Shyamananda Prabhu and Sri Sri Radha Shyamsundar
Back in our school days, we would spend every Dussehera holiday in Vrindavan, performing Raasleela in the temples. One fateful evening we got dressed up for a performance and arrived at the Sri Sri RadhaShyamsundar Temple. Setting foot into the temple, I looked up at the sign on the entrance and was astonished to see the name of the temple written in Odia letters. Attracted to the temple’s unique charm, I came to know that this temple is known for the devotion of Sri Shyamananda Prabhu, who hailed from Odisha. Among the seven main ancient temples in Sri Vrindavan Dham, the temple of Sri Sri Radha Shyamsundar has carved a special place for itself in the hearts of all the Vaishnavas because it houses the most beautiful and unique Deity of Sri Shyamsundar, the one who manifested from Srimati Radharani’s own heart. Sri Shyamananda prabhu was personally graced by Srimati Radharani, who gave him a nupur tilak of the shape of Her lotus foot along with the transcendental and divine Deity of Sri Shyamsundar manifested from her very own heart. The deity is worshipped as Lala ji in the temple. The small Radharani deity (Lali ji) was brought by the King of Bharatpur, who found Her in his treasury. The bigger deities of Sri Sri Radha ShyamSundar enshrined in the centre, were carved out and installed by Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana. Sri Sri Radha Shyamsundar Temple in Vrindavan also has a large open area with a marble stage. We were fortunate to perform
Sharad Raasa here in front of the Vrijvasis and the vaishnavas.
On the full moon day in the month of Chaitra in the year 1535 A.D, Shri Shyamananda Prabhu was born in a place called Dharenda Bhadura Pura, located in Odisha. His parents had lost many children before him and hence named him ‘Dukhi’, hoping that such a name would keep death’s gaze away from him. A strong ray of devotion was noticed shining within this child and at an early age. Young Dukhi left his home and travelled to a place called Ambika to take shelter under his Guru Shri Hridaya Chaitanya Adhikari. He won the heart of his Guru with his devotion and his Guru christened him with the name Dukhi Krishna Das. Inspite of spending his time serving his Guru, chanting the holy name, listening to the leelas of Sri Krishna and reading scriptures, he always felt something amiss. With the permission of his Guru, he began his journey on a pilgrimage and after eight years he returned home to his family. His father’s joy knew no bound and he got Dukhi married to Shrimati Gourangi Dasi. But Dukhi was not made to raise family. The attraction of the twelve forests and gardens of Vrij Mandal wouldn’t let him live peacefully at home. So, he took permission from his parents to leave for Vrij Dham and on his way, spent some time with his Guru at Ambika. His Guru was astonished to see the exalted state of devotion in his disciple. He instructed Dukhi Krishna to continue his spiritual journey in Vrij Mandal and sent him to Sri Jiva Goswami.
Dukhi was thrilled and full of bliss, immersed in the serene beauty of Vrij. The fresh breeze smeared with divine fragrance, the swinging trees, the blooming gardens, singing parrots and peacocks, the intoxicated bees, they were all reverberating with the names of Radhe Shyam. After receiving darshan of Giriraj Govardhan and Radha Kund, he landed in Vrindavan. In Vrindavan, he fulfilled his desire of finally recieving darshan of Sri Govind Dev, Sri Madana Mohana, Sri Gopinath and ultimately arrived at the feet of Sri Jiva Goswami, who was delighted realising that Dukhi Krishna was empowered with the energy and intense love for the divine couple.
While studying the treaties of Bhakti under the guidance of Sri Jiva Goswami, Dukhi Krishna understood that Madhurya Rasa is the crest jewel among all the moods and became eager to serve Sri Sri Radha Shyamsundar in their sweet pastimes in the grooves of Vrij. He expressed this strong desire to Srila Jiva Goswami, who then concluded that Dukhi Krishna Dasa was qualified to perform the spontaneous (raganuga) mode of worship, and therefore there was no hindrance to enlighten him about the secret principles of madhura-bhava.
Following the instructions of Sri Hridaya Chaitanya, Srila Jiva Goswami started to instruct Duhkhi Krishna Dasa on those secret topics. Due to Dukhi Krishna Dasa’s determined insistence, Srila Jiva Goswami also gave him the right to clean the groves, a service which was rare. From then on, Duhkhi Krishna Dasa started spending most of his time in the service and worship of Sri Sri Radha-Krishna inside his bhajan kutir, meditating on Them and chanting and carrying on Sri Hari Nama kirtana. Every morning before sunrise he used to joyfully make his way with a broom and a scraper to clean the groves. Dukhi Krishna Das engaged himself in serious spiritual practice for twelve years.
One night he was deeply engrossed in remembering the sweetest pastime of Sri Sri Radha and Krishna, when he saw Rasaraj Sri Krishna absorbed in dancing with the doe eyed gopis of Vrij to the accompaniment of melodious singing. For the joy of Krishna, Radharani soon started dancing a most impressive and alluring piece that made even the gandharvas jealous. During a fast-paced dance, a golden anklet studded with sapphires slipped from Radharani’s feet and fell on the arena but nobody noticed it. After the dance, Radharani and Krishna fell asleep on a diamond bed and watching them, the sakhis were transported into an ocean of bliss. At dawn, Radharani and Krishna woke up and left for their respective homes, hurriedly followed by the sakhis.
After they left, Dukhi Krishna Das pulled himself up, and carrying a broom and a scraper, started cleaning the groves while singing bhajans full of love and devition. On reaching the spot of the Rasa dance, he experienced that the signs of loving pastimes were clearly visible. He could see the divine footprints of Radha, Krishna and sakhis here and there in the grooves, jasmine flowers scattered around, bees humming, parrots singing more enthusiastically than usual. Surcharged with divine love, Dukhi Krishna started rolling around on the divine ground, crying with ecstasy. As he was cleaning, he found a golden anklet under a tree. With great curiosity, he ran up stowards it and saw a sappire studded golden anklet lighting up the place with its radiance. When he tenderly picked the anklet up and touched it to his forehead, a thrill of transcendental joy ran through his body. The asta sattvika bhava, eight bodily transformations were evident in him. He started dancing and loudly chanting “Radhe Radhe”. He wrapped the anklet in his shawl, hid it in between the creepers and continued cleaning the groves.
After a while, an old woman appeared and enquired if he had found a golden anklet. She introduced herself as Radha Dasi from a nearby village. She added that her daughter in law had come to fetch water the evening before and was plucking flowers in this groove when she suddenly saw a lion and frightened, she ran away. In this commotion, her left anklet had slipped and fell down somewhere. She further added that she had come there looking for that anklet. Dukhi Krishna Das admitted that he had found the anklet but was sure that the anklet which surcharged him with feelings of divine love for Radharani couldn’t belong to any mere mortal. Notwithstanding he agreed to return it only if her daughter in law would come and show her a similar anklet in her other foot. Hearing his words, the old lady was a bit perplexed. In fact, she was none other than Lalita sakhi, Radharani’s closest friend. Unable to persuade him, Lalita sakhi confirmed that the anklet belonged to Radharani, the daughter of Vrishabhanu and the beloved of Sri Krishna.
A little while later, Shrimati Radharani came with Vishakha sakhi and hid behind a tree. From a distance Dukhi Krishna Das could feel the brilliant effulgence of the daughter of King Vrishabhanu, and felt as if his soul had been stolen from his body. In great transcendental bliss he handed over the anklet to the sakhi and with his eyes filled with the tears of love for Krishna, he fell to the ground and offered his prostrated obeisances in total surrender. His voice choked up in ecstasy and he said that he only prayed for the dust of Radharani’s lotus feet.
Vishakha sakhi instructed him to take bath in a Kunda. As he went in, he was transformed into a beautiful gopi who was brought infront of Radharani. He prostrated infront Shrimati Radharani. At that instant, Radharani applied some kumkum to the anklet and made a tilak mark on the head of the new gopi, and said that this new tilak must always remain in his forehead. Lalita sakhi named this tilak ‘Shyama Mohana’ and because he had given so much joy to Shrimati Shyama (Radharani), his name would be Shyamananda. After hearing all the instructions, he knew it was time for them to leave. He could not tolerate being separated from Radharani and started wailing pitifully. Seeing his misery, Radharani’s heart melted and to relieve him from this distress She manifested from her heart the most beautiful deity of Sri ShyamSundar, Her life, Her soul, Her Mahabhava personified. She then advised Shyamananda to worship the Deity in loving devotion as long as he remained in this mortal world. That way he couldn’t feel any torment of separation. Dukhi Krishna Das came out of his samadhi and looking into the water, saw in his reflection the effulgent tilak mark the anklet had left on his forehead. His heart was filled with wonder at the sight and he returned to Shri Jiva Goswami in a state of divine ecstasy.
Seeing the new tilak mark shining so brilliantly on the forehead of Dukhi Krishna Das, Jiva Goswami was dumbstruck. He inquired as to its origin. Dukhi Krishna Das bowed before his master and with his eyes filled with tears, he related the entire story to Jiva Goswami. Hearing this, a delighted Jiva Gowami instructed him not to reveal the story of this miracle to the people in general. From that day onwards, he was called Shyamananda.
Noticing the change in Dukhi Krishnadas's name and tilak, people started talking that he might have accepted a different Guru and hence a new tilak. The gossips reached the ears of his Guru Hridaya Chaitanya in Ambika. He quickly left for Vrindavana in order to find out the truth. Seeing his Guru, Dukhi Krishna Das fell on his feet offering obeisances. Shri Hridaya Caitanya, seeing the new tilak on his disciple's forehead, became very angry and chastised Dukhi Krishna, saying that he was a disgrace and that his conduct was abominable. Dukhi Krishna Das bore all his Guru's chastisement with a cheerful face, for he knew that he had never been unfaithful to his Guru.
That night, Shri Hridaya Chaitanya Prabhu had a dream in which he saw Shrimati Radharani. Shrimati Radharani chided him saying that she was extremely pleased with Dukhi Krishna Das’ devotion and had graced him with the tilak and a new name. Realising that he had committed a great offense, Hridaya Chaitanya fell at the feet of the princess of Vrij, praying for forgiveness. The next morning he called Shyamananda Prabhu to his side and affectionately embraced him again and again. With tears of ecstasy in his eyes he told his disciple: "You are most fortunate."
premanjana-churita-bhakti- vilochanena santah-sadaiva-hridayeshu-vilokayanti yam-shyama-sundaram-achintya-guna-svarupam govindam adi-purusham tam aham bhajami
“I worship the primeval Lord, Govinda, who is always seen by the devotee whose eyes are anointed with the pulp of love. He is seen in His eternal form of Shyamsundar, situated within the heart of the devotee.”
- Brahma Samhita
Sri Sri Radha Shyamsundar, Vrindavan
Image Courtesy: Sadhvi Vishnupriya (Didi)