SRI KRISHNADASA KAVIRAJA GOSVAMI
(From O.B.L. Kapoor’s “The Gosvamis of Vrindavana”)
We know about Sri Krishnadasa Kaviraja Gos-vami, the author of Sri Caitanya-Caritamrita, just as much as he has himself written in Caitanya-Caritamrita and hardly anything beyond that. We know that he was born in village Jhanatapur in district Vardhaman. The date of his birth is not known. Dr. D.C. Sen has written that he was born in 1517. His parents died when he was only 6 years old, leaving him under the care of his uncle Syamadasa. Dr. Sen has not mentioned the source of his information. If Krishnadasa was born in 1517 he must have seen Nityananda Prabhu and Advaitacarya, if not Mahaprabhu. But it is clear from his writings that he did not have the darsana of anyone of the three prabhus.
He has mentioned an important episode, which changed the whole course of his life. The episode is as follows:
Once asta prahara kirtana was arranged at his house, to which Nityananda Prabhu’s disciple Sri Mina-ketana Ramadasa was invited. Sri Minaketana Ramadasa was the very embodiment of divine love. He was always love-intoxicated. His eyes always swam in tears. Anyone, who saw him, got intoxicated like him and began to shed tears. The sattvika bhavas always adorned his body. Sometimes he would have kampa (trembling of body), sometimes stambha (stupor), sometimes kampa in one part of the body and stambha in another.
As soon as he arrived at the house of Krishnadasa everyone prostrated himself before him in obeisance. Intoxicated as he was, he struck someone with his flute, someone he slapped and sat on someone’s back and then began to sing and dance like one who was mad.
After the asta prahara-kirtana was over, Kaviraja Gosvami’s brother Syamananda had an altercation with Ramadasa regarding the personality of Sri Nityananda Prabhu. He became angry and left the place. This offense caused the doom of Syamananda. Syamananda believed in the divinity of Maha-prabhu, but he did not have much faith in Nityananda. At the time of altercation Kaviraja Gosvami scolded Syamananda and said, “Mahaprabhu and Nityananda Prabhu are two manifestations of one and the same spiritual principle. To accept one and not the other is an offense. He must be a heretic and a hypocrite, who does so.”
Kaviraja Gosvami writes, “I reprimanded my brother, therefore Nityananda Prabhu was so pleased with me that He appeared before me in a dream at night. I fell at His feet. He planted His lotus foot on my head and said: `Rise’. As I raised my head, I was surprised to see Him in the form of Sri Balarama.”1 Nityananda Prabhu said, “Krishnadasa, you go to Vrindavana, there you will attain the desired end.” After thus enjoining Nityananda Prabhu disap-peared. As soon as the day dawned he started for Vrindavana.
On reaching Vrindavana Krishnadasa surrendered himself at the feet of Rupa and Sanatana. They were impressed by his bhakti and accepted him. He began to study the sastras under their guidance. In Caitanya- Caritamrita he mentions them as his siksa gurus along with Gopala Bhatta, Raghunatha Bhatta, Raghunatha Dasa and Jiva.
Krishnadasa soon became known not only as one, who had dived deep in bhakti, but whose knowledge of the sastras also was deep. His knowledge and bhakti are evident from his works. His most important works are Caitanya-Caritamrita, Govinda Lilamrita, and his Sarangar-angada commentary on Bilvamangala’s Krishnakarnamrita.
Before Caitanya-Caritamrita a number of treatises pertaining to the life of Mahaprabhu were written. Pro-minent among them were the Kadaca of Murari Gupta, Sri Caitanya-Caritamrita Mahakavayam and Caitanya-candrodaya Nataka of Kavikarnapura, Sri Caitanya-mangala of Locanadasa and Sri Caitanya Bhagavata of Vrindavana Dasa Thakura. But none of these satisfac-torily described the last days of Mahaprabhu in Nilacala. Therefore the devotees of Mahaprabhu were left dissatisfied and disappointed. One day some prominent devo-tees of Vrindavana, including Sri Bhugarbha Gosvami, Kasisvara Gosvami’s disciple Govinda Gosvami, Rupa Gosvami’s disciple Yadavacarya Gosvami, Mukunda Cakravarti, Sivananda Cakravarti and Haridasa, the sevait of Govinda Deva, together requested Krishnadasa to compile a biograbhy of Mahaprabhu, which described the antya-lila (last days) of Mahaprabhu in detail.
Krishnadasa Kaviraja found himself in a dilemma. He was at that time too old. He has himself said in Caitanya-Caritamrita that he could neither see nor hear, nor sit, nor move on account of old age. His hands trembled and mind was unsteady. On account of several diseases that afflicted him it was impossible for him to write anything. But he could not at the same time disregard the wishes of the devotees. He did not know what to do. In utter helplessness he went to the temple of Govinda Deva. He fell prostrate before Him and requested for His guidance and command. At the same time a garland fell down from the neck of Govinda Deva. A pujari, named Gosain Dasa, who was in the service of Govinda Deva, picked up the garland and threw it round the neck of Krishnadasa. Krishnadasa, was happy to receive the garland, because he regarded it as Govinda Deva’s explicit command for writing the work and His blessings for its successful completion. He started writing immediately in the temple itself.
Regarding his writing of Caitanya-Caritamrita, Krishna-dasa has written, “It is not I, who writes, but Madana Mohana. He dictates and I write what He dictates, like a parrot, who repeats what he is asked to repeat or like a doll that dances as the master makes it dance.”‘ It is no wonder, therefore, that Caitanya-Caritamrita is not only the best biography of Sri Caitanya, but the most precious ornament, the crest-jewel of Bengali literature. It is also the essence of all that was written by the Gaudiya Gosvamins before him. It is a marvel that in his old age, when he was a broken reed, completely crippled and incapacitated, he could, by the grace of Madana Mohana, produce a work that would always be highly acclaimed by the academicians and the laymen, the devotees and the non-devotees.
Opinions differ regarding the diksa-guru of Kaviraja Gosvami. In Caitanya-Caritamrita he has mentioned Raghunatha as his diksa guru. But he has not mentioned which Raghunatha, Raghunatha Bhatta or Raghunatha Dasa. Therefore some regard him as a disciple of Raghunatha Bhatta, some of Raghunatha Dasa. Radha Govinda Natha maintains that he was a disciple of Raghunatha Bhatta, because in the line of disciplic succession of Sri Rupa Kaviraja, a contemporary of Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti, Kaviraja Gosvami is mentioned as the paramaguru (guru’s guru) of Rupa Kaviraja and the disciple of Raghunatha Bhatta.
The exact span of life of Kaviraja Gosvami is not known, but it is certain that he lived till after 1608, because he signed as witness in the will (Samkalpa-patri) of Sri Jiva, which was executed on that date.