Sri Madhavendra Puri
Not only does He steal hearts, He also steals kheer! The smile on the face of Kshirachora Gopinath declares how proud He is of His name that was bestowed on Him because of His devotee Sri Madhavendra Puri.
Sri Madhavendra Puri Goswami once had a dream in which his dearest deity Sri Gopal complained to him about the terrible heat He was suffering from which would only subside if a paste of sandalwood grown in Malaya region could be applied on His body. By Sri Gopal’s order, Goswamiji had to travel to Nilachal (Puri) to procure the sandalwood. On his way there, he arrived at Remuna where he was awestruck by the beauty of Gopinath. He sang and danced in ecstasy and was overwhelmed with the way the deity was served with so much love and devotion. He enquired the priest about the food offered to Gopinath so that he could prepare the same offerings for his Gopal back in Brij. The priest informed him of a kind of condensed milk named amritakeli that was offered to the deity every evening. The milk was offered in twelve earthen pots, and its taste was unique, just heavenly. Goswamiji desired to taste that condensed milk so that he could prepare it for his Gopal. But the next moment he condemned himself for wishing to taste the food that was yet to be offered to the deity.
Sri Madhavendra Puri led an austere life, never asking for food and accepted only what was offered to him. That evening after aarti, he left the temple. Since no one offered him any food, he fasted that night and sat underneath a tree outside in the marketplace. After duly putting the deity to sleep, the priest returned home and went to bed. The deity, Sri Gopinath, woke the priest up in a dream and ordered him to open the doors of the temple and look for a pot of condensed milk that He had hidden under His clothes. Gopinath then asked the priest to take this pot of sweet milk to Madhavendra Puri. The priest ran outside, holding the pot of condensed milk, and handing it over to Madhavendra Puri exclaimed, “You are the most fortunate one. Gopinath has stolen this pot of condensed milk just for you!” Thus, Sri Gopinath came to be called ‘Kshirachora Gopinath’.
The following morning Madhavendra Puri left for Nilachal. The servitor priests of Lord Jagannatha welcomed him and were glad to supply sandalwood and an equal quantity of camphor for Goswamiji’s Gopal. They arranged for a brahmin to carry the sandalwood and camphor and they also secured the necessary permits from the king’s court to free him from any unnecessary delays. Madhavendra Puri then started for Govardhan, and on his way, he once again reached Remuna, the town of Gopinath, and offered his obeisance in a trance like state. That night Goswamiji had a dream where his Gopal informed him that he had already accepted the sandalwood and camphor collected for Him and that Madhavendra Puri should smear a paste of sandalwood and camphor on the body of Gopinath who is His form only. If that was done, then Gopal’s body would cool down and the fever would recede. Madhavendra Puri informed the priest about his dream and the cooling paste of sandalwood and camphor was smeared on Gopinath in that hot summer season. The practice of applying sandalwood paste on Sri Gopinath for 42 days still continues.
Madhavendra Puri is accepted as the initiator of the Sankirtana movement that was propagated by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Iswara Puri, one of Madhavendra Puri’s intimate disciples, was Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s Guru. Madhavendra Puri took initiation from Sri Lakshmipati Tirtha in the Madhvacharya Sampradaya. Advaita Acharya, Sri Pundarika Vidyanidhi, Sri Nityananda Prabhu, Sri Iswara Puri, Sri Paramananda Puri, Sri Ranga Puri, Sri Ramacandra Puri, Sri Narasimha Tirtha, Sri Raghupati Upadhyaya and Sri Sukhananda Puri were his disciples and the vaishnavas of Odisha and Bengal were influenced by his devotion. After travelling throughout Bharat Bhumi, he lived most of the time in Vrindavan. He began the restoration work of Vrindavan that was taken over by the six Goswamis later. Always in a trance like state, Sri Madhavendra Puri would fall down unconscious seeing a dark blue rain bearing cloud. Wandering from grove to grove, remembering the sweet pastimes of Radharani and Sri Krishna, he would faint in ecstasy.
Once in Vrindavan, Madhavendra Puri was sitting under a tree near Govardhan. Forgetting about hunger and thirst, he was lost meditating on the leelas of the Lord. A young cowherd boy approached him with a pot of milk. Mesmerised with the beauty of the cowherd boy, he forgot all about his own self and asked the boy where he was from. The boy replied that he was a resident of the Govardhana Hill and that no one in his jurisdiction remained hungry. Some of the village women had seen the swami sitting underneath a tree without food and had conveyed the news to him. Madhavendra Puri drank the milk left by the cowherd boy and waited in vain for him to come back for his pot. He sat down under the same tree the whole night, chanting the holy name of Krishna, and towards dawn he dreamt that the same boy had took him by his hand to a place congested with creepers and plants. The boy explained how he had been in that hedge for a very long time and was suffering through the winter, summer and rainy seasons.
The next morning, Goswamiji approached the villagers of Govardhan and they gladly followed him and cleared the way for him to enter the place he pointed out. When the tangle of plants and creepers was removed, a heavy deity of Gopal was uncovered. The deity was carried to the top of the hill of Govardhana, and was enshrined on a big throne of stone and supported by another big stone from behind. The deity of Sri Gopal Ji stands with His left arm raised in the air like Krishna lifting the Govardhan Hill.
Madhavendra Puri personally performed abhiseka by washing Gopal Ji’s entire body with the water brought in earthen pots and smearing His body with fragrant oil. He then properly dressed the Lord and decorated Him with flowers mixed with a paste of sandalwood. Gopal Ji was welcomed with aarti and the villagers worshipped him with flowers and food especially made for Him. Everyone was informed of the appearance of Sri Gopala Ji, and people from all the neighbouring villages came to the village of Jatipura to visit Him. All the different groups of villagers performed the Annakuta ceremony in turn, wherein, day after day they brought rice, dal, wheat products, vegetables, clarified butter, milk, sweetmeats, flowers and various other offerings for the deity. The brahmanas cooked and to Sri Gopala again and again and distributed prasad to all.
The holy place of Sri Gopala thus became well known to everyone, and whoever went there offered as much as they could afford. Wealthy people offered clothing and expensive jewelry, and one rich kshatriya who came there built a big temple for Gopal. Some of the villagers constructed boundary walls, and others build the kitchen and bhandaar ghar. The inhabitants of Brij gave one cow each to Gopal. People from all classes of society thus contributed their skills in the service of Gopal.
His deity, Gopal, presently resides at Nathdwar in Rajasthan as Srinath Ji. Like so many deities, Sri Gopal Ji, who later came to be known as Sri Nath Ji was moved to Mewar from Jatipura during the reign of Aurangzeb. The deity was first moved to Agra where He was secretly kept for six months and then moved further west. When He reached the village of Sinhad, the wheels of the bullock cart used to transport the deity sank deep in the mud and wouldn’t move. The priests accompanying the deity understood that was the Lord’s chosen spot. A temple was built there under the protection of Maharaja Raj Singh and later the place transformed into the village of Nathdwara.
The concept of Madhurya Bhava was introduced by Madhavendra Puri in Madhvacharya Sampradaya. He sowed the seeds of loving devotion, prema bhakti. He always wandered in the mood of Viraha, love relished in separation from Krishna. His branch of the Madhva sect that drowns itself in the nectar of love of Krishna is known as the Madhva-Gaudiya Sampradaya.
ayi dina dayadra natha he
mathura natha kadavalokyase
hridayam tvad aloka kataram
dayita bhramayati kim karoti aham
(“O Compassionate Lord of the poor and humble! O Lord of Mathura! When shall I see You again? My heart is in pain without a glimpse of You. Oh, My Love, I am overwhelmed. What shall I do now?”)
Feeling intense separation from Krishna, Madhavendra Puri kept on chanting this verse when he left his body.
Image Credit: Nandita Prusty