Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has manifested the most heart melting pastimes ever witnessed in human history. His mood, His demeanor, His pastimes struck a positive chord even with the most sinful atheists and was instrumental in transforming their hardened hearts. Thousands of men and women abandoned their homes ,raised their arms and joined Mahaprabhu in His ecstatic sankirtana (congregational chanting of the holy names of the Supreme Lord). All of them were surcharged with deep ecstatic feelings. Being completely devoid of external consciousness and surrendering themselves completely, they sang and danced along. Simply by catching a glimpse of His divine lotus feet, people would get infected with the disease of intense love for the Supreme. These men in turn would infect others. In this way, villages, towns and entire cities would become surcharged with the devotional mood of spontaneous loving service unto the Supreme Lord. An ocean of Love would flood the people with waves after waves of divine ecstasy. Observing Lord Gaurahari’s smiling demeanor ,people would completely forget their miseries.Only a fortunate person could possibly attain this most treasured fruit of pure love for God. The most merciful Lord Chaitanya, however distributed this sacred fruit to one and all without making any discrimination. Chaitanya Chandramrta , composed by Prabodhananda Sarasvati, hence exclaims :
‘Whether seen, touched, glorified, intensely remembered, bowed down from afar or worshiped, Lord Gauranga causelessly awards to anyone and everyone the essence of pure unalloyed divine love. Thus I offer my respectful obeisances unto this most merciful Supreme Personality of Godhead’.
(Chaitanya Chandramrta – Text 4)
None in the world could dance as beautifully and as gracefully as Sri Gauranga. As soon as the Kirtana began, the Lord would become absorbed in trance ,and would sometimes fall down upon the ground with such force, that the earth would seem to shake.Sometimes He would become so heavy that no one could restrain Him, while at other times, he would become as light as a cotton.Sometimes He would weep for hours altogether, trembling and rolling on the floor, while the devotees would secretly take the dust from His lotus feet. The soul stirring kirtana of the devotees,mixed with the melodious voices of Kartala,mridanga and conch shells, coupled with the Lord’s ecstatic dancing created a musical uproar that cannot be compared to anything of this material world. The Lord would display ecstatic symptoms which are not revealed in the scriptures – Sometimes His body became stiff like a statue, while at other times it became as soft as cream,Sometime His body became elongated to such an extent that He appeared twice His normal size, while at other times, He looked thinner and smaller than usual.
The Lord dances eternally at Srivasa Angan :
When Lord Gaurahari danced at the courtyard of Srivasa Pandita, everything would come to a stop. Sometimes Lord Gauranga (in the mood of a devotee) used to cry feeling an intense separation from Sri Krishna, and He rolled upon the ground with His unmatted hair. Even a piece of stone or wood would melt sharing the intense pain and seeing His golden body roll about in dust. When Lord Gaurahari roared in joy, His voice would as if penetrate the coverings of the universe. The associates of the Lord would raise Him up on their shoulders and carry Him around Srivasa’s courtyard. When the Lord fainted, His associates would whisper ‘Hari ! Hari !’ in His ears trying to bring Him back to His senses. Sometimes His body would become exceedingly cold, while at times it would become as hot as burning fire. The ecstatic dance of Lord Chaitanya purified the land, skies and water.Srila Vrindavana das Thakura mentions in Chaitanya Bhagavata that the ecstatic dancing of the Lord at Srivasa Angan was just like Krishna’s Rasa lila pastimes. Millenniums passed by during these ecstatic pastimes, while it seemed to be just for a few hours by human calculation. The people of Navadvipa gathered outside the gates of the Pandita’s house, hoping to catch a glimpse of the all-merciful Lord. None of the people from outside were allowed into the house though, as all these blissful transcendental pastimes at Srivasa Angan, occurred behind closed doors.
Srila Vrindavana das Thakura wonderfully describes the ecstatic dancing pastimes of Lord Gaurahari. He laments that it is exceedingly unfortunate that he was born much later and could not be a direct witness to these enchanting pastimes which evoked inspiration and divine bliss :
Ya’r nama-nande Shiva vasana na jane
Ya’r yashe nache Shiva, se nache apane
Ya’r name Valmiki haila tapodhana
Ya’r name Ajamila paila mochana
Ya’r nama sravane samsara bandha ghuche
Heno Prabhu avatari Kaliyuge nache
Lord Shiva completely loses his external consciousness and even forgets to tie his clothes, while chanting the blissful holy names of the Supreme Lord.
Lord Shiva sings the glories of the Supreme personality of Godhead and dances in ecstasy. That same Supreme Person is now dancing (at the courtyard of Srivasa Pandita).
One , whose holy name, has been instrumental in transforming Valmiki into a saint
and has been the cause of the deliverance of Ajamila
and merely hearing whose holy name grants one liberation from the bondages of this material world,
That same Supreme Person has now descended upon this world in this age of Kali and is now dancing in ecstasy.
Lord Gauranga eternally performs His ecstatic dancing pastimes at the house of Srivasa Pandita. Even today, a fortunate soul, who is empowered by the mercy of Sri Guru and Gauranga, can witness the same at Srivasa angan. Jiva Goswami was fortunate to obtain darsana of Lord Gauranga dancing wonderfully amidst His intimate associates, at Srivasa pandita’s house. This was much after Lord Gauranga had already wrapped up His earthly pastimes. Advaita acharya, Nityananda, Gadadhara,Srivasa and Haridasa were all dancing and singing along with the Lord.And they were joined by Suklambara brahmachari and hundreds of others. Beholding this divine vision Jiva Goswami became unconscious with ecstatic love.
The ecstatic dancing of the Lord during Rathayatra :
Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami exclaims in Chaitanya Charitamrita that the dancing exhibited by Lord Chaitanya during the Rathayatra festival at Jagannatha Puri is the most sublime and enchanting. He hence urges his readers to attentively pay heed to these glorious pastimes of Gauranga.
jaya srota-gana, suna, kari eka mana
Ratha-yatraya nritya prabhura parama mohana
(Chaitanya Charitamrta, Madhya, 13.3)
Sri Chaitanya was very pleased witnessing Lord Jagannatha being carried from His throne to the Rathayatra car. He greeted Lord Jagannatha chanting “Manima ! Manima!”. Tha Ratha car appeared to be made of Gold and seemed to be as high as Mount Sumeru. The car was beautifully decorated with bright mirrors and hundreds of camaras (yak-tail whisks used to fan the Lord). On top of the car was a clean canopy and a beautiful flag. Sri Chaitanya gathered all of His devotees and decorated the car with flowers and sandalwood pulp.
Sri Chaitanya divided His devotees into seven groups. Each of these groups was graced with wonderful singers, drummers, mrdanga players, dancers, etc. Advaita acharya, Nityananda Prabhu, Srivasa Pandita, Svarupa Damodara, Mukunda, Vasudeva Ghosh, Haridasa Thakura and innumerable other associates of the Lord ,performed their ecstatic pastimes in these groups. The devotees congregated just like an assembly of clouds. The divine joy of chanting the holy name of the Supreme Lord together moved everyone to tears.
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu then manifested the most wonderful pastime. Exhibiting His mystic power He began dancing simultaneously in all of these seven sankirtana groups. Each of these groups considered themselves immensely fortunate, assuming that Lord Chaitanya was dancing exclusively with them. None but the confidential and blessed devotees of the Lord could perceive the confidential truth. Even Lord Jagannatha was amazed witnessing this wonderful sankirtana pastime and as a result His car came to a standstill. The mesmerizing dance of Lord Chaitanya evoked the highest spiritual emotions. Lord Gaurahari’s dance enthralled all present and washed them with waves after waves of divine ecstasy.
Being intoxicated with divine love ,He quoted verses from the scriptures that resonated the complete surrenderrence and selfless love of the Gopis of Vrindavana. We are quoting one such verse below for the pleasure of the devotees –
“I am a pure spirit soul. I am not a brahmana, I am not a kshatriya, I am not a vaishya or a shudra . Nor am I a brahmachari, a householder, a vanaprastha or a sannyasi .I identify Myself only as the servant of the servant of the servant of the lotus feet of Lord Sri Krishna, the maintainer of the Gopis. Krishna is an ocean of nectar and the ultimate cause of universal transcendental bliss…”
When Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu danced, all of the seven groups combined to compliment Him. He danced like a maddened lion, loudly roaring and jumping high up in the air. The flashes of His circular movements resembled just like a wheel of fire.
uddanda nritya prabhu kariya hunkara
chakra bhrami bhrame yaiche alata akara
(Chaitanya Charitamrta, Madhya, 13.82)
Wherever He stepped upon the ground, the whole earth appeared to tilt. Ecstatic transcendental transformations were observed all over His body. Sometimes He perspired, with His hairs standing on their ends. Sometimes He trembled, with His body changing its color. Sometimes He appeared stunned exhibiting symptoms of helplessness, pride, exuberance ,humility, all at the same time. Sometimes His hands and legs would become as dry as wood and He would not move. Even His breathing almost came to a halt at times. Sometimes, He would come crashing down and would roll upon the ground, appearing just like a golden mountain rolling upon dust. Lord Nityananda would stretch out His arms trying to catch Mahaprabhu while He ran here and there. Advaita acharya followed the Lord, loudly chanting ‘Haribol ! Haribol !’.Devotees formed successive circles surrounding Mahaprabhu while He danced in divine ecstasy.
Hot tears gushed from His eyes like torrents of nectar and drenched those surrounding Him. His skin erupted with goose pimples and His body seemed just like a silk cotton tree, that was covered with thorns all over. His body turned pink and blood oozed from its pores. People were afraid observing the clattering of His teeth and feared that they might even fall out. In a voice choked with boundless ecstasy Lord Gauranga mumbled ‘jaja gaga’ ‘jaja gaga’. When Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu came back to His external senses, Svarupa Damodara sang beautiful verses, that struck a chord with the mood of intense separation from Krishna, that plagued the heart of Lord Gaurahari.
The dance of Love :
For those who have attained the merciful sidelong glance of Lord Gauranga, impersonal liberation (merging into the brahmajyoti) becomes as painful as going to hell, the heavenly cities of the demigods seem to be as trivial as mere flowers floating in the sky, the venomous and poisonous fangs of the untamable black snakes of the senses become extracted and uprooted,the whole world which is otherwise full of misery becomes full of supreme joy and the exalted positions of Brahma, Indra and all the demigods become as insignificant as those of tiny insects. Let us glorify that supremely merciful Lord Gauranga.
(Sri Chaitanya Chandramrta, text 5)
During His stay at Jagannatha puri, Mahaprabhu amazed one and all with His ecstatic sankirtana pastimes. His sublime dance plunged the people of Jagannatha Puri in an ocean of divine love. As soon as the sankirtana began, residents of Jagannatha Puri came running craving to catch a glimpse of the most magnanimous Lord. Once in the temple of Lord Jagannatha, Mahaprabhu exhibited His divine powers. His associates danced surrounding Him and the tumultuous vibrations of holy name resounded across the land, water and skies. Standing in the middle of the dancers, Sri Chaitanya then performed a miracle. All dancers in all of the four directions perceived that Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was looking directly at them. Desiring to relish the dancing of His associates, Lord Gaurahari exhibited this feat of looking at all of them simultaneously. Everyone could perceive that He was performing a miracle but could not understand how He could see on all four sides. King Prataprudra went to the top of his palace and feasted his eyes witnessing the wonderful sankirtana pastimes of the Lord.
When Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu visited the state of Tamil Nadu, in South India, He became a guest at the house of Sri Venkata Bhatta, a Vaishnava brahmana. Sri Rangam or Ranga-kshetra is a famous temple that lies in the present day district of Tiruchirappalli (not far from Chennai). During His stay at the house of Venkata Bhatta, Mahaprabhu used to dance daily at the temple of Ranganatha. His ecstatic dance drew large crowds from distant places and anyone who saw Him was inspired to chant the ‘Hare Krishna Mahamantra’ (Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare’). As they saw Him, their unhappiness and distress vanished instantly.
Earlier at Navadvipa, when Chand Kazi, the district magistrate, had entered the house of Srivasa Pandita and threatened the devotees against performing Harinama sankirtana, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu had decided to confront the tyrant kazi.The Kazi had grabbed the mridanga from one of the devotees’ hands and smashed it onto the ground. Thereafter he had proclaimed that anyone caught performing sankirtana henceforth, would have their property confiscated and be forced to convert to Islam. It is from then onwards,that Srivasa Angan had become renowned as Khol Bhanga Danga ,or the land where mridanga(khol) of the devotees were broken (by the Kazi) .
What followed was a very beautiful pastime that is exceedingly difficult to be expressed in mere words. After learning from the devotees about what had happened, Lord Chaitanya became furious.The Lord announced that He would organize a massive sankirtana that evening and take it all over Navadvipa.On His orders ,lakhs of people came with their torches and assembled outside the residence of Lord Chaitanya at Yogpeeth.Everyone had prepared their own torch and barrels of oil were ready to keep them lit.After meeting all, the Lord organized the devotees into several groups.Advaita Acharya, Haridasa Thakura, Srivasa Pandita, Nityananda Prabhu, Mukunda Datta, Ramai Pandita,Vakreshwar pandita, Jagadananda Pandita, etc were all present.Then as if by the order of providence , the lakhs of torches were lit up simultaneously dispelling the darkness that had engulfed the town of Navadvipa.Words are not enough to describe that mystical sight.Never before had such a unique mass sankirtana been organized.
The Lord and His devotees began dancing, soaring to newer and newer heights of ecstasy.The beauty of the Lord defeated that of millions of cupids. His hairs were decorated by a string of malati flowers and His beautiful body ,adorned with the markings of Tilaka, glowed like a golden mountain.As the sankirtana progressed, more and more people left their houses and joined in.The rhythmic dance was well complimented by the thousands of torches which also moved in an animated fashion.The street was strewn with puffed rice and coins which the delighted citizens had showered upon the passing procession.
During this marvellous pastime, the residents of Navadvipa assumed the same characteristics as the residents of Vaikuntha. Each one of them manifested four arms, but because they were so engrossed in the sankirtana , they didn’t notice this transformation in their bodies.Even the demigods, along with their associates, mingled into the procession, dressing up as humans.
The procession gradually moved from Mahaprabhu ghat (near His house, where He used to daily bathe)-> Madhai ghat -> barakona Ghat -> Nagariya Ghat ->Simulia -> Kazi’s house.On reaching the Kazi’s house, at Bamunpukur, Lord Chaitanya madly searched for the kazi, and demanded that he be brought outside. Meanwhile the spies of kazi had already informed him of the arriving mass sankirtana party.Being very afraid the kazi sat trembling at one corner of his house.The devotees brought the kazi out of his home.Calming down, Lord Chaitanya began conversing with him. After a long conversation, the kazi was finally defeated. We are not elaborating their topics of discussion over here, to avoid the article becoming lengthy.They are vividly described in chapter 17 (Adi Lila) of Sri Chaitanya Charitamrta.At the end of their discussion, the Kazi touched the lotus feet of Lord Chaitanya and humbly prayed that his consciousness be forever fixed upon Lord Gaurahari.He also loudly proclaimed that henceforward neither the Kazi nor any member of his family or any of his future descendants shall ever be an obstacle to the Lord’s sankirtana movement. Infact if any of his descendants ever disobeyed his orders then they shall be disinherited from his family.Hearing the Kazi’s beautiful words ,all the devotees loudly chanted Haribol! Haribol!
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu manifests Himself again during the festival of Kheturi :
We would like to conclude this article citing the most amazing festival of Kheturi, wherein Lord Gauranga revealed His eternal ecstatic dancing pastimes once more. The grand festival of Kheturi took place 500 years ago, at a time when Lord Chaitanya had already disappeared from this world. The occasion was Gaura Purnima, the appearance day of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Gaudiya Vaishnavas from all over India had come to participate in this festival of inspiration, joy and ecstatic bliss.
The great Vaishnava acharya Narottama das Thakura had wished to inaugurate his six deities on the auspicious occasion of Gaura Purnima at his hometown in Kheturi (presently situated in Rajshahi, Bangladesh). He desired to arrange a grand festival at Kheturi and celebrate this occasion with great pomp and show. It must be noted that by this time, Lord Chaitanya had already disappeared ,wrapping up His earthly pastimes. Narottama das Thakura’s brother, Sri Santosh Datta, was also a devout Vaishnava and had inherited the kingdom from his father, Sri Krishnananda. As per the instructions of his brother, Santosh began making all of the necessary arrangements. He ordered the construction of temples at Kheturi, where these six deities would subsequently be installed. Sri Narottama das Thakura personally invited Srimati Jahnava Mata, Sri Srinivasa Acharya, Ramachandra kaviraj, and several stalwart Vaishnavas to attend the festival at Kheturi.Gaudiya vaishnavas from all over India had arrived to grace the fortunate dham of Kheturi.
During this grand festival Narottama das Thakura led the kirtana and Sri Vallabhi das and others repeated in chorus. Narottama das Thakura appeared just like a moon who was surrounded by stars (musicians). It is worthwhile mentioning at this point that Sri Narottama das Thakura had a unique style of singing bhajans which since became renowned as Garanhati. Sri Narottama das Thakura is renowned all over the three worlds for his bhajans. The kirtana played by Narottama was so deep, such was its scale and modulation, that it moved all to tears. Narottama’s songs described the mental condition of Lord Gauranga; the intense separation He felt from His beloved Krishna. Jahnava mata cried while relishing these songs. During this Kirtana the demigods from heavens showered flowers upon the singers. Narada and other celestials disguised themselves as ordinary beings to participate in the heart melting pastimes of Kheturi. As the pastimes became more and more intense, people completely forgot their own existence, and bathed themselves in ecstasy.
The devotees who were present sometimes laughed like madmen and at times shivered uncontrollably. Their lips trembled and the hairs on their bodies stood at their end. In this way, Narottama inundated the entire place with the love of God. All of a sudden, as the transcendental emotions reached their peak, Lord Gauranga, along with His associates, appeared in the midst of the devotees at Kheturi. Lord Gauranga could not hold Himself back, hearing the stone melting bhajans of Narottama das. So though He had already wrapped up His earthly pastimes by then, He appeared over there at Kheturi just to shower His causeless blessings upon Narottama and the Kheturi Mahotsava. Just as a flash of lightning appears from within the dense clouds, similarly Lord Gauranga appeared amidst the ecstatic rousing Harinama sankirtana.
Kahite ki sankirtana sukhera ghotay
Ganasaha avatirna haila Gaura Raya
Meghete udaya bidyutera punja yaichhe
Sankirtana meghe prabhu prakataya taichhe
(Bhakti ratnakara : 10.572)
He was accompanied by His eternal associates like Narahari Sarkar, Sri Mukunda, Sri Gaudidasa, Sri Advaita, Nityananda, Madhava Ghosh, Vasudeva Ghosh, Govinda Ghosh, Purandara acharya, Mahesh Sankara, Sridhara, Jagadish Pandita, Yadunandana, Kashishwar Pandita and many others. All the devotees present over there at Kheturi joined Mahaprabhu and His associates in the most ecstatic dancing sankirtana ever seen on the face of this world. Manifesting His divine appearance along with His associates, Lord Chaitanya fulfilled the desires of Srinivasa and Narottama.
Sriman Mahaprabhu and His associates danced enchantingly with the increasing beat of the musical instruments. Lord Nityananda’s dance caused the world to tremble while Advaita acharya danced like a mad lion, roaring in joy. Gadadhara Pandita danced gracefully with Srivasa Thakura. The joyful dancing of Mahaprabhu and His associates lifted the devotees out of their sorrows and lamentation.At the end of the sankirtana Lord Gaurahari and His associates disappeared from everyone’s sight. The devotees felt the bitter pain of separating from the Lord of their lives once more. Srimati Jahnava mata confirmed that Mahaprabhu had fulfilled the desires of His beloved devotees by appearing and manifesting His pastimes at Kheturi. He has thus delivered several atheists from their sin and lifted mankind out of his pitiable condition.
This article is a humble attempt to present a few of the innumerable and infinite ecstatic dancing sankirtana pastimes of Lord Gaurangasundara. Neither the glories nor the pastimes of the Lord can ever be recited in full. Even Lord Ananta sesha has not been able to accomplish this service with thousands of His mouths. Hence we would like to conclude this article at this point so that it does not get any lengthier. We leave you with a heart-melting composition by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura which portrays one such ecstatic evening at srivasa Angana.
Composed by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura
sri-hari-kirtane nache nana-range
mridanga madala baje karatala
majhe majhe jayatura
prabhura natana dekhi’ sakalera
hoilo santapa dura
akhanda premete matala takhana
apana pasari’ Gora-chande gheri’
nache gaya anukhana
emona samaye daiba-byadhi-joge
tanaya-biyoge nari-gana shoke
krandana uthile habe rasa-bhanga
srivasa amani bujhilo karana
pasilo apana ghare
1. In the evening twilight, within the privacy of Srivasa Pandita’s courtyard, the cream-lustered jewel Lord Gauranga raised a most auspicious vibration by His chanting of Hari-sankirtana. He accompanied the sankirtana with various enchanting dance moves.
2. Accompanied by the playing of the mridanga drum and cymbals, and amidst the occasional victorious shouts of “Jaya! Jaya!” the dramatic dance of Lord Gaurahari dispelled the grief of all those who witnessed it.
3. Then, becoming madly intoxicated in an ocean of unending and uninterrupted ecstatic love, all the assembled devotees completely forgot themselves and incessantly began to dance and chant wildly, surrounding Lord Gaurachandra.
4. Just at this time, one of Srivasa’s sons suddenly died due to some disease, as ordained by the will of the divine. Due to separation from the boy, all the household women began to lament and cry out in a loud voice, within the inner chamber of Srivasa’s house.
5. Now Bhaktivinoda fears that the transcendental mellows of the Lord’s kirtana will be disturbed by the uprising of such loud wails and cries. However, Srivasa Pandita has now understood the reason behind this sound and has personally entered the inner chambers of his house.