Śrī Śyāmānanda Prabhu
[June 5, 2023 is the disappearance day of Śrī Śyāmānanda Prabhu in Vṛndāvana, India. The following is a bhāva anuvāda of the kathā given by Śrīla Bhakti Vijñāna Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja on his appearance day on April 25, 2013. Editors’ input: Additional text has been included in square brackets to facilitate the flow of content.]
Today is the appearance day of Śrī Śyāmānanda Prabhu. From the worldly perspective, he was born in West Bengal, in the town of Bahādurpura, within Burdhaman District, in the Sadgopa caste. His parents, having suffered much grief, due to having lost several of their children at birth prior to Śyāmānanda, named him ‘Duhkhī’ [literally meaning 'One who is sad', to ward off any further calamity]. Later he went to Ambikā Kālnā and accepted dīkṣā from a disciple of Gaurīdāsa Paṇḍita, Śrī Hṛdayānanda, who later came to be known as Hṛdaya-caitanya. [Śyāmānanda was awarded the name Kṛṣṇadāsa at initiation and thenceforth came to be known as Duhkhī Kṛṣṇadāsa.]
Duhkhī Kṛṣṇadāsa studied under the tutelage of Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī in Vṛndāvana along with fellow-students, Narottama and Śrīnivāsa. Eventually, Duhkhī Kṛṣṇadāsa was awarded the title Śyāmānanda by the Viśva-vaiṣṇava Rāja-sabhā, while Narottama received the title Ṭhākura Mahāśaya and Śrīnivāsa was given the title Ācārya. [Thus they came to be known as Śrīnivāsa Ācārya, Śyāmānanda Prabhu and Narottama Dāsa Ṭhākura.]
Once while Śyāmānanda Prabhu was sweeping the grove at Sevā Kuñja in Vṛndāvana, he found Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī’s ankle bracelet lying on the ground. [Overcome by ecstatic symptoms just by its touch] He reverentially touched it to his forehead and the nūpura (ankle-bell) left a mark. [Due to this mark, his tilaka looked different.]
Yogamāyā* then approached Śyāmānanda Prabhu and said, “My daughter-in-law's nūpura (ankle bell) fell off her feet while she was dancing. If you have found it, please return it to me.” However Śyāmānanda insisted, “I shall return the nūpura only to its owner.” Then Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī Herself appeared to reclaim Her nūpura and in turn, offered a beautiful Deity of Śyāmasundara to Śyāmānanda Prabhu. Indeed, Śyāmānanda Prabhu is the recipient of very special mercy from Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. [That small deity of Śyāmasundara gifted by Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī can still be found in the Śyāmasundara temple in Vṛndāvana.] In the same temple, the big deity of Śyāmasundara was established by Baladeva Vidyābhūśana Prabhu later.
To instruct us not to supplant authority by overstepping set standards, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī chastised Śyāmānanda Prabhu [for having changed his tilaka to ‘nūpura-tilaka’ instead of the conventional tilaka adorned by the guru-varga]. Then Śyāmānanda Prabhu related the entire story behind the ‘nūpura-tilaka’. Each time he attempted to wipe off the ‘nūpura-tilaka’, it re-appeared on his forehead of its own accord. [Thus, it was accepted as a bona fide mark. To this day, the 'nūpura-tilaka', is adorned by the descendants of Śyāmānanda.]
* Other sources mention that Lalitā-sakhī and Viśākhā-sakhī approached Śyāmānanda Prabhu and Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī herself touched the ankle bell to his forehead.