Los Angeles, California: June 4, 1998
Respected Readers - Please accept our humble obeisances, all glories to Sri Sri Guru and Gauranga. June 6th (in America) is the auspicious appearance day of Sri Gangamata Gosvamini and the Ganga (Ganges) River, and it is also the disappearance day of Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusana Prabhu. On this same holy day in 1998, Srila Narayana Maharaja gave a talk about their glories. The following is a transcription of his glorification of Srimati Gangamata Thakurani. This is the first time the talk is being published.]
In Bengal, around the time of Srila Rupa Gosvami, a king and his family were living in Putiya. The king had a very beautiful daughter named Saci-devi, who, from a very young age, used to worship Sri Sri Radha and Krsna. When Saci-devi grew-up somewhat, she decided that Sri Krsna is her only beloved. She determined, "I will not marry any person in this world, for my beloved is Lord Krsna Himself - Syamasundara."
When Saci-devi became more mature, her father, mother and other relatives tried to persuade her to marry. But she told them very frankly, "I cannot marry any human being. I am already married. In my heart I have accepted Sri Krsna as my beloved. I want to go now to Vrndavana, to serve Him."
Her parents could not change her mind, and at last her father helped her. He sent someone with her, to take her to Vrndavana. By this time Srila Rupa Gosvami had left this world. Srila Sanatana Gosvami and Srila Jiva Gosvami were also no longer in the world, and even Srila Raghunatha dasa Gosvami was not present.
The deity of Sri Govinda-deva was there in Vrndavana at that time - not in Jaipura. There was a priest of Govinda-deva named Haridasa Prabhu, who was a very learned person in the line of Srila Rupa Gosvami. He was always chanting and remembering Krsna with asta-sattvika bhavas - with a melted heart and with tears in his eyes.
Saci-devi inquired from Vrndavana's residents, "Who is a qualified Vaisnava here? I want to meet him." Somehow she reached Srila Haridasa Prabhu in the Govinda temple and heard his classes. By regularly hearing from him, she developed great faith and honor for him. She accepted him as her Guru and requested him, "I want to be initiated by you alone, I don't want to accept any other Guru." Haridasa Prabhu examined her in so many ways, for about one year, and he saw that she was quite qualified. Then he gave her diksa - initiation.
Haridasa had many disciples, and among them there was a lady devotee whose age was about fifty. Because Saci-devi was still young at that time, about sixteen years old, he placed her hands in the hands of that elderly devotee and told her, "You are like Saci's older sister or mother. You should take care of her and remain in Vrndavana, and I want her to go on madhukari (begging at householders homes for a little prasadam). Although she is the daughter of a king and her father has sent so many gifts, facilities, and money, I prefer that she goes house to house, and begs one chapatti from each house."
She did this, and she ate very little. She used to take only what was required for maintaining her life; she refused anything more. She lived with that elderly lady in a very little hut in Vrndavana, and she lived very, very simply. Because she was so beautiful, her Gurudeva was somewhat worried about her, but he knew that if one is a chaste devotee, Lord Sri Krsna will save him or her.
Gradually Saci-devi became 25 or 30 years old. By this time, after hearing all the classes of her Gurudeva and keeping a record of them in her heart, she became very learned in speaking Srimad-Bhagavatam, like her Gurudeva was - just as now in Vrndavana, Savita, Kavita and others have become expert. Saci-devi could recite Srimad-Bhagavatam so well, especially Rasa-panchadyayee [the five chapters in the 10th Canto regarding rasa-lila] including, Brahmara-gita and all others. She used to weep bitterly during her classes, experiencing so many asta-sattvika bhavas (eight kinds of transcendental ecstasies), and all those in her audience used to weep as well. All were charmed by her harikatha.
Saci-devi's Gurudeva then sent her to Radha-kunda, to live there. She remained there up to the age of fifty, and at that time the elderly devotee left her body and she was left alone. She came to her Gurudeva and said, "What should I do, now that my elder guardian has left?" He replied, "I am also very old now. I may leave this world any day, so I am giving you a service. Go to Jagannatha Puri. The place of Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya is now neglected and ruined, and no one knows of it. I want you to go there and make it prominent. Illuminate awareness of that place. Do bhajana in that place, which is very near to the Gambhira, where Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu used to live. This will increase your bhakti.
Saci-devi went to Jagannatha Puri, and there she delivered very sweet classes on Srimad-Bhagavatam. Within a few days, so many became charmed. Many good and learned devotees began to come to hear her harikatha.
One day, a brahmana from Jaipura came with his deity of Syama-raya [Sri Krsna, also known as Rasika-raya and Raya-kishora]. When that brahmana was in Jaipura, he had a dream in which his deity told him, "Take Me to Saci-devi. You are neglecting Me. You are not properly serving Me. At once, without delay, take Me to Puri. If you do not do so, your whole dynasty will be ruined."
That brahmana thus took his Saligrama and that deity, Syama-raya. Because Saci-devi considered that Lord Sri Krsna alone was her beloved, Sri Krsna, Syama-raya, wanted to meet her and be served by her. The deity form of Syama-raya was blackish and very beautiful, but very, very small - like Govinda, Gopinatha, Madana-mohana. That brahmana took Him on his head in a basket and began coming, coming, coming. There was no railway or anything of the sort; so he came by walking, and this took him several months.
When the brahmana reached Jagannatha Puri, he came to Saci-devi. After telling her about his dream he said, "Please take Him." Saci-devi refused, saying, "I am a niskincana (without material possessions) Vaisnavi, I cannot serve any deity. I always do bhava-seva (serving internally with the pure emotions of the soul). I have nothing - not one farthing to procure any paraphernalia, like a throne, flowers and so on. I only beg one chapatti here and there. I go to the Jagannatha temple and accept some madhukari (alms of maha-prasadam). Maha-prasadam cannot be offered again, so how would I offer anything to the deity? I have not a farthing with me. I would not be able to maintain the worship of this Syama-raya." She totally refused.
In Kali-yuga it is very hard to serve Sri Sri Radha and Krsna or Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. After some time, the day will come when arcana (deity worship) will not be maintained. Just as the Mohammedans broke the temples of India, occupied them and committed so many atrocities, great struggle is going on in this regard even today A day may come that we cannot freely do arcana because the atheists will be very powerful.
The brahmana feared, because of what was said in his dream, that his dynasty would be destroyed. He therefore left that deity there, in the forest of Tulasi plants that Saci-devi was maintaining. It was a very big area of Tulasi plants; it was like a jungle.
So that brahmana left the deity there and ran away. Syama-raya then gave a dream to Saci-devi, saying, "He has left Me here. I have not eaten anything, nor have I even bathed. I am waiting for you. If you don't come, I will have to starve." Saci-devi went there at once, and she saw that very beautiful deity of Syama-raya. She picked Him up and took Him, and she kept Him in her hermitage.
One day - on this day - the day of the appearance of Ganga in this world, all the prominent devotees went to bathe in Ganga, very far away, in Bengal, in Calcutta and in Navadvipa. So many persons went, and Saci-devi also wanted to take bath in the Ganges. She started to go there, but she thought, "Who will serve Syama-raya, my beloved? She could not go, and she was very worried about this, thinking, "Oh, I could not go to take bath." While she slept in the night, she dreamt she saw Ganga coming towards her place. She heard kal-kal-kal-kal, the sound of the waves of Ganga-devi, and she saw a very big lake or pond. So many people were taking bath there, chanting "Haribol! Haribol!" and she also went to take bath. She took bath, but the current was so strong that it carried her to the Jagannatha temple, where Jagannatha, Subhadra, Baladeva and Sudarsana presided. Although the door of the temple was closed, the current carried her inside.
In the meantime, the time of mangala-arati came, and the pujaris heard some sound in the temple. They reported this to the king and the head priest, who came, opened the door and saw this devotee. They said, "Oh, she is also a thief? She was preaching so much krsna-katha - giving classes - and now she is a thief! How did she enter here? She should be put in jail." Thus, she was put in jail.
That night, Lord Jagannatha told the king in a dream, "At once go there and apologize. She is My potency. You should go and take initiation from her. In fact, all your learned council members should go to her and take initiation from her. If you do not obey Me, I will destroy your entire kingdom and dynasty. Go at once." Lord Jagannatha also said, "From today onward her name is Gangamata Thakurani, because I have brought My Ganga here only for her. You should all go today, take initiation from her and give her some donation. According to her desire, you should make a very beautiful temple and develop the house of Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya. Do everything she desires."
The king went there at once, with his entire council. All the brahmanas and pandas went to Gangamata Thakurani - to that Saci-devi - and apologized for their accusations and offenses. They begged her, "Please give us initiation." Saci-devi replied, "How can I do that? I don't want to initiate anyone."
Placing his head at her lotus feet, the king requested her again and again. At last she agreed; she gave initiation to the king and all his associates.
Then the king said, "I want to give you some donation. What do you want?" She replied, "If you want to do something, my Gurudeva has ordered that I should establish the place of Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya."
In a short time the king built a very good temple, and also the places of Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya where Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya used to sit and discuss Vedanta-sutra. Gangamata Thakurani's deity, Syama-raya, was also established there, and she herself became very prominent throughout Puri. All the Puri devotees came to hear her Srimad-Bhagavatam discourses. Still today, close to the Jagannatha temple is Sveta-Ganga . Even today, all pilgrims go there and take bath, and they consider, "We are taking bath in the Ganges."
So this is Gangamata Thakurani. She was a very powerful acarya.
Erratum: In a recent Harikatha posting, "God in Bookform", we made a grammatical error that may have created confusion as to who was the subject. In discussing Sri Sukadeva Gosvami's leaving home for the forest, we wrote, "The moment he was born, he had left his home, father, mother - everything - and had gone to the forest." It should have read, "The moment Sukadeva Gosvami was born, he left his home, father, mother - everything - and went to the forest." ( Apologies from the proofreader).
Editorial Advisors: Sripad Madhava Maharaja and Sripad Brajanatha dasa
Editor: Syamarani dasi
Transcriber: Janaki dasi
Typist: Anita dasi