Banamali Raibahadur and the Hookah-Smoking Radhavinod

Rajarshi Banamali Raibahadur’s deities of Sri Radhavinod (better known as “Jamai Vinod”) reside in Tarash Mandir near Ramkrishna Mission hospital in Vrindavan.

Appearance of Radhavinod
Radhavinod ju was found in the river Padma in modern-day Bangladesh by a man named Vancharam. Vancharam was the manager of the Tarash estate. That day as he was taking his morning bath, he heard a voice saying, “Take me out of the water and bring me home!”
Vancharam looked around to see if perhaps a child had fallen into the water. Then suddenly, he felt a hand tugging at his leg. He reached down and grabbed the hand, and pulled out the deity of Radhavinod. He took the deity home and began to serve him with great care and love.

Unexpected Guests
But Radhavinod was very demanding. Whenever he wanted something, he would come to Vancharam, or someone else, in a dream.
On one occasion, the naughty Radhavinod came in a wealthy devotee’s dream and asked him for a hookah. The devotee brought a very expensive silver hookah. Vancharam started offering the hookah every day after Radhavinod’s meals.
On another occasion, some guests came to Vancharam’s house at night while Vancharam and his wife were sleeping. Not wanting to disturb his sleep, Radhavinod took the form of alittle boy and began to entertain the guests himself.
He told the guests, “My father is sleeping right now… but I can wake him up if you want!”
“No, no!” replied the guests, “Please don’t disturb him. We will cook for ourselves.”
Radhavinod went to the market to buy groceries for his guests. But he didn’t have any money. The shopkeeper was very reluctant to give this little boy groceries on credit, so Radhavinod gave him his golden bangles. “Hold on to these until my father pays you tomorrow,” said Radhavinod.
The next day Vancharam asked his guests with surprise, “When did you come? Who let you in?”
They replied, “We came late last night but your son let us in. What a good boy he is! He made all the arrangements for our supper.”
Vancharam was speechless. His suspicions were confirmed when the shopkeeper came to his house next day with Radhavinod’s bangles, asking for the payment.

A Love Affair with the Raja’s Daughter
Around this time the head of Tarash estate, Raja Banwari Lal, started coming for darshan of Vancharam’s now-famous deity. He also brought his wife and his daughter, Radha.
Radha loved Radhavinod, and Radhavinod loved her too. He used to flirt with Radha and pinch her to tease her. Radha saw this naughtiness clearly but her mother and father could not perceive it.
One night Radhavinod said to Vancharam in a dream, “Let me go and live with the Raja. I am pleased with your seva, but now I want to accept his seva. Don’t be sad, for you will soon realize me.”
Thus Radhavinod went to live with the Raja, and Radha served Radhavinod with all her heart. She decided what he would wear each day and what he would eat, and prepared flower ornaments for her Beloved. Her expertise in seva seemed impossible for such a young girl.
Radhavinod was very pleased with her, and showed it by teasing her even more than before. One day while Radha was offering Binod Ji a garland, he grabbed the corner of her saree and said, “You must marry me.” She told her mother what Radhavinod had done, but of course she didn’t believe her.

Radhavinod becomes “Jamai Vinod”
Soon after Radha became very ill. Radhavinod appeared to Radha’s mother in a dream and told her, “Radha will not remain in this world much longer. I can no longer live without her direct seva, so I will take her home as my bride. Make a murti of Radharani from the dried-up devadaru tree in the courtyard. Your daughter will also merge with that deity and thus attain me. When the murti is ready, you must peform our wedding.”
When Radha’s mother told Raja Banwari Lal about the dream, they both wept. But their tears were of a mixture of joy and sorrow, because they had faith that their daughter would soon attain Radhavinod’s lotus feet, and that both of them would live in their house as a married couple, in the form of the deities.
The devdaru tree was cut down and work on the murti started immediately. As soon as the murtiwas ready, Radha left her body.
Arrangements for her funeral and her marriage in the form of the murti were made simultaneously. After the wedding ceremony, Radhavinod became known as “Jamai Vinod” (Vinod, the son-in-law).

Banamali Raibahadur meets his Beloved
When Raja Banwari Lal died, his adopted son Banamali took over his position as head of the estate.

Banamali Raibahadur was a British-educated barrister (lawyer). His family was very aristocratic, and during the British Raj they had British guards to protect their more than 52 bighas (32 acres) of property. Banamali Rai was a great advocate of women’s rights including a widow’s right to marry. He was friends with Raja Rammohan Roy.
But at that time, Banamali was a member of the bramho-samaj. Because he did not have much faith in deities, he neglected Radhavinod altogether. He hired a pujari to continue the worship as a matter of mere routine.

Banamali meets Jagadbandhu
Then an amazing thing happened to Banamali. One day he was travelling down the highway towards Pabana on the back of an elephant, surrounded by attendants and royal guards armed with guns. Suddenly Prabhu Jagadbandhu came with a huge kirtan party. Hundreds of devotees sang with khol and kartal, with Jagadbandhu dancing at the head of the procession.
Banamali could not tear his ears and eyes away from the sound of the Holy Name and the beauty of the saint’s dancing. It was something totally new for him and it was completely irresistible. He did not know why he jumped down from the elephant, kicked off his royal slippers and started dancing in the midst of the kirtan.
Banamali danced and danced until the kirtan party reached its destination. There he bowed low before Jagadbandhu Prabhu, and requested him to come to visit his royal villa. Jagadbandhu accepted the invitation came and showered his blessings upon Banamali. He stayed in the palace for a number of days explaining Bhakti yoga to him and instilling love for the Divine Couple in his heart.

The Fight for the Hookah
After that, Banamali Ray became enthusiastic about Radhavinod’s seva. But he stopped the hookah offering, for he felt it was against the scriptures.
But Radhabinod made his own arrangements. During this period, a siddha-mahatma named Sri Krishnasundara Ray used to live with Banamali. He was completely absorbed, meditating on Radha and Krishna day and night while externally he would smoke a hookah mechanically, out of mere habit. Whenever Krishnasundar Ray lost external consciousness, which was quite often, Radhavinod would steal the hookah from his hand and smoke.
But after Krishnasundara Ray left the material realm, Radhavinod began to lament the loss of his hookah seva. He came in the pujari’s dream and said,
“Give me back my hookah! I used to smoke secretly with Ray Prabhu. But now that he is gone I have not smoked for four days!”
When Banamali Rai was informed of the dream, he made arrangements for the hookah seva to be restored. But in his heart he doubted whether Radhavinod ju really smoked.

A Divine Sound
Dr. OBL Kapoor writes in The Saints of Vraj, “Once Jagadbandhu Prabhu was staying in Banamali Ray’s palace in a room adjacent to the temple of Radhavinod. After rajbhog he called Banamali Ray and said, “Today let us enjoy the hookah-smokinglila of Lilamay (the playful Lord). He took Banamali Ray with him and sat in the verandah of the temple.
“After some time he said, ‘See, Vinod Ji is smoking. Listen to the hubble-bubble of the hookah.’ Simultaneously, Jagadbandhu granted Banamali spiritual ears to hear the sound of the hookah. As he was listening to the sound, he went into bhav-samadhi and tears began to trickle from his eyes.”
In 1897, Banamali Raibahadur went to Vrindavan and received diksha at the lotus feet of Prabhupad Sri Radhika Nath Gosvami, a direct descendent of Sri Advaita Prabhu. After that he began to serve Radhavinod directly. He became so absorbed in seva that he had little time for anything else. So he entrusted his estate to a manager and moved to Vrindavan permanently.
In Braj, Banamali constructed two buildings; Tarash Mandir in Vrindavan, and Rajbari in Radhakund. He and Radhavinod divided their time between both places.
The Legacy of Banamali Raibahadur
Banamali Raibahadur was at the centre of the Vaishnav community in Braj.
Many mahatmas graced his house with their presence, and he always made arrangements for Hari Katha, kirtan and other religious festivals. His estate included a large amount of land, part of which was later given to Ramkrishna Mission to build their famous hospital in Vrindavan.
Banamali Raibahadur directed all the resources of his estate towards the service of the Vaishnavs. He built a charitable hospital and a school for teaching the bhakti scriptures, which provided free room and board for its students. He also started a press which printed Srimad Bhagavatam with eight commentaries and other bhakti literature, all of which he distributed free of cost amongst the sadhus.
He received the blessings of all the siddha-mahatmas of his day, but some particularly showered their mercy on him. They were Sri Radhikanath Goswami, Jagadbandhu Prabhu, Sri Radharaman Charan Das Babajii Maharaj, Sri Vijaykrishna Gosvami, Sri Gaurakishor Shiromani, Sri Ramhari Das Babaji, Sri Krishnasundar Ray, Sri Harisundar Bhaumik Bhuiyan, Sri Jagadish Das Babaji and Sri Ramakrishna Das Pandit Baba.
With the blessings of these mahatmas, Banamali Raibahadur easily attained the lotus feet and eternal loving seva of Sri Radhvinod in Eternal Vrindavan.
(This story is based on the accounts presented in The Saints of Vraj by Dr. OBL Kapoor, Gaudiya Vaishnav Jeevan by Shri Haridas Das Babaji and an interview with Udayan Sharma of Tarash Estate)

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