The Mother Divine
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By Sri Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath

“Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare."

Sripad Madhavendra Puri was wandering through the forests of Vrindavan, chanting the Lord’s Name.

The blue waters of the Yamuna, the dark coloured trees, whatever he saw, appeared only as the images of his beloved Deity, Shyam Sundara, Lord Krishna. Every moment was an experience of intense spiritual delight. He wept tears of love and joy continuously. He spoke only of Krishna, Krishna and nothing else.

Wandering thus, he arrived at Mount Govardhana. He had lost all sense of time, day and night were as one, food and sleep were forgotten, and intoxicated with the love of Lord Krishna, he roamed aimlessly, seeking Him. "Oh! Krishna! Oh! Gopala! Oh! My Lord, come before me. Vrindavan is the holy place of your divine sport. You do not leave Vrindavan even for a moment. Please fulfil my desire of seeing you." These words were on his lips constantly as he went around Mount Govardhana, bathed in the Govinda kunda, or at dusk sat under a tree and did Naam japa. He forgot all hunger and thirst. His whole mind was engrossed in the japa of the Divine Name.

At about that time, a young cowherd came by with a pot of milk and said, "Oh saint! What are you meditating on? Why don't you beg for your food? Here, take this, here is some milk for you.”

Madhavendra Puri had never heard such a sweet voice in his whole life. The words of the boy electrified his whole body. His eyes filled with tears. When he opened his eyes, he saw a young cowherd standing before him with a pot of milk. The boy was dark-skinned, very beautiful, with lustrous, curly hair framing his lovely face, enhanced as it was by a charming smile.

Madhavendra said to Him, "What are you saying?"
The boy smiled and said, "Why are you fasting? Can't you beg for your food?
Madhavendra said, "Who are you? Where is your home? How do you know that I am fasting?"

The boy did not come to take the pot back. Madhavendra sat down and continued doing his japa of the Divine Name throughout the night. Just before dawn, he fell into an unaccustomed slumber. He dreamt that the same boy, with a smiling countenance, came to him and said, "Oh! Madhava! I have, for long, awaited your arrival. I have responsibilities for you to fulfil, services you need render to me out of your love for me.” Saying this, the boy took Madhavendra by the hand and led him to a dense grove in the middle of the forest.

"I live in this open grove. I feel very uncomfortable during the rains and storms. Deliver me from this grove. Seek the help of the villagers. Take me to the mountain, construct a temple for me, install me there and serve me well. Bathe me properly, in pure, cold water. I ask for your service as I can see that you love me. My name is Sri Gopala, the people of Vraja installed me here. Afraid of the Muslim marauders, my worshippers took me down from Mount Govardhana and kept me hidden in this forest grove before they fled. Since that time, I am in this forest. Deliver me from this grove and proclaim my worship."

Madhavendra awoke from the dream and began to lament loudly. He had not recognised the Lord even though He had appeared before him.

He wept, "I am very unfortunate, I could not recognise the Lord even though I saw Him. But who can know Him, if He does not wish to make Himself known? However, I shall carry out His command. I shall take Him out of the forest and install Him on the mountain."

Having so resolved, Madhavendra Puri sat down again to do Naam japa. At dawn, he bathed and then entered the village. Having gathered all the villagers in one place, he said, "Gopala, the upholder of Govardhana, came to me in a dream. He is in an overgrown grove in the middle of that forest. He wants us all to go and bring Him out from there. We will need to cut that dense jungle."

The villagers immediately brought axes and saws and started cutting down the trees and shrubs. It was a dense forest. They began to clear the forest and construct a way to reach the grove. Finally, they entered an opening and found that a wonderful Idol, all covered in mud and grass and decades of overgrowth. The villagers’ happiness knew no bounds and they began to dance with joy. Shouts of ‘Victory to the Lord’ echoed in the sky.

The Idol was very heavy. Several strong young men were needed to bring Him out of the forest and take him up to the top of Mount Govardhana.

The news of this marvellous discovery spread all around. Men came in droves to see Gopala. Joyful cries charged the air of that once lonely forest. The Brahmins brought one hundred jars full of water from the Govinda kunda. People danced, sang, played the drums and other musical instruments, making the place extremely attractive. Milk, curd and sweets of various kinds were brought there as offerings or bhog to the Lord Gopala. Flowers, leaves, incense etc., were also brought there for the purpose of worship.

Madhavendra Puri himself, performed the installation ceremony of the Lord Gopala. First, he removed the mud and dirt from the Idol and then he bathed Him. Next, he rubbed the beautiful body of the Deity with different kinds of scented oil and thus made it lustrous. He then bathed Him with five gavyas (milk, curd, ghee, cow urine and cow dung) and five amritas (milk, curd, ghee, sugar and honey). After this, he bathed the Idol in an elaborate ceremony with the waters of the one hundred jars brought from Govinda Kund. Then, once again he rubbed scented oil on the Idol and finished the installation ceremony after bathing the Deity with the water from the Holy Ganges. To mark the end of the installation, the saint blew the conch shell.

Madhavendra then wiped the of the body of Lord with a clean cloth and clothed Him in new garments. Tulasi leaves and sandalwood paste were placed on His feet and garlands of forest flowers were put around His conch-like neck. The saint then offered fruits, curd, milk, sweets and other offerings brought there for the enjoyment of Lord Gopala. Sweet, scented water in a new pot was offered to the Lord to drink. After giving water to cleanse His face, he presented betel nut to God. Then, finally he performed the aratrika. The sound of the musical instruments accompanying the aratrika shook Govardhana hill and could be from heard miles away. Hundreds of men shouted in unison, “Victory to Sri Gopalji."

Madhavendra sang hymns in praise of Sri Gopalji and saluted Him by doing ashtanga pranam, lying flat on the ground.

Meanwhile, villagers brought huge quantities of rice, pulses, wheat, vegetables, etc., for the enjoyment of Sri Gopala. Ten brahmins cooked all that rice; it took a long time and the cooked rice created a veritable mountain. Five other brahmins cooked various appetizing vegetable dishes. Seven more brahmins made bread out of the wheat. A small mountain of bread also grew, there was so much! All these items of food were artistically placed round the mountain of rice. Many jars of clear water were placed there for drinking purposes.

After all the cooking was done, Madhavendra placed Tulasi leaves on the huge heaps of rice and wheat and offered it all to Lord Gopala. He then sat in meditation, closing his eyes. In his meditative state, he saw Lord Gopala, who had been hungry for many years, eat all the items of food offered to Him. Yet, by just the touch of His hand, the empty dishes were filled to the brim, again. In his vision, he then offered betel nut to Gopalji and performed aratrika. Only Madhavendra could see this vision, no one else was aware of it.

The villagers had made a room from the long forest grasses for Lord Gopala and had placed a comfortable new bed there. The Lord then retired for an afternoon siesta.

Before sunset, Lord Gopala was awakened from His afternoon siesta, and was worshipped with chants and flowers and incense. After sunset, aratrika was performed and bhoga was offered to the Lord. He was then taken back to his bed for his night’s rest. It was only after Lord Gopala had retired for the night that Madhavendra Puri ate a little quantity of food and himself lay down to rest.

The next day, the villagers of an adjacent village came with all the things necessary for making another mountain of rice, Annakuta. This mountain, with accompanying soups and other delicacies, was offered to the Lord just like the previous day. Like this, villagers from nearby villages arrived every day, with generous contributions and Lord Gopala's bhoga became a regular offering.

Soon, news of the installation of the Idol spread to distant places. Men from far away started visiting the Govardhan Mount to see the Lord. Rich men from Mathura arrived, laden with gold and silver ornaments and offered them to God. A Kshatriya, from a wealthy family, built a fine temple for the Lord. The people of Vraja gave many cows to Sri Gopala. Some others constructed cow-sheds for them. In due course of time, Sri Gopala had thousands of cows.

In this way, through the love and generosity of his devotees, Sri Gopala's riches increased day by day. Two brahmins who came all the way from Bengal, took initiation from Madhavendra Puri. They were then selected for service to the Lord. Lord Gopala was being attended to in royal style and Madhavendra's joy knew no bounds.

Two years passed in this manner. One night the Lord appeared in Madhavendra’s dream and said, "Oh! Puri. My body has become heated with from within and does not get cooled. You must smear my body with sandalwood paste. It will cool me down. You, yourself, go to Nilachala, in Puri, and bring the sandalwood paste."

Madhavendra was in ecstasy after seeing Lord Gopala in his dream. He quickly made arrangements for the continued worship and service of the Idol and started out for Orissa.

His first stop was at Advaita acharya's house in Shantipur. Advait acharya immediately recognised the saint’s extraordinary love for God. He blessed his own good fortune and instantly took initiation from Madhavendra Puri.

Madhavendra stopped once more at Remuna and went into ecstasy seeing the exquisite beauty of Sri Gopinatha Ji in the Khirachora Gopinatha Temple. Mesmerised, he sang devotional songs for quite some time and then went and sat in the corridor attached to the temple. There he requested a priest to describe in detail the items of food offered to Sri Gopinatha. The priest gave a detailed account of the daily offerings made to Lord Gopinatha and added that every evening, a sweet made from milk, rice and other condiments, was offered in twelve earthen pots to Sri Gopinatha. The taste of that sweet offering was so sublime that it was called amrita keli khir, or a sweet dish made from nectar! It was famous as the khir of Gopinatha, as it was unique to this Deity.

While Madhevendra Puri was talking to the priest, this famous sweet was offered to the Lord. Madhavendra thought that if he could taste a small quantity of the offering, of course without asking for it, he could ask his kitchens to prepare a similar sweet to offer Sri Gopala. But at once the saint realised that a desire such as this did not become of a monk like him. He had taken a vow not to want anything from anybody. Rising, he immediately left the temple and went to the empty and silent market place, where he started chanting the Name of God.

To God, His true devotee is the dearest of all creatures. Lord Gopinatha, therefore, wanted to fulfil this desire of Madhavendra Puri.

That night, the temple priest dreamt that Lord Gopinatha ordered him to get up and open the gates of the temple. The Lord further instructed the priest to take the pot of khir that He had hidden, through His maya, beneath his garments, and give that to the monk Madhavendra Puri who was chanting His Name sitting in the market place.

The priest at once got up and after bathing, opened the gates of the temple and found that pot of khir. He took that pot and went to the market and shouted, "The man whose name is Madhavendra Puri should take this khir. Lord Gopinatha Himself stole this khir for him."

Madhavendra Puri disclosed his identity to the priest and the priest gladly gave him the pot of khir. Touching the saint’s feet, the priest said, "There is no one as fortunate as you in this world. Lord Gopinatha Himself stole this khir for you." He then narrated his entire dream.

Hearing of this unusual grace of the Lord, Madhavendra was in ecstasy. Tears of love and joy fell from his eyes. The priest was overwhelmed when he saw this unparalleled love for God, and thought, "It is quite fitting that the Lord Krishna loves him so much." The priest then saluted him and went back to the temple.

Madhavendra Puri ate the khir and then, after washing that earthen pot, he broke it into pieces, tied the pieces in cloth and kept it with him. He used to eat one piece of the pot every day and fall into a trance.

The saint worried that if people came to know that Lord Gopinatha himself had given him the pot of khir, there would be a stream of people who would want to see him. Since he was an ascetic, he avoided fame, which he felt was a stumbling block in his search for spiritual fulfilment.

Saluting the Lord from the market place itself, Madhavendra started for Puri dham before the night was over. Once he reached Nilachala, he saw Lord Jagannatha and immediately fell into a trance. The news of his arrival at Puri dham soon spread. Crowds of people came and saluted Madhavendra. The saint told the servants of Lord Jagannatha that Lord Gopala had sent him to get the sandalwood from Puri. Overjoyed, the servants immediately collected the sandalwood from the king’s men. They then appointed a brahmin to carry the sandalwood and another to serve the saint on the way. Necessary papers for travel and money for their expenses were also given to him.

Madhavendra Puri went back to Remuna along with all that sandalwood. He saluted Lord Gopinatha and once again began to dance and sing out of love for Him. Once again, the servants of Lord Gopinatha gave him the amrita keli khir as prasad.

That night, as he slept in the temple premises, he dreamt that Lord Gopala came before him and asked him to smear the body of the Lord Gopinatha with that sandal-paste. He was further told that the body of Lord Gopinatha in Remuna and that of Lord Gopala on Govardhan Hill, were identical and that he should apply that sandalwood-paste to Lord Gopinatha's body instead, without any hesitation.

Upon getting up from his sleep, Madhavendra Puri narrated the contents of his dream to the servants of the Lord Gopinatha. He requested them to rub sandalwood paste on the body of Lord Gopinatha everyday during the summer season. The priests gladly obeyed and began to apply sandalwood paste to the body of Sri Gopinatha. Madhavendra Puri remained in Remuna throughout the summer and returned to Puridham with the advent of the rains.

Madhavendra Puri was the Guru of Iswara Puri who was again the Guru of Sri Chaitanya. Sankarsana Puri, the Guru of Nityananda, was also a disciple of Madhavendra Puri. Thus, Madhavendra Puri was the forerunner of Goudiya Vaisnavism, the Bengal school of Vaisnavism.