Gundicha and Rathayatra Pastimes
Sri Svarupa Damodar Goswami was one of the chief participants in the cleaning of the Gundicha temple on the eve of the Rathayatra. “Other than Nityananda, Advaita, Svarupa, Brahmananda Bharati and Paramananda Puri, everyone carried buckets of water.”
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.12.109)
During the washing of the Gundicha temple, a simple but intelligent Brahmin who was not aware of the nature of the Vaishnavas’ devotional etiquette, took some water, suddenly poured it over the Lord’s feet and drank it. In view of Mahaprabhu’s identity as the incarnation of Krishna, it was certainly no offense to drink the water which had washed Mahaprabhu’s feet even though it was done inside the temple of the Lord, but here Mahaprabhu acted as an exemplar for the world and showed dissatisfaction at the Brahmin’s behavior in order that no other person imitate him and become an offender to the feet of the Supreme Lord. He let his anger be known to Svarupa Damodar who caught the Bengali Brahmin and pushed him out of the temple. The next instant, however, he returned to the Lord’s side and asked him to forgive the Brahmin. Though a Vaishnava may externally appear to be hard-hearted, internally he or she is always filled with compassion and thinks of the welfare of every living being.
Every year during Balaram, Jagannath and Subhadra’s ratha festival, the Lord would make four kirtan groups with his devotees. Svarupa Damodar would sing in the first of these, with Advaita participating as the principal dancer. With other kirtan groups from Shantipur, Sri Khanda and Kulina Grama, there were seven sampradayas altogether. In each group, there were two drummers, meaning that there were 14 altogether. When the kirtan started in each of the seven groups, Mahaprabhu demonstrated his divine powers by appearing simultaneously in the midst of each one of them. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur writes, “Just as the Lord expands into numerous forms during the rasa dance and to marry the queens in Dvaraka, Lord Chaitanya expanded in order to be present in the midst of each sampradayas’ kirtan. The members of each group were convinced that the Lord was in his group alone and in none of the others.”
When Mahaprabhu wished to dance madly, he would have the seven groups come together and would dance in their midst, appointing nine singers and making Svarupa Damodar the principal singer. As the devotees became progressively intoxicated by the kirtan, Mahaprabhu danced frenziedly for many moments. After this, Mahaprabhu’s mood changed. Svarupa Damodar was able to understand the Lord’s intention and began to sing,
sei to parananatha painu
jaha lagi madana-dahane jhuri genu
”I have finally found my life’s lord, for whom I had so long burned in the flames of desire.”
Bhaktivinoda Thakur writes, “As the Lord’s frenzied dancing came to an end, he became absorbed in the mood of Radharani at Kurukshetra. This song about meeting the beloved after a long separation came naturally to Svarupa Damodar’s lips.” As he felt the mood of union strengthening, the Lord began to loudly recite the following verse:
yah kaumaraharah sa eva hi varas ta eva caitra-kshapas
te conmilita-malati-surabhayah praudhah kadambanilah
sa caivasmi tathapi tatra surata-vyapara-lila-vidhau
reva-rodhasi vetasi-taru-tale cetah samutkanthate
(Kavya-prakasha 1)My husband (vara) is the same who took my maidenhead
and these the moondrenched nights we knew;
the very breeze is blowing from the Vindhya hills,
heavy with the scent of newly blossomed jasmine.
I too am still the same;
and yet with all my heart I yearn for the reedbeds by the stream
which knew our happy, graceful,
unending bouts of love.
This verse was written about a mundane lover and his mistress, but Mahaprabhu recited it with great respectful feeling. No one could understand what was his hidden intention other than Svarupa Damodar.
The Lord repeated this verse again and again. No one but Svarupa Damodar could understand his intention.
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.13.122)
When Rupa Goswami heard the Lord recite this verse, he himself composed a verse which revealed the deeper meaning which the Lord had envisioned. He wrote it down on a palm leaf and hid it in the roof of his cottage. The Lord somehow or other found this palm leaf and when he read it was overcome by prema.
When Mahaprabhu went to the residence of Srila Rupa Goswami, He accidentally saw the palm leaf on the roof, and thus He read the verse composed by him. After reading the verse, he went into a ecstatic mood. While he was in that state, Srila Rupa Goswami came and immediately fell down on the floor like a stick.
The Lord got up and gave him a slap. Then, he embraced him and began to speak as follows: “No one knows the purport of my verse. How could you understand my intention?” Saying this, Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu bestowed various blessings upon Rupa Goswami, and taking the verse, he later showed it to Svarupa Goswami. With great wonder, the Lord asked him how Rupa Goswami could have understood the intentions of his mind. Srila Svarupa Damodar Goswami replied, “If Rupa Goswami can understand your mind, I believe it must be the result of your special benediction.”
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.13.66-72)
Rupa Goswami’s verse was the following:
priyah so’yam krishnah sahacari kurukshetra-militas
tathaham sa radha tad idam ubhayoh sangama-sukham
mano me kalindi-pulina-vipinaya sprihayati
(Padyavali, 383)O companion! This is my beloved Krishna
meeting me here in Kurukshetra;
and I am the same Radha,
and both of us are feeling the joy of union.
Even so, my mind wishes for the forest
by the banks of the Yamuna
where the fifth note of his flute
plays sweetly within my heart.
Mahaprabhu’s vision was that the Jagannath temple was Kurukshetra and the Gundicha temple Vrindavan. In the mood of a gopi, he began to pull on Jagannath’s chariot, pulling him back to Vrindavan. Sri Svarupa Damodar Goswami was able to understand all of these various moods that Mahaprabhu experienced during the Rathayatra.
The Lord had relished these topics in his room with Svarupa Damodar for days and nights. When he was overcome with this mood while dancing before the Lord’s chariot, he would repeat this verse while gazing upon Jagannath’s face. No one can describe Sri Svarupa Damodar Goswami’s good fortune, for he was completely absorbed, body, mind and soul, in the Lord. His senses are the Lord’s senses, and he would sing so that the Lord could more deeply relish the sentiments of love.
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.13.161-4)
Jagannath Deva lives in Dvaraka and desires to go once a year to Vrindavan. This is symbolized by the Rathayatra festival when he travels from the Jagannath temple (Dvaraka) to Gundicha (Vrind_vana). When he goes to Vrindavan, Jagannath does not take Lakshmi with him, because Lakshmi is not qualified to participate in the Vrindavan lila. Only the gopis have such qualifications, and Radha is the best of the gopis.
Shvarupa said, “Listen, my Lord, to the reason for this. Lakshmi does not have the right to participate in the games of Vrindavan. Krishna’s companions in the Vrindavan lila are the gopis, and there are none but they who can enchant his mind.”
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.14.122-3)
Amongst the gopis, Radha is the best. She is a treasure chest of jewels of love in the bright and spotless sentiment of conjugal love.
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.14.160)
Jagannath mounted his chariot after telling Lakshmi that he would be back on the very next day. When Lakshmi saw that the Lord was late in returning, she became angry and gathering up her forces, sallied forth to attack her beloved. Her servants captured the servants of Lord Jagannath and brought them to her. Such lovers’ quarrels are not heard of anywhere in the world. Nevertheless, the mana (loving jealousy) of the gopis is superior to that of Lakshmi, and of all the gopis, that of Radha is the purest. When Mahaprabhu wished to hear about the gopis’ mana from Svarupa Damodar, Svarupa gave him great satisfaction by answering extensively. He was always able to please the Lord because he knew his wishes so intimately.
Excerpted from Chaitanya: His Life and Associates By Srila Bhakti Ballabha Tirtha Goswami