‘The Gaudiya Treasures of Bengal’ recently visited the exalted spiritual site of Prembag, where Sri Rupa and Sanatana Goswamis used to once perform their bhajana. The sacred tree under which the two brothers rested and meditated continues to exist even today. This holy place is situated within the district of Jessore, in bangladesh. Jessore is an exceedingly old place ,vibrant with rich cultural history.It once belonged to the ancient kingdom of King Janapada. In 15th century, Jessore was part of the kingdom of King Pratapaditya.
Sri Kavi Karnapura reveals in Gaura Ganoddesha Dipika that Sri Rupa Goswami was none other than the incarnation of Sri Rupa Manjari, one of the chief assistants of Lalita Sakhi (one of the eight principal Gopis of Vrindavana). Sri Sanatana Goswami was the combined incarnation of Rati Manjari,Lavanga Manjari and Sanatana Kumara.Sri Jiva Goswami has explained the genealogical history of Sri Rupa Goswami’s family. They were the descendants of Sarvagya Jagadguru, a great scholar of the Vedas.He was an expert in Yajurveda. Sri Sarvagya was a brahmin and also one of the kings of Karnataka in the 12th century sakabda era. In his lineage appeared a great devotee named Kumar Deva who had settled in Jessore (Bangladesh). He got married to a very chaste lady named Revati devi. In course of time Kumar deva and Revati Devi gave birth to many sons. Most illustrious among them were amara (came to be later known as Sanatana Goswami) ,Santosh(came to be later known as Rupa Goswami) and Vallabha (came to be later known as anupama). It is believed that Sri Sanatana was born around 1488 AD while his younger brother Rupa, appeared in this world around 1493 AD. Sri Jiva Goswami was the son of Anupama.
There is a place called Bakla Chandra Dvipa,which is also located here in Jessore and not very far from Prembag. It was here at Bakla Chandra Dvipa that Sri Rupa and Sanatana were born. Nothing but only a few ruins of their old house remains there today. The three brothers used to study at Ramkeli, in Malda and hence had to often travel to and fro between the two places (Ramkeli and Bakla Chandra dvipa). ‘The Gaudiya Treasures of Bengal’ has covered the pastimes of our dear Goswamis at Ramkeli in a separate article entitled – ‘Ramkeli, Malda – The once-headquarters of Sri Rupa and Sanatana Goswami’. So while travelling from Ramkeli to Bakla Chandra dvipa or vice versa, Sri Rupa and Sanatana used to rest here at Prembag (previously known as ‘Fatehabad’), where their father Kumar deva had constructed a farmhouse. The farmhouse is not visible anymore, but the sacred tree under which the two Goswamis meditated and performed their bhajana exists here till this day.
Jessore-e Fatehabad naame gram haya
gatayata hetu tatha karila alaya
Prembag (previously known as ‘Fatehabad’) is an exceedingly beautiful place and highly spiritually surcharged. A small temple has been constructed at this site and the sacred tree has since been nicely protected with boundaries. Beautiful serene ponds surround this exalted destination. We consider ourselves greatly fortunate to have been able to visit Prembag and smear our sinful bodies with the dust of this holy place.
Sri Rupa and Sanatana become ministers :
Bengal ,during that time, was under the Mughal rule of Nawab Hussain Shah. He is the same king who had employed Sri Mukunda Das of Srikhanda as his personal doctor (refer – ‘The Great Vaishnavas of Srikhanda’). Seeing the popularity of Sri Rupa and Sanatana amongst the general populace, the Nawab decided to employ them as his ministers. In this way, he planned to bring the entire Hindu population under his control. If Rupa and Sanatana joined him, then his subjects would become more submissive, he thought. On the other hand, he notified Sri Rupa and Sanatana telling them that if they became his ministers, he would award the vaishnavas and the hindus with all freedom.Instead, if they did not accept his proposal ,then he would torture and persecute the masses. Hearing the king’s warning, Sri Rupa, Sanatana and Anupama reluctantly agreed to serve the king. Their service was so exemplary that Sri Sanatana Goswami was made the Prime Minister of Bengal and Sri Rupa was made the Home minister. Due to their close proximity with the Muslims, the two brothers were excommunicated from the Hindu society by the orthodox caste brahmanas of Gaur (Malda – the erstwhile capital of Bengal). Thus Sri Rupa Goswami came to be known as Dabir Khaas and Sri Sanatana as Sakara Mallick.The king grew very fond of them and considered them his own brothers.He awarded them with tremendous amounts of wealth and power. They settled down at Ramkeli ,in Malda, where they constructed beautiful opulent palaces and gardens that served as a replica of Vrindavana. Being pure devotees, Rupa and Sanatana always lived in the mood of separation from the Lord and His eternal abode.At Ramkeli, the beautiful temple and the ponds dug by our Goswamis are still present. ‘The Gaudiya treasures of Bengal’ considers itself exceedingly fortunate to have been able to take their darsana (refer – ‘Ramkeli, Malda – The once-headquarters of Sri Rupa and Sanatana Goswami’)
Meeting with lord Caitanya at Ramkeli :
Lord Caitanya, during His second attempt to reach Vrindavana, decided to take a roundabout route. Actually His desire was not traveling to Vrindavana, but instead He wanted to meet and shower His mercy upon Sri Rupa and Sanatana. Thousands of men accompanied the Lord during His journey. All of them were surcharged with deep ecstatic feelings. Completely devoid of external consciousness and surrendering themselves completely, they sang and danced along. An ocean of Love which flooded the people with waves after waves of ecstasy.As the procession reached new places, more people joined in. Wherever the Lord touched the ground with His lotus feet, people immediately gathered to take the dust. The people took out so much dirt that holes were created in the ground.Just by seeing the smiling face of the Lord, all their lamentation and unhappiness became vanquished. Eventually the Lord arrived at Ramkeli (in Malda, West Bengal), where innumerable people arrived to take His darsana. Performing sankirtana over here, the Lord danced and sometimes lost His consciousness out of an intense love of God (tahan nritya kare prabhu preme achetana).
When Nawab Hussain Shah came to know that Lord Caitanya was attracting so much attention, he became astonished. His spies informed him how Mahaprabhu had immersed everyone in a wave of transcendental ecstasy.He learnt how the people irrespective of their caste, creed or religion were raising their hands and engaging in the congregational chanting of Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare hare. So the Nawab then asked Keshava Chatri,whether he knew anything about Lord Caitanya. Keshava, inspite of knowing everything ,tried to diplomatically downplay the situation. He replied that Caitanya deva was simply a touring mendicant and that only a few people had come to see Him.He warned the king against considering the advise of his muslim informers too seriously. After pacifying the king in this way, Keshava sent a brahmana messenger to Lord Caitanya requesting Him to leave without delay.
The King then enquired from Rupa Goswami (Dabir Khaas) and asked for his opinion. Rupa Goswami glorified Sri Caitanya and revealed that He was none other than the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself.He added that it was the Nawab’s great fortune that the Lord had chosen to descend and manifest His pastimes in that country. It was only by Mahaprabhu’s mercy that the Nawab was successful and victorious in all his affairs.The Nawab agreed with Rupa Goswami and remarked that he could perceive in his mind as well that Lord Caitanya was none other than his worshipable God (raja kahe shuna, mora mane yei laya, sakshat iswara ihan nahika samsaya).
Sri Rupa and Sanatana then began considering how they could meet Lord Caitanya incognito. Thus in the dead of night, the two brothers went to meet the Lord. First they meet Nityananda Prabhu and Haridasa thakura, who introduced them to sri Gaurahari. Out of great humility the two brothers held straw between their teeths and felt down like a rod before Mahaprabhu. They were so overwhelmed that they began crying in joy. They introduced themselves as the lowest of men who were employed in the worst kind of employment. They glorified the Lord as ‘patita pavana’, the deliverer of the fallen, and assured Him that none in the world qualified as being more fallen than them. Out of sheer humility they declared themselves millions of times more fallen than even Jagai and Madhai, the sinful brothers whom Lord Caitanya had previously delivered (jagai madhai haite koti koti guna, adhama patita paapi ami dui jana). Thus they tried to establish themselves as the befitting candidates upon whom Lord Caitanya should shower His causeless mercy.
Hearing their prayers Lord Caitanya became very pleased and blessed them whole-heartedly. He then revealed that the two brothers were His eternal servants. Mahaprabhu also informed them that He had received several of their letters which reflected their humble state of mind and consciousness. He accepted them and awarded them the names Rupa (unto Dabir Khaas) and Sanatana (unto Sakara Mallick). The Lord also revealed that He had come to Ramkeli only to meet and bless the two of them. He reassured them of His protection and asked them not to worry. He added that they would be delivered very soon. The two brothers then seeked the blessings of all the Vaishnavas present. Before leaving, however, they humbly cautioned the Lord that although the Nawab was favourable at that moment, his mood was unpredictable. By nature the Nawab was a very dangerous and a violent man. Hence they suggested that it would be better if Mahaprabhu departed from that place without further delay.They also added it would not be very appropriate for Mahaprabhu to travel to Vrindavana accompanying such thousands of followers. Instead it would be more befitting if Mahaprabhu went alone accompanied by a select few.Having spoken thus, the two brothers offered prayers unto the lotus feet of the Lord and returned to their homes.
Although Sri Caitanya was the Supreme Lord Himself, yet He acted like a mere human, in order to teach us neophytes how to react in such situations. Heeding the advice of Rupa and Sanatana, He desired to leave that village. In the morning He left for a place called Kanai Natshala where He relished many pastimes of Lord Krishna. Then thinking about the words of Sanatana, Mahaprabhu concluded that it would indeed not be proper to travel to Vrindavana with so many followers as it might disturb the atmosphere of the dham.Thus He decided to return to Jagannath Puri.On returning to Puri, the Lord disclosed to His intimate associates how He had bestowed His most intimate mercy upon Rupa and Sanatana owing to their humility and pure devotional qualities.
Accepting the life of a renunciant :
After meeting with Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the three brothers searched for ways and means to get relieved from their governmental services and eventually escape from bengal.Rupa Goswami took all his money and loaded them into boats. He and his younger brother, Anupama, left for their ancestral home at Fatehabad (here in Jessore), where they distributed all their wealth. So Sri Rupa Goswami and Anupama returned to their ancestral homes here in Jessore, before they finally left for Vrindavana.
Sri Rupa appointed a brahmana to perform auspicious ceremonies, so that they might obtain the shelter of Mahaprabhu. Of his wealth, he gave fifty percent charity to the brahmanas and vaishnavas, and twenty-five percent to his relatives. Srila Prabhupada highly glorifies and hails this as a perfect example of how one should divide his money and retire from one’s household life. He also deposited ten thousand gold coins with a grocer, in order to help Sanatana Goswami escape from Bengal.Sri Rupa Goswami kept one-fourth of his wealth aside with a respectable brahmana ,for his personal safety and emergencies. Soon he and Anupama left for Vrindavana.
Sri Sanatana ,however, could not escape so easily. He was subsequently imprisoned by the king and had to bribe his way out, before he could finally leave for Vrindavana. The details of his escape and his subsequent meeting with Lord Caitanya can be read and relished in another of our articles entitled – ‘Ramkeli, Malda – The once-headquarters of Sri Rupa and Sanatana Goswami’.
A Summary of Rupa and Sanatana Goswami’s glorious contributions :
It is said that Lord Caitanya had taught the four principle qualities of a vaishnava through four of His intimate associates.He had taught the quality of self control through the life and examples of Ramananada Raya,the quality of Neutrality through Damodara Pandita who even scolded Mahaprabhu at times, the aspect of tolerance through Haridasa thakura (refer – ‘Sri Haridasa thakura’s Bhajana Kutira, Phulia’), and the quality of humility through Sanatana Goswami. Among the books that Sri Sanatana Goswami had written, Hari Bhakti vilasa and Brihad Vaishnava tosani (commentary on srimad Bhagavatam) are significant. Amongst the books composed by Srila Rupa Goswami – Hamsaduta, Uddhava-sandesha, Krishna-janma-tithi-vidhi, and Radha krishna Ganoddesha Dipika, Stavamala ,Vidagdha-madhava, Lalita-madhava, Dana-keli kaumudi, Bhakti-Rasamrta-sindhu ,Ujjwala-nīlamani ,akhyata candrika, Mathura Mahima, Padyavalī, Nataka-candrika and Laghu-bhagavatamrta are the most significant. Bhakti rasamrta Sindhu contains the essence of all the revealed scriptures.
Sri Srinivasa Acharya in his prayers unto the six goswamis hence glorifies them as experts in extracting the essence of all the revealed scriptures with the aim of establishing the jiva (living entity) in his eternal position of performing pure devotional service unto Krishna (nana shastra vicaranaika nipunau sad dharma samsthapakau).
Both Rupa and Sanatana traveled extensively through Vraja mandala discovering many pastime places of Radha-Madhava. Having no fixed residence, they would catch a few winks of sleep (no more than one and a half hours per day) under a tree or bush. They used to live by whatever little they obtained by performing Madhukari (begging from door to door).Sri Rupa and Sri Sanatana spent all their time writing, discussing Krishna’s pastimes, and chanting Krishna’s Holy Names.Sri Rupa Goswami established the worship of Sri Radha Govinda Dev jiu in Vrindavana while Sri Sanatana inaugurated the worship of Sri Madana Mohana jiu. Both of these enchanting deities are currently being worshipped at Rajasthan.These two deities along with Radha Gopinath (discovered later by Madhu pandita) form the three principal worshipable deities of the Gaudiya vaishnavas. The Gaudiya Vaishnava devotees identify themselves as Rupanugas, or belonging to the disciplic succession emanating from Sri Rupa Goswami.
What to see at Prembag :
- The sacred tree under which Sri Rupa and Sanatana performed their bhajana
- There is a small temple constructed adjacent to this site, where beautiful deities of Gaura Nitai, Jagannatha Baladeva Subhadra and Radha krishna are worshipped.Deities of Sri Rupa and Sanatana are also worshipped in this temple.
- A few Kilometers from Prembag, at a place known as Ramsara (also situated in Jessore), stands today a beautiful and a huge Iskcon temple. The temple has been named ‘Sri Rupa Sanatana Smriti tirtha’ , or one which has been established in loving memory of Sri Rupa and Sanatana Goswami. ‘The Gaudiya Treasures of Bengal’ considers itself greatly fortunate to have been able to associate with the elevated devotees who reside here, who treated us with a lot of warmth and affection. Beautiful and enchanting deities are served in this temple.
We worship the lotus feet of our spiritual master ,whose causeless mercy has empowered us ineligible fools ,to gain entrance and take up service in this exalted abode of Prembag. We seek shelter of this holy land, and pray that its glories remain forever imprinted in our heart.‘The Gaudiya Treasures of Bengal’ offers millions of obeisances and humbly prays to Srila Rupa and Sanatana Goswami that we advance in our Krishna consciousness, develop attachment unto the lotus feet of Lord Gauranga and are able to serve Sri Guru & Vaishnavas, by our honest and sincere efforts. We seek his blessings and compassion , in successfully rendering this humble service of reciting the pastimes and revealing the pastime places of the Supreme Lord and His beloved associates.We shall consider ourselves greatly fortunate and our existence meaningful if Lord Gaurahari and our dear spiritual master are kindly pleased with our endeavours.
How to Reach :
On reaching the town of Jessore, one needs to catch a bus or a trekker travelling towards Khulna. One needs to get down at the stoppage ‘Prembag’ and then seek directions to reach this ancient site.
If one is travelling to the Iskcon temple, where guesthouses are available for accommodation, then one needs to first reach the place called Noapara, which is also situated in the Jessore district. Reaching Noapara, one needs to take a rickshaw to reach Nurbag. From Nurbag one can hire cabs/motorcycles to directly reach the Iskcon temple. The localites normally refer to the Iskcon temple as Ramasara dham. Prembag and the Iskcon temple and are hardly a few kilometers apart from each other.