Hari-katha inspired by the Guru-varga; translated from Hindi.
For the welfare of the living entities in material existence, this wonderful pastime of Dahi-chidwa-mahotsava was manifest in this world. By this lila, the tendency to engage in bhakti is obtained, as well as the qualification to enter the realm of bhakti. In a natural manner, Lila-sakti attracts the jivas and immerses them in the transcendental nectar of bhakti-yoga. If this was not so, then how, even after 550 years, is this festival of Dahi-chidwa-mahotsava being performed all over the world? This festival was first performed in Panihati, but now, lila-sakti has spread this pastime all over the world. This is the function of lila-sakti. She begins this pastime and then distributes it and it goes everywhere and attracts the jivas. Sadhakas, siddhas, and fortunate conditioned souls become connected to nitya-lila by the power of this sakti and they receive the tendency to serve Radha-Krsna Conjugal. Srila Gurudeva has described this to us.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Nityananda Prabhu know how to grant entrance into Vraja-bhumi. They know the appropriate sadhana to teach the living entities to allow them to enter Vraja. One day Dahi-chidwa-mahotsava was celebrated; should it be done daily? No one has forbid it. However, what is special about this day?
Srila Gurudeva said: when Nityananda Prabhu entered Panihati, by the desire of Mahaprabhu, He stayed for three months performing nama-sankirtana with a large assembly of associates, on both sides of the Ganga. He went to Varaha-nagara, Patha-badi, including Panihati, and Khar-daha—where Nityananda Prabhu’s lila place and residence is—as well as to Kumar-hatta, the birthplace of Isvara Puri, and also the Pada-pita of Madhavendra Puri. Nityananda Prabhu invited lila-sakti and arranged for all the jivas to benefit from her mercy.
On this day, in the evening time, Srila Gurudeva spoke on this pastime at the Radha-Damodara temple in Vrndavan.
This festival is celebrated all over Vrndavan and Vraja-mandala, especially in Radha-kunda. Sadhus and santas come from all over Vraja-mandala to participate in this festival at Radha-kunda. In the morning, after seven a.m., kirtana begins, and continues until two p.m. Songs are performed and recited from the Caitanya-Bhagavat, Caitanya-Caritamrta, Caitanya-Maha-Kavya, Caitanya-Candramrta, and other glorifications and documentations of Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s life, especially in regard to this pastime. Afterwards, Radha-kunda is circumambulated. Next, the place of asta-sakhis, asta-manjaris, asta-kaviraja, sad-gosvamis, in the lila-kunja—this place is circumambulated. Then, the devotees sit and celebrate how Nityananda Prabhu manifested this Dahi-chidwa-mahotsava with Raghunatha Das Gosvami. Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Nityananda Prabhu—the Panca-tattva—They are worshiped. Thereafter, five clay pots full of bhoga are offered. And then, all the Vaisnavas who have assembled are served a drink made of guda, fennel, water, and spices. This is soaked together overnight and distributed after being offered the next day. Fruits are then distributed—melons, mangoes, etc. Some years, by the mercy of Srila Gurudeva, we would be able to go there with ingredients to offer and participated in this festival.
Tens of thousands of people come through Radha-kunda on this day. So there are large pots with yogurt, tamarind, soaked flat-rice, sugar, camphor, and this is distributed to the devotees and pilgrims. On all four sides of Radha-kunda, standing along the ghatas, and on the parikrama path around Radha-kunda and Syama-kunda, prasadam is distributed to the thousands and thousands gathered and everyone takes this in great bliss. There is no halla-gulla, shouting or trouble. The devotees take prasada, pray for the mercy of Raghunatha Das Gosvami and Nityananda Prabhu, and then proceed to their own places. Nityananda Prabhu joins the faithful to nitya-lila through this pastime. How is this so? Therefore, we will hear what Srila Gurudeva spoke in Radha-Damodara-mandira, many years ago.
Srila Gurudeva spoke in the midst of thousands, before Srila Rupa Gosvami’s Samadhi. In those days, there was a large open area; there was no enclosure as there is now. The Radha-Damodara compound and land was much larger—later, the gosais there sold much of the land. So Srila Gurudeva said: Look, Nityananda Prabhu began a huge sankirtana movement on the order of Sriman Mahaprabhu. For months the devotees and associates of Nityananda Prabhu were engaged completely in sankirtana, forgetting everything else. Nirjala-Ekadasi passed. On Dvadasi, Nityananda Prabhu arranged for the bhaktas to receive some prasada. The rule for following Ekadasi is that on Dasami one will take fruits and roots once in the day, fasting from grains, and on Ekadasi, one follows full nirjala, and on Dvadasi also, one takes fruits and roots, also once. Then on Trayodasi, one again takes grains as normal. The devotees would follow like this. On Trayodasi day, Nityananda Prabhu arranged for the bhaktas to take grain-prasada in the morning. There are different gradations and levels of following Ekadasi. When one takes grains once on Dasami, fasts fully on Ekadasi, and takes grains once again on Dvadasi, this is not complete observance of Ekadasi—it does not give the complete result. Different bhaktas would observe Ekadasi to various standards.
However, Nityananda Prabhu made the devotees so intoxicated with the bliss of nama-sankirtana, that everyone forgot food and drink completely. On Trayodasi, in the early morning, Nityananda Prabhu told Raghava Pandita that he should arrange prasada that day for the bhaktas. He came then with the bhaktas, while doing kirtana, to the bank of the Ganga, and there he remembered pulina-bhojana with Krsna on the banks of the Yamuna. He remembered how Krsna entered the forests of Vraja with the sakhas and calves. The sakhas played on many instruments. Baladeva Prabhu was in the front, then the bigger sakhas, and then one or two year-old calves, and then Krsna’s priya-sakhas, and then more calves, and then another group of sakhas, the suhrt-sakhas. Then the narma-sakhas and priya-narma sakhas came. In this way, five groups of sakhas go to the forest with Krsna. Krsna comes with His prana-prestha sakhas. The sakhis and manjaris watch, hidden in the forest, and some climb on roofs of their homes to see Krsna leaving to the forest. Some gopis stand by the pathway with gifts for Krsna. Krsna goes and takes flowers from one gopi, sweets from another, a drink from another and drinks it, and teases another. And while going, the sakhas are singing and playing on instruments. That kirtana is so mesmerizing. The calves are dancing and playing along with the sakhas. No one feels any lethargy or tiredness. Where there is no kirtana, then there people have no strength and are like dead. From where will rasa enter? They are like buffaloes. But that place where kirtana-rasa enters one receives parama-artam jivanam bhusanam me—divine nectar which is the ornament and vitality of life. Vraja’s sankirtana-rasa is manifest during go-carana-lila.
In the morning, Nityananda Prabhu began this gostha-lila-kirtana and the bhaktas were dancing in bliss. Das Gosvami then arrived. Nityananda Prabhu knew who he is. He knew that before Krsna goes to the forest, the sakhis and manjaris prepare everything for His refreshment in the groves of Vraja. Sometimes Krsna takes His meal before going on go-carana and sometimes if it is late, then Krsna takes breakfast with Him and His friends and eats on the bank of the Yamuna. Sometimes He takes at Bhandiravata. In Vraja, four vatas are famous: Srngara-vata, Bhandiravata, Yavata, and Vamsi-vata. From Vamsi-vata until Bhandiravata, the foliage of the vata trees spreads and makes a beautiful canopy for Krsna to pass under. And the sakhas climb over branches, which cross the Yamuna. Sometimes Krsna and His friends sit under the Banyan tree branches on the bank of the Yamuna and there enjoy breakfast in great festivity. They eat, play, and tease each other. Especially Madhumangala is teased. Madhumangala acts in a way to encourage this knowingly, taking this role to further please Krsna and the sakhas. The sakhas thus enjoy hasya-rasa, laughter in the humorous mellow.
Nityananda Prabhu was absorbed in this pulina-bhojana when He heard that Raghunatha Das Gosvami had come and offered pranama from a distance. Nityananda Prabhu called out, “Oh thief! Why are you hiding? Today I will not allow you to hide any longer!” He called him forward, placed His feet on his head, and said, “Now, arrange to feed everyone present. This is your danda. You have brought many things from Vraja-mandala, but you are hiding them. But now I give you permission. Start distributing everything. You are like a thief who has stolen everything and hid it. So now I give you order to distribute it.”
All that was needed was for this to be said. It appeared that everything was already prepared because very quickly, everything was arranged. It was like the door only had to be opened and everything brought out from the storeroom. Why? Raghunatha dasa Gosvami is Rati Manjari—she is a manager of Srimati Radharani’s storehouse in Vraja.
In Vilapa-kusumanjali, Das Gosvami explains how in his manjari form as Rati Manjari, he goes to Nanda-bhavana and enters the kitchen. Rati Manjari cleans the kitchen, and prepares all the ingredients for Radharani to cook with. She sprinkles rose-water in the kitchen and spreads lotus petals for Radharani to walk on and makes sure there are no stones or thorns on the path, because Srimati Radhika is komala-angi, very soft-limbed; especially the soles of Her feet are very soft.
Nityananda Prabhu desired to manifest this pastime in the hearts of the sadhakas and His associates. Until one has relished and become connected to lila-rasa, he will not be impervious to the influence of maya. You will not be able to bind one to spiritual life by force. You cannot pay a person to perform bhakti. You cannot control anyone in this manner.
Srila Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja distributed harinama-sankirtana all over the world, and then Srila Gurudeva came and distributed lila-rasa. By this lila-rasa everyone was connected. Nama-rupa-guna are all present with lila, just as all the rasas are present within madhurya-rasa.
So today Nityananda Prabhu began nama-sankirtana, and then manifested vraja-lila by engaging Raghunatha dasa Gosvami, Rati Manjari, in distributing prasada to everyone. Nityananda Prabhu was remembering pulina-bhojana with Krsna and then saw Raghunatha. He knew who he really is and then instructed him to serve the devotees by arranging for pulina-bhojana. Raghunatha was overjoyed to serve in this manner and quickly prepared everything. Today he received the order to distribute vraja-bhakti-rasa and lila-rasa. Until this point he had not received this instruction. He went to meet with Mahaprabhu before, once the Lord had taken sannyasa. Mahaprabhu had told him, “Stay at home. Don’t be batula, like a madman.”
But now, seeing Das Gosvami, Nityananda Prabhu was remembering: Yamuna-puline kadamba-kanane ki herinu sakhi aja, syama vamsidhari mani-mancopari, kare lila-rasaraja. And He told Das Gosvami, “Do not delay. Many days have passed in hiding.”
Jaise khainge anna vaise banenge mana, jaise piange pani vaise nikalega vani
The food you eat affects the state of your mind. When people cook without any love then it can cause a disturbance to those who eat. Especially because when there is no love in the performance of cooking, then the cook will often rush and not do his service properly. I saw in Mathura that Srila Gurudeva would not allow any and everyone to cook in the kitchen. And if some people cooked, Gurudeva would not eat it. And with some people, Gurudeva would order them, “You must cook!” Even if they resisted and came up with many excuses and asked to do other services, Gurudeva would insist and order them, “No! It is your service to cook for Thakuraji and the devotees.” And with others, he would say, “You should do kirtana and other services, but don’t go in the kitchen and don’t cook.” Why? Some people cook with love and some have no love. Now, this vraja-rasa is love for Bhagavan Krsna. If one has this love for Krsna, then it can be distributed through what comes in touch with him, especially if he cooks, than that bhoga will be taken with relish by Thakuraji, who is only hungry for love, and the prasada will be very special and those who take it with respect and faith will gain entrance into vraja-bhakti and will get a taste for vraja-rasa. For example, the Jagannatha cooks do their service with so much love and care. Just touching that prasada is so auspicious. It brings one so much sweetness. Even remembering Jagannatha’s prasada is very auspicious. During Srila Gurudeva’s Vyasa-puja appearance day celebration in Jagannatha-puri, at the Jaya Sri Damodara Gaudiya Matha, we arranged over twenty-five items of Jagannatha prasada for thousands of devotees and guests. It was so wonderful, that even years later, people still speak of and remember that feast.
So today, Nityananda Prabhu arranged for the first time for Raghunatha dasa Gosvami, Rati Manjari, to distribute the love in his heart, vraja-rasa, through this Dahi-chidwa-mahotsava feast. There is a specialty in the prasada arranged and distributed by the manjaris not found in prasada arranged by any other bhaktas.
Srila Gurudeva said: On this day of Dahi-chidwa-mahotsava, during Trayodasi, Nityananda Prabhu distributed maha-prasada from the hands of Rati Manjari, to a seemingly endless number of people. So many people took this prasada, that there was no place for them to sit on the banks of the Ganga and surrounding countryside, and many climbed in trees to take there, or stood in the water and took prasada there, some climbed on tops of roofs and took prasada there. Everyone was completely absorbed in the bliss of honoring maha-prasada.
In Vraja, there are two types of prasada: ghrta-sneha and madhu-sneha. Ghrta-sneha is greasy but not sweet. Madhu-sneha is full of sweetness. Through Raghunatha dasa Gosvami, Nityananda Prabhu began distributing both madhu-sneha and ghrta-sneha. In one pot, he soaked chidwa and added honey, sandesh, and varieties of bananas, like champa-kela, martaman, kutali-kela, mala-bhoga, as well as mangoes, raja-gandha lemons, litchi, jamun, and other fruits. And in the other, he soaked flat rice with milk, sugar, ghee, and sweets. He offered everything to Nityananda Prabhu and then, after offering everything to Mahaprabhu, Nityananda Prabhu had two pots of these preparations distributed to everyone.
Srila Gurudeva said, “Nityananda Prabhu is akhanda-guru, the root of guru-tattva. Guruji does not cheat anyone. To those in his shelter, Gurudeva gives his help and mercy until they taste rasa-asvadana. When one is connected to that rasa, than seva-vrtti manifests. Until that day pure seva-vrtti doesn’t come.”
Many people think, “Das Gosvami had strong renunciation and ate rotten leftovers, and Sanatana Gosvami and Rupa Gosvami took only some dry chickpeas, we must also follow vairagya. What is the need to make such elaborate preparations for Thakuraji and the devotees? It is over-endeavor. This festival is not for us.” But look at Mahaprabhu’s pastimes. Kaviraja Gosvami explained in Caitanya-caritamrta how 365 preparations were made by Mahaprabhu’s bhaktas. And in other books, it is written how Mahaprabhu’s bhaktas made so many preparations with so much rasa and specialty. When Raghunatha dasa Gosvami distributed today this prasada, those who took this prasada received seva-vrtti. By this vaisistya, Nityananda Prabhu gave them entrance into the realm of bhava.
The whole day after prasada in the morning Nityananda Prabhu and His associates were dancing in sankirtana. Mahaprabhu, Svarupa Damodara, Gadadhara Pandit and all the bhaktas came there from Ksetra-mandala, Gaura-mandala, and Vraja-mandala. All the bhaktas assembled in manifest or unmanifest forms. Where else was this festival performed like this? In Kheturi-grama, under guidance of Jahnava Mata, the rasa showered and Mahaprabhu appeared in the sankirtana with all the bhaktas. Also, during the time of Prabhupada Sarasvati Thakura, such an occurrence took place. Prabhupada Sarasvati Thakura started this after his sata-koti-nama-yajna. In Mayapura, at Mahaprabhu’s birthplace, for one month, nama-sankirtana was going on. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura called brahmanas from Orissa to be the priests and cooks at Mahaprabhu’s birthplace. He said, “Other jatis cannot be pujaris. As Mahaprabhu is a brahmana, so His pujaris and cooks will be brahmanas. Everyone can do kirtana, but these two sevas are reserved for brahmanas.”
At that time, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura manifested such rasa, that everyone was overwhelmed in the joy of sankirtana. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura stayed there for one month without going anywhere. Radha Ramana das Babaji, Radha-carana Babaji, Bhagavan das Babaji, and many other Vaisnavas were there. Jagannatha dasa Babaji Maharaja also came. He presided over a huge festival. Where Nityananda Prabhu or Vaisnavas are presiding over festivals, then those celebrations are most pleasing to Bhagavan. During these times, aprakrta-rasa is distributed and one becomes connected to that aprakrta-rasa. Therefore, these occasions are not ordinary. They are very special. If Dahi-chidwa-mahotsava was an ordinary celebration, then it would have only been performed for one day, but not annually. However, even after hundreds of years, this festival is celebrated all over the world.
Today, from early morning, on the bank of the Ganga, this festival is going on, and it continues throughout the day and into the evening.
Nityananda Prabhu told Raghava Pandit, “We will take prasada at your house in the evening.” In the evening, Nityananda Prabhu came and sat in the garden of Raghava Pandit, known as Madhavi-tala. All the evening bhoga was offered there. Damayanti Devi, Raghava Pandita, and the bhaktas were all present. Nityananda Prabhu looked at the bhoga. He then began picking it up and throwing it. Raghava Pandit was surprised, “What is He doing? Why isn’t He eating?” Then he remembered how in the morning at Dahi-chidwa-mahotsava, Nityananda Prabhu had taken from all the pots and then had appeared to give it in handfuls to someone but no one was there, and then empty-handed, Nitai had filled His hands again and in the same way, handed it to someone. By Nityananda Prabhu’s mercy, Raghava Pandit could then see that Nitai was offering everything directly to Mahaprabhu, who was there hidden to most people. Kirtaniya parisrama jani Gauraraya. Gaurahari joyfully gave prasada to all the bhaktas, seeing them exerting themselves in sankirtana. Therefore, if you do kirtana, then everything you do will be successful. You will have no shortage of anything. By this kirtana and prasada, Nityananda Prabhu gives everyone aprakrta rasa.
When Raghunatha dasa Gosvami came to Jagannatha-puri, his father sent much wealth and servants and for two years, every few days, Das Gosvami arranged feasts for Mahaprabhu and the bhaktas. Then he stopped. When Mahaprabhu asked why the feasts had stopped, Svarupa Damodara told Him that Raghunatha felt that Mahaprabhu was taking the prasada out of courtesy, but that He was not pleased or satisfied, therefore he had stopped. Mahaprabhu became happy to hear this and said:
“visayira anna khaile malina haya mana
malina mana haile nahe krsnera smarana
–Caitanya-caritamrta, Antya 6.278
“When one eats food grains provided by the wealth of a materialist, one’s mind becomes contaminated, and when the mind is contaminated, one is unable to think of Krsna properly.”
Before, the prasada distributed during Dahi-chidwa-mahotsava was done under guidance and by the desire of Nityananda Prabhu. We should always act under the authority and desire of Guru-pada-padma. Endeavor to do everything according to his desire. Then prakrta-buddhi will not come and you will become connected to the aprakrta-tattva. If we do something by our own endeavor then it will lead to a bad outcome. When we do a festival without guidance of Guru and Vaisnavas, then many obstacles will cause disturbance.
In the pastime of Dahi-chidwa-mahotsava, the result of the mercy of Nityananda Prabhu was shown. After Raghunatha dasa Gosvami distributed this prasada to everyone, Nityananda Prabhu called him forward and gave him His own prasada with great love. Das Gosvami did not take that prasada alone; he shared it with the bhaktas. If we receive prasada like this, then what will we do? We think, “This is only for me.” But everyone has the qualification for prasada. Some people think at occasions such as Navadvipa-dhama parikrama, “These people eat fish, garlic, onions, and other impure unnofferable foodstuffs, why should we serve them prasada? They can’t understand the glories of prasada.”
How will such people develop good samskaras, spiritual tendencies? Srila Gurudeva said at the time of Navadvipa parikrama, “You do not know anything. Mahaprabhu called and brought all these people here. Give them prasada! This is the direct service of Mahaprabhu! This will please Mahaprabhu. They have come to Mahaprabhu’s dhama and by the affect of this prasada their natures will change. What does Jagannatha do? If someone were to stop Jagannatha’s prasada from going to everyone He would be very displeased. Jagannatha’s prasada is for all living entities. Leftover Jagannatha prasada is reserved for birds, cats, and animals. They are so fortunate. There are cats that never leave the temple and only live on prasada. How fortunate they are! They do not cause a disturbance, but peacefully take what is given to them. How glorious such a life is!”
Look, if even birds and animals can be liberated by the affect of prasada, then what to speak of human beings? Therefore, everyone has the right to take maha-prasada. So do not deprive others of prasada when you have the opportunity to give, or you yourself will soon be deprived.
Nowadays, at Panihati, this festival is celebrated in such an elaborate, beautiful manner by Vaisnavas from all over the world. Hundreds of thousands of people participate. Mahaprabhu and Nityananda Prabhu are so pleased by this.
Mahaprabhu and Nityananda Prabhu watch to see who is observing this occasion under anugatya. Their mercy comes to whoever performs or participates in this celebration of Dahi-chidwa-mahotsava. That person will surely progress in bhakti. By the mercy of Srila Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja, the devotees of ISKCON are preaching so successfully. They arrange a huge festival for this Dahi-chidwa-mahotsava in Panihati.
We are praying for the mercy of Nityananda Prabhu. When He told Raghunatha dasa Gosvami, then Dasa Gosvami distributed aprakrta-vraja-rasa to everyone present. Everyone has a chance to enter vraja-rasa on this day. If you have the means, you should participate in this celebration, or you can make and offer dahi-chidwa. If you cannot even do that, then remember Nityananda Prabhu and Das Gosvami and pray to them and then you will receive uddipana.
Srila Gurudeva would instruct us to arrange for these festivals. Before, during this time of the year, we would go on bhiksa on Dvadasi in Mathura, and people gave so many mangoes and bananas. I would make 300 kilos of yogurt of Dvadasi. On Trayodasi, this day of Dahi-chidwa-mahotsava, we mixed this yogurt with coconut, the mangoes, bananas, sugar, and flat rice. Throughout the day kirtana went on while this prasada was distributed. Externally this is seen as an ordinary festival, however, what is the specialty of this? What is the conception behind this? Srila Gurudeva gave this from his heart to his followers. Gurudeva arranges this festival to give the rasa from his heart to the devotees.
Today, Nityananda Prabhu fulfilled everyone with rasa. There is ghrta-sneha and madhu-sneha. To attract a person, there should be sweetness and tolerance. By great tolerance and sweetness, you can attract a person and bring him to you. If there is no ghrta-sneha, you cannot keep anyone with you. And without madhu-sneha, no one can be attracted. You will not be able to bind anyone to you with affection without ghrta-sneha and madhu-sneha. Therefore Nityananda Prabhu distributed both these types of prasada. This is some of the meaning of this Dahi-chidwa-mahotsava.
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