SRI CHAITANYA AND ATIBADI
Updated: Jun 26, 2022
During his stay in Puri, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu used to go to the temple to pay obeisances to Lord Sri Jagannath, first thing every morning. He used to stand to the left of garuda pillar, extending his right hand to touch the pillar, and immersed in gazing, without blinking an eyelid, the captivating form of his love, his lord, in the mood of Shrimati Radharani. Tears rolled down his eyes while his body sweated profusely and shivered while he looked on. His body became exultant with delight. Then he used to circumambulate the temple in the company of his devotees.That day he was going around the temple singing kirtan when his gait slowed down. He stopped and his ears roused to listen to a voice dipped in devotion, singing the shlokas from Srimad Bhagavatam. What a divine feeling! As if drops of nectar poured in his ears. Who is singing with such intensity and passion? He turned at the devotees following him. He addressed Swarup Damodara, “Please go and find out who is reciting the Bhagavatam in such a sublime voice.” Swarup replied, “O Lord! He is an Odia brahmin from the land of Utkal, very dear to Lord Sri Jagannath.His name is Jagannath Dash. He is the Purana Panda, the priest proficient in puranas.He gives discourses on Srimad Bhagavatam and explains it very beautifully and lyrically to the listeners.”
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu sat down under the Kalpavriksha, the wish fulfilling tree. He directed Swarup, “Please go to this brahmin with a secret question. Ask him why we don’t fing mention of Shrimati Radharani in Srimad Bhagavatam?” Swarup Damodar paid his obeisances at the feet of Sri Jagannath Dash and asked him the question. Why Shrimati Radharani finds no mention in Srimad Bhagavatam? Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was waiting eagerly to hear the answer. A smile flashed across the brahmin’s face. He bowed down and enquired, “O! foremost among devotees, who are you? You asked me such a heart gripping question.” Then he answered in a baritone voice, “Krishna is the ultimate goal that we seek to attain and all the creatures are incessant seekers. The ‘sadhana’, or the practice and discipline through which an individual attains its ultimate goal is Shrimati Radharani, who is the epitome of the mood of love.Radha is Raseshwari, the supreme goddess of the Rasa Leela, and symbol of love, tenderness, compassion and devotion. She is worshipped as the supreme deity of Krishna mantra. Vrindavan, where Krishna resides is the heart chakra or anahata chakra. In the centre of Anahata chakra, Radharani is seated radiating like a thousand suns. She is the source of ‘Prakriti’. The source of Prakriti anf Purusha is non different. One is incomplete without the other. Radha, the ‘Hladini shakti’ or joy rendering power and Krishna, the all powerful are one and the same. Whenever Lord Krishna wants to enjoy pleasure, he expands into two forms, the other being his spiritual potency or Hladini Shakti. Being the pleasure giving energy of the Lord, she is also the ultimate source of all happiness for all the living beings. ‘Ra’ stands for one who constantly gives and ‘Dha’ means one who grants liberation. Radharani is the symbol of steadfast devotion. Her only goal is the lotus feet of Sri Krishna. Radha is the inherent attribute and Krishna is the qualitative form. The attribute is hidden within the manifestation. Radha is the life of Krishna’s life. Radha is also the soul of Srimad Bhagavatam. The body is visible while the soul is unperceivable. In the same way, if we consider Srimad Bhagavatam as the form of Krishna, then Radha is its soul. The soul is the main entity of the form. So, Radha’s name has not been disclosed in Bhagavatam. Sri Shukadev Goswami has narrated the passtimes of Sri Krishna but kept Sri Radha’s name a secret. As Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, being Krishna’s form carries the mood of Radha in his heart.In the same way, Srimad Bhagavatam describes the passtimes of Krishna without uttering radha’s name. Lover and the object of his love become identical. In the passtimes of Krishna narrated in Srimad Bhagavatam, the supreme state of love has been unfolded but the love of Radha has been shrouded in a silhouette. Love has been reveled but the mood stays unrevealed. The innermost feelings can only be understood in th experience. If Radha’s name would have been disclosed then Srimad Bhagavatam would have become ‘Radha Leelamrit’. Hari is the sentiment, the object of every devotee’s eternal joy. The foundation of the sentiment is Sri Radha, unmanifested, unrevealed.”
The Lord, who was listening to this explaination from a distance, roared, “O Krishna!” and fell down on the ground, losing his consciousness. When he regained his senses, he ran and embraced Sri Jagannath Dash. “O great devotee, who are you? I am drenched with nectar by listening to the way you exlained this supreme state so lucidly.”
From that day onwards, both of them used to meet and embrace each other in the temple daily. Both of them were submerged in the divine effulgence of Bhagavatam. The discussions, the analysis filled their hearts with unearthly joy.
In one such instance, Sri Jagannath Dash explained, “Radha is not worshipped in Sri Kshetra, Puri. Radha’s innermost sentiment has taken the form of the ‘stambha’, pillar. Radha is the incandescet flame, a symbol of love. Rdha is the ‘hladini shakti’, pleasure giving potency, non different from Krishna. Krishna’s love has been absorbed in the form of the ‘chakra’ or disc. That disc, Sudarshana Chakra, is a representation on the ‘Raasa mandala’. ‘Sudarshana Chakra’ is worshipped on Radhashtami, the day when Radha was born. After undergoing the divine experiences, sattvic bhava, of incessant shedding of tears (Ashru), profuse sweating (Sweda), body shivering in extreme love (Vaipathu), body hair standing erect out of esctacy (Romanch), the body turns stiff like a pillar (Stambha). So Sudarshana has manifested here as a pillar. Sudarshana is worshipped to the left of the bejewelled throne where Sri Jagannath Mahaprabhu is seated. On Radhashtami, Sudarshana circumambulates the temple in a procession singing the glories of the Lord (Kirtan) and goes around the city. The procession comes to rest in between the temple of Sri Jameswar Mahadev near the creamtion ground and Tota Gopinath temple of Sri Gadadhar Mahaprabhu. The head priest (Bada Panda) of Sri Jagannath temple reads the accounts of the year, the debit and credit report from the ‘Madala Panji’. As a representative of Radha,the supreme monarch, Sudarshan in the form of the pillar, listens to the presentation. This tradition is still followed.”
Many such discussions are take place everyday. Seeing the deep intimacy developing between both of them, the followers of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu felt dejected. They began to think that Mahaprabhu’s love for them has dwindled. This feeling comes when you have to share your portion with someone else. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu read the minds of his devotees and pronounced, “This brahmin of Shrikhsetra Purin is a prime devotee of Krishna. He is dear to Lord Jagannath. He is the jewel of this divine soil. He displays the mood of servitor with me. He considers me his Lord. Everyday he sits under the Kalpabata, wish fulfilling tree, and reads Srimad Bhagavatam. So all of you should go and prostrate before him.” The devotees felt relieved.
Sri Jagannath Dash was the educational and spiritual Guru of the chief queen. He is a strict, disciplined brahmin. Everyday he used to wait at the temple gate. When Chaitanya Mahaprabhu entered the temple, he joined him to have darshan of Lord Jagannath and then returned home. He was born on the day of Radhashtami. One day he circumambulated the temple singing the glory of the Lord and entered the inner sanctum. He saw the beautiful form of Gauranga Mahaprabhu standing behind the Garuda pillar, motionless. He went and stood on his right side. He noticed Chaitanya Mahaprabhu lost in trance. He marked that the bright smile on his face suddenly change into sorrow and despair. Sri Chaitanya Dev was worshipping the Lord in his mind. He had strung a garland of bakula flower and wanted to put it around his Lord. But since he had secured the garland with a knot, he was unable to put it on the Lord. So, he was distressed and his mood was reflected on his face. His body was shivering. Tears were flowing incessantly and he was heart was torn.
Only those who know to relish the emotions can understand the mood. Sri Jagannath Dash knew the reason behind the Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s distress. He politely said, “O Lord! Please forgive my insolence. But there is a rule that Sri Jagannath’s garland should not have any knots. The Lord is not bounded by any bond. The garland that you have offered has a knot and so cannot be offered to the Lord. Please forgive me. Please undo the knot and place it over both his hands.” His heart ecstatic with joy, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu embraced Sri Jagannath Dash. He took out his shawl and tied it around the brahmin’s head and announced, “From today onwards, you will be known as ‘Atibadi’. Your Vaishnava lineage will become famous as the ‘Atibadi Vaishnava stream’. You are a prime devotee of the Lord.” Mahaprabhu honoured him and he came to be known as ‘Atibadi Jagannath Das Goswami’.
The ‘Guru parampara’ tradition of Atibadi Vaishnava stream was thus started by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. On the day of Sharad Purnima, celebrated as Kumar Purnima in Odisha, vaishnavas from all four sects accompanied Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Jagannath das, went around the city doing sankirtan playing eighteen mridangas. The officers in the king’s court differed in their views. Some said Chaitanya was superior while others thought Jagannath Das was a greater devotee. Once, on the fourth day of ‘Krishnapaksha’ in the month of ‘Kartik’, a great storm arose. The mangal aarti of the Lord is carried out by bringing the fire from the temple kitchen every morning. But getting the fire became difficult as the storm intensified. The servitors of the Lord became tensed since the time for mangal aarti was running out. Inspite of the storm, both Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Jagannath Das arrived at the temple to witness the mangal aarti. The servitors hit upon an idea. This is the right opportunity for them to find out who is superior devotee between the two of them. One official named Akhandala Patra looked at them and said, “We are struggling to light the lamp. How will we do the Mangal aarti?” Chaitanya Mahaprabhu took a lamp in his hand and started dancing while singing kirtan. The lamp lighted on its own without any oil inspite of the heavy storm. Everyone present witnessed the miracle. He kept on dancing carrying the lamp but the lamp didn’t blow out. Then Jagannath Das took the other lamp meditating on the Lord. His lamp also lighted up. Both the seers took their lamps and entered the temple happily. After passing the ‘Jaya Bijaya’ door, they placed it down. Mangal aarti was carried out. The servitors couldn’t believe their eyes. They sang the glory of both the saints. This episode is remembered even today.
To commemorate this event, every year in the month of Kartik, five lamps are brought from Gambhira (the place in Puri where Chaitanya Mahaprabhu lived his last twelve years) and five lamps are brought from the Jagannath das Odia Math. These ten lamps are lighted at the ‘Jaya Bijaya Dwar’ in honour of these two saints.
There is no difference between the Lord and his devotee. As the devotee is engaged in loving the Lord and singing his glory, the Lord also is eager to uphold the honour of his devotee and places him in highest esteem. Both are intimate and inseparable.
Image Credit: Shyama Mohanty