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Śrīla Māheśa Paṇḍita and Śrīla Uddhāraṇa Datta Ṭhākura

[January 09, 2024 is the disappearance day of Śrīla Māheśa Paṇḍita and Śrīla Uddhāraṇa Datta Ṭhākura in Vṛndāvana, India. The following is the bhāva anuvāda of the kathā given by Śrīla Bhakti Vijñāna Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja for the same tithi, on December 22, 2011. Editors’ input: Additional text has been included in square brackets to facilitate the flow of content.]

Today is a special day; it is the tirobhāva tithi of two Vraja-gopālas (Kṛṣṇa’s cowherd boyfriends): Śrīla Māheśa Paṇḍita and Śrīla Uddhāraṇa Datta Ṭhākura. Among the twelve gopālas (dvādaśa-gopālas), Śrīla Māheśa Paṇḍita is Māhabāhu.

Originally residing in Guwahati, he later moved to Navadvīpa desiring to reside near the Gaṅgā. There were three brothers: Śrīla Hiraṇya Paṇḍita, Śrīla Jagadīśa Paṇḍita and Śrīla Māheśa Paṇḍita. The youngest of them was Śrīla Māheśa Paṇḍita who is Vraja's Māhabāhu Sakhā and considered among the associates of Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu. He left his home and established his śrīpāṭa at Masipura in Jīrāṭ. Later he moved to Beleḍāṅgā near Sukha Sāgara. From there he moved his śrīpāṭa to Pālpāda (in Bengali year 1334). His samādhi was originally in Pālpāda, and later shifted to Kāṭhālapurī near Chakdāha due to the threat of being submerged by the Gaṅgā.

There, his worshipable Deities, Śrī Gopīnātha, Madana-mohana, Rādhā-Govinda, and Śāligrāma-śilā were residing in a room. Later when the Gauḍīya Maṭha took up the service of the Deities, Śrīla Prabhupāda also built a temple where the puṣpa samādhi of Śrīla Māheśa Paṇḍita was placed in front.

As a mere child, Śrī Caitanya deva endeavored to make everyone perform kīrtana. When He appeared in this world, under the pretext of an eclipse, He engaged everyone in performing kīrtana. As a child, by crying, He would entice everyone to perform kīrtana. For when everyone clapped and sang He would stop crying. But one day it so happened that despite all the neighbors uniting in kīrtana, Śrī Caitanya deva would not stop crying. When Śrī Caitanya deva wouldn’t give up crying, Śrī Jagannātha Miśra asked Him, “Son why are You crying? What will make You stop?” He replied, “Today Śrīla Hiraṇya Paṇḍita and Śrīla Jagadiśa Paṇḍita have prepared special offerings for Viṣṇu in their home [that day was Ekādaśī tithi]. If I get even a little portion of each of those items I will stop crying.”

Initially Śrī Jagannātha Miśra wondered whether they would be willing to give some portion of the offerings which they had prepared for Lord Viṣṇu to Śrī Caitanya deva. He considered it was possible as the child wouldn’t give up crying otherwise. Thus when Śrī Jagannātha Miśra went to their house and explained the situation at home, Śrīla Jagadiśa Paṇḍita willingly agreed, “Take everything. He is such a small child, yet how did He know today was Ekādaśī? (He was not even five years of age then.) Additionally, how did He know that so many nice preparations had been prepared for the Lord? Certainly Bhagavān is residing in His heart.” For this reason he gladly offered everything he had prepared. The moment Śrī Caitanya deva ate all the offerings, He stopped crying.

Considering that Śrī Caitanya deva accepted food on the day of Ekādaśī, those who are pākhaṇḍīs take this incident as pramāṇa. Once I was standing next to a very learned and established individual who was narrating this pastime, afterwards he approached me and offering obeisances said, “Bābā, do not hear these things.” In other words, Śrī Caitanya deva was only a mere child, so how could His action be considered as pramāṇa? This was the point.

Śrīla Māheśa Paṇḍita renounced his home and wandered in different places until settling in Kāṭhālapurī. So today is the tirobhāva tithi of Śrīla Māheśa Paṇḍita, and there they still celebrate a festival.

In those days, a grand festival used to be held at Śrī Caitanya Maṭha where our god-brother Giri Mahārāja, who was in-charge, managing the temple services. There was another person by the name Kṛṣṇa-Mohana who was a teacher there. He remained in the maṭha and did not marry; he would go to teach children in a school one station away.

In 1962, at the time when we had our maṭha in Jaśore, the last descendant of Śrīla Jagadiśa Paṇḍita, Viśvanātha Gosvāmī, was residing there. He wrote a letter to Guru Mahārāja during Kumbha-melā saying, “You will have to accept the service of the Deities.” Guru Mahārāja asked me, “What should we do?” I replied, “We should write them a letter saying we will decide after personally paying a visit to that place.” The letter was drafted on the instruction of Guru Mahārāja. When we came to Kolkata on our way to Māyāpura, we took time to visit that place and found the temple dilapidated. Rādhā-rañjana Ghoṣa who was the chairman of the local municipality there, along with one brāhmaṇa and another person from royal heritage, all three in very advanced age, met with Guru Mahārāja and begged him to take over the services of the temple as soon as possible. Guru Mahārāja then consulted with his god-brothers and they encouraged him saying, “You have no other service of any ancient temple, so it is good to accept it.” Then Guru Mahārāja accepted the service.

Today is the tirobhāva tithi of Śrīla Māheśa Paṇḍita and in a few days is the tirobhāva tithi of Śrīla Jagadiśa Paṇḍita. A day prior to this, nagara saṅkīrtana is held in and around the city of Chakdāha. We also go to Kāṭhālapurī to his śrīpāṭa and join in the nagara saṅkīrtana one day before that. Previously, when it was in Pālapara, we used to go there as well.

Also, when Nityānanda Prabhu had celebrated the ‘Pāṇihāṭi’ festival, Śrīla Māheśa Paṇḍita was present. There, he would perform lot of nṛtya-kīrtana [dancing and singing]. Such are his glories!

Śrīla Uddhāraṇa Datta Ṭhākura is Subāhu Sakhā in Vṛndāvana [kṛṣṇa-līlā], one of the twelve gopālas (dvādaśa gopālas). His place of appearance is Triśbigha, a town in Saptagrāma. His father’s name was Śrīkara and mother’s name was Bhadrāvatī. Accepting them as his parents he appeared in a family of gold merchants. Why did Mahāprabhu arrange for His devotees to appear in various castes? Because it makes no difference where or how a Vaiṣṇava appears. One is bound for hell if he sees a Vaiṣṇava according to caste. Scriptures say that one is considered to be of hellish nature or is bound for hellish regions if he thinks the Deity in the temple as being made of stone, wood or metal, thinks of Vaiṣṇavas as belonging to a particular caste or considers guru as an ordinary man.

[arcye viṣṇau śilā-dhīr guruṣu nara-matir vaiṣṇave jāti-buddhir

viṣṇor vā vaiṣṇavānāṁ kali-mala-mathane pāda-tīrthe 'mbu-buddhiḥ

śrī-viṣṇor nāmni mantre sakala-kaluṣa-he śabda-sāmānya-buddhir

viṣṇau sarveśvareśe tad-itara-sama-dhīr yasya vā nārakī saḥ

(Padma Purāṇa)

"One who thinks the Deity in the temple to be made of wood or stone, who thinks of the spiritual master in the disciplic succession as an ordinary man, who thinks the Vaiṣṇava in the Acyuta-gotra to belong to a certain caste or creed or who thinks of caraṇāmṛta or Ganges water as ordinary water is taken to be a resident of hell."]

Śrīla Uddhāraṇa Datta Ṭhākura stayed with Nityānanda Prabhu even though he worked as the manager of a big zamindār of Naihāṭī, near Katwā. The relics of this wealthy family are still visible not far from Dain Hat. The place where he resided was named Uddhāraṇpura (this is near Katwā). I got a chance to visit this place, which is on the banks of Ganges, due to some work.

[Śrīla Mahārāja then described the entire Pāṇihāṭi festival in great detail explaining how Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī received the mercy of Nityānanda Prabhu.]

Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī asked Rāghava Paṇḍita for guidance [to ascertain how much dakṣiṇā to give each person] because if he were to give to everyone equally, that would constitute a violation of etiquette. [Thus, Rāghava Paṇḍita made a list of the amount to be donated to each and every devotee]. The dakṣiṇā for Nityānanda Prabhu was given to Śrīla Uddhāraṇa Datta Ṭhākura who was the chief servitor and treasurer of Nityānanda Prabhu.

Because of Śrīla Uddhāraṇa Datta Ṭhākura, the entire of gold-merchant community got liberated and attained the mercy of Nityānanda Prabhu. He established the worship of the six-armed form of Mahāprabhu (Ṣaḍbhuja Gaurāṅga) at his śrīpāṭa and also at Dain Hat. Although Śrīla Uddhāraṇa Datta Ṭhākura has disappeared from worldly vision, his Deities are still manifest, giving darśana, and are being served by his descendants.

Both Śrīla Māheśa Paṇḍita and Śrīla Uddhāraṇa Datta Ṭhākura are Vraja gopālas. Śrīla Māheśa Paṇḍita worshipped Śrī Gopīnātha, Madana-mohana, Rādhā-Govinda, and Śāligrāma-śilā in his temple and Their service is now being performed by the Gauḍīya Maṭha. And Śrīla Uddhāraṇa Datta Ṭhākura’s worshipable Deity was the Ṣaḍbhuja Gaurāṅga Deity and is still worshiped there. His only son was Śrīnivāsa. In his name, the place Uddhāraṇpura is still present. There is a crematorium there where dead bodies are burnt by use of charcoal. Up to that point, I hadn’t seen such a thing anywhere; I saw it there for the first time.

Some people go from Kolkata every Sunday to his śrīpāṭa in Uddhāraṇpura for darśana. His Deities Caitanya-Nityānanda, and Caitanya-Gadādhara are there. Today is his tirobhāva tithi. We will pray for his mercy. He served the lotus feet of Nityānanda Prabhu in all respects whole heartedly. Though in a very high post, he accompanied Nityānanda Prabhu everywhere and contributed to expand His preaching.

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