Published On: Sun, Feb 5th, 2023

The Phenomenon of Srila Narottama Dasa Thakura

Narottama Das ThakurNarottam Das Thakur was the embodiment of the teachings of Gaudiya. He conveyed the love of God through his poetry, known to us, and lived with this love also poetically. He was a perfect devotee, an archetype of the messenger of the Divine, whose features are described by the Six Gosvamis every time their feather touched palm leaves. Even more than Srinivasa and Shyamananda, Narottama is remembered as Gaudí’s greatest representative, perhaps because the essence of Gaudí’s philosophical concepts of Vaishnavism is in each of his songs.

A description of the life of Sri Narottam Das Thakura can be found in the Prem of Vilasa. Sri Narottama Dasa Thakur, also known as Sri Thakura Mahasaya, was born in 1534 to King Krishnananda Data and his wife Narayani Devi. He had all the signs of a mahapurusha (elevated holy personality): long arms, deep navel, golden face, beautiful lotus-like eyes. At school he was a sruti dhara (able to remember everything he heard). He also quickly became an expert in Sanskrit and the Vedic scriptures. All his life he remained in the Brahmachari ashram.

It is noteworthy that Narottama Dasa Thakur refused to eat grain food during the rite of anna prasham (a traditional rite for newborns, when the child is offered cereals). As a child, Narottam refused to eat. When a pious Vaishnava came to his father’s house with the same food, but offered first to Krishna, Narottam ate it. The reason for the refusal became clear to everyone – this food was not prasad. This indicated a high level of devotion of the child, which could not but please the parents.

Growing up, Narottam became an exemplary student and mastered all academic subjects, as well as religious writings. However, his favorite pastime was to sit at the feet of Krishnadas, an elderly brahmana, listening to his narrations about the lilas of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. These stories fascinated him and gave him incomparable pleasure. Then he gave himself to Lord Caitanya without looking back.

One day, shortly after Narottam was 13 years old, Nityananda Prabhu came to him in a dream and said: “Tomorrow at sunrise you should swim in the Padma River. At this time you will receive the fullness of Goura Prema, the love of God.” Waking up, Narottam immediately fulfilled the will of Nityananda Prabhu and ran to the river.

Upon entering Padma, Narottam felt an extraordinary transformation taking place in him. At that moment Mahaprabhu appeared before him and hugged him gently. When their bodies merged, he felt the very essence of Mahaprabhu engulfing his soul. It is said that at this point, Narottam’s dark skin acquired the color of molten gold, the distinctive body color of Mahaprabhu himself.

Today, the Prema-Tali Ghat in Bangladesh, where this historic event took place, is visited by many pilgrims.
Narottama Dasa Thakur dreamed of serving Krsna.

King Krishnananda, the father of Narottam, feared that his son would run away from home and become a hermit. For the king it would be terrible – his only son, heir to the throne, goes away as if all the wealth of the world is worthless. Krishnananda also had plans to marry Narottam. The renounced way of life is not at all what he prepared for his young Nara.

To make his plans come true, Raj Krishnananda instructed the best guards to guard Narottam day and night. Out of love for his son, he made Narottam a prisoner in his own house. However, Narottam continued only to chant the names of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Radha and Krishna.

Day and night Narottam prayed, “O my Lord, Gauranga Mahaprabhu, free me from this insane life, family attachment and let me serve You in the company of self-aware Vaisnavas !” His only aspiration became so strong that he was no longer asleep, his mind and heart were completely absorbed in the Lord’s games and His mission.

Narottam found an opportunity to leave. “Now or never,” he decided. Carefully bypassing the guard, he managed to escape into the forest, determined to find a way to the sacred Vrindavan. But to get to Vrindavan, you had to walk through most of India. The gentle and sleek body of the king’s son could hardly bear the hardships of the way, and he began to feel fatigue and hunger. Three days later, his legs were blistered, and at some point from exhaustion, he lost consciousness.

Then Mahaprabhu came to the exhausted Narottam under the guise of a brahmana with golden skin and a pot of milk. Not recognizing Sri Caitanya Himself in the brahmana, Narottam simply fell asleep, again succumbing to exhaustion. Rupa and Sanatana came to him in a dream to cheer him up. “Narottam, soon your suffering will end. Mahaprabhu brought milk to support you. Drink to the bottom and continue on your way to Vrndavana.” When he awoke, all the words of Rupa and Sanatana sounded in his heart, and Narottam burst into tears of happiness.

In the eternal lilas of Krsna, one of the services of Narottam as a manjari is to provide Sri Radha and her closest friends with gopi milk. This time Krishna in the form of Mahaprabhu answered him in the same way, giving milk to his pure devotee. Thinking about these love affairs was what really strengthened Narottam, and soon he continued his way to Vraja with renewed vigor.

There was a meeting in Vrindavan between Narottam Das Thakura, Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami. As Narottam became acquainted with the most famous devotees, he was most impressed by Lokanatha Gosvami, whose exceptional modesty and asceticism were recognized by all Vaisnavas.

He received shiksa in the Gaudiya of philosophy from Sri Jiva Gosvami and diksa (spiritual initiation) from Sri Lokanatha Gosvami. For two years, Narottama devotedly served Lokanatha Gosvami, doing all the work, and was honored to become his only student. Neither before nor since has Lokanatha Gosvami ever initiated anyone. Lokanatha Gosvami gave Narotam Radha-Krishna mantra as well as the Gayatri mantra. He revealed to Narottam his ministry in the spiritual world as Champaka-manjari, who serves Radha.

Subsequently, during a joint journey with other sadhus in Bengal, Narottama Dasa Thakur distributed the works of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, the authors of which were Rupa and Sanatana Gosvami.

In 1611, Narottama Dasa Thakura left this mortal world. He was then 77 years old, and it happened as follows.

After learning that his close Vaisnava friends Ramachandra-Kaviraj and Srinivasa had returned to the spiritual abode, Narottama Dasa Thakura, full of feelings of separation, held a nectar kirtan in the temple of Lord Caitanya. Unable to be separated from Krishna any longer, Narottama Dasa decided to join him in the spiritual world, entered a trance, and immersed himself in Radha-Krishna-lila.

A few days later, Narottama Dasa Thakur left this world. His disciples and other Vaishnavas were present. Narottama entered the Ganges, chanting the names of Krishna with Rama Krishna and Ganganarayana Chakravarti. And then his body simply disappeared into the sacred waters of the Ganges.

Narottama Dasa serves Srimati Radhika as Chamaka Manjari. His samadhi is located in the courtyard of the temple of Radha Gokulananda.