Narottama Dasa Thakura also known as Thakura Mahasaya, was a Gaudiya Vaishnava saint. He was known for spreading Vaishnava bhakti throughout Odisha in and outside of Bengal in India. Narottama Dasa was the son of King Krishnananda Datta and Narayani Devi who lived in Gopalpur Pargana of the Rajshahi district of Bangladesh. According to some accounts, after the death of his father, he entrusted his royal duties to the eldest paternal uncle’s son and left for Vrindavana.
Narottama Das Early Life
Narottama Dasa Thakura was a lifelong brahmachari. He was born in a Kayastha caste family. He was the son of King Shri Krishnananda Datta, who ruled the area of Gopalpura in Rajashahi district of modern day Bangladesh, his capital being Khetri on the Padma River. Narottama’s mother was Narayani Devi, and he was born on the Purnima in the month of Magha (January) 1520 AD.
From Narottama’s early childhood, he was always attracted to Shri Chaitanya. When Narottama was born the astrologers came, they said that either this boy will become a great king or a mendicant preacher. He was also taught Sanskrit which he mastered in a very short time, and for this was very much famous for his eloquence in the use of Sanskrit grammar, poetry, prosody, etc.
At the age of twelve, Narottama Dasa Thakura had a vision of Lord Nityananda in a dream. He told Narottama to take bath in the Padma River whereupon he would receive the love of Godhead. Following the guidance of Lord Nityananda, Narottama immersed in the Padma but, and the Goddess of the river appeared and on the order of Lord Chaitanya, gave him pure love of Godhead.
Narottam Das as a Saint
Narottama das would only maintain himself by the observance of the vow of madhukari, which means that he would only eat what he could beg by going from door to door of the householder devotees, just as a bumblebee goes from flower to flower to take pollen. By this strict vow Narottama kept no kitchen or store of foodstuffs. He simply relied only upon the mercy of the Lord.
Narottama Dasa Thakura would preach relentlessly, removing the misconceptions of the age, and would invoke his disciples to follow suit.
This was one of Narottama Dasa Thakura’s main preaching points – that a Vaishnava is not a mleccha, nor yavana, nor Brahmin, nor sudra, etc. Vaisnavism should only be measured according to one’s surrender and realization in Krishna’s consciousness.
There should be no consideration of birth, age, caste, creed, shoe size, education, social status, who one is initiated by, the year one took initiation, or when one first came in contact with devotional service. Nor is Krishna’s consciousness advancement dependent on household duties, taking sannyasa, ritualistic performances, group agreement, or the like – simply how one is absorbed in one’s service to the lotus-eyed Lord. This is the conclusion of Narottama Dasa Thakura’s preaching strategy.
Narottama had many thousands of disciples, mostly in the areas of modern-day Bangladesh. He went under the tamarind tree at Prema Ghat by the side of the Ganges (Padma River) at Kheturi, where Lord Chaitanya had sat, and where the goddess of the river presented to Narottama pure love of Godhead, after composing the beautiful song, “Saparsada Bhagavad Viraha Janita Vilapa,” which begins “Je Anilo Prema Dhana Koruna Pracur Heno Prabhu Kotha Gela Acarya Thakura.”
In Vrindavan Narottama was received by Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami. After Narottama was started by Lokanatha Gosvami who in turn instructed him to go and study from Jiva Goswami. He traveled to Bengal with other sadhus (holy men), like Srinivasa Acarya, to share devotional writings with the general public.
Fifty years after the disappearance of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu Narottama organized annual festivals in Bengal, which served to keep the Gaudiya philosophy unified. The significant meeting took place in Kheturi where the Gaudiya Vaishnava Theology of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu‘s sect was defined. The exact year of this event is unknown but some say that it was around 1572.
Writing of Narottama Das
Narottama Dasa is best known for his devotional poetry wherein he describes emotionally intense feelings towards Radha and Krishna. His prayers Sri Rupa Manjari Pada and Sri Guru Carana Padma are still sung in both Gaudiya Math and ISKCON temples on a regular basis.
Among the writings of Narottama, Prarthana, and Premabhakticandrika (The Moonrays of Loving Devotion) are the most well-known.
The short write-up titled Hatapaltana is also connected to Narottama but the contents do not seem to be in harmony with historical events and thus some believe that it is a fake work. Narottama did translate Smaranamangala into Bengali verse. In eleven slokas this work represents the pastimes of Radha and Krishna in eight parts of the day.
A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, a spiritual descendant of Narottama through Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, had often cited his prayers as many of Gaudiya Vaishnava acharyas did: “The prayers of Narottama dasa Thakura,” he said. “This sound is above the material platform. It is directly from the spiritual platform. And there is no need of understanding the language. It is just like a thunderburst. Everyone can hear the sound of thunder-there is no misunderstanding. Similarly, these songs are above the material platform, and they crack like thunder within your heart.”
During his incredible disappearing pastime, Narottam Das Thakura asks his disciples to bring him to the Ganges and pour water over his body with their bare hands. While taking a bath, they(disciples) noticed that her skin had turned white and she started melting.
At the touch of the water of the Ganges, his body was turning into milk and was getting absorbed in the Ganges itself. He saw that his Gurudev was slowly melting and becoming smaller. While bathing their hearts were breaking in pain and sadness and were shedding tears, but they could not stop, as their master had ordered them, they had to obey their master’s order.
As they were pouring water on his body, his body was merging in the Ganges, it was also more tears than milk, watching his Guru die before his eyes. It just kept pouring milk and tears and offering it to Maa Ganga, in the end she disappeared.
The disciples of Shrila Narottam Das Thakur put that milk mixed with tears and Ganga water in a big vessel and brought it to a place near Kheturi, where Narottam Das Thakur lived and built a beautiful samadhi for him. To this day there is a Samadhi. It is called Doodh Samadhi, the samadhi of milk.
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