Śrī Govinda Ghoṣa Ṭhākura
[March 19, 2023 is the disappearance day of Śrī Govinda Ghoṣa Ṭhākura, in Vṛndāvana, India. The following is a bhāva anuvāda of the kathā given by Śrīla Bhakti Vijñāna Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja on the same tithi on March 25, 2017. Editors’ input: Additional text has been included in square brackets to facilitate the flow of content.]
Today is a special day. On this day a festival called Śubha-vijaya is celebrated at Varāha-nagara in honor of Śrīman Mahāprabhu’s auspicious arrival there. Wherever Mahāprabhu went, the people celebrate at those places on that day in remembrance of Him.
Since the time of Mahāprabhu’s arrival at Varāha-nagara, the residents of Varāha-nagara would go to Jagannātha Purī for His darśana every year. Along the way, they would also carry Rāghava Paṇḍita’s jhāli (bags of goods) with them for Mahāprabhu.
Also today is the disappearance of Govinda Ghoṣa Ṭhākura or ‘Ghoṣa Ṭhākura’s tirobhāva’ as he was popularly referred as Ghoṣa Ṭhākura. Govinda Ghoṣa, Mādhava Ghoṣa and Vāsudeva Ghoṣa were three brothers who were all excellent kīrtanīyas. At the time when Caitanya Mahāprabhu used to dance in front of Lord Jagannātha during the Ratha-yātrā, the devotees would divide into seven groups and sing kīrtana. There were four groups in the front, one on each side and one at the back of the ratha. One of those kīrtana groups included the three Ghoṣa brothers [with Govinda Ghoṣa appointed as the leader by Caitanya Mahāprabhu].
Govinda Ghoṣa had a son, who left his body at a young age. Following his son’s death, Govinda Ghoṣa, who used to serve a Deity of Lord Gopīnātha, stopped His sevā. Seeing this, Gopīnātha inquired, “Why have you stopped
serving Me?” Govinda Ghoṣa replied, “As my [only] son is no more, and my brothers live in different places, there is nobody to continue Your service after me and there is no one to serve me or perform my last rites either. After I leave this body Your sevā will be stopped anyways. Considering this, I have stopped Your sevā.” Then Lord Gopīnātha said, “Why don't you consider Me as your son? From today, I am your son eternally. I will perform your last rites.” Thus during the tirobhāva tithi of Ghoṣa Ṭhākura, a carnival takes place at Ghoṣa Ṭhākura’s residence (a place not very far from Māyāpura - one railway station away), and Lord Gopīnātha takes kuśa grass and performs the śrāddha ceremony for Ghoṣa Ṭhākura. Every year after Mahāprabhu’s appearance day, fourteen vigrahas (Deities) from Kṛṣṇanagara, are brought together there. I remember the king of Kṛṣṇanagara used to bring all the vigrahas (Deities) and have a grand festival there.
I had never visited Lord Gopīnātha, until once, while we were visiting Kṛṣṇanagara for the annual festival [of the maṭha], Lord Gopīnātha appeared in my śikṣā guru, Pūjyapāda Śrīmad Bhakti Pramoda Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s dream, and expressed His desire to accept some kṣīra (sweet rice made from milk) from him. So Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja went there and arranged for the offering of kṣīra bhoga. On that occasion, I had the fortune to visit and have darśana of Lord Gopīnātha.
From Ghoṣa Ṭhākura’s incident we can see how the Lord is subservient to His devotees. Just because His devotee thought, 'O! Who will perform my last rites?', Gopīnātha Himself proclaimed ‘I will do it’, thus, on this day, Gopīnātha Himself performs the śrāddha ceremony. To this day many from Māyāpura attend the festival, but not as much to see Gopīnātha, as to see the carnival (melā). The festival is popularly known as ‘Ghoṣa Ṭhākura’s melā.’ It is quite a grand festival. Many people put up stalls there, stay for two days to earn well and leave. There was one person who was working on our fields. He once asked for three days of leave, as he wanted to participate in Ghoṣa Ṭhākura’s melā. The deity of Mahāprabhu for each of our maṭhas came from there. Guru Mahārāja would like it that way as it was symbolic of the fact that we worship Mahāprabhu of Navadvīpa. It has been almost 375 years now, and the carnival still happens in a grand fashion.
On his disappearance day today, I pray at the lotus feet of Govinda Ghoṣa Ṭhākura that if we develop similar firm faith and complete surrender as he had in the Lord’s lotus feet, then our human birth will be successful.