Sri Jahnava Thakurani

Sri Jahnava Thakurani

Shri Suryadasa Sarakhela lived in Shaligrama. He had five brothers: Damodara, Jagannatha, Gauridasa, Krishna dasa, and Nrishinga Chaitanya.
His fathers name was Shri Kamsari Mishra and his mother’s name was Shri Kamala Devi.
Surya dasa used to be the King’s treasurer and it was in this connection that he was given the title "Sarakhela."

Shri Suryadasa Sarakhela had two daughters. The older of the two was named Shri Vasudha and the younger was named Shri Jahnava. The Gaura-Ganodesha-dipika says:
shri varuni revatyoramshasambhave,
tasya priye shrivasudha cha jahnava,
shri suryadasakhya-mahatmanah sute,
kakudmirupasya cha suryatejasah,
kecit shri vasudha-devim,
kalav api vivrinute,
ananga-manjarim kecij,
jahnavim ca pracakshate,
ubhayam tu smichinam,
purva-nyayat satam matam.

Kavi Karnapura says: "Shri Nityananda Prabhu’s dear consorts, Shri Vasudha and Jahnava Devi are expansions of Varuni and Revati, respectively.
Shri Suryadasa Pandit had formerly been Maharaja Kukudmi. His bodily effulgence was as brilliant as the sun. Some say that Shrimati Vasudha-devi is the incarnation of Shrimati Ananga-manjari, and others say that Shrimati Jahnavi-devi is the incarnation of Shrimati Ananga-manjari. In truth, both opinions are correct. They are both incarnations of Shrimati Ananga-manjari.
The marriage of Jahnava Thakurani

Suryadas Sarakhela was a dear devotee of Nityananda and Gauranga. Seeing his daughters maturing into the full bloom of their youth, he began to think about the subject of their marriage. This is recorded in Bhakti-Ratnakara.
Suryadasa Pandit began to think about this matter very deeply. Once, thinking in this way late at night, he fell asleep. At that time, he had a blissful dream which filled with joy his mind. In his dream he saw himself giving his two daughters in marriage to Shri Nityananda Prabhu.
Seeing this wonderful dream, the pandit swam in an ocean of ecstasy. A little while later, his dream broke. The next morning, he told a brahmana friend of his dream. He said,
"I saw that Nityananda Prabhu is Balaram Himself. His unprecedent bodily effulgence filled the ten directions with its radiance. His arms and legs were decorated with all manner of wondrous and beautiful ornaments. My two daughters accompanied him on either side of him, and, having assumed the forms of Revati and Varuni, they were exceedingly beautiful. Certainly I must offer the hands of my daughters to Shri Nityananda Prabhu in marriage. Until he accepts them, I shall never find peace."

In this way, having informed his brahmana friend of his intentions, Sarakhela Pandit dispatched him to Nabadwipa, to Shrivasa Pandita. With great haste the brahmana left, and soon he arrived at the house of Shrivasa. At that time, Nityananda Prabhu was staying at the house of Shrivasa Pandita. The brahmana explained to Shrivasa how Suryadas Sarakhela wanted to offer his two daughters in marriage to Nityananda Prabhu. Upon hearing all this, Shrivasa became happy, and submitted the entire matter to Shri Nityananda Prabhu. The merciful Nityanandna Prabhu told the brahmana to return to Suryadas Sarakhela with the assurance that he would certainly fulfill his heart’s desire. When the news came to Advaita Acharya, he became extremely happy.
He said, "May all this take place very soon." Meanwhile, the brahmana returned to Shaligrama and gave the auspicious news to Suryadas Sarakhela. Upon hearing this, Suryadas’s ecstasy knew no bounds.

In Borogacchi grama lived the son of King Harihora, Shri Krishnadasa. He was a great and dear devotee of Shri Nityananda Prabhu. He was prepared to bear and make all the necessary arrangements for a lavish wedding, putting his own home at the disposal of the entire celebration. Wanting Lord Nityananda to accept this as his offering, Krishna dasa went quickly to Nityananda Prabhu, and prayed that he might be allowed to bring the Lord to Borogacchi gram and commence with the wedding there.
Shrivasa, Shri Advaita Acharya, Shri Chandrashekhara, Murari Gupta as well as all the other devotees of Shri Gaurasundara gathered there and began performing sankirtana. Shri Surya Dasa Sarakhela’s brother, Krishnadasa, quickly returned to Borogacchi Gram. Nityananda Prabhu also arrived there shortly, as did all the devotees from Shaligrama. Seeing Nityananda Prabhu and all the different devotees who had arrived, Suryadas Sarakhela ran out on the road before them in great ecstasy and, welcoming them, invited them to his own home, after falling before the lotus feet of Shri Nityananda Prabhu in humble submission. The Bhakti-Ratnakara records this as follows: "Falling at the lotus feet of Shri Nityananda Prabhu Suryadasa flooded the ground with his tears. With his two hands he tightly held the lotus feet of Nityananda Prabhu. His voice trembling, he wanted to speak, but could find no words. Nityananda Prabhu slowly began to smile, and gradually was unable to contain his ecstatic laughter. Bestowing his full mercy upon Suryadasa, he embraced him. Suryadasa became absorbed in bliss. Who could have understood the limits of his ecstasy? Seeing his brother, Gauridasa also became ecstatic; not being able to contain his patience, was overwhelmed with internal delight.

A little while later, Shri Suryadasa Pandita worship the lotus feet of Nityananda Prabhu and offered his two daughters — Shri Vasudha and Shri Jahnava Mata — into the hands of Nityananda. The Bhakti Ratnakara says, "In the opinion of both the scriptures and the people in general Suryadasa was most fortunate, having given his daughters in charity to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Nityananda Prabhu.
The Kheturi Festival
Thereafter, following the beautiful and auspicious wedding, Shri Nityananda Prabhu remained in Shaligrama Pura for some time. In time, he went to Nabadwipa dhama, and arrived at the house of Sachidevi with his two wives. He offered his obeisances to the lotus feet of Shri Sachidevi.
Sachimata was delighted to see Vasudha and Jahnava. She embraced them again and again, sat them on her lap and affectionately pinched them on the cheek.

All the Vaishnava housewives in Nabadwipa showed great affection toward the two brides of Nityananda. On the order of Sachidevi, Nityananda went to the house of Advaita Acharya in Shantipura. When Sita Thakurani saw Vasudha and Shri Jahnava, she floated in the waves of ecstasy. She also embraced them as affectionately as Sachidevi had. Shri Nityananda stayed there at the house of Advaita for some time, until Uddharana Datta Thakura requested him to come to stay at his place in Saptagrama. There he stayed for a few days, and, after taking part in a great sankirtan festival, went on to Boro Grama. Nityananda Prabhu performed endless kirtan pastimes and wandered from one place to the next for this purpose.
After some time, Shri Vasudhadevi gave birth to a daughter named Ganga and a son named Virachandra. Shri Jahnavadevi, on the other hand, had no children.

After Shri Nityananda Prabhu, Advaita Acharya, Shrivasa Pandita, and many other members of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s personal entourage had gone back to Godhead, Shri Jahnava Mata wanted to further inundate the world with a flood of sankirtan nectar. At that time, in Kheturi Gram, on the Phalguna Purnima day, the day of Mahaprabhu’s advent, a great festival was to be held. The three acharyas Narottama, Shyamananda, and Shrinivasa (the three-fold mercy-potency of the Lord) heard that a great festival was to be held in Kheturi Gram at the house of Raja Santosha Datta. They too arrived to take part. The festival had been arranged by King Santosh Dutta. He was the son of Narottam’s brother as well as Narottam’s disciple. For this festival, Jahanava Devi herself, the wife of Lord Nityananda, had come. Along with her came her uncle, Shri Krishna Mishra, as well as Shirpati, Shrinidhi,
Minaketana Ramadasa, Murari Chaitanya, Jnana dasa, Parameshvari dasa, Balarama Dasa, Vrindavan Das Thakura, and all the other dearmost followers of Shri Nityananda Prabhu. Jahanava Mata first went to the house of Gauridasa Pandit in Ambika Kalna along with all her followers. The disciple of Gauri das Pandita, Hridaya Chaitanya with great cordiality welcomed Shri Jahnava Mata and all the devotees. Shri Jahnava Mata with her own hand cooked the offering for the Gaura-Nityananda deities there. Having had a festival there for one night, they went on to Nabadwipa. Arriving at the house of Mahaprabhu, and not seeing Sachimata there, Shri Jahanva Mata was very unhappy to have missed her, and felt the pangs of separation. Shripati and Shrinidhi then took Shri Jahnava Mata to their own Nabadwip home. Not seeing Shrivasa Pandita and Malinidevi there, she was heartbroken and began to cry. They stayed the night there, and on the following day went to Shantipura. Finding that Shri Advaita Acharya and Shri Sita Thakurani had passed away, Jahnava Mata was filled with grief. Their sons, Achyutananda and Gopala cordially greeted Jahnava Mata and all her Vaishnava associates, and welcomed them with a proper ceremonial reception.

At length, Shri Jahnava Mata, along with her devotee associates went on to a place in Kanthak Nagara known as Teliyabudhir Gram, where the brother of Ramchandra Kaviraja, whose name was Govinda Kaviraja, greeted Her with all respect and offered puja to her. After staying there one night, they all set out for Kheturi Grama.
Arriving on the other side of the river from Kheturi Grama, they found that Raja Santosha Datta had made arrangements for boats to ferry the devotees across the river Padma as well as other conveyances to bring the devotees into Kheturi Gram. He also made many other arrangements for the well-being of the devotees, including suitable housing and ample prasada.
Everything was decorated very beautifully. Raja Santosha Datta personally came a long way down the road just to welcome Jahanava Mata and her company by offering them flowers and garlands, as well as many other gifts.

In this way, all the devotees headed by Jahnava Mata entered Kheturi Gram while performing Sankirtana. At this time, with Shrinivasa, Narottama, and Shyamananda in front welcomed the delegation of devotees headed by Jahnava Mata by offering their full obeisances with great humility in the dust of the road. The devotees embraced each other in great ecstasy, and gradually they filled the four directions with the ecstatic and tumultuous sound of their kirtan.
Raja Santosha Datta had caused beautiful houses to be constructed to house the devotees headed by Jahnava Mata. He also made arrangements for servants to care for their every need. Gradually the different devotees headed by Jahanva retired to their respective quarters, and after having honored prasada, they rested. Seeing that the service of the Vaishnavas had been properly taken care of, Raja Santosha Datta was very happy.

The following day was the appearance day of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Within the newly constructed mandir, six deities were to be installed. In the evening, the devotees began performing sankirtana. Shri Raghunandana, from Shri Khanda, began the preliminary kirtan. All the people of Kheturi gram turned out for the occasion. Within the midst of that great assembly, Nityananda’s shakti, Shri Jahanva Mata looked very beautiful. Upon seeing her, upon seeing the devotees gathered there, and upon hearing the divine kirtan of those great souls, all the atheists and sinners were supremely purified. Everyone had left their homes and hurried out to see the devotees and to drown themselves in the nectar of the kirtan. Everyone dived and surfaced in the ocean of ecstasy, and in this way were drowned in the bliss of Vaikuntha. In this way, the kirtan continued until midnight.
The following day, with great pomp, and before a huge crowd, Shrinivas Acharya himself performed the abhishek ceremony for the installation of the six deities. On the order of Jahnava Mata and the devotees, Narottama Thakura began to perform kirtan. In the midst of that kirtan, Shri Gauranga Mahaprabhu Himself, accompanied Nityananda Prabhu and all his eternal associates, made his divine appearance. Who can describe the overflowing of ecstasy felt by the assembled devotees there in Kheturi Grama on that day? Those who could remember that festival all attained eternal fame.

On the third day of the festival, Jahanva Mata herself cooked the bhoga for the deities. "Shri Jahnava Devi was extremely delighted by the Sankirtan festival. After purifying herself by bathing in the Ganges at midday, with great enthusiasm, she cooked wonderful preparations of rice, vegetables and other things. Her cooking was unprecedented." (BR 10th Taranga). Shri Jahnava Mata herself distributed prasada by her own hand to the great souls present there at that grand festival.
After the festival was over, Jahnava Mata left Kheturi Gram accompanied by her entourage of devotees, and set out for Vrindvana. On the way there, they passed through Prayaga and Kashi and arrived in Mathura. There they visited Krishna’s holy birthplace, and, after bathing at Vishrama Ghata, they entered Vrindavana. In order to welcome Shri Jahnava Mata, some of the Vrindvana devotees met her in Mathura. Shri Parameshvari Das describes this meeting, and mentions the names of the different devotees who turned out to meet her, as follows: "There was Gopal Bhatta Goswami, a reservoir of gaur-prema, and Bhugarbha Goswami, as well as the highly qualified Lokanatha. Krishna dasa brahmachari and Shri Krishna Pandita, Shri Madhu Pandit and the celebrated Shri Jiva were also present there. All of them were introduced to Jahnava Mata, who was informed of their names by Jiva Goswami. Hearing all this, Jahnava Mata’s great ecstasy was increased." (Bhakti Ratnakara)

Having approached Shri Jahnava Mata, all the goswamis present there fell before her lotus feet and offered their pranams, and she also offered her pranams to them.
Shri Jahnava Mata, seeing the ecstatic efforts of the Goswamis was very happy. At last she toured the holy places in Vrindavana and saw the different deities of Vrindavana, headed by Shri Govinda, Shri Gopinatha, and Shri Madana Mohana. The Goswamis had made an extensive effort to see to it that the arrangements for Jahnava Mata’s stay were
topmost. After some days in Vrindavana, she went to see Govardhan hill, Radha-kunda and Shyamakunda. When she visited the different places of the Lord’s pastimes, different divine moods amd emotions connected with those pastimes awakened within her. In this way, after wandering about in Vrindavana for some time, she returned to Gaudadesha, Bengal.
Travels of Jahnava Devi

Having reached Gaudamandala, the greater circle of Mahaprabhu’s pastimes in Bengal, She first went to Kheturi Gram. There, the devotees came out to greet and welcome her, led by Narottama and Ramchandra Kaviraja. Afterstaying there a few days, she went on to Budhari Gram. In Budhari Grama lived ther brother of Vamshidasa, Shri Shyamadasa Chakravarti. She proposed that his daughter Shri Hemalata should be married to Boro Gangadasa. On her order, Shyamadasa gave his daughter to Boro Gangadasa.
After the wedding, Jahnava Mata gave Gangadasa the responsibilty of worshiping the deity of Shyamasundara. After staying in Badhuri Gram for some time, Jahnava Mata went to see the birthplace of Shri Nityananda Prabhu in the village of Ekachakra. As she took darshan there, she heard about the father and mother of Shri Nityananda, Harai Pandit and Padmavati. Hearing about her father-in-law and mother-in-law, and meditating upon them, She was overwhelmed with separation and began to weep. In the company of a local brahman, she saw the different places of Nityananda Prabhu’s childhood pastimes. No one can describe the bliss she felt upon seeing those places. That day she stayed at the empty house which had once been occupied by Nityananda’s parents, which had once been Nityananda’s home. She passed the night chanting the names of the Lord in kirtan.

Having stayed for one night in Ekachakra, she went to Kanthak Nagara, near Katwa. She saw the place of the Lord’s sannyasa, and wept. From there, she went to Yajigram, to the house of Shrinivasa Thakura. The devotees there, headed by Shrinivasa Acharya, welcomed her with great devotion. Shrinivasa invited her into his home and performed a puja in honor of Jahnava Mata, worshiping her. In this way, that best of Acharyas, Shrinivasa, absorbed himself in the service of Jahnava Mata. After staying in Yajigram for some days, she again returned to Nabadwipa, to the birthplace of Shriman Mahaprabhu. At that time, Ishan, the family servant of Mahaprabhu was in his ripe old age. Upon entering the house of Mahaprabhu, Jahanva Mata fainted in ecstasy. Seeing her absorbed in a divine trance of ecstasy, the devotees also became ecstatic and began to weep tears of prem. From the house of Mahaprabhu, She went to the courtyard of Shrivasa, where she spent the night. And all night, in the coutryard of Shrivasa, the devotees engaged in mahasankirtana, dancing and chanting with great enthusiasm, for the courtyard of Shrivasa is where Mahaprabhu began his sankirtan pastimes. That night, Jahanva Mata had a dream in which she saw Shri Gaurasundara and his devotees performing different pastimes.
The following day, She offered her prayers again and again to the holy dham of Nabadwipa, and then turned towards Ambika Kalna and set out in that direction. At again being visited by Shri Jahnava Mata, the residents of Ambika Kalna were overjoyed. Remembering Gauridasa Pandita, who had since passed away, Shri Jahnava Mata wept again and again. She offered her prayers there, at the lotus feet of the Shri Gaura and Nityananda deities.
There the devotees began a kirtan, and in the midst of that great and tumultuous kirtan, Gaura and Nityananda personally appeared. That night, Jahnava Mata, as she had done previously, cooked many preparations for the pleasure of Gaura-Nityananda and offered it them upon the altar. Later, she herself distributed that prasada to the devotees there. That night, as she slept, in her dreams she saw Gauridasa Pandita with Gaura and Nityananda. They all offered Jahnava Mata their blessings.

The following day, bidding farewell to the devotees, Jahanva Mata went to the home of Uddharana Datta Thakura. There, after staying for a one-night sankirtan festival, she got in a boat and returned to her own home in Khorodoha Gram. In Khoradoha Gram, upon seeing her once again, the devotees felt boundless joy. With great eagerness everyone tried to push in front of the crowd to catch a glimpse of her. The devotees greeted her with sankirtan. Nityananda’s son, Birchandra and his daughter Shri Ganga offered their prayers at the lotus feet of Shri Jahnava Mata, and in turn were affectionately embraced by her. She smelled their heads in affection. After this, Jahnava Mata and Shri Vasudha devi, offered their respects to each other. After this, Shri Jahnava Mata spoke of her visit to the different holy places in Gaura Mandala and Vraja Mandala with all the devotees. Shri Jahnava Mata retained Parameshvari Thakura as a servant. The two of them were unlimitedly happy to see one another once again. The other devotees bid their farewells.

The story of Shri Jahnava Mata’s pilgrimage throughout the holy places of Gaura Mandala and Vraja Mandala has become quite famous throughout the society of Gaudiya Vaishnavas. Shri Jahnava Mata is a reservoir of prema-bhakti and is known as Nityananda-svarupini—the other self of Nityananda Prabhu. She delivered many sinners and atheists by her mercy. Her divine opulence (aishavarya) and sweetness (madhurya) are both astounding.

The birthday of Shri Jahnava Mata, the shakti of Nityananda, is celebrated
on the 8th day of the full moon in the month of Vaishakha.

The following is an excerpt from Bhakti Ratnakara, Eleventh Wave, verses
150-189, translated by Advaitadas.
Ma Jahnava’s Stay at Radhakunda

Sri Radhika kunda-vasi sri dasa gosai; suni harsa hoila—colibare sadhya nai (150)
Sri rupa vicchede sada adhairya hrdaya; annadi vihane deha ksina atisaya (151)
niyama nirvaha yaiche ye cesta antare; se sab dekhite kar hiya na vidare (152)

That this book was especially written for Raghunatha dasa Gosvami is proven by a verse that appears in the end of the book, starting with the words radhakunda-tati kutira vasatih.

"When, Srila Raghunatha das Gosvami, who resided at Radhika-kunda, heard that Mother Jahnava had arrived in Vraja, he became very happy— but unfortunately he was unable to go and see her. His heart was always agitated by feelings of separation from Srila Rupa Gosvami and he had given up all solid food. Consequently his body had become greatly emaciated. Whose heart will not break by seeing how he followed all his regulative duties?"

krsna dasa kaviraja adi bahu jan; pranami yaite koilo atma nivedane (153)
gopala, raghava panditadi ek sathe; cole nandisvara govardhanadi hoite (154)
sabe vrndavane kori isvari darsana; janaila dasa gosvamira nivedana (155)

"Many great devotees like Krsna dasa Kaviraja Gosvami went (to Mother Jahnava) to offer obeisances to her and surrender themselves to her.
Gopala, Raghava Pandita and others came together from Nandisvara and Govardhana to Vrndavana to see Jahnava Isvari. They all told her of Dasa Gosvami’s plea."

sri jahnava isvarira ye hoilo antare; taha vivariya ke kohite sakti dhare? (156)
sri gopala bhatta adi gosvami sakale; janaila—sri kunda yaibo pratah kale (157)
sabe kohe — sri kundadi koriya darsana; sighra kori etha koriben agamana (158)
srama upasama hoibek bhalo mate; tabe jaiben ban-bhramana korite (159)

"Who is able to describe the feelings within Sri Jahnava Isvari’s heart?
She told Sri Gopala Bhatta and all the other Gosvamis — "Tomorrow morning I will go to Sri Radhakunda." They all replied: "Yes, quickly go to see Sri Radhakunda and other places. After properly resting you can then go on a forest tour of Vraja."

iha suni sri isvari ullasita mone; colilen sri kunde vestita vijna gane (160)
sri kundete gelen bahulavana diya; kunda sobha dekhi’ preme umadaye hiya (161)
raghunatha dasa gosvamira sthiti yatha; mone ei—tare giya dekhiben tatha (162)
sri dasa gosvami se nirjana kunda tire; korena sri nama grahanadi dhire dhire (163)
krsna das kaviraja agrete asiya; dasa gosvamira age chila dadaiya (164)
avasara paiya koroye nivedana; ‘sri jahnava isvarira hoilo agamana’ (165)

"Hearing this, Sri Isvari (Jahnava) was very happy at heart and she went to Radhakunda, surrounded by her wise and learned devotees. She went to Sri Radhakunda through Bahulavana. Seeing the beauty of the kunda her heart was startled with ecstatic love, and she thought: ‘Let me go there where Sri Raghunatha dasa Gosvami is staying." Sri Dasa Gosvami was softly chanting nama on a solitary bank of the kunda when Krsnadas Kaviraja came before him and told him on the opportune moment: ‘Sri Jahnava Isvari has come."

suni ki adbhuta prema vyapilo hrdaye; agusari cole asru yukta netra dvaye (166)
sri isvari dekhe dasa gosvami gamana; atisaya ksina tanu, teja surya-sama (167)
sri isvari antara bujhite keba pare?; jhare dui netre vari—nivarite nare (168)

"When Sri Dasa Gosvami heard this, such a wonderful prema pervaded his heart, and he came forward with tear-filled eyes. Sri Isvari saw how Dasa Gosvami walked, how greatly emaciated his body was and how he shone like the sun. Who can understand the heart of Sri Isvari? She could not stop the tears streaming from her eyes."

sri dasa gosvami pranamite dhairya dhari; koilo ye ucit premamayi sri isvari (169)
sri isvari age dasa gosai ye koy; taha suni kara va na vidare hrdaya (170)
madhava acarya adi sabara sahite; milane adbhuta prema uthalaye cite (171)
ki adbhuta asru-dhara sabara nayane; sakalei sthira hoilen koto ksane (172)
arit gramera vrajavasi lokagana; sabe harsa isvarira koriya darsana (173)

"Sri Dasa Gosvami calmed down and offered his obeisances unto Mother Jahnava. Loving Sri Isvari then did what was proper. Whose heart will not break after hearing what Sri Isvari told Dasa Gosvami? Dasa Gosvami’s heart also overflowed with astonishing prema as he met with all the other devotees, like Madhava Acarya. What wonderful streams of tears flowed from everyone’s eyes! After a while everyone calmed down. The Vrajavasis from Arit village (the present Radhakunda village) were all very happy to see Jahnava Isvari."

dina tina cari rahi sri radhakundete; korilen paka kriya parama yatnete (174)
krsne bhoga samarpiya ullasa antare; bhunjaila vrajavasi vaisnava sabare (175)
prasada sevane ye ananda premoday; keba na dekhite sadha kore se samaya (176)
sri jahnava isvarira alaukika riti; ki bujhibo? mo charera nahi buddhi gati (177)

"She stayed at Sri Radhakunda for three or four days, and very attentively cooked there. With a blissful heart she offered her preparations to Krsna and then fed the prasada to all the Vrajavasis and Vaisnavas. Who was not fulfilled at that time by seeing the ecstatic love that arose from the service (eating) of this prasada? Who am I to understand the extraordinary activities of Sri Jahnava Isvari? The brain of a fool like me cannot conceive of them."

eka dina madhyahna samaye kunda tire; suni’ se vamsira dhvani sthira hoite nare (178)
kautuka dekhilo se anya agocara; vijne vistaribo e prasanga manohara (179)
tathapi kohiye kichu— isvari ullase; vamsi-dhvani suniya cahaye cari pase (180)

"One day at noontime Mother Jahnava heard the sound of a flute on the bank of Radhakunda and she could not remain calm anymore. She could perceive this curiosity, but others couldn’t. Still, for the realised devotees I will recount some of this captivating narration. Hearing the flute-sound, Mother Jahnava blissfully looked all around."

kadambera tale dekhe syama cikaniya; tribhanga bhangima koti kandarpa jiniya (181)
manda manda hasi’ se madhura vamsi raya; ke dhare dhairaya jate jagat matay (182)
sri radhika lalitadi sakhigana-sange; bedhiyache syamala sundare maha range (183)
se adbhuta sobha dekhi’ jahnava isvari; hoila murcchita yaiche kohite na pari (184)

"At the base of a Kadamba-tree she saw glossy Syamasundara, standing in a threefold bending form, His beauty defeating that of millions of Cupids.
Who in the world would not be maddened at the sight of this slightly smiling, sweet flute-player? Very blissfully Sri Radhika, Lalita and the other sakhis stood surrounding this very playful Syamasundara. When Jahnava Isvari saw this astonishing beauty she fainted in a manner that I cannot describe."

koto ksane cetan paiya sthira hoila; nirjane e ranga—anye prakasa na koila (185)
jaiben sri govardhanadi darsanete; taha janaila dasa gosvami agrete (186)
sri dasa gosvami bhume podi pranamiya; dila anumati dainye nimagna hoiya (187)
sunite se dainya kara hiya na vidare?; ki kohibo isvarira ye hoilo antare (188)
paricarikadi madhye jahnava isvari; kunda hoite govardhane gela dhiri dhiri (189)

"After a short while she regained her composure and kept this curiosity to herself, without revealing it to others. Then she went to Srila Raghunatha dasa Gosvami and told him that she was going to have darsana of Govardhana and other places. Sri Dasa Gosvami fell to the ground and offered prostrated obeisances unto her before granting her permission to leave, immersed in an ocean of humility as he was. Whose heart will not break after hearing of this humility? And what can I say to describe Isvari’s heart? Thus Jahnava Isvari slowly left Radhakunda to go to Govardhana, surrounded by her servants."

The following is a description of Salila Kamala, the kunja of Srimati Ananga Manjari, as it appears in the Govinda Lilamrta of Krishnadas Kaviraja (7.100-101)

upari lahari tulyAkara citraiH sphuradbhir
marakatacaya garbhaih puSparAgendu kAntaiH
ghaTitam itara loke toyavad bhAsamAnaM
maNimaya kumudAmbhojAli haMsAdi yuktam
dhanapati dizi tAdRk setubandhAnuSaktaM
SaD adhika daza patrAmbhojavat sannivezam
salila kamala sadmAnaGga yuG maJjarI
zam pradam atula sulAvaNyollasal lAlasIti

"In the north of Radhakunda is the kunja of Sri Radha’s younger sister Ananga Manjari, known as Salila Kamala. It appears to outsiders as radiant as water. It is shaped like a sixteen petaled lotus and is connected to the shore (being actually situated within the water) by a bridge.

This kunja is studded with emeralds, rubies and moonstones as well as jewelled lilies, lotuses and swans. Seeing this kunja, which gives matchless bliss to Krishna with its fine, natural beauty, it seems as if a garland of waves manifests above it."

Sri Jahnava, the wife of Caitanya`s chief associate Nityananda,stands as prominent vasnavi. She was widowed, it would seem,when still fairly young. She had no children herself, but her nephew and stepson ,Nityananda`s son Virabhadra(born of Vasudha),was not yet of an age where he could exercise leadership in the dynastic system which was apparently envisioned as appropriate for the continuation of the movement. In the absence of another appropriate leader, Jahnava stepped in to fill the leadership void.

It is quite clear that Jahnava won respect throughout the Vaisnava community as well as constituting a strong influence on her two principle disciples,Virabhadra and Ramacandra. She was known as Isvari, the feminine form of the commonly used for God , Iisvara.
At the very least, the term implies a great mastery over others. Narahari recounts in his "Bhaktiratnakara" that Yadunanadan Das and the other devotees gathered in Katwa as Jahnava made her way to Kheturi out of respect ate only after she had finished her repast.

Jahnava and Vasudha were sisters, daughters of a brahmana scholar, Suryadas Sarkhel, and nieces of Gauridas Pandit, both of which brothers were significant devotees of Nityananda and Caitanya in their own right. The two girls were given in marriage to Nityananda, but Jahnava remained without issue while Vasudha gave birth to two children: a girl,Ganga,and a boy Virabhadra. Though Jahnava was Virabhadra`s stepmother, she played a more significant role in his spiritual development than did his natural mother. One legend is recounted in the Nityananda Vamsavistara [1] in which it is said that Virabhadra was seeking a spiritual master (having been orphaned before receiving initiation from his own father). In the course of his search, he approached Sita Thakurani, the wife of Advaita, the third member of the Gaudiya Vaisnava divine triumvirate. She told him that he should seek closer to home, but Virabhadra was not convinced that Jahnava was sufficiently qualified to be his guru. On his return home, however, he saw his stepmother as she was completing her bath. While drying her hair, her wet sari slipped and in order to conceal her nakedness, she sprouted two extra arms to hold up the falling cloth. Virabhadra was impressed by this show of divinity and asked Jahnava to initiate him[2].

NOTES:
[1] The same story is told in a somewhat different fashion in the 24th chapter of some editions of the "Premavilasa"

[2]Four-armed human forms are the prerogative of denizens of the planets of Visnu, though they have no particular theological relevance for followers of Radha and Krsna, where they are specifically relegated to that category of manifestation of divine power held in disdain by the worshippers of the madhura sentiment. Even so, Caitanya himself is said to have displayed a number of unusual forms in the "Caitanya-bhagavata" and "Caitanya-caritamrta", particularly in the early part of his career when perhaps it was felt that some concrete evidence of his divinity was needed.

Virabhadra was not Jahnava`s only important disciple. Other disciples of distinction begin with Ramacandra Gosvami.
Grandson of Vamsivadanananda Thakur , Ramacandra was adopted by Jahnava afhter she gave the benediction to his father that he would have two sons. After the second son was born, when Ramacandra was 11 or 12 years old (ca.1545) Jahnava took him to live with her. Ramacandra was given special treatment by his stepmother and guru, and to some extent become a rival to Virabhadra for her favours, accompanying her on her last trip to Braj. He later founded the Baghnapada branch of Gosvamis through his nephew Rajavallabh`s family ; he himself never married[3].

It would appear that Jahnava had imbibed some of the scholarship of her father and uncle, and it stood her in good stead when she began to take on the role of Nityananda`s successor. In "Muralivilas", Jahnava instructs Ramacandra Gosvami in the details of the path of worship (manjaribhave bhajan) outlined by Rupa Gosvami. Nevertheless, despite her personal scholarship, she does not seem to have given public discourses on scripture and was even self-effacing when in the association of male devotees. For instance,in Kethuri, she did not ascend to the podium with the associates of Caitanya and Nityananda who were present there[4].

Nor did she do anything more than act as an audience for kirtan. On the other hand, she appears to have liked to cook for large numbers of devotees, herself serving them, and participated directly in deity worship, at least by offering foodstuffs. At Kethuri, she orchestrated many of the activities, such as the greeting (satkar) of the guests (BRK 10.511), the playing of phagukhela, etc[5].

Perhaps Jahnava`s most significant contribution was to the organization and character of Bengali Vaisnavism as it endeavoured to deal with the theological sophistication of the Vrindavan Gosvamis. The event at which this took place was the famous Kheturi festival already mentioned above,the date of which is still a matter of conjecture, but likely took place in the 1570s. Her role there was to lend approval to the innovations in the practice of kirtan as well as the theological formulations on the nature of Caitanya and his incarnation that Narottama and srinivas Acarya had brought with them from Vrindavan[6].

Jahnava, doubtless impressed by the culture of the new leaders of the movement and the learning they had received at the hands of Jiva Gosvami, decided to go herself to Braj and witness firsthand the developments which had taken place there. Travelling with a large group of Vaisnavas and being carried in a palanquin which protected her modesty, she led the undoubtedly rather impressive group which made the lenghty pilgrimage, taking between five and six months to make the trip. Narahari describes an incident which took place in a village en route…

NOTES:

[3]Other important disciples of Jahnava were Jnana Das, one of the greatest writers of Vaisnava padavali kirtan, and Nityananda Das,writer of the "Premavilas".

[4]"Bhaktiratnakara" 10.477;maner ullase sabe baise divyasane/sriJahnava isvari baisaye samgopane//.

[5]BRK 10.633-5."Phagukhela" is the Bengali term for the throwing of coloured and sciented powders on one another on the occasion of Holi. The Kethuri festival took place to commemorate the birth of Caitanya, which took place on Holi, the full-moon day of the month of Phalgun.

[6]BRK 10.628, sri Jahnava isvari kahaye mrdubhase/purna anugraha narottam-srinivase//.

The residents of the village were Candi worshippers who mocked the group of Vaisnavas when they saw them bowing to and touching the feet of Jahnava. Considering that by offering respect to Jahnava rather than to their local deity of Candi ,the Vaisnavas had commited a great offense, they vowed to slaughter the whole group of travellers. Candi, however, found this proposal unacceptable and appeared in an angry form to her worshippers in dream and revealed to them the glories of Jahnava, saying: "You rascals! You do not know the truth about her whom you look down upon and whom you have called a brahmana women.
She is the wife of Nityananda-Balarama, an object of respect even to me and worshippable by all. Her name, Jahnava Isvari, is exceedingly sweet. Simply by uttering this name, one can be freed from life`s worries. She is the beloved of Nityananda, the incarnation of compassion ; she voluntarily distributes loving devotion to Krsna to the living beings. Whoever worships her lotus feet and sings her glories will be delivered from the threefold sufferings." [7]

Candi concludes by telling the villagers to beg Jahnava for forgiveness; which they did. Jahnava converted them all to Vaisnavism and stayed for several days in the village before moving on.Similarly,another miraculous event took place at another village where robbers thought to attack the group.They were unable to find Jahnava and her party of travellers despite knowing clearly their location. They too converted to Vaisnavism when they realized that Jahnava was divinely protected.

On her way back home from Braj, she stopped with her entourage as the birthplace of Nityananda in Birbhum. She made a second and perhaps even a third trip to Braj before the end of her life, ultimately dying there. It is said that while still alive, she had an image of Radha made and placed on the right-hand side of Gopinath in Braj,where an image of Radha already stood on the left.When she died,she is said to have entered into that deity, thenceforth known as Ananga Manjari.

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