Today we celebrate the appearance of Sri Jahnava devi, the wife of Lord Nityananda.
Shri Suryadasa Sarakhela lived in Shaligrama. He had five brothers: Damodara, Jagannatha, Gauridasa, Krishna dasa, and Nrishinga Chaitanya. His fathers name was Shri Kamsari Mishra and his mother’s name was Shri Kamala Devi. Surya dasa used to be the King’s treasurer, and it was in this connection that he was given the title “Sarakhela.”
Shri Suryadasa Sarakhela had two daughters. The older of the two was named Shri Vasudha and the younger was named Shri Jahnava. The Gaura-Ganodesha-dipika says: shri varuni revatyoramshasambhave, tasya priye shrivasudha cha jahnava, shri suryadasakhya-mahatmanah sute, kakudmirupasya cha suryatejasah, kecit shri vasudha-devim, kalav api vivrinute, ananga-manjarim kecij, jahnavim ca pracakshate, ubhayam tu smichinam, purva-nyayat satam matam. Kavi Karnapura says, “Shri Nityananda Prabhu’s dear consorts, Shri Vasudha and Jahnava Devi are expansions of Varuni and Revati, respectively. Shri Suryadasa Pandit had formerly been Maharaja Kukudmi. His bodily effulgence was as brilliant as the sun. Some say that Shrimati Vasudha-devi is the incarnation of Shrimati Ananga-manjari, and others say that Shrimati Jahnavi-devi is the incarnation of Shrimati Ananga-manjari. In truth, both opinions are correct. They are both incarnations of Shrimati Ananga-manjari.
Suryadas Sarakhela was a dear devotee of Nityananda and Gauranga. Seeing his daughters maturing into the full bloom of their youth, he began to think about the subject of their marriage. This is recorded in Bhakti-Ratnakara: “Suryadasa Pandit began to think about this very deeply. Once, thinking in this way late at night, he fell asleep. At that time, a dream came to him. With this, his mind was filled with bliss. In his dream, he saw himself giving his two daughters in marriage to Shri Nityananda Prabhu.
Seeing this wonderful dream, the pandit swam in the ocean of ecstasy. A little while later, his dream broke. The next morning, he told a brahmana friend of his about his dream. He said, “I saw that Nityananda Prabhu is Balaram Himself. His unprecedented bodily effulgence filled the ten directions with its radiance. His arms and legs were decorated with all manner of wondrous and beautiful ornaments. My two daughters accompanied him on either side of him, and, having assumed the forms of Revati and Varuni, they were exceedingly beautiful. Certainly I must offer the hands of my daughters to Shri Nityananda Prabhu in marriage. Until he accepts them, I shall never find peace.”
In this way, having informed his brahmana friend of his intentions, Sarakhela Pandit dispatched him to Nabadwipa, to Shrivasa Pandita. With great haste the brahmana left, and soon he arrived at the house of Shrivasa. At that time, Nityananda Prabhu was staying at the house of Shrivasa Pandita. The brahmana explained to Shrivasa how Suryadas Sarakhela wanted to offer his two daughters in marriage to Nityananda Prabhu. Upon hearing all this, Shrivasa became happy, and submitted the entire matter to Shri Nityananda Prabhu. The merciful Nityanandna Prabhu told the brahmana to return to Suryadas Sarakhela with the assurance that he would certainly fulfill his heart’s desire. When the news came to Advaita Acharya, he became extremely happy. He said, “May all this take place very soon.” Meanwhile, the brahmana returned to Shaligrama and gave the auspicious news to Suryadas Sarakhela. Upon hearing this, Suryadas’s ecstasy knew no bounds.
In Borogacchi grama lived the son of King Harihora, Shri Krishnadasa. He was a great and dear devotee of Shri Nityananda Prabhu. He was prepared to bear and make all the necessary arrangements for a lavish wedding, putting his own home at the disposal of the entire celebration. Wanting Lord Nityananda to accept this as his offering, Krishna dasa went quickly to Nityananda Prabhu, and prayed that he might be allowed to bring the Lord to Borogacchi gram and commence with the wedding there.
Shrivasa, Shri Advaita Acharya, Shri Chandrashekhara, Murari Gupta as well as all the other devotees of Shri Gaurasundara gathered there and began performing sankirtana. Shri Surya Dasa Sarakhela’s brother, Krishnadasa, quickly returned to Borogacchi Gram. Nityananda Prabhu also arrived there shortly, as did all the devotees from Shaligrama. Seeing Nityananda Prabhu and all the different devotees who had arrived, Suryadas Sarakhela ran out on the road before them in great ecstasy and, welcoming them, invited them to his own home, after falling before the lotus feet of Shri Nityananda Prabhu in humble submission. The Bhakti-Ratnakara records this as follows: “Falling at the lotus feet of Shri Nityananda Prabhu Suryadasa flooded the ground with his tears. With his two hands he tightly held the lotus feet of Nityananda Prabhu. His voice trembling, he wanted to speak, but could find no words. Nityananda Prabhu slowly began to smile, and gradually was unable to contain his ecstatic laughter. Bestowing his full mercy upon Suryadasa, he embraced him. Suryadasa became absorbed in bliss. Who could have understood the limits of his ecstasy? Seeing his brother, Gauridasa also became ecstatic; not being able to contain his patience, was overwhelmed with internal delight.
A little while later, Shri Suryadasa Pandita worship the lotus feet of Nityananda Prabhu and offered his two daughters—Shri Vasudha and Shri Jahnava Mata—into the hands of Nityananda. The Bhakti Ratnakara says, “In the opinion of both the scriptures and the people in general Suryadasa was most fortunate, having given his daughters in charity to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Nityananda Prabhu.
Thereafter, following the beautiful and auspicious wedding, Shri Nityananda Prabhu remained in Shaligrama Pura for some time. In time, he went to Nabadwipa dhama, and arrived at the house of Sachidevi with his two wives. He offered his obeisances to the lotus feet of Shri Sachidevi. Sachimata was delighted to see Vasudha and Jahnava. She embraced them again and again, sat them on her lap and affectionately pinched them on the cheek.
All the Vaishnava housewives in Nabadwipa showed great affection toward the two brides of Nityananda. On the order of Sachidevi, Nityananda went to the house of Advaita Acharya in Shantipura. When Sita Thakurani saw Vasudha and Shri Jahnava, she floated inthe waves of ecstasy. She also embraced them as affectionately as Sachidevi had. Shri Nityananda stayed there at the house of Advaita for some time, until Uddharana Datta Thakura requested him to come to stay at his place in Saptagrama. There he stayed for a few days, and, after taking part in a great sankirtan festival, went on to Boro Grama. Nityananda Prabhu performed endless kirtan pastimes and wandered from one place to the next for this purpose.
After some time, Shri Vasudhadevi gave birth to a daughter named Ganga and a son named Virachandra. Shri Jahnavadevi, on the other hand, had no children.
After Shri Nityananda Prabhu, Advaita Acharya, Shrivasa Pandita, and many other members of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s personal entourage had gone back to Godhead, Shri Jahnava Mata wanted to further inundate the world with a flood of sankirtan nectar. At that time, in Kheturi Gram, on the Phalguna Purnima day, the day of Mahaprabhu’s advent, a great festival was to be held. The three acharyas Narottama, Shyamananda, and Shrinivasa (the three-fold mercy-potency of the Lord) heard that a great festival was to be held in Kheturi Gram at the house of Raja Santosha Datta. They too arrived to take part.
The festival had been arranged by King Santosh Dutta. He was the son of Narottam’s brother as well as Narottam’s disciple. For this festival, Jahanava Devi herself, the wife of Lord Nityananda, had come. Along with her came her uncle, Shri Krishna Mishra, as well as Shirpati, Shrinidhi, Minaketana Ramadasa, Murari Chaitanya, Jnana dasa, Parameshvari dasa, Balarama Dasa, Vrindavan Das Thakura, and all the other dearmost followers of Shri Nityananda Prabhu. Jahanava Mata first went to the house of Gauridasa Pandit in Ambika Kalna along with all her followers. The disciple of Gauri das Pandita, Hridaya Chaitanya with great cordiality welcomed Shri Jahnava Mata and all the devotees. Shri Jahnava Mata with her own hand cooked the offering for the Gaura-Nityananda deities there. Having had a festival there for one night, they went on to Nabadwipa. Arriving at the house of Mahaprabhu, and not seeing Sachimata there, Shri Jahanva Mata was very unhappy to have missed her, and felt the pangs of separation. Shripati and Shrinidhi then took Shri Jahnava Mata to their own Nabadwip home. Not seeing Shrivasa Pandita and Malinidevi there, she was heartbroken and began to cry. They stayed the night there, and on the following day went to Shantipura. Finding that Shri Advaita Acharya and Shri Sita Thakurani had passed away, Jahnava Mata was filled with grief. Their sons, Achyutananda and Gopala cordially greeted Jahnava Mata and all her Vaishnava associates and welcomed them with a proper ceremonial reception.
At length, Shri Jahnava Mata, along with her devotee associates went on to a place in Kanthak Nagara known as Teliyabudhir Gram, where the brother of Ramchandra Kaviraja, whose name was Govinda Kaviraja, greeted Her with all respect and offered puja to her. After staying there one night, they all set out for Kheturi Grama.
Arriving on the other side of the river from Kheturi Grama, they found that Raja Santosha Datta had made arrangements for boats to ferry the devotees across the river Padma as well as other conveyances to bring the devotees into Kheturi Gram. He also made many other arrangements for the well-being of the devotees, including suitable housing and ample prasada. Everything was decorated very beautifully. Raja Santosha Datta personally came a long way down the road just to welcome Jahanava Mata and her company by offering them flowers and garlands, as well as many other gifts.
In this way, all the devotees headed by Jahnava Mata entered Kheturi Gram while performing Sankirtana. At this time, with Shrinivasa, Narottama, and Shyamananda in front welcomed the delegation of devotees headed by Jahnava Mata by offering their full obeisances with great humility in the dust of the road. The devotees embraced each other in great ecstasy, and gradually they filled the four directions with the ecstatic and tumultuous sound of their kirtan.
Raja Santosha Datta had caused beautiful houses to be constructed to house the devotees headed by Jahnava Mata. He also made arrangements for servants to care for their every need. Gradually the different devotees headed by Jahanva retired to their respective quarters, and after having honored prasada, they rested. Seeing that the service of the Vaishnavas had been properly taken care of, Raja Santosha Datta was very happy.
The following day was the appearance day of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Within the newly constructed mandir, six deities were to be installed. In the evening, the devotees began performing sankirtana. Shri Raghunandana, from Shri Khanda, began the preliminary kirtan. All the people of Kheturi gram turned out for the occasion. Within the midst of that great assembly, Nityananda’s shakti, Shri Jahanva Mata looked very beautiful. Upon seeing her, upon seeing the devotees gathered there, and upon hearing the divine kirtan of those great souls, all the atheists and sinners were supremely purified. Everyone had left their homes and hurried out to see the devotees and to drown themselves in the nectar of the kirtan. Everyone dived and surfaced in the ocean of ecstasy, and in this way were drowned in the bliss of Vaikuntha. In this way, the kirtan continued until midnight.
The following day, with great pomp, and before a huge crowd, Shrinivas Acharya himself performed the abhishek ceremony for the installation of the six deities. On the order of Jahnava Mata and the devotees, Narottama Thakura began to perform kirtan. In the midst of that kirtan, Shri Gauranga Mahaprabhu Himself, accompanied Nityananda Prabhu and all his eternal associates, made his divine appearance. Who can describe the overflowing of ecstasy felt by the assembled devotees there in Kheturi Grama on that day? Those who could remember that festival all attained eternal fame.
On the third day of the festival, Jahanva Mata herself cooked the bhoga for the deities. “Shri Jahnava Devi was extremely delighted by the Sankirtan festival. After purifying herself by bathing in the Ganges at midday, with great enthusiasm, she cooked wonderful preparations of rice, vegetables and other things. Her cooking was unprecedented.” (BR 10th Taranga).
Shri Jahnava Mata herself distributed prasada by her own hand to the great souls present there at that grand festival. After the festival was over, Jahnava Mata left Kheturi Gram accompanied by her entourage of devotees, and set out for Vrindvana. On the way there, they passed through Prayaga and Kashi and arrived in Mathura. There they visited Krishna’s holy birthplace, and, after bathing at Vishrama Ghata, they entered Vrindavana. In order to welcome Shri Jahanva Mata, some of the Vrindvana devotees met her in Mathura. Shri Parameshvari Das describes this meeting, and mentions the names of the different devotees who turned out to meet her, as follows:
“There was Gopal Bhatta Goswami, a reservoir of gaur-prema, and Bhugarbha Goswami, as well as the highly qualified Lokanatha. Krishna dasa brahmachari and Shri Krishna Pandita, Shri Madhu Pandit and the celebrated Shri Jiva were also present there. All of them were introduced to Jahnava Mata, who was informed of their names by Jiva Goswami. Hearing all this, Jahnava Mata’s great ecstasy was increased.” (Bhakti Ratnakara)
Having approached Shri Jahnava Mata, all the goswamis present there fell before her lotus feet and offered their pranams, and she allso offered her pranams to them. Shri Jahnava Mata, seeing the ecstatic efforts of the Goswamis was very happy. At last she toured the holy places in Vrindavana and saw the different deities of Vrindavana, headed by Shri Govinda, Shri Gopinatha, and Shri Madana Mohana. The Goswamis had made an extensive effort to see to it that the arrangements for Jahnava Mata’s stay were topmost. After some days in Vrindavana, she went to see Govardhan hill, Radha-kunda and Shyamakunda. When she visited the different places of the Lord’s pastimes, different divine moods amd emotions connected with those pastimes awakened within her. In this way, after wandering about in Vrindavana for some time, she returned to Gaudadesha, Bengal.
Having reached Gaudamandala, the greater circle of Mahaprabhu’s pastimes in Bengal, She first went to Kheturi Gram. There, the devotees came out to greet and welcome her, led by Narottama and Ramchandra Kaviraja. After staying there a few days, she went on to Budhari Gram. In Budhari Grama lived ther brother of Vamshidasa, Shri Shyamadasa Chakravarti. She proposed that his daughter Shri Hemalata should be married to Boro Gangadasa. On her order, Shyamadasa gave his daughter to Boro Gangadasa. After the wedding, Jahnava Mata gave Gangadasa the responsibilty of worshiping the deity of Shyamasundara. After staying in Badhuri Gram for some time, Jahnava Mata went to see the birthplace of Shri Nityananda Prabhu in the village of Ekachakra. As she took darshan there, she heard about the father and mother of Shri Nityananda, Harai Pandit and Padmavati. Hearing about her father-in-law and mother-in-law, and meditating upon them, She was overwhelmed with separation and began to weep. In the company of a local brahman, she saw the different places of Nityananda Prabhu’s childhood pastimes. No one can describe the bliss she felt upon seeing those places. That day she stayed at the empty house which had once been occupied by Nityananda’s parents, which had once been Nityananda’s home. She passed the night chanting the names of the Lord in kirtan.
Having stayed for one night in Ekachakra, she went to Kanthak Nagara, near Katwa. She say the place of the Lord’s sannyasa, and wept. From there, she went to Yajigram, to the house of Shrinivasa Thakura. The devotees there, headed by Shrinivasa Acharya, welcomed her with great devotion. Shrinivasa invited her into his home and performed a puja in honor of Jahnava Mata, worshiping her. In this way, that best of Acharyas, Shrinivasa, absorbed himself in the service of Jahnava Mata. After staying in Yajigram for some days, she again returned to Nabadwipa, to the birthplace of Shriman Mahaprabhu. At that time, Ishan, the family servant of Mahaprabhu was in his ripe old age. Upon entering the house of Mahaprabhu, Jahanva Mata fainted in ecstasy. Seeing her absorbed in a divine trance of ecstasy, the devotees also became ecstatic and began to weep tears of prem. Fromt he house of Mahaprabhu, She went to the courtyard of Shrivasa, where she spent the night. And all night, in the coutryard of Shrivasa, the devotees engaged in mahasankirtana, dancing and chanting with great enthusiasm, for the courtyard of Shrivasa is where Mahaprabhu began his sankirtan pastimes. That night, Jahanva Mata had a dream in which she saw Shri Gaurasundara and his devotees performing different pastimes.
The following day, She offered her prayers again and again to the holy dham of Nabadwipa, and then turned towards Ambika Kalna and set out in that direction. At again being visited by Shri Jahnava Mata, the residents of Ambika Kalna were overjoyed. Remembering Gauridasa Pandita, who had since passed away, Shri Jahnava Mata wept again and again. She offered her prayers there, at the lotus feet of the Shri Gaura and Nityananda deities. There the devotees began a kirtan, and in the midst of that great and tumultuous kirtan, Gaura and Nityananda personally appeared. That night, Jahnava Mata, as she had done previously, cooked many preparations for the pleasure of Gaura-Nityananda and offered it them upon the altar. Later, she herself distributed that prasada to the devotees there. That night, as she slept, in her dreams she saw Gauridasa Pandita with Gaura and Nityananda. They all offered Jahnava Mata their blessings.
The following day, bidding farewell to the devotees, Jahanva Mata went to the home of Uddharana Datta Thakura. There, after staying for a one-night sankirtan festival, she got in a boat and returned to her own home in Khorodoha Gram. In Khoradoha Gram, upon seeing her once again, the devotees felt boundless joy. With great eagerness everyone tried to push in front of the crowd to catch a glimpse of her. The devotees greeted her with sankirtan. Nityananda’s son, Birchandra and his daughter Shri Ganga offered their prayers at the lotus feet of Shri Jahnava Mata, and in turn were affectionately embraced by her. She smelled their heads in affection. After this, Jahnava Mata and Shri Vasudha devi, offered their respects to each other. After this, Shri Jahnava Mata spoke of her visit to the different holy places in Gaura Mandala and Vraja Mandala with all the devotees. Shri Jahnava Mata retained Parameshvari Thakura as a servant. The two of them were unlimitedly happy to see one another once again. The other devotees bid their farewells.
The story of Shri Jahnava Mata’s pilgrimage throughout the holy places of Gaura Mandala and Vraja Mandala has become quite famous throughout the society of Gaudiya Vaishnavas. Shri Jahnava Mata is a reservoir of prema-bhakti and is known as Nityananda-svarupini—the other self of Nityananda Prabhu. She delivered many sinners and atheists by her mercy. Her divine opulence (aishavarya) and sweetness (madhurya) are both astounding.
The birthday of Shri Jahnava Mata, the shakti of Nityananda, is celebrated on the 8th day of the full moon in the month of Vaishakha.
Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, in his Kalyana Kalpataru has prayed as follows at the lotus feet of Shri Jahnava Mata:
“Having fallen into this ocean of misery, my life is a bewilderment, and I do not know how to reach its shore, nor even where to search for it. All my efforts (karma) are useless, all my knowledge (jnana) is useless, as are mysticism (yoga), austerity, religious penance, and mundane piety. None of these processes have any power to rescue me. I am weak, helpless. I don’t know how to swim across this ocean of ignorance. Who will deliver me from this dangerous predicament? Within this dangerous ocean of material existence I see the crocodiles of sense gratification—what a terrible sight! Within this ocean, I am tossed about by the turbulent waves which constantly boil and churn like a ship without a rudder. The impulses and urges that I have acquired from my previous births are like a wind that blows the ship in all directions. My mind is unsteady. This ship has no captain, no direction. I weep in despair, seeing that I cannot cross this ocean of misery. O Jahnava Devi! Today, by the power of your divine qualities, be merciful to this servant of yours. Dispell this illusion which torments me, and relieve me of the anguish of material existence. Let me take shelter at your lotus feet, for in this way I shall certainly cross over the ocean of birth and death. You are Nityananda-shakti—the divine energy of Nityananda Himself. You are the guru of Krishna-bhakti. Be merciful to me and grant me the shade of your holy lotus feet, which are like a wish-fulfilling tree. You have delivered countless abominable sinners. Please deliver me in the same way. Today, this lowly sinner falls at your holy feet, praying for your mercy.”
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