The following is a recitation from Sri Chaitanya Bhagavata, Adi Khanda, Chapter 12, Verses 88 – 213. In these verses, Srila Vrindavan das Thakur depicts the daily activities (pastimes) of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in Nabadwip.
A few words on these verses – Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s daily activities :
These verses depict how the Vaishnavas advised Lord Gauranga to worship the lotus feet of Lord Krishna and engage His scholarly talent in the Lord’s service. Sri Chaitanya taught His students in the house of Mukunda Sanjaya where He seemed like a gem surrounded by many precious jewels. After instructing them for several hours, the classes would be dismissed around midday when the students would break for taking their bath in the Ganges. Sri Chaitanya would then return home, worship Lord Vishnu, offer water to Tulasi devi, before His wife, Lakshmipriya, would serve Him His lunch. After taking a rest, the Lord would grab His books, and leave the house. The Lord would pleasantly converse with anyone He would meet in the street.
He would visit the weaver’s house and select a fine piece of cloth. When He would declare that He had no coins with Him, the weaver would let Him keep the cloth and request Him to pay within ten or fifteen days. At the milkman’s house, Sri Chaitanya would take advantage of His position as a brahmana and demand they fed Him milk and yogurt. He was greatly respected by the milkmen who affectionately called Him uncle. They would even engage in jovial fights over who would host the Lord at their residence. The milkmen brought milk, clarified butter, yogurt, cream, curd and offered it to the Lord. The Lord was pleased with the milkmen and after blessing them He would leave for the house of the perfume maker. The Lord would demand good perfumes, and the perfume maker would comply by fetching his best collections. When the Lord would ask for the price, the maker would request the Lord not to worry about it. He would request the Lord to use the perfume for a few days and then pay him whatever He desired if He was pleased with the product. After blessing the perfumer, the Lord would visit the florist, who would bring beautiful garlands and place them around the Lord’s neck. This would greatly please the Lord. Lord Chaitanya would then visit a betel leaf seller, who would respectfully welcome the Lord and offer a betel paan leaf to Him. He would make a packet of betel leaves with other valuable tasty spices like camphor and offer it to the Lord. The betel leaf seller would not accept any money in return. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu would continue to visit the people of Nabadwip in this way. The Lord would then visit a conch shell dealer, who would present a conch shell to the Lord and ask Him to pay later. The Lord would then visit an astrologer. On one occasion He asked the astrologer, ‘Tell Me Who I was in My previous birth?’ The astrologer tried but when he visualized the previous incarnations of Lord Chaitanya as Krishna, Ramachandra, Varaha, Narasimha, Vamana, etc, he grew confused. The astrologer thought, ‘Maybe this brahmana is very expert in chanting mantras for incarnations, or maybe He is some demigod in the form of a brahmana trying to amuse Himself and test me’. Therefore asked the Lord to leave and return later that day. The Lord wished him well and then visited the house of Kolavecha Sridhara.
According to Sri Gaura Gannodesha Deepika, Kolavecha Sridhara is none other than the incarnation of Kusumasavah, one of the twelve famous cowherd boys (Dvadasha Gopala) of Vrindavana. Sridhara was his name and he was nicknamed ‘Kolavecha’, as he traded banana and banana products for a living (‘kola’ translates to ‘banana’ in Bengali). In Mahaprabhu’s nectarean pastimes, Kolavecha was a very poor man, who wore shredded clothes and lived in a broken hut with leaks in the roof. Kolavecha was so impoverished that he slept on the floor and drank from a broken water pot. Lord Chaitanya was very fond of Kolavecha and devised new means of teasing him daily. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu found excuses to visit the residence of Kolavecha Sridhara.
Kolavecha, however, was ignorant of Nimai’s identity as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. On one such occasion, Mahaprabhu visited Sridhara and enquired, ‘Sridhara, you chant the holy name of Lord Hari incessantly. Yet ,why are you so poor? You serve the husband (Vishnu) of Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune. Yet you are always in need of food and clothing”. Kolavecha Sridhara was a great devotee, who was totally surrendered unto the service of the Supreme Lord. Sridhara hence replied to Mahaprabhu as follows: ‘I do not starve. And I am able to cover my body with clothes. They are not the best pieces to wear but they cover my body regardless’.
Mahaprabhu taunted him again saying, ‘Yes, I see that your clothes are ripped at several places. I am also aware that there is no rice in your house. Look around you. All the worshipers of Goddess Chandi are prosperous. None of them are in dearth of food or clothing’. Sridhara replied, ‘You have spoken well, O brahmana. But please note that everyone’s life is more or less alike. The king may stay in his palace, surrounded by great opulence and he may eat sumptuously. On the other hand, the birds survive in their trees. But everyone’s approach towards their life is similar. We are all engaged in our respective duties by the will of the Lord’.
Mahaprabhu responded by saying, ‘I am certain that you have a lot of wealth hidden somewhere and you relish palatable food in secret. I shall soon expose your secrets. Let me see how long you can fool everyone.’
Sridhara humbly invited Mahaprabhu to his residence so that He gets to take a peek for Himself whether Sridhara owned any hidden wealth. Lord Chaitanya then exclaimed, ‘I am not going to let you off so easily. What can you offer Me ?” Sridhara calmly replied, ‘I live by selling bananas. What do I have to offer You ?” Mahaprabhu responded by saying, “Whatever wealth you have kept hidden, let it be there for now! I shall get it later. For now, if you give me some banana roots and banana stalks without charging any money, I shall not quarrel with you any longer”.
Sridhara thought,’ This brahmana is very aggressive. He may even beat me up someday. Even if he does, what can I do? He is a brahmana after all. It is also not possible for me to present Him whatever He wants every day, without charging any money in return. Yet it is my good fortune if a brahmana takes anything from me even if it is by applying tricks or by force’. Thinking thus, Sridhara replied, ‘Dear brahmana, You do not need to pay me anything. I shall supply my banana products to you with a cheerful heart. But please do not quarrel with me anymore’. The Lord replied, ‘Yes, this is very good. There are no more disputes then. But please make sure that I get excellent quality bananas, banana stalks, and radish’.
Every day the Lord ate on Sridhara’s leaf-cups. Nimai Pandita used to relish the dishes cooked from the bananas and banana products acquired from Sridhara. When a pumpkin grew on Sridhara’s roof, the Lord had it cooked with milk and hot spices. One day Nimai Pandita asked, ‘Sridhara, What do you think of Me? I shall return home as soon as you respond to My question’. Sridhara replied, ‘You are a brahmana, part, and parcel of Vishnu’. The Lord intervened saying, ‘You do not know. I belong to the family of cowherds. You see me as a son of a brahmana but I consider Myself as a herder of cows’. Hearing this Sridhara smiled. He could not recognize His eternal master being deceived by the illusory energy of the Lord’. The Lord continued,’ Sridhara, I am going to reveal to you My truth. The glories of your Ganga is all due to Me’. Sridhara exclaimed, ‘O Nimai Pandita! Don’t You fear disrespecting even mother Ganges? One usually grows calm and composed with age. But Your naughtiness seems to have multiplied since childhood’. In this way, Lord Gaurahari enjoyed His playful pastimes with Kolavecha Sridhara every day.