Vrindavan, 2017.11.01 (VT): As Kartik draws to an end, devotees are savoring these last lamplit nights while eagerly awaiting the arrival of the full moon of Kartik Purnima.
Kartik Purnima is cherished by devotees for several reasons. It is the night of Shri Radha and Krishna’s Maha Raas. It is also the night when, only five centuries ago, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu entered Vrindavan.
Mahaprabhu’s Vrindavan Yatra
sharat kaal aaila prabhur chalite hoilo mati
ramananda-swaroop sange nibhrite jukati
mor sahaay karo jadi tumi duijon
tabe aami jaai dekhi shri vrindavan
When Autumn came, Shri Chaitanya called his closest companions Swaroop Damodar and Ramananda Ray and said to them, “If both of you will help me, only then will I get to see Shri Vrindavan Dham. Please give me your permission to leave for Vrindavan.”
Shriman Mahaprabhu’s chitrapat in the procession (P.C. Dhananjay Goswami)
Mahaprabhu always yearned to go to Vrindavan, but something always came in the way. Even after becoming a sannyasi, his mother Shachi Devi requested him to stay in Puri instead of Vrindavan, because it was nearer to her home in Bengal. He never got the chance to go to the place where his heart yearned to be. Now the time had finally come. Taking the blessings of his dearmost friends, Mahaprabhu started off on foot from Puri to the holy homeland of Shri Krishna.
Dancing and singing the holy name as he went, he crossed Eastern and Northern India. As he passed through the thick forests of Jharkhand, he granted sacred love (prem) to the birds and wild animals there. All the animals started chanting “Krishna! Krishna!” when they saw him. Even the deer and the lions kissed each other in the ecstasy of love.
Mahaprabhu first saw Mathura and wandered the twelve forests of Braj, before finally coming to Vrindavan on Kartik Purnima. That night, immersed in the ecstasy of Radha’s love, he searched for Shri Krishn all over Vrindavan.
Kartik Purnima and Amiya Nimai
Vintage photo of Amiya Nimai
Even more recently, Kartik Purnima was the day when the Amiya Nimai deity came to Vrindavan. The gorgeous deity of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu first came under the care of the great acharya of the Shri Radharaman Temple, Sarvabhaum Madhusudan Goswami. The sage entrusted the service of Amiya Nimai to his disciple, Radha Govinda Goswami, who lived in Kolkata.
Radha Govinda Goswami served Amiya Nimai as the living form of Shri Chaitanya. He was a talented musician and used to sing for him every day. One day whilst he was singing to Amiya Nimai from Jayadeva’s Gita Govinda, his heart suddenly stopped and he left for the eternal Abode.
The devotees were griefstricken at Radha-Govinda Goswami’s passing, but they were even more distressed when the police sealed off the temple with Amiya Nimai inside.
Radha-Govinda Goswami had no sucessor, thus it was unclear what should be done with his property when he passed away. The devotees had to offer bhog to Amiya Nimai on the doorstep of the temple and perform his seva through meditation.
Sarvabhaum Madhusudan Goswami of Shri Radharaman Temple
At last, the authorities found letters that proved that Shri Radha-Govinda Goswami had wanted Amiya Nimai to be sent to Vrindavan, to his guru’s son Shri Krishna Chaitanya Goswami.
And so, on the last day of Kartik in 1926AD, a group of mahatmas including Shri Krishna Chaitanya Goswami, Shri Ramdas Babaji of Pathbari Ashram, and others brought Amiya Nimai from Kolkata to Hathras by train. From Hathras, he was transported to Vrindavan by truck.
When Amiya Nimai reached Vrindavan, it was like Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu had come again, just as he had done in his prakat lila. It was November 26, 1926, when he arrived and was seated in Radharamanji’s Raas Mandal, just in front of the Shri Radharaman Temple. Four or five years later, Amiya Nimai moved to a small room in the garden of the Shahji Mandir.
Amiya Nimai’s current temple in Gopinath Bazar was completed in 1956. After Shri Krishna Chaitanya Goswami left this world, his son Shri Vishwambhar Goswami looked after Amiya Nimai with the greatest care. His sons Shri Padmanabh Goswami and Padmalochan Goswami continue the seva to this day.
The Kartik Purnima Procession
Since that day in 1926 when Amiya Nimai came to Vrindavan, Shri Ramdas Babaji and his followers have led a very special kirtan through the streets of Vrindavan. The kirtan depicts how Shri Chaitanya felt as he wandered through the sacred forest for the first and only time in his life.
At around 4pm on Kartik Purnima, the kirtan begins at the Amiya Nimai temple. Next to Amiya Nimai on the outer part of the altar, a chitrapat (portrait) of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu sits upon a decorated palanquin, waiting to be taken out by the devotees.
Shri Ramdas Babaji Maharaj (chitrapat swaroop) with Shri Chandan Goswami (left) Shri Shrivas Goswami (right) and Shri Ambrish ji (centre)
Shri Ramdas Babaji left this world in 1953, but he still comes to perform the kirtan in the form of a chitrapat, which is carefully tied around the neck of one of devotees of his lineage. The chitrapat of the saint is worshipped year-round, from morning to night, as if the saint himself is still present. He is awakened in the morning, “bathed”, dressed and taken out for darshans. He is fed prasad and his adharamrit is honored. And he is present at all the major festivals of the lineage, like this one. In this way the love of Ramdas Babaji’s disciples has kept his presence very much alive over the last sixty-odd years.
As the Kirtan begins, the devotees gather around in a circle in front of Amiya Nimai. Ramdas Babaji in the form of the chitrapat stands in the center. The Vaishnava who is holding the picture will act as Babaji Maharaj’s own body throughout the procession. As the kirtan reaches its first crescendo, he lifts his arms and begins to dance. Then the other Vaishnavas start to sing and dance as well, circling around around Babaji Maharaj.
Devotees of Tinkudi Baba’s ashram waiting to receive Mahaprabhu (P.C. Dhananjay Goswami)
Soon the whole kirtan party pours out of the Amiya Nimai temple’s front doors. Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s chitrapat is then taken out on the shoulders of devotees and seated upon a chariot.
The procession moves through the streets of Vrindavan, passing by the same places Mahaprabhu visited during his Vrindavan yatra. It moves through Gopinath Bazar, past Radha-Gopinath, Radharaman, Radha-Gokulananda, the Yamuna riverbank, Dheer Sameer, Gopeshwar Mahadev, Lala Babu Temple, Mathura Road, Nagar Palika, Seva Kunj, Radha-Damodar, Radha-Shyamsundar, Loi Bazar and Nidhivan before returning to the Amiya Nimai temple. The kirtan usually ends around one o’clock in the morning.
The Kartik Purnima kirtan reveals the deep moods of Mahaprabhu as he visits each place, searching, yearning and intensely hoping to find Shri Krishna at every turn. The priests of the temples along the way come out to offer Mahaprabhu aarti and bhog. Many temples stay open late in order to welcome the Lord and offer him worship.
The “Amader Pran Goraray” Kirtan
The kirtan that is sung during the Kartik Purnima procession is commonly known as “Amader Pran Goraray”, after the words that are repeated constantly in the kirtan’s chorus. In Bengali, the proper title of the kirtan is Shri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhur Shri Vrindavan Bhraman Lila or Shri Gauranger Brajalila. It can be found in the collection Shri Ramdas Babaji’s kirtans entitled Shri Guru’s Gracious Gift (Shri Guru Kripar Daan) Volume 2, page 524.
(Mahaprabhu’s nickname “Gora” is short for Govinda-Radhe – in other words, it means Mahaprabhu is Radha and Krishn in one form).
Some Highlights from the Kirtan
The kirtan is quite long, but some of its main highlights are featured here. It begins by tenderly calling out to Mahaprabhu according to his relationships with his devotees:
amader sitanather ananidhi, pran goraray
The treasure who was brought by Advaitacharya, our beloved Gora Ray
amader pran shachi dulaliya, pran goraray
Sachi Mata’s darling son, our beloved Gora Ray
amader gadadadharer pranbadhua, pran goraray
Our Gadadhar’s Sweetheart, our beloved Gora Ray
amader srivas anganer natua, pran goraray
Who dances in Srivas’ garden, our beloved Gora Ray
amader – prabhu nitai pagal-koraa
The one who drives our Nitai mad
o amader pran goraray
O our beloved Gora Ray
maati radhabhaave aaj brojo bane biharay, go
Intoxicated in Radha’s love, he wanders through the forest of Vrindavan
O amader pran goraray
O our beloved Gora Ray!
ogo amader, amader, amader go – pran goraray
O our, our, our very own darling Goraray
amader shri rupa hrit ketana, pran goraray
The home of Shri Roop Goswami’s heart, our beloved Gora Ray
amader shri sanataner gati, pran goraray
Shri Sanatan Goswami‘s only goal, our beloved Gora Ray
amader gopal bhatter poraan, pran goraray
Shri Gopal Bhatt Goswami‘s breath of life, our beloved Gora Ray
amader das raghunather sadhaner dhan, pran goraray
The Treasure of Shri Raghunath Das Goswami’s sadhana, our beloved Gora Ray
amader raghunath bhatter poraan, praan goraray
Shri Raghunath Bhatt Goswami’s breath of life, our beloved Gora Ray
amader shri loknather hridbihari, pran goraray
The One who plays in Shri Loknath Goswami’s heart, our beloved Gora Ray
amader shri jiva jivana-dhana, pran goraray
The treasure of Shri Jeev Goswami’s life, our beloved Gora Ray
amader swaroop-ramraayer chitachora, pran goraray
The thief of Shri Swaroop Damodar and Ramananda Ray’s hearts, our beloved Gora Ray
o amader pran gora ray
mati radhabhave aaj braja vane viharay, go
o amader, pran goraray
O our beloved Gora Ray
Intoxicated in Radha’s love, he wanders through the forest of Vrindavan
O our beloved Gora Ray
Devotees of Ram Das Khalsa in Seva Kunj Gali waiting to receive Mahaprabhu (P.C. Dhananjay Goswami)
He searches for Shri Krishna through the the streets of Vrindavan….
hem-danda bahu tuli, bole sada hari hari go,
sthavar-jangam gora premete matay go,
Lifting his golden arms he chants “Hari Hari” without stopping. Our beloved Gora Ray drives even the the plants and animals mad with love.
And on the banks of Shri Yamuna River…
kalindir shyam neer, dekhi prabhu nahe sthir go,
kalindira kalo jale nipatita hoy, go!
The dark water of the Shri Yamuna River reminds him of Shri Krishna. Seeing that color drives him mad with love; he faints and falls in!
bole – kothay amar kaloshona
bolo bolo o yamuna, kothay amar kaloshona
He says, “Please tell me, o Yamuna Maharani… where can I find my dark Beloved?”
Seeing the divine forest for the first time…
dekhi madhur vrindavan, premete ghurnita man go,
vaner madhuri dekhi rodan karay, go
Gazing upon sweet Vrindavan, his heart is trembling. The beauty of the forest makes him weep!
pulakashru poorna gaay, bhavaveshe chali jaay go,
hemadanda baahu tuli hari boli dhaay go
His body is completely bathed in tears and the soft hairs of his body are standing on end. Chanting, “Hari Hari” in utter rapture he lifts his golden arms and starts to run.
At Dheer Sameer…
vanshivata-dhirsamire praveshiya dhire dhire go
bole kaho kaho krishna kotha vanshi bajay go
Crossing through Dheer Sameer, he approaches Vanshivat with timid steps. He yearns, “Where is my beloved Krishna, playing upon his flute?”
At Gopeshwar Mahadev…
gopishwar nikate asi, karajode gorashashi go,
katore prarthana kari kata ki kahay go
Coming before Gopeshwar Mahadev, he folds his hands and prays to him with words of deep longing.
Gopeshwar Mahadev (P.C. Vrindavan Experience)
On the Yamuna Riverbank…
yamuna puline jaiya, pode murachita hoiya go
premaveshe raje podi godagodi jaay go
Arriving on the riverbank of Shri Yamunaji, he faints away. In a trance of love, he rolls back and forth on the holy sands.
anandashru bahi jaay, gangar pravaah praay go,
sthavar jangam gora premete bhasay go
The flow of his tears is like a second Ganga river. All the animals and plants of the forest are swimming in that flood of love.
dhenugan vane chare, dekhiya ananda-bhare go
dhali pode bhumitale unamata praay go
prabhur shri anga dekhi gabhigan bedaye aasi go
vatsalyete gabhigan shrianga chatoy go
Seeing the cows grazing in the pasturelands, Mahaprabhu is filled with bliss! Suddenly he falls to the ground unconscious like one intoxicated. Filled with a mother’s love, all the cows crowd around him and lick his body.
gabhiganer priti here anande avasha hoye go
gabhiganer kantha dhari rodana karay go
Mahaprabhu is so moved by the cows’ pure love that he puts his arms around them and weeps.
gauranga harike dekhe mayura mayuri sukhe go
urdhva-pucce naci naci prabhuke beday go
The peacocks see him and come running. They happily open their tails and dance all around him.
At the site of the Raas…
rasasthali darzan kore, preme mUracita hoye go
cetana paiya punah godagodi jay go
kaampe anga thara thara, bhave ruddha kanthasvara go
pashupakshi kande dekhi pashana galay go
When Mahaprabhu sees the place of the Raas Lila, he faints again, and again he rolls in the dust. His body shakes, his voice trembles. All the animals and birds of the forest cry to see him, and the stones begin to melt.
dala hate shuka-shari, prabhu haste pade udi go
radhakrishna shlok padi prabhuke shunay go
se bol shuniya kane, ananda-vismaya-mane go
se donhar pane chaiya kata ki bolay go
A parrot and a mynah bird fly down from the trees and sit on Mahaprabhu’s hand. They sweetly chant verses about Shri Radha and Krishna’s lila for Mahaprabhu to enjoy. Mahaprabhu is surprised and filled with joy to hear them talk. He gazes at them lovingly and speaks to them with love.
vrikshalata-adi kari, bhavonmatta gaur hari go
madhudhara-chale tara rodana karay go
All the blessed trees and creepers of Vrindavan are enchanted to see Him. They start to cry tears in the form of their sap.
ta’sabar priti he’re ati-ananda-antare go
prati-vrkshalata prabhu alingan karay go
Overwhelmed by their love, Mahaprabhu is overjoyed. He tries to hug every tree and every vine.
harin asiya sukhe, phen piye prabhu-mukhe, go
netrajala pakshigan sukhe asi khay, go
When Mahaprabhu faints, the deer come to lick the foam from his mouth, and the birds fly down to sip the nectar of his teardrops.
amali-talate asi basilen gora shashi go,
shriyamunar shobha dekhi mahasukhoday go
krishnalilay puratan, amlivriksha manoram go
eta bali vriksha dhari alingan karay go
Arriving at Imli Tala, Shri Gauranga sits down. He feels so happy to gaze at Shri Yamuna. He hugs the ancient Imli tree, thinking it must have been present during Krishna’s Lila all those years ago.
nidhuvana nirakhiya purvalila smariya go
bhavera aveshe gora ullasita hoy go
Seeing dear Nidhivan, he remembers his previous Lila there and becomes absorbed in bliss.
ativa-ananda-chite, bhrame raas-rajanite go,
haye raas-rase unamata anande nacay go
With greatest joy, he roams on this night – the night of the Raas! Intoxicated with the sweetness of the Raas, he begins to dance.
sthavara-jangam sange, nace gora premtarange go
ras-rajanite shobha kotigun baday, go
On waves of love, he dances with the plants and animals of Vrindavan. The blessed night of the Raas looks all the more beautiful then.
o amader pran goraray
O our Pran Gora Ray
Shri Amiya Nimai