Published on February 23rd, 2023 | by HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada1
Who Is Vakresvara Pandita?
Vakresvara Pandita, the fifth branch of the tree, was a very dear servant of Lord Caitanya’s. He could dance with constant ecstasy for seventy-two hours.
In the Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika, verse 71, it is stated that Vakresvara Pandita was an incarnation of Aniruddha, one of the quadruple expansions of Visnu (Vasudeva, Sankarsana, Aniruddha and Pradyumna). He could dance wonderfully for seventy-two continuous hours. When Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu played in dramatic performances in the house of Srivasa Pandita, Vakresvara Pandita was one of the chief dancers, and he danced continuously for that length of time. Sri Govinda dasa, an Oriya devotee of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, has described the life of Vakresvara Pandita in his book Gaura-krsnodaya. There are many disciples of Vakresvara Pandita in Orissa, and they are known as Gaudiya Vaisnavas although they are Oriyas. Among these disciples are Sri Gopalaguru and his disciple Sri Dhyanacandra Gosvami. (Adi 10.17)
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu personally sang while Vakresvara Pandita danced, and thus Vakresvara Pandita fell at the lotus feet of the Lord and spoke as follows. (Adi 10.18)
The Gandharvas, who are residents of Gandharvaloka, are celebrated as celestial singers. Whenever singing is needed in the celestial planets, the Gandharvas are invited to sing. The Gandharvas can sing continuously for days, and therefore Vakresvara Pandita wanted to dance as they sang. (Adi 10.19)
In the Caitanya-bhagavata, Madhya-lila, Chapter Twenty-one, it is stated that Devananda Pandita and Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya’s father, Visarada, lived in the same village. Devananda Pandita was a professional reciter of Srimad-Bhagavatam, but Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu did not like his interpretation of it.
In the present town of Navadvipa, which was formerly known as Kuliya, Lord Caitanya showed such mercy to him that he gave up the Mayavadi interpretation of Srimad-Bhagavatam and learned how to explain Srimad-Bhagavatam in terms of bhakti. Formerly, when Devananda was expounding the Mayavadi interpretation, Srivasa Thakura was once present in his meeting, and when he began to cry, Devananda’s students drove him away. Some days later, Caitanya Mahaprabhu passed that way, and when He met Devananda He chastised him severely because of his Mayavada interpretation of Srimad-Bhagavatam. At that time Devananda had little faith in Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu as an incarnation of Lord Krsna, but one night some time later Vakresvara Pandita was a guest in his house, and when he explained the science of Krsna, Devananda was convinced about the identity of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Thus he was induced to explain Srimad-Bhagavatam according to the Vaisnava understanding. In the Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika, verse 106, it is described that he was formerly Bhaguri Muni, who was the sabha-pandita who recited Vedic literature in the house of Nanda Maharaja. (Adi 10.77)
The three brothers Govinda, Madhava and Vasudeva Ghosa all belonged to a kayastha family. Govinda established the Gopinatha temple in Agradvipa, where he resided. Madhava Ghosa was expert in performing kirtana. No one within this world could compete with him. He was known as the singer of Vrndavana and was very dear to Sri Nityananda Prabhu. It is said that when the three brothers performed sankirtana, immediately Lord Caitanya and Nityananda would dance in ecstasy. According to the Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika (188), the three brothers were formerly Kalavati, Rasollasa and Gunatunga, who recited the songs composed by Sri Visakha-gopi. The three brothers were among one of the seven parties that performed kirtana when Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu attended the Ratha-yatra festival at Jagannatha Puri. Vakresvara Pandita was the chief dancer in their party. This is vividly described in the Madhya-lila, Chapter Thirteen, verses 42 and 43. (Adi 10.115)
Among the devotees who accompanied the Lord in Jagannatha Puri, two of them–Paramananda Puri and Svarupa Damodara–were the heart and soul of the Lord. Among the other devotees were Gadadhara, Jagadananda, Sankara, Vakresvara, Damodara Pandita, Thakura Haridasa, Raghunatha Vaidya and Raghunatha dasa. (Adi 10.124-126)
In Jagannatha Puri Lord Caitanya lived at the house of Kasi Misra, who was the priest of the king. Later this house was inherited by Vakresvara Pandita and then by his disciple Gopalaguru Gosvami, who established there a Deity of Radhakanta. The Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika (193) states that Kasi Misra was formerly Kubja in Mathura. Pradyumna Misra, an inhabitant of Orissa, was a great devotee of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Pradyumna Misra was born of a brahmana family and Ramananda Raya of a non-brahmana family, yet Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu advised Pradyumna Misra to take instruction from Ramananda Raya. This incident is described in the Antya-lila, Chapter Five. (Adi 10.131)
While kirtana was going on, there was a transformation of ecstatic love and much tears, jubilation, trembling, perspiration and deep resounding in the body of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Upon seeing this transformation, all the people present became very much astonished. The tears from the eyes of the Lord came out with great force, like water from a syringe. Indeed, all the people who surrounded Him were moistened by His tears.
After circumambulating the temple, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu for some time remained at the rear of the temple and continued His sankirtana. On all four sides the four sankirtana groups chanted very loudly, and in the middle Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu danced, jumping high. After dancing for a long time, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu became still and ordered four great personalities to begin to dance.
In one group Nityananda Prabhu began to dance, and in another group Advaita Acarya began to dance. Vakresvara Pandita began to dance in another group, and in yet another group Srivasa Thakura began to dance.
The next day, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu also went to the temple of Gundica and saw the Lord. He then chanted and danced in the yard for some time. Accompanied by His devotees, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu then went into the garden and enjoyed the pastimes of Vrndavana.
There were multifarious trees and creepers in the garden, and they were all jubilant to see Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Indeed, the birds were chirping, the bees were buzzing, and a cool breeze was blowing.
As Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu danced beneath each and every tree, Vasudeva Datta sang alone. As Vasudeva Datta sang a different song beneath each and every tree, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu danced there alone in great ecstasy.
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu then ordered Vakresvara Pandita to dance, and as he began to dance, the Lord began to sing. Then devotees like Svarupa Damodara and other kirtana performers began to sing along with Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Being inundated with ecstatic love, they lost all consideration of time and circumstance.
After thus performing pastimes in the garden for some time, they all went to a lake called Narendra-sarovara and there enjoyed sporting in the water.
Haridasa Thakura said, “I have had one desire for a very long time. I think that quite soon, my Lord, You will bring to a close Your pastimes within this material world. “I wish that You not show me this closing chapter of Your pastimes. Before that time comes, kindly let my body fall down in Your presence. I wish to catch Your lotuslike feet upon my heart and see Your moonlike face. With my tongue I shall chant Your holy name, ‘Sri Krsna Caitanya!’ That is my desire. Kindly let me give up my body in this way. O most merciful Lord, if by Your mercy it is possible, kindly grant my desire. Let this lowborn body fall down before You. You can make possible this perfection of all my desires.”
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu said, “My dear Haridasa, Krsna is so merciful that He must execute whatever you want. But whatever happiness is Mine is all due to your association. It is not fitting for you to go away and leave Me aside.
Catching the lotus feet of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Haridasa Thakura said, “My Lord, do not create an illusion! Although I am so fallen, You must certainly show me this mercy! My Lord, there are many respectable personalities, millions of devotees, who are fit to sit on my head. They are all helpful in Your pastimes. My Lord, if an insignificant insect like me dies, what is the loss? If an ant dies, where is the loss to the material world? My Lord, You are always affectionate to Your devotees. I am just an imitation devotee, but nevertheless I wish that You fulfill my desire. That is my expectation.”
Because He had to perform His noon duties, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu got up to leave, but it was settled that the following day, after He saw Lord Jagannatha, He would return to visit Haridasa Thakura.
After embracing him, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu left to perform His noon duties and went to the sea to take His bath. The next morning, after visiting the Jagannatha temple, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, accompanied by all His other devotees, came hastily to see Haridasa Thakura.
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and the other devotees came before Haridasa Thakura, who offered his respects to the lotus feet of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and all the Vaisnavas. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu immediately began great congregational chanting in the courtyard. Vakresvara Pandita was the chief dancer. Headed by Svarupa Damodara Gosvami, all the devotees of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu surrounded Haridasa Thakura and began congregational chanting.
In front of all the great devotees like Ramananda Raya and Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu began to describe the holy attributes of Haridasa Thakura. As He described the transcendental attributes of Haridasa Thakura, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu seemed to possess five mouths. The more He described, the more His great happiness increased. After hearing of the transcendental qualities of Haridasa Thakura, all the devotees present were struck with wonder. They all offered their respectful obeisances to the lotus feet of Haridasa Thakura.
Haridasa Thakura made Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu sit down in front of him, and then he fixed his eyes, like two bumblebees, on the lotus face of the Lord. He held the lotus feet of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu on his heart and then took the dust of the feet of all the devotees present and put it on his head. He began to chant the holy name of Sri Krsna Caitanya again and again. As he drank the sweetness of the face of the Lord, tears constantly glided down from his eyes. While chanting the holy name of Sri Krsna Caitanya, he gave up his air of life and left his body.
Seeing the wonderful death of Haridasa Thakura by his own will, which was just like a great mystic yogi’s, everyone remembered the passing away of Bhisma.