By Mahanidhi Swami
The story of Thakuraji Madana Gopala comes from Advaita Prakash, the biography of Sri Advaita Prabhu written by Sri Ishana Nagara. Before the advent of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Sri Advaita Prabhu went on a tirtha yatra throughout Bharata Varsha, India. He also toured the lila-filled pastime forests of Vrindavana.
Upon seeing Govardhana Hill, Sri Advaita Prabhu submerged in an ocean of love filled with ever billowing waves of ecstasy. With arms raised above his head, Advaitacharya danced in joy as he beheld Radha-Krishna’s nitya lila-sthalis. He bathed in Manasi Ganga, took darshana of Harideva and did Giriraja parikrama, offering dandavats to Him.
At Dana Ghati, Sri Advaita Prabhu remembered Krishna blocking Radha while demanding tax. Joking to Himself, Sri Advaita Prabhu remarked, “This is the place where Radha and Her sakhis had to pay tax.”
Upon arriving in Vrindavana, Sri Advaita Prabhu stayed beneath a Banyan tree [now called Advaita Vata] at the foot of Dwadashaditya-tila beside Yamunaji.
At the end of the night, Sri Advaita Prabhu had a visionary dream of Krishna. He saw Sri Nandanandana captivating the worlds with His luster of fresh monsoon clouds. The Lord was sporting a crown of peacock plumes; caressing a flute to His lips; dressed in a shimmering yellow dhoti and sporting golden ankle bells. Krishna’s beautiful body, softer than butter, was filled with the nectar cream of rasa.
Seeing Krishna’s extraordinary form, Sri Advaita Prabhu reeled in bliss and started dancing in euphoria with upraised arms.
At that time, Krishnachandra said, “You are My very body, and Your association makes waves of prema surge within My heart. You are the most generous Gopishvara Shiva, now appearing for the benefit of the conditioned souls. You are redeeming them by revealing the lost holy places, preaching pure devotion and by chanting of Krishna’s Holy Names.
“Listen carefully! A divine jewel of a Deity of Mine, previously served by Kubja, named Madana Mohana, is lying abandoned in a kunja at Dwadashaditya Tirtha. In fear of robbers and vandals I have hidden this form of Myself. His body is covered with a thin layer of earth. Bring some Vrajavasis, uncover Me and establish My puja for the benefit of the world.”
After saying this, Krishnachandra disappeared. Filled with pure prema,
Advaita Prabhu loudly sang the name of Hari, raising His arms as He danced. Meeting the villagers, Sri Advaita Prabhu said, “Everyone, regardless social caste, quickly come with me to Dwadashaditya Tila to unearth a wonderfully elegant tribhanga Deity of Krishna.”
Carefully wielding axes and shovels, the locals worked hard to unearth the Deity. All the Vrajavasis were awestruck to see Thakuraji’s matchless beauty. Under a nearby Banyan tree, they erected a straw hut and installed the Deity with the customary bathing rites and rituals.
Advaita Prabhu engaged a pure Vaisnava brahmana in Thakuraji’s seva, and then went on Vrindavana parikrama. By the force of Providence some wicked miscreants learned of the new Deity installation. Heavily armed, they came to break the Deity and dishearten the local devotees. Seeing the approaching vandals, Madana Mohana assumed the form of a young child, a balak, and fearfully hid Himself in a flower garden. Not finding the Deity, the villains left with unhappy hearts.
When the pujari came for puja, he saw that the Deity was missing. Thinking that Thakuraji left because He was displeased with his seva, the pujari started bitterly lamenting and began to fast.
Upon returning from his parikrama, Sri Advaita Prabhu saw that the Mandira was empty. Thakuraji was gone! Upon hearing what had happened from the pujari, Sri Advaita Prabhu cried out: “Krishna so kindly appeared to Me in Person! But feeling offended, the Lord has concealed Himself again!” Greatly disturbed and unhappy, Sri Advaita Prabhu started fasting without even drinking water.
While sleeping under the Banyan tree [Advaita Vata] that night, Sri Advaita Prabhu again saw Thakuraji Madana Mohana in a dream. In sweet words, Krishna said, “Wake up, Advaita! Out of fear of the villains I hid under some flowers in the garden. Even Brahma and others do not have the power to see Me like this. Only You are able to see Me with Your devotional eyes. Again I will reveal My perfect form, and the people rejoice in My darshana.”
After this visionary dream, Advaita Prabhu woke up and quickly found Gopala under the flowers. Beholding Krishna’s divine form, overflowing with all ambrosial, succulent sweetness, Sri Advaita Prabhu wept profusely in pure love and fainted. He stood up but become stunned.
Sometimes, Sri Advaita Prabhu trembled; became covered with thrill bumps; or loudly exclaimed “Hari!”. Sometimes He danced and sometimes He fainted. After a while, Sri Advaita Prabhu returned to external consciousness and offered Thakuraji Sri Gopala some fruits and water. Afterwards, Advaita honored Krishna’s remnants while contemplating the Lord’s matchless mercy.
The next morning, Advaita Prabhu met the Pujari while bathing in Yamunaji. He told him, “O vipra! Quickly go to the Mandira, wake up Thakuraji and do puja! From now Thakuraji will be known as Madana Gopala. Just continue your seva puja, without worrying about the confidential secrets behind this pastime.”
The brahmana replied, “But Prabhu, Thakuraji is no longer in the temple.”
Sri Advaita Prabhu said, “Krishna can never abandon His devotees.” Upon opening the temple, the amazed pujari saw the Deity once again. While contemplating these miraculous events, the pujari, in great ecstatic love, offered many prayers and praises to Thakuraji before he began his worship of Madana Gopala. From that moment onwards, the Deity of Madana Mohana was now manifest as Madana Gopala.
One night, Madana Gopala appeared to Advaita Prabhu in a dream said sweetly, “O Sri Advaita Acharya! Listen to one thing! There are too many dangers here. So I am arranging for one Mathura brahmana named Caube to come here tomorrow and take Me. He and his wife always worship Me with parental love, thinking of Me as their son. I will surely fulfill their desires.
“At present they have a son named Madana Mohana. I want to spend some time with them. Later when Sri Rupa and Sri Sanatana come to Vrindavana, I will leave Caube’s home and return to Vrindavana with them. So please do not hesitate to hand Me to him.”
Saddened, Sri Advaita Prabhu replied, “But listen Madana Gopala! You are the only treasure of My heart! You are my very soul, My joy and My strength! How will I survive without You? I will become like a fish out of the water!”
Hearing these plaintive words, Madana Gopala smilingly said: “Don’t worry, for I am forever subdued by Your love! Without You, My pastimes cannot be completely satisfying. Wherever You are, I will always be there with You. Please fulfill the desires of My devotee Caube by offering My perfect divine form to him.
“Now listen and I will describe an ancient event. Once Vishakha-sakhi painted a picture of Me that is non-different from this Deity form of Mine. When Sri Radhika saw that picture She became completely captivated!
“This eternally perfect painting is in Seva Kunja. You can go there and easily find it. Take this picture back to Shantipura in Bengal, and redeem all the conditioned souls there by establishing puja and seva to this Deity.”
Experiencing this visionary dream of Sri Madana Gopala ji, Advaita Prabhu became lost in ecstasy, dancing with raised arms while shouting, ‘Hari bolo’! Sri Advaita Prabhu finally calmed down after three hours of continuous cascading euphoria.
At that time, the Mathura brahmana Caube arrived there. Clutching a straw between his teeth, he offered obeisances unto Advaita Prabhu. With folded hands, he said, “You are an omniscient avatara of the Lord, and You have unearthed the Deity which was previously served by Kubja-devi.
“In a visionary dream, Madana Gopala ordered Me to quickly take this Deity to Mathura and begin His worship. He also woke up my wife, calling her: ‘Mother, mother’! Then Thakuraji told me, ‘You two are My mother and father. You should now rear Me in all respects.’ Hence, O Lord, I have come to You. Please bless me by handing the Deity over to Me.”
Hearing his humble plea, Advaita Prabhu handed the Deity over to Caube. Sri Advaita then began weeping out of great love in separation. Wandering into Seva Kunja, Sri Advaita Prabhu drowned in an ocean of prema as He found Vishakha-sakhi’s painting of Madana Gopala. Sri Advaita Prabhu carefully took that nitya siddha picture and brought it to His home in Shantipura to commence worship.
Long before when Srimati Radharani first saw this painting done by Her dearest Vishakha, She sighed in joy exclaiming, “With the beauty of His smile and His tender glance, Madana Gopala has driven Me mad! Alas! Ever since I have seen this picture the cool moonshine seems as hot as fire, and fire seems as cool as the moon!”
bhruvaṁ te tena kṣiptvā kim, api hāsatonmādita mateḥ
śaśi-vṛtto vahniḥ param, ahaha vahnir mama śaśi (Vidagdha Madhava ii.3)
Advaita Prakash translation, Advaitadas)
Sri Sri Madana Gopala Thakuraji ki jai!
Sri Advaita Prabhu ki jai!
Jai Jai Sri Radhe!