silas together looked like precious jewels. But in fact, they were infinitely more valuable! Of course, no one can say for sure if those Deities were worshipped by Narottama das Thakura, but considering the prominent position They had on the altar I had no reason to doubt that They were. I took it as mercy which comes of its own accord and paid my full dandavats at the lotus feet of Vraja Mohan.
Because the mood of the pujari was so pure and because he asked for nothing in return, several days later I came back and expressed my desire to do service for Radha-Vraja Mohan. With the help of god-brothers, like Giriraja Maharaja, we are now renovating the old temple, supplying new dresses for the Deities and arranging for the daily bhoga for the Deity.
The mercy of Lord Caitanya and his associates is unlimited and flows like a fast-moving river. Recently, when I visited Vraja Mohan again, my pujari friend called me to a room near the altar, and opening an old trunk with great reverence pulled out an ancient stone plate and metal pot, placing them in my hands with tears in his eyes. He said,
“These items also accompanied Vraja Mohan 450 years ago. This is the very pot that Narottama das Thakura would cook in and this is the plate that he took prasadam from. I’m giving them to you.”
It’s difficult to fathom how such mercy comes our way. We can only wonder at the ways of the Lord and reciprocate as best we can.
Dear Narottama das Thakura, please help me carry on your mission in this world, assisting my spiritual master in delivering the fallen souls, bereft of the mercy of such souls as yourself! May Visvanath Cakravati’s glorification of you be my constant meditation!
sri-krsna-manamrta-varsi-vaktra- candra-prabha-dhvasta-tamo-bharaya gaurangadevanucaraya tasmai namo namah srila-narottamaya “I offer respectful obeisances to Srila Narottama das Thakura, a sincere follower of Lord Gaurangadeva. Emitting a shower of the nectar of the holy name, with its splendor, the moon of His mouth destroys the darkness of ignorance.”
sankirtanandaja-manda-hasya danta-dyuti-dyotita-dinmukhaya svedasru-dhara-snapitaya tasmai namo namah srila-narottamaya
“I offer my respectful obeisances to Srila Narottama das Thakura. Blissful by singing Krsna’s glories, he would become bathed in streams of perspiration and the splendor of his teeth and gentle smile would illuminate all directions.”
mrdanga-nama-sruti-matra-cancat- padambuja-dvandva-manoharaya sadyah samudyat-pulakaya tasmai namo namah srila-narottamaya
“I offer my respectful obeisances to Srila Narottama das Thakura. Hearing the mrdangas and the sound of the holy name, he would dance, moving his enchanting lotus feet and the hairs of his body erect in ecstasy.”
gandharva-garva-ksapana-svalasya- vismapitasesa-krti-vrajaya sva-srsta-gana-prathitaya tasmai namo namah srila narottamaya “
I offer respectful obeisances to Srila Narottama das Thakura. His dancing dispelled the Gandharvas’ pride. His devotional activities filled everyone with wonder. His songs made him famous.”
ananda-murcchavani-pata-bhata- dhuli-bharalankrta-vigrahaya yad-darsanam bhagya-bharena tasmai namo namah srila narottamaya
“I offer respectful obeisances to Srila Narottama das Thakura. He would sometimes faint in ecstasy and fall to the ground, his body decorated with dust. The very fortunate would see him in that way.”
sthale sthale yasya krpa-prabhabhih krsnanya-trsna jana-samhatinam nirmulita eva bhavanti tasmai namo namah srila narottamaya
“I offer respectful obeisances to Srila Narottama das Thakura. In place after place the splendor of his mercy uprooted the people’s thirst for anything other than Krsna.”
yad-bhakti-nisthopala-rekhikeva sparsah punah sparsamaniva yasya pramanyam evam srutivad yadiyam tasmai namah srila narottamaya
“I offer respectful obeisances to Srila Narottama das Thakura. His firm faith in devotional service to Krsna is like a necklace of precious stones. His touch is like a sparsamani jewel. His words are like the four Vedas.”
murtaiva bhaktih kim ayam kim esa vairagya-saras tanuman nr-loke sambhavyate yah krtibhih sadaiva tasmai namah srila narottamaya
“I offer respectful obeisances to Srila Narottama das Thakura. The devotees always wonder: Is he devotional service personified? Is he the essence of renunciation who has descended to the world of human beings in this form?”
rajan-mrdanga-karatala-kalabhiramam gauranga-gana-madhu-pana-bharabhiramam sriman-narottama-padambuja-manju-nrtyam bhrtyam krtarthayatu mam phalitesta-krtyam
“May the dancing of Sri Narottama’s lotus feet, which is graceful with the melodious sounds of karatalas and mrdangas, and which is sweet with the honey of Lord Gauranga, fulfill the spiritual desires of me, his servant.”
[Srila Visvanath Cakravati Thakura – Srila Narottama-prabhor-astaka]