Gaudiya Acharyas


Srila Jayadeva Goswami appeared in either the eleventh or twelfth century of the shaka era. There is a difference of opinions about the place of his birth. The majority opinion holds that he hailed from the village of Kendubilva, presently in the district of Birbhum. Others hold that he was born in Orissa or in south India. Kendubilva is situated about twenty miles south of Siuri on the banks of the Ajaya River. In the Gaudiya Vaishnava Abhidhana it is stated that Jayadeva found his deities o Radha Madhava in the waters of the river. It is also stated there that he used to rest and worship at the temple of Shiva known as Kusheshwar, which is also on the banks of the Ajay River. His father was named Bhojadeva and mother Vama Devi.

Jayadeva lived for a long time in Nabadwip during the reign of the king of Bengal, Lakshman Sena, making his home not far from the king’s palace. At that time, the king’s chief scholar was Govardhana Acharya. In Ashutosh Deb’s Bengali dictionary, it is said that Jayadeva was Lakshman Sena’s court poet. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur wrote in his Nabadwipa-dhama-mahatmya that Lakshman Sena was delighted when he heard Jayadeva’s hymn to the ten incarnations, the Dasavatara-stotra. The king learned from Govardhana Acharya that this hymn had been composed by Jayadeva and became desirous of meeting him. He went incognito to Jayadeva’s house and when he saw him, he noticed that Jayadeva possessed the characteristics of a greatly powerful spiritual personality. Greatly impressed and attracted by him, the king revealed his identity to Jayadeva and invited him to come and live in the royal palace. Jayadeva was leading a very renounced life and was therefore unwilling to live in the opulent environment of the palace. He told the king that it was his desire to live in Jagannath Puri.

Lakshman Sena was disturbed by Jayadeva’s intention. He quickly suggested to him that he stay in the village of Champa Hati, saying that it was a place suitable for him. He also promised him that he would never come to see him again. When Jayadeva agreed, Lakshman Sena had a cottage built for him in the village which was formerly known as Champaka-hatta. Previously, there had been a beautiful garden of champa trees and their flowers were sold in the village market. In this village, Mahaprabhu’s associate Dvija Baninath had a vision of him in the Satya Yuga, seeing him in the form of a Brahmin whose skin was the color of a champa flower. Similarly, while living here, Jayadeva had a vision, first of Radha Madhava, then of their combined form as the golden champa-colored Gauranga Mahaprabhu.

The Lord gave him this vision and then told him to go to Jagannath Puri. Although Jayadeva was sad to leave the future abode of Lord Chaitanya, Jayadeva obeyed the Lord’s command and went to Puri. It is said that he also was engaged as the court poet of the king of Orissa. He spent the remainder of his life in the abode of Lord Jagannath. This is where he wrote the transcendental poem based on the sentiments of separation known as Gita-Govinda or Astapadi. Indeed, Mahaprabhu told Jayadeva while giving him the vision in Nabadwip that when he himself appeared there, he would take sannyas and go to Jagannath Puri where he would relish Jayadeva’s Gita-Govinda.

Calcutta’s Basumati Sahitya Mandir has published an edition of Jayadeva’s Gita-Govinda. In the preface to that edition entitled “The life of Jayadeva,” some other information is found. “Prior to the Muslim domination of Delhi, the king Manikya Chandra ordered the writing of the book Alankara-sekhara, in which it is said that Jayadeva was the court poet of the king of Orissa. Sridhar Das, the son of one of the chief courtiers of Lakshman Sena, included many of Jayadeva’s verses in his anthology Sad-ukti-karnamrta, citing a work named Amiyabha-kavya. One ancient manuscript of the Gita-Govinda has the colophon, “Jayadeva had a great reputation as a poet during the time of the King Lakshman Sena.”

It is said that Jayadeva was obliged to marry his wife Padmavati at Jagannath’s order. The story is told in the Visvakosa as follows: There was a Brahmin who had no children. He worshiped Jagannath for many years in the hope of having a son. Finally, he and his wife had a daughter and they named her Padmavati. When she came of marriageable age, the Brahmin brought her to Jagannath to offer her to his lotus feet. When he saw them, Jagannath himself said to the Brahmin, “I have a servant whose name is Jayadeva. He has given up family life and has dedicated himself to chanting my names. Give your daughter to him in marriage.”

The Brahmin took his daughter to Jayadeva and asked him to marry his daughter. However, since Jayadeva had no desire to get married, he refused to agree to any arrangement. Then the Brahmin told him that it was Jagannath himself who had arranged this marriage and without another word, left, leaving his daughter behind. Jayadeva found himself totally unprepared for this situation and told the girl, “Tell me where you want to go and I will take you and leave you there. You cannot stay here, however.”

Padmavati started to cry and said, “My father brought me here to marry you on Jagannath Deva’s order. You are my husband, my all in all. If you do not accept me, then I will fall down at your feet and die right here. You are my only hope, my lord.”

The poet and scholar Jayadeva could not abandon her after such a heartfelt plea. So he became a householder.

He established the worship of a Narayan deity and in the waves of love which he felt for this deity, he began writing Gita-Govinda, with its incomparable ambrosia. It is said that though Jayadeva is responsible for all the moods and sentiments which appear in the Gita-Govinda, he had some reticence about writing that Krishna fell down at Radharani’s feet to beg her forgiveness when she was angry with him for having deceived her.
On that day, when he left the house to take his bath in the ocean, Lord Jagannath himself came in, disguised as Jayadeva, opened his manuscript and completed the verse he had started smara-garala-khandanam mama sirasi mandanam with the words dehi pada-pallavam udaram: “Place the noble sprout of your foot as an ornament on my head, it dispels the poison of love in separation.” (G-G 10.8)

Padmavati was surprised to see her husband back so soon from his bath and asked, “What are you doing here? You just left a minute ago.” The disguised Jagannath answered, “I thought of something on my way. I was afraid I might forget so I came back to write it down.”

Not long after Jagannath had left, the real Jayadeva returned. This time, Padmavati was really astonished to see him. She said, “You just left to go and take your bath. Just a few moments ago you were writing in your manuscript and then you left. How could you have finished and come back so quickly? I am beginning to wonder who that was and who you are?”

Jayadeva was clever enough to guess what had happened and he went and looked at his unfinished text and saw the words that the Lord himself had written. His entire body was covered with horripilation and tears came pouring from his eyes. He called Padmavati and said to her, “You are so fortunate. Your life has been made worthy. You have had the good fortune to see the Lord himself. I am so lowly that I did not have that opportunity!”

There is a legend told in Jagannath Puri that there was a flower gardener’s daughter who had learned Gita-Govinda and would sing it with great emotion. Jagannath was attracted by her singing and would go to listen to her, only returning to the temple after she had finished singing.

One day, when the king of Orissa came to see the deity, he saw that the Lord’s body was covered in dust and his clothes were filled with thorns. He asked the pujaris the reason for the Lord’s disheveled condition, but no one could explain how it had come about. The servants of the deity were afraid that they would be punished, but that night, Jagannath appeared to the king in a dream and explained that no one was to blame for his soiled condition that day. He had gone to listen to the gardener’s daughter and that the dust and thorns had covered him when in the garden.

The king was astonished to have received such information in a dream and he immediately sent for the gardener’s daughter to be brought to the court in a palanquin. After making inquiries from her, he decided that she should sing for Jagannath in the temple, rather than obliging the Lord to leave the temple and get all dirty. Ever since that time, girls named deva-dasis have been engaged by the temple to sing Gita-Govinda for Jagannath’s pleasure.

Many other amazing and miraculous events surrounded the life of Jayadeva. He used to serve his deities Radha and Madhava in a trance of divine love. It is said that just as the devotee dedicates himself to the Lord, the Lord also dedicates himself to his devotee. One day, Jayadeva was thatch his roof under the unforgiving midday sun. Jagannath saw the discomfort of his devotee and decided to help him finish the work quickly by handing him the rope needed to bale the straw and removing the finished bundles and placing them on the roof. Jayadeva thought that it was Padmavati who was helping him in this way. But when he came down from the roof after finishing much earlier than expected, he saw no one there. He asked his wife and she told him that she had been busy elsewhere at the time. He was curious about what had happened, but struck with wonder when he went into the deity room and saw that Madhava’s hands were black from handling the straw. He was thus able to understand that it was Madhava himself who had come to help him thatch the roof. He fell down before his Lord and started to cry.

In the last twelve years of Mahaprabhu’s lila, he was absorbed in Radha’s mood and constantly relishing this hidden spirit of love. During this time, he would savor the songs of the Gita-Govinda.
Day and night, the Lord would speak as though he were Radha when meeting Uddhava. He would also relish the poems of Chandi Das, Jayadeva and Vidyapati.
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.13.41-2)

Mahaprabhu was never pleased to hear books or verses opposed to siddhanta, nor did he like hearing rasabhasa, an improper mixture of devotional sentiments. It was the practice of Svarupa Damodar Goswami to examine all works of literature to find out whether their conclusions were correct. Only then would he allow them to be heard by the Lord. Sri Svarupa Damodar used to make Mahaprabhu very happy by singing the songs of Vidyapati, Chandi Das and Gita-Govinda. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.10.113-5)

Svarupa Damodar would sing songs that reflected the moods of the Lord whenever they arose, while Ramananda Raya selected verses from Vidyapati, Chandi Das and Gita-Govinda.

The Lord returned to external consciousness for a moment and told Svarupa to sing some sweet song. Svarupa sang one of Vidyapati’s songs and then songs from the Gita-Govinda, which were greatly appreciated by the Lord. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.17.62)

candi dasa vidyäpati räyera nataka giti karnamrta sri gita-govinda /
svarupa ramananda sane mahaprabhu ratri-dine gaya, sune parama ananda //

Day and night, Mahaprabhu ecstatically relished the songs of Chandi Das, Vidyapati and Ramananda Raya’s plays, as

well as Krishna-karnamrta and Gita-Govinda in the company of Svarupa and Ramananda. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.2.77)

On another occasion, Jayadeva wished to put on a festival for his deities Radha and Madhava, but he was short of money. He decided to travel in order to collect some funds by using his poetic skills. On his return journey, he was stopped by robbers who not only stole his money but cut up his hands and feet and threw him down a well to die. Despite the pain, Jayadeva shouted out the names of the Lord as loudly as he could.

After Jayadeva had spent three days in this way, the king happened that way on a hunting expedition and heard the sound of the holy names coming from the well. The king approached the well out of curiosity and was horrified to see Jayadeva in this serious condition. He had him taken out of the well and brought back to his palace where he had him treated. Under the queen’s care, Jayadeva was gradually returned to health.
Both the king and queen were charmed by Jayadeva’s sweet singing of the Gita-Govinda as well as by his saintly character. They immediately sent for Padmavati and had her brought to their home. The king and queen took initiation from Jayadeva and heard about Krishna from him and started to make their lives successful through service to the Lord and his devotees. One day, the robbers who had attacked Jayadeva came to the king’s palace as guest disguised as devotees. Even though Jayadeva recognized who they were, he gave them the honor that was due to their outward appearance and arranged for the appropriate hospitality to be proffered them. The robbers, however, did not understand Jayadeva’s forgiving and generous nature and, fearing capture and punishment, thought it best to leave without accepting the royal hospitality. Jayadeva understood their fear and asked the king to give them a large sum of money and an escort and send them on their way.

After they had gone a certain distance, the robbers said to the escort of soldiers, “You need not go any further. We would like to tell you a secret message to convey to the king, however. Prior to becoming Vaishnavas we were the servants of a certain king who for very good reason ordered us to murder this priest, Jayadeva. So we cut up his hands and feet and left him to die. Because he was afraid that this secret would come out, this priest gave us a lot of money and asked us to leave quickly.”

The Earth herself was unable to tolerate the telling of such a great lie and so she opened up and swallowed the entire gang of thieves. When Shukracharya, the guru of the demons, told Bali Maharaj not to give the three feet of land demanded by Vamana Deva, Bali answered that he was the grandson of Prahlad Maharaj. How could he go back on his word like a miser once he had committed himself to giving in charity? He substantiated this by saying,

na hy asatyat paro’dharma
iti hovaca bhur iyam /
sarvam sodhum alam madhye
rte’lika-param naram //

This Earth has said, “There is no greater irreligiousness than untruth. I can bear any burden other than that of a person who constantly lies.” (SB 8.20.4)

The goddess of the Earth was unable to support the weight of these sinful liars and so she swallowed them up. As they blasphemed the great devotee of the Lord, they met their doom in the bowels of the earth.

The servants of the king who had accompanied these robbers were amazed to see them punished for their offense to Jayadeva right before their very eyes. They came back to the king’s palace and told him everything that they had witnessed. The king inquired from Jayadeva about the robbers and he told the entire story. He said, “O king! A saintly man does not seek revenge from those who have done evil toward him. He attempts to satisfy them by polite behavior. Even so, the Lord’s flawless will makes them suffer the consequences of their own sinfulness, as he did in this case.”

Jayadeva’s wife became a close friend of the queen. In those days, the custom of a wife dying with her husband was in vogue. After her brother’s death, the queen was mortified that her sister-in-law would have to die on the funeral pyre with him. Padmavati said to the queen, “From the moment that her husband dies, a faithful wife’s life airs leave her body.”

When the queen heard this, she decided to test Padmavati herself. One day she announced to Padmavati that her husband Jayadeva had suddenly died. As soon as this news entered her ears, Padmavati gave up her life. This shocked the queen and she began to cry out of a sense of guilt for being responsible for her death. The king also came to Jayadeva and begged him to return the life to his wife’s corpse. The great devotee Jayadeva whispered the name of Krishna into Padmavati’s ear and she opened her eyes as though she were just waking up. Having seen this manifestation of both Jayadeva and Padmavati’s glories, the king and queen as well as all their courtiers and servants paid their obeisances at their feet.

After this, Jayadeva wanted to see Vrindavan. He took leave of the king and queen and then, taking his deities, Radha and Madhava with him, set off on the long journey. Once in Vrindavan, he began to serve his deities in a spot near Keshi Ghat. When they heard Jayadeva sing the Gita-Govinda in his sweet voice, the residents of the dham were entranced. One merchant built a large temple for the deities on that spot.

It is said that Jayadeva lived in Vrindavan for many years and then returned to his birthplace in Kendubilva. Each day, he would make the long walk to the Ganges to take his bath there. One day, for some reason or another, he was unable to make it. Ganga Devi was so kind to him that she came personally to the village of Kendubilva so that he could take his bath in her waters. It is said that he died there in Kendubilva and every year a large festival is held there in his memory on the first day of the month of Magh.

There is a difference of opinions about where Jayadeva finished his life. Some say Puri, while others say that he returned to Kendubilva, and others say that he went to Vrindavan. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur has stated his opinion that Jayadeva died in Jagannath Puri. Though some people say that Jayadeva returned to Kendubilva to spend his last days, there is no indication anywhere that his Radha-Madhava deities were brought there. In fact, these deities were taken by the king of Jaipur to a place named Ghati sometime after Jayadeva’s death and they are still being served in the Jaipur area. Jayadeva’s disappearance day is on the sixth day of the waning moon of the month of Paush.