INDIA - HOLY PLACES
Sri Birchandra Prabhu
Srimad Birchandra or Birabhadra Prabhu took birth within this world on the ninth day of the dark moon in the month of Kartik, which corresponds to the divine appearance day of Sri Srimad Bhakti Raksaka Sridhar Maharaja.
Sri Krishna Dasa Kaviraja Goswami writes (CC Adi 11.8-12):
In his Anubhashya commentary on Caitanya Caritamrita, Sri Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura describes the life of Birchandra Prabhu. He writes that Birchandra Prabhu, also known as Virabhadra Goswami was the son of Nityananda Prabhu and the disciple of Jahnava Mata. He was born from the womb of Sri Vasudha, Nityananda Prabhu's other wife. In the Gaura-Ganodesha-Dipika, he is mentioned as an incarnation of Kshirodakshayi Vishnu as follows:
sankarshanashya yo vyuha, payobdhishayi-namakah,
"Sri Sankarshan Deva expands Himself as Kshirodakshayi Vishnu. His avatara is Birchandra Prabhu. He is nondifferent from Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, in that he is Vishnu-tattva, God Himself."
In a village of the name Jhamatapura in the district of Hugali, Birchandra Prabhu had a disciple named Yadundanacharya, who had two daughters - his own daughter by birth, Srimati, and a foster daughter named Narayani. Both these daughters married Birchandra. The marriage of Birchandra Prabhu has been mentioned in the Bhakti Ratnakara of Sri Narahari Chakravarti Thakura as follows:
"Near Rajabol Hatta is Jhamatpura. Sri Jahnava Mata went there to the temple of one of her disciples. There, lived the brahmana Yadunandana Acharya. By the mercy of Sri Jahanava Mata he was endowed with great devotion. Yadunandana had a wife named Lakshmi. It was said that she was a pure and highly religous wife. They had two daughters - Srimati and Narayani. Their bodily beauty was wonderful beyond compare. Upon the wish of Jahnava Mata that fortunate brahmana gave his two daughters to be wed to Birchandra Prabhu."
Sri Yadunandana Acharya was a disciple of Birchandra Prabhu. Srimati and Narayani were given mantra initiation by Jahnava Mata. Sri Vasudha's daughter was Gangadevi. She was an avatar of Gangadevi herself. She was wed to Sri Madhava Acharya, who was an avatara of Shantanu Maharaja. The Mahabharata celebrates Shantanu Maharaja, the father of Bhishmadeva in Dwapara-yuga, as the husband of Gangadevi herself. Madhava Acharya was a great devotee who was deep in Krishna-prema.
On the order of his mother, Sri Birchandra Prabhu made a pilgrimage to Sri Vrindavana Dhama. First he visited the home of Uddharana Datta Thakura in Saptagrama. Uddharana Datta Thakura's son, Srinivasa Datta Thakura greeted Birchandra Prabhu with a respectful reception, and Birchandra Prabhu stayed there for two days.
From there, he went to Shantipura where he visited the house of Sri Advaita Acharya. Advaita Acharya's son Sri Krishna Mishra cordially welcomed Birchandra Prabhu with a full reception, and there was sankirtan, in which everyone was drowned by the sweet waves of the holy name.
From there, Birchandra Prabhu went to Ambika Kalna, where he visited the home of Sri Gauridasa Pandit. Sri Hridaya Caitanya Prabhu met him there with great warmth and affection.
From Ambika Kalna Birchandra Prabhu went to Nabadwipa dhama to the house of Sri Jagannatha Mishra. Seeing the son of Nityananda Prabhu, all the followers of Sri Caitanya who were present there were overjoyed, and welcomed him with great happiness.
There he stayed for two days, after which he traveled on to Sri Khanda. There he was met by Sri Raghunandana and Sri Kanai Thakura who received him affectionately and embraced him.
After staying there for some time, he continued on to Yajigrama to visit the house of Srinivasa Acharya. With great devotion, Srinivasa Acharya offered puja to Sri Birchandra Prabhu, knowing him to be the Supreme Personality of Godhead. There he stayed for some days, and there was a great sankirtan festival there.
After this, Birchandra Prabhu went on to Kanthak Nagara, near Katwa, where Mahaprabhu took sannyasa. After staying there for a day, he continued on to Badhuri Gram, where he arrived at the house of Govinda Kaviraja. With great devotion, the advanced Vaishnava, Govinda Kaviraja gave him a respectful reception and worshiped him with puja. Being very please with his great devotion, Birchandra Prabhu stayed at his house for two days.
After this, he visited Kheturi Gram, the hometown of Narottama Thakura. This is all recorded in the Bhaktiratnakara: "To increase Sri Narottama Thakura's bliss beyond measure, That important branch of the Sri Caitanya tree, Sri Birchandra Prabhu came to Kheturi Gram and danced in sankirtan. At that time, countless people came to see Sri Birchandra Prabhu, who is Vishnu Himself."
After staying in Kheturi Gram for some days in a great festival of sankirtan, Birchandra Prabhu continued on his way to Vrindavana. By his influence, many sinners and atheists were delivered on the path. When he reached Vrindavana, being informed of his auspicious arrival, and wishing to welcome him as soon as he arrived, the important devotees in Vrindavana waited for him on the road. These devotees were all great souls, and included Sri Jiva Goswami, Srimad Krishna dasa Kaviraja Goswami, as well as Sri Ananta Acharya and Sri Hari Dasa Pandita, who were Sri Gadadhara Pandit's disciples and the pujaris of the deity of Sri Madana-Mohan. Sri Krishna Dasa Brahmachari, Sri Gopinatha Adhikari, and Sri Madhu Pandita were also there, as was the pujari of Sri Gopinatha, Bhavananda. Kashishvara and his disciples Sri Govinda Goswami (the pujari of Sri Govinda in Vrindavana) and Sri Yadava Acharya were also there as well as many others.
Bhakti Ratnakara says, "Everyone came out to see Birchandra Prabhu, and all the residents of Vrindavana were delighted to take His darshan. There was no one who was not overwhelmed by the seeing the manner of ecstatic bhakti exhibited by Birchandra Prabhu. He sang of the superlative qualities of Vrindavana and all the Vaishnavas there. After this he visited the deities of Sri Govinda, Sri Gopinatha, and Sri Madana Mohana and took darshan of their holy forms."
After this, on the order of Sri Jiva Goswami and Sri Bhugarbha Goswami, Birchandra Prabhu wandered throughout the forests of Vrindavana on an extensive pilgrimage. He saw the twelve forests of Vrindavana, Radha Kunda, Shyama Kunda, and Govardhana Hill. And as he saw these things, he exhibited amazing and wonderful manifestations of divine love. All the residents of Vrindavana were enchanted by seeing these demonstrations of ecstasy in Krishna-bhakti.
In this way, after gradually visiting all the important holy places in Vrindavana, Sri Birchandra Prabhu returned to Gaudadesha. After these wonderful expressions of divine love by Birchandra Prabhu, his fame was preached far and wide. His divine opulences were nondifferent from those of Nityananda Prabhu.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saratswati Thakura, in his Anubhasya commentary, writes that Birchandra Prabhu had three disciples who are regarded as his sons - Gopijana-vallabha, Ramakrishna, and Ramachandra. The youngest, Ramachandra, belonged to the Sandilya dynasty and had the surname Varavyala. He established his family at Khoradoha, and its members are known as the goswamis of Khoradoha. His eldest disciple, Gopijana-vallabha, was a resident of a village known as Lata near the Manakara railway station in the district of Burdwan. The second, Ramakrishna, lived near Malda in a village named Gayeshpura.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura notes that since these three disciples belonged to different dynasties and also had different surnames and lived in different places, it is not possible to accept them as real sons of Virachandra Prabhu.
Birchandra Prabhu's youngest disciple, Ramachandra had four sons, of whom the eldest was Radha-Madhava, whose third son was named Yadavendra. Yadavendra's son was Nandakirshora, his son was Nidhikrishna, his son was Caitanyacand, his son was Krishna Mohan, his son was Jaganmohana, his son was Vrajanatha, and his son was Shyamalal Goswami.
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