The Landlord, The Devotee, The Mendicant

Updated: Jun 21

Lala Babu

 

It was a pleasant evening. The breeze caressing the water of the holy Ganga carried the fragrance and filled the surrounding atmosphere with divinity. Lala Babu, a wealthy and famous landlord of Kolkata, mesmerised by this beauty, was taking a long walk along the picturesque banks of the mighty river. As he kept walking further away from his mansion, to the other side, he heard a boatman remark, “O brother, the day is over. Time to go across.” These words brought about a change and he became immersed in contemplating about the goal of his life. He crossed the river by boat and returned home. The next day, during his walk, he heard a washerman addressing his wife, "The day is over. Go and burn the vasana." (In Bengali, the bark of banana plant is called vasana. Washermen burn banana plants and prepare a kind of alkali for washing clothes. But, vasana also means desire. Lala Babu took this remark to mean, "The days of your life are coming to an end. It’s time to burn your lusty desires.” These words left a deep impression on him and his outlook on life. He left his grand life and went to Vrindavan, where he lived the life of a renunciant, spending his time in spiritual pursuits and meditation.


Sri Krishna Chandra Sinha, also known as Lala Babu, was a Bengali Kayastha. Born in 1775 into a wealthy family of landlords, he continued in his family occupation. He expanded his business into Bengal and Odisha and generously donated in building temples, Sanskrit schools and guest houses, A year after his father died, he left his family, sold his estate in Murshidabad, East Bengal and left for Vrindavan at the age of 40 following his call.


Lala Babu wandered in search of a Guru. He found Mahatma Krishna Das in Govardhan and adorned him as his Guru. Following the spiritual path, he embraced a life of renunciation, built himself a mendicant’s hut and begged alms like a monk for his survival. Every day he would ask his Guru to lead him on the next steps of progress but his Guru had the same reply, “You are not ready.” He kept on asking what he should do to qualify to the next stage but His Guru never defined any practices for him to follow. Left on his own, he decided to follow a stricter discipline and so day by day he slowly started giving up things he was attached to. He kept racking his brain to find out what more he could do. His Guru made him shine like gold after making him burn in the pyre of purification.


Earlier, when Lala Babu prospered in his business, he had developed a rivalry with another merchant. Both of them were powerful and not on speaking terms with each other. When Lala Babu took to the life of an ascetic mendicant begging alms for his daily food, he begged at every door but the house of his rival. One day, after a serious contemplation, he decided to renounce this last bit of arrogance and pride. The next morning, he arrived at the door of his rival begging for alms. Once the news reached the merchant, he realised how magnanimous Lala Babu was and came running to meet Lala Babu. He offered all his wealth to Lala Babu but the latter declined saying he only needed a fistful of rice. This incident not only brought an end to the rivalry but also made Lala Babu a rightful deserving claimant of ‘Guru Kripa’, the mercy of his Guru. Later that day, the Guru arrived at the disciple’s hut and proclaimed, “You are now ready to move on.”


Lala Babu constructed the Krishna Chandrama Temple in Vrindavan in the year 1810. It stands as a symbol of unending devotion for the Lord. The deities of Radharani, Sri Krishnachandra and Lalita Devi were enshrined and this magnificent stone temple came to be known as Lala Babu Temple. Built during the British reign, the Lala Babu Temple is surrounded by huge stone wall and a vaulted gateway on both ends of temple. Sri Narasimha Dev stands in the front of the temple and Sri Varaha Dev on the right side. The temple exhibits exquisite craftsmanship and has the character of rich modern architecture. The temple has a large courtyard and a huge flower garden. Flowers from this garden only are used for worshipping the deities. Devotees visiting the temple revere the tranquility and get drenched in the devotional vibes that emanates from the temple. Lala Babu Mandir is also popular amongst the local residents as it is believed that the Lord residing in the temple fulfils the wishes of every devotee visiting this temple.


Lala Babu did not take shelter in the temple complex but wandered here and there in Brij like an ascetic surviving on the alms received from the Brijwasis. But while wandering, he would often return to the temple. He had a great love for the deities and They showed signs of being jagrit (alive). When the Pujari placed a cotton infront of the nostrils of the deity, both Lala Babu and the priest noticed the cotton moving back and forth with the force of Thakurji’s breathing. During the installation ceremony, when the priest placed butter on the deity’s head it melted as it would by the heat generated from a living entity. Devotees opine that it was Lala Babu’s bhav that made the deities jagrit.

The deity of the temple always responds to the heart of the devotee.

Lala Babu left his body at the age of 46 at Govardhan. He was a humble soul and didn’t want any memorial to be built for him. His Samadhi is located outside the front gate of the temple. A separate wire fence is erected around his samadhi to protect it and is usually not opened for visitors.


Garden inside Lala Babu Temple from 'My Vrindavan diaries'.


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