His worshippable Deity: Shri Gopinathji
Wife: Shri Malini-devi
Other names: Abhirama Gopala; Rama dasa; Bhirama dasa
Abhirama Thakura was one of the most vigorous preachers among the associates of Lord Nityananda Prabhu. In the mood of a cowherd boy, Shri Abhirama Thakura carried a bamboo flute, and a bullwhip named Jaya Mangala. Whomever he struck with this whip became filled with Krsna prema, love for God. If Abhirama Thakura offered obeisances to any stone other than a sacred salagrama-sila, it would at once burst into pieces. Abhirama Thakura used his home for preaching and for serving Vaisnava pilgrims. His house constantly resounded with kirtana and topics of Krsna and he was the favorite of Nityananda Prabhu.
(Shri Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila 11.13)
One day, Krsna, Balarama and their cowherd friends were playing a game of hide and seek. In the middle of Their game, Krsna decided to go to Nadia to enjoy His pastimes there, and so, taking with Him Balarama and all Their friends, He advented Himself in Navadwipa. Somehow or other, He forgot Shridama, who remained in his hiding place in a cave. After a while Krsna noticed that Sridam had been left behind and sent Balarama as Nityananda, Who found Sridam and told him: "Come on! We've all gone to Nadia to play there!"
Shridama asked, "Who are You?"
"I'm your Lord Balarama. Can't you recognize me?"
"You can't be my Lord Balaram. You're too small." [in Kali yuga the measurement of the body is 3.5 hands, whereas in Dwapara-yuga it is 7 hands.
"If you don't believe Me, then take off running. If I can't catch you within ten paces, then you'll know I'm not Balarama."
"All right! Catch me if You can!"
Shridama took off running, but Nityananda Prabhu immediately caught him. But now Shridama told Him, "Now look here, You left me behind, so I'm not going to this Nuddia or whatever the place is called."
Nityananda Prabhu kept coaxing him but Shridama was adamant. Finally he manifested an expansion of himself, Rama dasa, who agreed to go. But Sridam still wanted to remain behind as his feelings were greatly hurt.
Rama dasa was also dissatisfied and very prone to anger. When Nityananda Prabhu's first child was born, Abhirama Thakura came to offer his obeisances to the child, who died on the spot. In this way, seven of Nityananda's children had to depart from this world just after taking birth. Finally a daughter, Ganga-devi, was born to Nityananda Prabhu and Vasudha devi. When, after offering his obeisances to the child, Abhirama Thakur saw that the baby was unaffected he exclaimed, "This time we havn't been deceived!" Then he immediately composed one hundred verses in praise of Ganga-devi. When Viracandra Prabhu took his birth, Abhirama again came to offer his obeisances. When he saw that Viracandra was unaffected, he composed Shri Birbhadrastakam.
If Abhirama Thakura would offer his obeisances to any stone other then a Shalagram-sila, that stone would crack. One time, Abhirama Thakur came to Shri Khanda, wanting to meet Raghunandana Thakura. Mukunda dasa was aware of his reputation and thus told the Thakura that Raghunandana wasn't there. Feeling disappointed, Abhirama departed. When Raghunandan heard that Abhirama Thakura had come to meet him, he ran to catch up with the Thakura. Finally he met him at Bor Danga, where they danced together in ecstasy. When Raghunandana was dancing his nupur (ankle bracelet) came off and fell down at Akaihat, where Kaliya Krsna dasa used to do his bhajan. This nupur is still being worshiped along with Kaliya Krsna Thakura's Deity at Karvi, not far from Katwa.
Gopala Guru Gosvami was also similarly tested by Abhirama Thakura when he was only a small boy living with Mahaprabhu in Puri. By the mercy of Mahaprabhu, Who invested His potency in Gopala Guru, the boy emerged unscathed.
Abhirama Thakura's Sripat is at Khanakhul Krsnanagar. Khanakhul Krsnanagar can be reached by bus from Tarakeshwar, which is connected by train from Bandel station. It can also be reached by bus from Atapur, the Sripat of Patameshvari dasa Thakura.
His wife's name was Shri Malini-devi. His worshippable Deity Shri Gopinathji Who, after first appearing to him in a dream, manifested Himself at Khanakhul Krsnanagar. The legend is that He appeared in a dream to Abhirama Thakura and said, "I am within the earth here. Please take Me out and worship Me." Abhirama dasa excavated in that place and found within the womb of the earth the all-enchanting form of Shri Gopinathji. That place where the deity was found became known as Ram Kund. "In the place where Shri Gopinathji advented Himself a lake was formed, and the water contained therein was sweet as nectar. Whoever bathed in or drank that water became beside himself with ecstasy. Thereafter, this land has become famous as Ram Kund. Having heard of these divine pastimes of Shri Gopinathji an incessant flow of people descended on that place like the waters of the Ganges River." [bhakti-Ratnakar Taranga 4]
One day while in a state of rapture in rememberance of Shri Krsna, Abhirama Thakura, in the mood of cowherd boy, desired to play the flute. In the madness of ecstatic love he began to search in all directions for one. Then he saw before him a large trunk of a tree which not even sixteen men could lift. Out of this he fashioned a flute and began to play it. "Rama dasa, one of the chief branches, was full of fraternal love of Godhead. He made a flute from a stick with sixteen knots." [C.C. Adi 11.16]
Shri Abhirama Thakura had a celebrated whip, whose name was Jaya-Mangala. Whoever was touched with that whip had the symptoms of love of Krsna awakened within their person.
One day, Srinivasa Acarya came to meet Abhirama Thakura. After touching him three times with his whip, his wife Malini-devi exclaimed, "Thakura, don't beat him anymore! Restrain yourself! He is just a boy. He'll become overly excited by the touch of your whip." Meanwhile, Srinivasa had become completely drowned in Krsna-prema.
When Shri Gaurasundara ordered Nityananda prabhu to preach in Gaudadesa (Bengal), he sent with him Shri Rama dasa, Shri Gadadhar dasa and others. The atheists trembled in fear at the sight of Abhirama Thakura. He was a learned scholar of the scriptures. According to the desire of Nityananda Prabhu he married. His disappearance is on the seventh day of the dark fortnight of the month of Caitra.
The descendants of the disciples of Abhirama Thakura are still living within the districts of Hugli and Bankura, at Krsnanagar, Amta, Visnupur and Kotalpur.
Abhiram Thakur Tests The Sons Of Lord Nityananda
BY MADHAVANANDA DAS
*The following story adapted from the book "Abhiram Lilamrta" appeared in issue number 4 of Shri Krishna Kathamrita Bindu, the free fortnightly email magazine from ISKCON Gopal Jiu Publications.
Abhiram Thakur is perhaps the most prominent follower of Lord Nityananda Prabhu. According to Srila Kavi Karnapur, Abhiram Thakur is the incarnation of Shridama Sakha, the chief cowherd boy in krsna-lila. His pastimes were described in simple Bengali verse by his disciple Shri Tilak Ram Das in a book called Shri Abhirama Lilamrta. In the fourth chapter the author reveals how he was able to write:
utha utha ore sisya sunaha vacane amara yateka lila karaha varnana eta bali mora sathe carana dharila carana parase lila svarana haila
[My guru Abhiram Thakur came to me while I was resting and said "Wake up! Wake up! O disciple, hear my words! I want you to write about my pastimes." I touched my head to my guru's lotus feet and at that time all of his pastimes appeared to me. [Texts 5-6, 13]
The following story, adapted from chapter 15, verses 141-246, describes how Abhiram Thakur tested the newborn sons of Lord Nityananda.
Abhiram Thakur was a very powerful personality. It is said that he would sometimes test the authenticity of a salagrama-sila or a deity by offering obeisances. If they were not genuine, they would break. He had other uncommon powers as well.
On one occasion Abhiram Thakur met Nityananda Prabhu on the bank of the Ganga, near to the home of Nityananda Prabhu. Nitai offered Abhiram a seat.
They embraced, and both sat down.
Nitai said, "O brother Abhiram, what is your desire? Why have you come to My home?"
"I want to see Your son."
Hearing this, Nityananda became happy. However, when Nityananda Prabhu showed him His son, Abhiram offered obeisances to the child and immediately the child died. When Nityananda Prabhu's wives Vasudha and Jahnava heard the news, they both fainted. Nityananda then placed the body of the child in the Ganga and they all took bath.
Sometime later, another child was born, and again Abhiram Thakur came. As before, when Abhiram offered his obeisances, the child died. Everyone was astonished, thinking, "What is Abhiram's purpose?" In this way, every time a child was born, Abhiram would come, offer obeisances, and the child would die.
Although Nityananda Prabhu is the Supreme Personality of Godhead Lord Balaram, still, while acting out His human-like pastimes, He externally became very unhappy seeing all of His sons die. Therefore, when the next child was born, Nitai thought to Himself, "If Abhiram does not come My child will live."
Nityananda Prabhu invited many quests for the festive occasion, but He did not invite Abhiram Thakur. Seeing that Abhiram was not there, Adwaita Acharya inquired from Nityananda, "Why have You not invited Abhiram?"
Nityananda Prabhu replied, "Abhiram has made Me bereft of sons. So I will not invite him. I've told all of the boatmen not to bring him across the Ganga in their boats."
During the time of the festival for the birth of Nityananda Prabhu's latest son, Abhiram and his wife Malini were staying at Krishnagar. Vakreswar Pandit came to see them. Malini offered him a seat, and Vakreswar inquired from Abhiram, "Nitai is performing a festival on the occasion of the birth of his son. You are the pradhana-gopal, the leader of the cowherd boys. Is He inviting you or not?"
Abhiram laughed and said, "No. He is not inviting me."
Vakreswar humbly told Abhiram, "Without your presence this ceremony cannot be performed properly. Although He is not inviting you, still you should go."
"How can I go without an invitation?"
Malini then said, "Abhiram is a rakhal, a cowherd boy. Such cowherders have no abhiman, false ego. He is not finding fault with Nityananda Prabhu for not inviting him."
Abhiram Thakur then told Vakreswar, "O brother, I'll go there later." After Vakreswar left, Abhiram conceived a plan. He bade Malini goodbye and started off, saying, "Gaura Hari ki jaya!" He went to the bank of the Ganga and said to a boatman, "Take me across!"
The boatman looked at Abhiram Thakur and inquired, "Who are you sir? Give me your name and then I will start the journey. If I take the wrong person across then Nityananda Prabhu will be very angry with me."
Abhiram replied, "Why does He want to restrict this person from crossing?"
The boatman said, "Nityananda Prabhu is miserable and lamenting for His lost children. He told me, 'There is one person named Abhiram Thakur. He is very powerful. If he offers obeisances to My son then the child will die.' Saying this, Nityananda Prabhu told me not to bring that person across. I think that you are that same Abhiram Thakur."
Out of fear of Nityananda Prabhu, the boatman then put water in his boat and made it sink. Hearing that Abhiram Thakur had come, all of the other boatmen also filled their boats with water and sank them.
Abhiram Thakur then took some cloth and threw it in the river. The cloth floated, and, sitting on it, Abhiram crossed the river.
Seeing this, the people became astonished and ran to tell Nityananda Prabhu.
Although Nitai became worried, He took all of the mahants who were present at the festival and went to meet Abhiram Thakur. Abhiram saw them all performing ecstatic kirtana and coming toward the bank of the Ganga to meet him. Abhiram then began playing his flute, and he lost external consciousness. Tilak Ram Das says, "Who can understand Abhiram Thakur?"
When they came together, Abhiram embraced all of them with ecstatic love while his hairs stood on end. Nitai brought Abhiram into His home. Abhiram told Him, "I am very hungry. Please give me some prasad." Nitai gave him a seat in a room and Vasudha and Jahnava happily brought him nice prasad consisting of sweet rice, fancy rice and many opulent dishes. As much prasad as they brought, Abhiram ate it until he had finished everything in the house.
Seeing that he had eaten everything, Nitai said, "Dandavats to your pastimes! Who can understand You? In vraja-lila you are Shridama. Have you forgotten our loving relationship? In Vraja we all shared prasad together.
But now, forgetting all of that, you are taking all of the prasad alone. In Vraja we would always share whatever fruits we got. What sort of behavior is this that you are taking all of the prasad alone?"
Abhiram listened and said, "My nature is that of a cowherd boy. First I take, then I give to others. My behaviour is that of Vraja. Knowing my nature and activities in Vraja, how can You say I took all of the prasad? Go and see Your pots." Then Abhiram performed acaman.
Nityananda Prabhu went to see the pots and found that double the original amount of prasad was there. Nitai then happily embraced Abhiram.
Abhiram said, "O brother, you should feed all of the mahants."
The mahants then happily took prasad and shouted, "Hari! Hari!" Finishing, they all performed acamana. Then Nitai gave them tambula and a place to take rest.
Abhiram Thakur said, "Nitai, You have celebrated a festival for the birth of Your son. What sort of son do You have? Please bring him and I will offer my obeisances to him."
Hearing this, everyone became worried. Nityananda Prabhu's wives Vasudha and Jahnava approached Abhiram and humbly said, "This time please give protection to our child. Don't let us be criticized for not having a son. If you offer obeisances to our son then he will die. Every time this is what has happened. If you do this again, then we will also die."
Abhiram said, "Why are you fearing? You don't understand. I am offering my obeisances to test the child. If he is svayam-svarupa, the Lord's personal manifestation, then he will survive my obeisances."
Hearing Abhiram's words, Nityananda Prabhu became happy and brought His son before Abhiram. Abhiram Thakur offered his obeisances, and the child laughed. Abhiram become very happy and offered his obeisances a second and a third time, just to test the child. He saw that this child was jagat-priya, dear to the entire universe. Abhiram took the child on his lap and began to dance. He then told all of the mahants there:
ye na dekhecha gora dekha ara bar punarbar sei gora vira avatar
"So that those who did not see Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu could again have the opportunity to see Him, the Lord has reappeared in the form of Viracandra Prabhu."
The identity of Viracandra Prabhu
Lord Balaram has appeared as Lord Nityananda Prabhu. As the Supreme Lord, He is sarvajna, all- knowing. Hence He certainly understood and, in fact, inspired the behavior of Abhiram Thakur. The nature of the Lord is that He likes to see His devotees glorified more than Himself. Therefore, to glorify His devotee Abhiram Thakur, and also His son Viracandra Prabhu, Lord Nityananda inspired Abhiram Thakur to act in such an unusual way.
Viracandra Prabhu is the incarnation of Kshirodakasayi Vishnu. Srila Kavi Karnapura has written (Shri Gaura-ganodesa-dipika - 67)
sankarsanasya yo vyuhah payo-visayi-namakah sa eva viracandro 'bhuc caitanyabhinna-vigrahah
The expansion of Lord Sankarshan known as Kshirodakasayi Vishnu appeared in Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's pastimes as Virachandra Prabhu. Lord Virachandra was non-different from Lord Chaitanya Himself.
As Kshirodakasayi Vishnu, Viracandra Prabhu is the svayam svarupa, the plenary expansion of Lord Nityananda Prabhu. Srila Krishnadas Kaviraj has described:
sankarsanah karana-toya-sayi garbhoda-sayi ca payobdhi-sayi sesas ca yasyamsa-kalah sa nitya- nandakhya-ramah saranam mamastu
May Shri Nityananda Rama be the object of my constant remembrance.
Sankarshana, Sesa Naga and the Vishnus who lie on the Karana Ocean (Karanodakasayi Visnu), Garbha Ocean (Garbhodakasayi Visnu) and ocean of milk (Ksirodakasayi Visnu) are His plenary portions and the portions of His plenary portions. [Cc. adi 1.7]