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The Bhakti Rock Star of 1486

The Bhakti Rock Star of 1486

When Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was born in 1486, we had a discriminating society in India. In this story we share a discussion between two friends on Chaitanya’s contribution to improve the society.

By Somashis Gupta

“Can you say Gauranga?

Gauranga ….Nityananda….”

Who is Gauranga? And what makes people behave in such a way chanting his name? Let’s find out. But before that, why don’t you listen to this amazing music to build the mood?

How do you feel? Good? Okay now let me tell you a story.

It was a few years back somewhere in West Delhi. At the house warming party of a North Indian family, they organized a Mata ki Chauki. So what is a Chauki? Well it is an overnight fiesta where a group of clergies sing religious songs. As a custom they also ask questions on various aspects of religion.

On this day amongst other invitees was Sid Ghosh my friend. It was Sid who narrated me this story. This is what he said….

“You see I usually don’t attend such functions, but this was obligatory.”

“So how was it?” I asked knowing Sid’s reluctance to prolonged sessions.

“I roamed around mostly. But then out of courtesy went there as they started asking questions anticipating some new knowledge,” Sid continued, “I heard the clergy asking ‘who started Hare Rama Hare Krishna?’”

“So did the audience answer?” I asked Sid.

“Yes they did. They answered ISKCON,” Sid laughed while saying this or if I may say in more common Yankee street lingua ROFL.

“What?” I asked joining him in the fun.

Sid continued after his laughter break,“And then when I answered, the clergy was very happy and concluded that I am a frequenter in such sessions of Jagaran.”

“Why so? What made him conclude that you are a frequenter which you are not?” I asked.

“Because people in Delhi are not much aware of Gauranga or Chaitanya Mahaprobhu like we know in East,” Sid explained.

“I see, so why don’t we write about him in East India Story?” I suggested.

“Yes, we definitely should. I mean, considering the fact that his contribution is irreplaceable, people should know about him,” Sid agreed.

The conversation continued as I asked,“So tell me he is considered an avatar, isn’t it?”

“Yes, letme clarify this first, as it is unknown to many. Where is avatar mentioned?” Sid asked.

“I think it is garuda purana isn’t it?” I guessed.

“Yes but garuda purana mentions just 10 avatarsonly, so how is he an avatar?” Sid asked again.

“No but bhagavata purana talks about 24 more avatars, isn’t it?” I answered.

“Yes and our Gaurchand is one of them,” Sid explained, “Chaitanya was also called Gaurchand due to his molten gold-like complexion.”

“Okay,” I thought about this and after a momentary pause continued, “anyway what is more important is his contribution to the society, let’s talk about that.”

“Okay, but before that we need to know a few things,” Sid continued, “we need to know how religion began, mostly on account of ‘fear’, isn’t it?”

“Well, yes mostly, but not Hinduism. Its genesis is basis, questioning the existence of man- ‘Who am I? Where did I come from? What is the aim of my life?’ etc.” I continued, “In fact the ancient undiluted version of this religion was based on reasoning, the tools of modern science, and not on myth.”

As I said this Sid said,“This reminds me of a hymn, from Nirvana Sakhtam” and chanted –

Mano Buddhi Ahankaara Chittani Naham

Na Cha Shrotravjihve Na Cha Ghraana Netre

Na Cha Vyoma Bhumir Na Tejo Na Vayuhu

Chidananda Rupah Shivo’ham Shivo’ham…

He also explained-

I am not the mind, the intellect, the ego or the memory

I am not the ears, the skin, the nose or the eyes

I am not space, not earth, not fire, water or wind

I am the form of consciousness and bliss,

I am the eternal Shiva!

 “Yes so true, but such concepts were diluted gradually over a period of time,” I said.

“Well that is probably because understanding the omnipresent is rather impossible for a common man,” Sid argued.

“Agreed, however with time some groups of people took advantage of this situation and started making irrational norms, they restricted worship in temples; they changed the social structure etc.” I pointed out.

“And this went to such an extent that it led to a completely different religion, and not only that, one group started exploiting the other group,” Sid said.

“And that is where Chaitanya’s contribution becomes so important,” Isaid.

“How so?” a curious Sid asked.

“It is because, this man made religion simple for the humankind,” I answered.

“Oh yes, I agree, he said chanting Hare Rama Hare Krishna is enough to worship God,” Sid emphasized.

“Brilliant, isn’t it?” I expressed.

“By the way do you know Chaitanya was one of the pioneers of Bhakti movement?”Sid asked.

“Yes in fact by that time the Sufi movement brought in the concept of universal brotherhood, and similarly Chaitanya was the chief proponent of Vedic philosophy of Achinta Bheda Abheda Tattva which means inconceivable oneness and difference,” I said.

“See I am reading wiki. It says that he started the Gaudia Vaishnavism and also popularized Bhakti Yoga and composed Shikshashtakam,” Sid said as he shared his screen in the zoom call.

“Sid I read somewhere that he is from Sylhet, just check that since you are in wiki,” I requested.

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“Wait….o actually his parents migrated from Sylhet district to Nadia where Chaitanya was born…..oh another interesting thing, it says he was born under the neem tree and was also called Neemai,” he said reading Wikipedia.

“In fact see this there is a picture of Chaitanya performing kirtan on the streets,” I shared this picture.

Chaitanya performing kirtan on the streets
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu performing kirtan on the streets

“Ah! This reminds me, have you read the article by Sandip Ghosh in East India Story,” Sid asked.

“No I haven’t, why?” I was rather surprised.

“Read that it talks about how Bengali theater evolved from the time of Chaitanya,” Sid advised.

“Ah! Is it? Sounds interesting,” I took a note of that.“Actually talking of theatre, reminds me of a song from the move ‘Mouchak’,”I said.

“Which one?” asked Sid.

Jodi Jogai Madhai na thakto tobe nimai ke ki chinto loke,”I sang.

“Ha, ha! Jogai, Madhai are interesting characters, isn’t it? But the way they attacked Nityananda and later that attack led them to become devotees is an interesting story,”Sid said.

“Yes let’s share another story on that incident with our readers some other time,” Isuggested.

“Sure we can,” Sid agreed.

“I was reading this page called chaitanyamahaprabhu.wordpress.com. Do you know Chaitanya’s death has many versions?”I asked.

“Is it? Let me check…” Sid started checking.

“I have it open,don’t bother, I will tell you. It is believed that he died on 29th of June 1533. But there are several hagiographic references to his death. It says, for example:-

  1. Chaitanya Charitamrita says he walked into the sea in a state of divine ecstasy.
  2. Chaitanya Mangal says he was injured during Ratha Jatra and later died from septicemia.
  3. Chaitanya disguised himself as a sadhu and left Puri never to be seen again.

This way there are quite a few more,” I said.

“When was he born?…. hey wait his titthi birth anniversary is on 18th of March and his English birth anniversary was on 18th of February. What a coincidence isn’t it?” Sid was excited as this year we celebrated Dol Purnima on this day

“A personality like Chaitanya cannot be discussed in such a short time, so I have a suggestion, why not we ask our readers to write to us about what they feel about Chaitanya?” I suggested.

“Yes of course they can. Our mail id is eastindiastory@gmail.com,” Sid said.

So that’s all for now dear readers,and do send us your views on Chaitanya Mahaprobhu at the given mail ID. Stay well and have a great time.

Joy Guru.

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