Vrindavan Das Thakura is the author of
the famous Sri Caitanya Bhagavata,
depicting the earlier life of
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu
(young Nimai in the picture)
Vrndavana dasa Thakura was the son of the brahmana Vaikuntha dasa and his wife Narayani. Sri Narayani devi was the niece of Srivasa Pandita. Srivasa had three brothers who all came from Srihatta to live in Navadvipa. Srivasa’s only son died at a very early age.
Vrndavana dasa lost his father before he was born. When poverty struck Narayani devi she had no other alternative but to accept work in the house of Sri Vasudeva Datta Thakura. Narayani was entrusted with the responsibility for offering service to the Deity installed by Vasudeva Datta at Mamagachi village. There Srila Vrndavana dasa took his birth and started his education. It seems that the childhood of Vrndavana dasa was spent only at Mamagachi.
At the time when Mahaprabhu began to manifest His divine nature in the courtyard of Srivasa, Narayani devi was four years old. Vrndavana dasa describes in the Caitanya-bhagavata that his mother was very dear to Lord Gauranga.
“Narayani-devi received the entire remnants of Mahaprabhu’s meal. Though she was only an insensible child He bestowed His mercy on her in this way.”
Also as a result of this mercy, Srila Vrndavana dasa Thakura, whose life and soul was Gaura-Nityananda, took his birth from her womb. Gaura-gannodesa-dipika (109) describes he is the manifestation of Vyasa and Kusumapida.
tanra garbhe janmila sri-dasa-vrndavana
“Narayani eternally eats the remnants of the foodstuffs of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Srila Vrndavana dasa Thakura was born of her womb.” (Cc Adi 8.41)
The Gaura-gannodesa-dipika describes that when Lord Krsna was a child, He was nursed by a woman named Ambika who had a younger sister named Kilimbika. During the time of Lord Caitanya’s incarnation, the same Kilimbika used to eat the remnants of foodstuffs left by Sri Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. That Kilimbika was Narayani.
bhagavate krsna-lila varnila vedavyasa
“Srila Vyasadeva described the pastimes of Krsna in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. The Vyasa of the pastimes of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu was Vrndavana dasa. (CC Adi 11.55)
Sri Gaura-Nityananda were his life. In his writings he never mentions the identity of his father but frequently speaks of his mother. A devotee of Lord Krsna is celebrated in terms of devotional service rendered to the Lord; thus we know Srila Vrndavana dasa Thakura as the son of Narayani. In the introduction of Caitanya-bhagavata, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada states that Vrndavana dasa was born in the house of Malini devi.
Just four years before the birth of Sri Vrndavana dasa, Sri Gaurasundara took sannyasa. When Mahaprabhu disappeared, Sri Vrndavana dasa was not more than twenty years old. He received initiation from Sri Nityananda and was His last disciple. Sri Vrndavana dasa visited Kheturi with Jahnava Mata. Sri Krsnadasa Kaviraja specifically sings the glories of Sri Vrndavana dasa.
Vrndavana dasa acquired a profound command of several theological works which is born out by his own work Caitanya-bhagavata. He was the last disciple of Lord Nityananda at whose command he took up writing the divine sports of Lord Gauranga in Caitanya-Bhagavata. Some of the lyrical poems composed by Vrndavana dasa are found in Padakalpataru.
Caitanya-Bhagavata of Vrndavana dasa stands as a unique store of nectar of the divine pastimes of Lord Gauranga and Nityananda. Deeply immersed in the stream of this nectar, Vrndavana dasa seems to have delivered for other devotees what he himself enjoyed. Being thor
oughly dedicated to the task of describing the lila of Lord Nityananda, the size of the book grew larger and Vrndavana was unable to describe the last days of Lord Gauranga. Devotees of Vrndavana were so fascinated by reading Caitanya-Bhagavata that they commanded Krsnadasa Kaviraja to complete what had not been finished by Vrndavana dasa.
There is no way of knowing for certain exactly when Vrndavana dasa wrote Caitanya-Bhagavata. One can at best make an attempt to guess the probable date based on the following information: In 1431 Sakabda Lord Caitanya accepted sannyasa at the age of 24 years. For a year preceding that date the Lord performed kirtana at the house of Srivasa and manifested his divine nature. Somewhere within this period of one year the Lord showered His mercy upon Narayani, possibly early in 1431 Sakabda or late 1430 Sakabda. Narayani was then only four years old. It seems that Vrndavana dasa was born when Narayani was about 14 or 15 years old which leads us to conclude that around 1440 Saka Vrndavana dasa was born.
In Gaura-gannodesa-dipika 109 Vrndavana dasa is referred to as Vedavyasa. Gaura-gannodesa-dipika was written in 1498 Sakabda which is clearly stated by Kavikarnapura himself. Hence one can conclude that Vrndavana dasa’s Caitanya-Bhagavata became fai rly well known before 14 98 Saka. Some think that Caitanya-Bhagavata was written in 1495 Sakabda and some say 1497 Sakabda. But it seems improbable that the book gained wide fame within the span of only one or two years, so much so that in 1498 Saka Vrndavana dasa was recognized as Vyasa himself.
According to Ramagati Nyayaratna Caitanya-Bhagavata was written in 1548 A.D. (1470 Sakabda). This seems acceptable. At that time Vrndavana dasa was about thirty years old and when Kavikarnapura described Vrndavana dasa as Vedavyasa, Vrndavana dasa was about 58 years old.
The lyrical poems composed by Vrndavana dasa show that he was an authority on music also. There are some poems circulated with the name and bhanita of Vrndavana dasa which are not found in any authentic compilations nor do they stand in harmony with the well known views of Vaisnava Acaryas and Gosvamis. These were perhaps compositions of some other Vrndavana dasa and to add literary weight to the work the bhanita of Vrndavana dasa was inserted.
Vrndavana dasa was a worshiper of Sakhyabhava. Vrndavana dasa Thakura’s Sripat, where his worshipable Deities of Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai are still residing, is at Denur.
Krishnadas Kaviraja glorifies the Caitanya Bhagavat of Vrndavana dasa Thakura in his Caitanya Caritamrta, Adi-lila, 8.33-40:
“O fools, just read Caitanya-mangala! By reading this book you can understand all the glories of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. As Vyasadeva has compiled the pastimes of Lord Krsna in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, Thakura Vrndavana has depicted the pastimes of Lord Caitanya. Thakura Vrndavana has composed Caitanya-mangala. Hearing this book will annihilate all misfortune. By reading Caitanya-mangala one can understand the glories or truths of Lord Caitanya and Nityananda and come to the ultimate conclusion of devotional service to Lord Krsna.
In the Caitanya-mangala [also known as Caitanya-bhagavata] Srila Vrndavana dasa Thakura has given the conclusion and essence of devotional service by quoting from the authoritative statements of Srimad-Bhagavatam. If even a great atheist hears Caitanya-mangala, he immediately becomes a great devotee. The subject matter of this book is so sublime that it appears that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has personally spoken through the writings of Sri Vrndavana dasa Thakura. I offer millions of obeisances unto the lotus feet of Vrndavana dasa Thakura. No one else could write such a wonderful book for the deliverance of the fallen souls.”