INDIA - HOLY PLACES
Sri Gangamata Goswamini
Within the present state of Bengal, lies what was once the kingdom of Sri Naresh Narayana. King Naresh Narayana had a daughter named Saci. From early childhood, Saci was a topmost devotee of the Lord. Within a short time, Saci began her education. At first she absorbed herself in grammar and poetry, but having become expert in these, she gradually became completely immersed in endlessly studying the scriptures. Even as a young girl, she was always fascinated with Krishna consciousness. As Saci came of age, all the young boys were charmed by her beauty. But within Saci's mind there was not the least attraction for any of the young men, no matter how handsome or rich they were. Her mind was always filled with thoughts of Madana Gopala.
Sri Naresh Narayana began to think of arranging for his daughter's marriage. Upon understanding her father's intentions, Saci told him, "I will not marry a mortal man, born of this world of death." The king and queen wanted to make arrangements to give her hand in marriage. But Saci did not want to be wed. Always regretting their failure to arrange for their daughter's wedding, in due course of time, the king and queen grew old and passed away.
After the passing of the king and queen, the royal succession fell to Saci. Saci accepted the responsibilities of governing the kingdom. One day, on the plea of seeing more of the kingdom Saci left to visit the holy places of pilgrimage, after appointing some relatives to govern in her place. Although she wandered here and there, nowhere could her heart find satisfaction. She decided to seek out a bonafide spiritual master. After much travel, she arrived in Jagannatha Puri. One day, after taking darshan of the Jagannatha deities, she received an inner message and was inspired to go to Vrindavana.
With this Saci felt that the moon of her good fortune had arisen. In Vrindavana, she chanced to meet Haridas Pandit, whose single-minded devotion to Gauranga and Nityananda was unsurpassed. Upon seeing the spiritual power and austerity of his divine form, Saci became filled with ecstasy. After meditating deeply for several days, Haridas Pandit gave Saci shelter. Sri Saci fell at the lotus feet of Haridas Pandit with her eyes pouring tears and prayed for his mercy.
The Caitanya Caritamrita gives Haridas Pandit's preceptorial ancestry as follows, "Ananta Acarya was a disciple of Gadadhara Pandit. His body was always overwhelmed by the ecstasy of Krishna-prema. He was magnanimous and advanced in all respects. Ananta Acarya was a reservoir of all good qualities. No one can estimate how great he was. Pandit Haridas was his beloved disciple."
In order to examine Saci's qualifications as a disciple, Haridas Pandit said: "It is not possible for the daughter of a king to go to Vrindavana and live as a poor devotee, constantly absorbed in bhajan with little to eat and no comforts. It will be better for you to stay at home and worship than to go to Vrindavana."
Sri Sacidevi could understand what all this talk was for. She paid no attention to all these words of discouragement. With fierce determination, renunciation, and austerity, she went on with her bhajan, and her service to her guru. As she absorbed herself in her austere service, step by step she renounced her opulent dresses and fine ornaments.
One day, Haridas Pandit Goswami said to Sacidevi, "If you like, giving up all pride and fear, you may wander throughout Vraja and practice begging from place to place as a renounced devotee. You have my blessings." Upon hearing the words of her gurudeva, Saci's joy knew no bounds. Thereafter, freed from all false ego, her body covered only with rags, she went house to house in Vrindavana, begging alms in the fashion of a bumblebee who takes only a little pollen from each flower. In this way she showed the intense renunciation and austerity of a highly advanced devotee. All the devotees in Vrindavana were astonished by her severe renunciation.
Gradually, Saci"s body became frail and weak. She grew thin, and was covered with soot. Still, she took no notice of her condition, and continued following her austere regimen. Physically exhausted from her diligent service she would sleep on the banks of the Yamuna, and then rise again the next day to cleanse the Lord's temple. She would regularly circumambulate some holy places, see the aroti of the Deity, and listen to the lectures on Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Seeing the intense renunciation of Sacidevi, Haridas Pandit Goswami's heart was filled with pity. His mercy towards her increased. Smiling, he called Sacidevi and said to her, "You are a princess, and yet you have made such an intense effort to worship Krishna that seeing your renunciation and austerity in the cause of devotion I have become supremely happy. Soon I shall give you initiation into the mantra."
Haridas Pandit had one disciple named Sri Laksmipriya, toward whom he was very affectionate. Just at that time she arrived in Vrindavana. Sri Laksmipriya used to chant three hundred thousand names of Krishna daily. When she arrived, Haridas Pandit sent her to live near where Sacidevi performed her daily bhajan on the banks of the Radhakunda. Taking the order of her guru on her head, Laksmipriya went to the Radha-kunda to be with Sacidevi and help her with her bhajan. Every day Sacidevi and Lakshmipriya would circumambulate Govardhan hill. In this way, in the company of Lakshmipriyadevi, Saci continued her worship of Krishna with great determination, living on the banks of the Radhakunda, until one day Haridas Pandit called for her to return. He instructed her to quickly return to Jagannatha Puri, to continue with her bhajan and to preach what she had learned of Sri Caitanya's teachings. At that time almost all of Caitanya Mahaprabhu's personal associates had gone back to Godhead, and had entered into their eternal, unmanifest pastimes.
Sri Sacidevi left Vrindavana and returned to Jagannatha Puri. On the order of her gurudeva, she went to the house where Sarvabhauma Pandit had once stayed. There she engaged in bhajan and began giving classes on the Srimad-Bhagavatam. The old house of Sarvabhauma was dilapidated and crumbling. For a long time no one had lived there. No one remained there to worship the Damodara Salagram that had once been worshiped by Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya himself. Sacidevi established first-class worship of the Shalagrama according to the traditional rules and regulations of the Shastra. In order to hear her wonderful siddhantic interpretations of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, faithful devotees would come to Sarvabhauma's house day after day. In a short time her Bhagavatam classes became very famous, and people would come from miles around just to hear her.
One day, the king of Jagannatha Puri, Mukunda Deva, came to hear the Bhagavatam from Sacidevi. Hearing her original explanations of siddhanta, the king was completely astounded. He thought to himself that he would like to make a nice offering to Sacidevi, out of appreciation for her devotion to Krishna.
That night he had a wonderful dream. Lord Jagannatha came to him in his dream and ordered him, "Offer Sacidevi a place on the banks of the Ganges."
The following day king Mukunda Deva went to Sacidevi. With great humility, Sacidevi offered the king a sitting place and asked him the reason for his visit. King Mukunda Deva explained about the vision he received from Jagannatha and how the Lord had instructed him to construct a place by the Ganges for Sacidevi. Sri Sacidevi was not disposed to accept any sort of wealth or comfortable situation and wanted to refuse. But the king kept pressing his wishes again and again. At that time, not wanting to violate Lord Jagannatha's order, King Mukunda Deva issued a decree naming a holy ghat by the side of of the White Ganges after Sri Sacidevi.
The decree let it be known that Sri Sacidevi was a princess who had left everything to come to Jagannatha Puri and preach the holy gospel of Sri Caitanya.
One day the day of Mahavaruni-snana approached and Sri Sacidevi wanted to go to the Ganges to bathe. But Sacidevi's gurudeva had forbidden her ever to leave Jagannatha Puri. Remembering the order of her gurudeva, Sacidevi gave up her desire to bathe in the Ganges. That night, Jagannatha came to her in a dream and said, "Saci, don't think like that - the day when Varuni will take bath that day you you must go and bathe in the White Ganges. Gangadevi has been praying for your association. So you must go to the White Ganges."
Having had such a divine vision from Jagannatha, Sacidevi was very joyful. The day of Varuni-snana came. In the middle of the night, Sacidevi went to the White Ganges to bathe. As she bathed at Sveta Ganga, the current of Gangadevi picked her up and began moving along. The waters of the Ganges overflooded the pond, and the current ran before her in a flood until she arrived at the Jagannatha Mandira. Seeing this, thousands and thousands of the dhambhasis in Jagannatha Puri became ecstatic and took their bath in the ganges. The four directions were filled with prayers that were shouted in great ecstasy, and there was a huge commotion. In the midst of great jubilation everyone bathed in the Ganges.
In the midst of the comotion the guards at the gate of the Jagannatha temple awoke. They were speechless at seeing the commotion going on in all directions. Hearing a great noise they went inside the temple. They began talking loudly amongst themselves. Hearing all the noise, the king had also awakened. Anxious to see that everything was all right, the king ordered the gates to the temple opened. At this, the gates were opened. By some miracle, Sacidevi was standing there, alone, inside the temple of Jagannatha. The servants and pujaris of Jagannatha concluded that she must be a thief who has come to steal the valuable ornaments of Jagannatha.
Many people said, "This cannot be! There must be some mystery here." Immediately Sacidevi was imprisoned in the dungeons to stand trial for theft. Sacidevi's mind, however, did not become weak or confused. While imprisoned, she absorbed herself in constantly chanting the holy name of Krishna.
Late that night, King Mukunda Deva saw Lord Jagannatha in a dream. Jagannatha angrily told him: "Immediately release Sacidevi from your dungeons. It was because I wanted to personally arrange for washing her holy feet that I had the Ganges bring her to my temple. If you want your life to be auspicious, then you had better make the pandas and pujaris bow at her feet and pray for forgiveness. You yourself must take initiation from her."
Seeing this in his dream, the king was repentant, and right after taking his bath, he had the pandas and pujaris go to the place where Sacidevi was being held and immediately release her, falling at her feet and begging for forgiveness. They went there and payed full obeisances, falling down like rods before her feet. The king himself went before Sacidevi, and with great entreaties begged her to forgive him for his offenses at the holy feet of a devotee. At that time, he told Sacidevi of how Lord Jagannatha had ordered him to accept her as his guru and take mantra initiation from her.
Understanding all these things to be the pastimes of Lord Jagannatha, Sacidevi became extremely joyful. Her heart filled with divine love for Krishna. Placing her hand on the king's head, she gave him her blessings.
Soon after this, on the order of Jagannatha, on an auspicious day, Sri Sacidevi initiated King Mukunda Deva into the eighteen syllable Radha-Krishna mantra. Along with the king, many pujaris also took shelter of her on that day. From that day forward, Sri Sacidevi was known as Gangamata Goswamini.
One day a smarta-brahmana named Mahidhara Sharma had come to the banks of the Sveta-Ganga to worship his ancestors. Having heard of the glories of Gangamata Goswamini, he was eager to have darshan of her holy feet. After showing great respect to the pandit, Sri Gangamata Goswamini offered him a place to sit. She asked him what his purpose in coming was. The brahmana pandit explained the righteous reason for his coming. Seeing his genuine earnestness and piety, Sri Gangamata Goswamini explained the siddhanta of Srimad-Bhagavatam to the brahmana. The brahmana pandit was astonished by her explanations of Srimad-Bhagavatam, and dived and surfaced in the nectar of her ambrosial words.
After this, the pandit brahmana asked to take shelter at the lotus feet of Gangamata Goswamini. On an auspicious day she initiated him into the Radha-Krishna mantra of ten syllables. Mahidhara Sharma's birthplace is in Dhananjaya-pura. On the order of Gangamata Goswamini, he preached the message of nam-prema, and the teachings of Gaura-Nityananda throughout Bengal.
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