← Sonar Gauranga
During the later years of his life, Siddha Jagannath Das baba lived for six months in Vrindavan and six months in Navadweep. Jagannath Das Baba’s amazing Vrindavan pastimes have left us with deities in two separate temples that he personally worshipped with love for many years.
Jagannath Das Babaji lived an extraordinarily long life. Different sources give slightly different ages but all agree he lived over 100 years and some say he lived as long as 147 years. Babaji performed many miracles, including jumping up and down (despite being blind and crippled) at the place where Bhaktivinoda Thakur suspected to be the birthplace of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, thereby verifying the hunch.
Jagannath Das Baba left his body in Navadweep, so his Samadhi is there, but there are two very special temples in Vrindavan in which Jagannath Das Babaji’s deities, Sadbhuja Chaitanya and Sonar Gauranga are worshiped. Both of these deities were given away to people. In his work, The Saints of Braj, OBL Kapoor writes:
It is difficult to say why Baba twice brought deities then sent them away. Did he not commit an apradha (offence) by doing so? It is not proper to judge the behaviour of a siddha saint by ordinary standards of behavoir. For they are above all the rules and regulations laid down in the scriptures for ordinary devotees. The loving intimacy that develops between the saint and the deity they worship does not countenance rules and regulations. In the game of love that goes on between the two, both are free to behave as they choose. Both play hide and seek with each other.”
Sonar Gauranga means Golden Gauranga and there is a delightful lila related to Gaur Nitai’s goldern appearance:
“The images were made of Brass and glittered like gold. One night, some robbers came in while Baba was doing bhajan. They said, “we are robbers, you must give us all that you possess.
“I am only a servant. The masters are in the temple. You go to them”.
The robbers entered the temple. They were overjoyed to see the deities which they thought must be made of gold. So they wrapped them in a blanket and got ready to make their escape, but, the chief of the robbers, who was carrying the images, struck his head against the top of the door frame and fell down, along with the deities.
Thinking this to be an ill omen, the robbers left the deities and ran away. The next morning, Babaji asked his servant, Bihariji to give the deities away to someone in Vrindavan. Bihariji took the deities to Vrindavan and gaven them to Ma Goswamini of Gayesapur. At present the deities are installed in a temple at Gopal Bagha in Vrindavan (100 meters from the Radha Gopinath temple main gate). They are known as Sonar Gauranga.
But Babaji could not live without deities. He became a siddha saint when he had darshan of Gaur Nitai in Rishikesh, after performing mantra puruscarana – the continuous repetition of a mantra for a specific purpose. After 5 months of chanting continuously and eating only once per day, Gaur Nitai appeared to him. Even after the meeting with Gaura and Nitai, or perhaps because of it, Babaji was focused on deity worship.
After some time Babaji said to Bihari, “I do not feel happy without a deity. Get me an image of Mahaprabhu from somewhere. Bihari brought an image of six-armed Mahaprabhu from Dinu Babaji, a Manipuri Vaishnava who lived in Mukhara village near Radha Kund. The image was duly installed and worshipped by Babaji for ten years.
After ten years, Babaji said to Bihari, Go and give the deity to someone in Vrindavan. Bihari gave the deity to Nityananda Das Baba of the Gopalguru Matha in Vrindavan. At present this deity is being worshipped in a temple in a lane adjacent to the boundary wall of Nidhivan in Vrindavan.
It may be that Jagannatha Dasa Baba had ousted Gaura-Nitai from his temple because he thought they had invited the robbers and created a disturbance in his bhajan. But what offense had the six armed Mahaprabhu committed to deserve his ousting? Baba alone knows. The ways of the saints who have realized the Lord are no less inscrutable than the ways of the Lord Himself.”
While the ways of the saints and the Lord may sometimes be inscrutable, it is humbling when we realize how they have acted for our benefit. Jagannatha Das Baba’s Vrindavan lilas have left us with two temples with deities worshipped by a siddha Baba who was in direct contact with the Lord.
Shri Shri Gaura-Nitai ki jai! Jagannatha Das Babaji ki jai! Shri Vrindavan Dham ki Jai!