ṣaṣṭhe—raghunātha-dāsa prabhure mililā
nityānanda-ājñāya ciḍā-mahotsava kailā
Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Antya 20.112
The sixth chapter of Antya-līla explains how Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī met Caitanya Mahāprabhu and performed the flat rice festival under the order of Nityānanda Prabhu.
Hearing this, Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī became extremely happy. All that was needed was for this to be said. He arranged to feed all the devotees there so quickly that it seemed that preparations must have been made before hand. It was as if the door to the storeroom simply had to be opened and everything brought out. Why? Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī is Rati Mañjarī—she is a manager of Śrīmatī Rādhārānī’s storehouse in Vraja.
Dāsa Gosvāmī later explained in his writings how in his mañjarī form as Rati Mañjarī, he goes to Nanda Bhavana and enters the kitchen. Rati Mañjarī makes sure the kitchen is completely clean and she prepares all the ingredients for Rādhārānī to cook with. She sprinkles rose-water in the kitchen and spreads lotus petals for Rādhārānī to walk on and makes sure there are no stones or thorns on the path to Nanda Bhavana. Śrīmatī Rādhikā is very soft-limbed; especially the soles of Her feet are very soft.
Nityānanda Prabhu desired to manifest these līlās in the heart of the sādhakas and His associates. Until one has relished and become connected to līlā-rasa, he will not be impervious to the influence of māyā.
As soon as people heard that a festival was going to take place, many brāhmaṇas, saintly persons, and others began to arrive. Shortly, innumerable people had gathered. Seeing the huge crowd, Raghunātha dāsa ordered his men to arrange more ingredients and eatables from other villages. He ordered hundreds of large, round earthen pots to be delivered, along with seven especially large earthen basins wherein a brāhmaṇa soaked flat rice for the pleasure of the Lord. First, all the flat rice was soaked in hot milk, then half of the flat rice was mixed with yogurt, sugar, and bananas. The other half was mixed with condensed milk and a fragrant small size banana called cāṁpā-kalā. Sugar, ghee, and camphor were
Nityānanda Prabhu’s attire was beautiful. He was sitting on a raised platform surrounded by His associates and other important dignitaries. Hearing about the festival, all kinds of paṇḍitas, brāhmaṇas, and priests went there. Lord Nityānanda Prabhu honored them and made them sit on the raised platform with Him. The rest of the crowd sat in groups around the platform. No one could count all those present.
Prominent among those present were Abhirāma Ṭhākura, Sundarānanda, Kamalākara Pippalai, Gaurīdāsa Paṇḍita, Parameśvara dāsa, Dhanañjaya Paṇḍita, Maheśa Paṇḍita, Uddhāraṇa datta Ṭhākura, Gadādhara dāsa, Murāri Caitanya dāsa, Sadāśiva, Purandara, Jagadīśa, and Hoḍa Kṛṣṇadāsa.
When Nityānanda Prabhu appeared in this world, He did not come alone but brought with Him His principle twelve cowherd friends known as the Dvadaśa Gopālas. The Gaura-gaṇoddeśa-dīpikā (126-133) describes the twelve Gopālas in Kṛṣṇa-līlā and their corresponding forms in Gaura-līlā: (1) Abhirāma Ṭhākura, also known as Rāmadāsa Abhirāma, is the gopa known as Śrīdāmā; (2) Sundarānanda is Sudāmā; (3) Kamalākara Pippalai is Mahābala; (4) Gaurīdāsa Paṇḍita is Subala; (5) Parameśvara dāsa is Arjuna; (6) Dhanañjaya Paṇḍita is Vasudāma; (7) Maheśa Paṇḍita is Mahābāhu; (8) Puruṣottama Paṇḍita is Stoka-kṛṣṇa; (9) Kālā Kṛṣṇadāsa is Lavaṅga; (10) Puruṣottama Nāgara is Dāma; (11) Uddhārana Datta Ṭhākura is Subahu; and (12) Kholaveca Śrīdhara is Kusumāsava.
The brāhmaṇa who had prepared the flat rice brought the seven huge pots before Nityānanda Prabhu.
Raghunātha dāsa was overjoyed to receive the order to distribute vraja-bhakti-rasa and līlā-rasa. Until this point, he had not received this instruction. He thus quickly prepared everything.
He arranged two pots, one of each variety of soaked flat rice, for everyone assembled. One pot had flat rice soaked in thickened milk, and the other pot had flat rice soaked in yogurt. He also arranged sandeśa, honey, mangos, and many varieties of bananas like cāmpa-kalā, martaman, kutali-kelā, mālā-bhoga, as well as rājni-gandha lemons, litchi, jāmun, and other fruits.
Some of the brāhmaṇas who did not get any place on the platform went to the bank of the Gaṅgā with their pots. Others, unable to find a place even on the bank of the Gaṅgā, entered into the water and began eating their flat rice there.
Thus some were sitting on the platform, some at the base of the platform, some on the bank of the Gaṅgā, and some stood in the Gaṅgā itself. Twenty associates of Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu distributed the preparations to everyone present.
In his previous meeting with Mahāprabhu, Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī received the order from the Lord, “Stay at home. Don’t act like a madman.” But now, seeing Dāsa Gosvāmī, Nityānanda Prabhu was thinking of the pastimes of Kṛṣṇa and the gopīs.
yamunā-puline, kadamba-kānane, ki herinu sakhī! āja
śyāma vaṁśī-dhari, maṇi-mañcopari, kare līlā’ rasa-rāja
O sakhī! What did I see today! In a forest of kadamba trees on the bank of Yamunā, a dark complexioned cowherd boy holding a bamboo flute was performing His pastimes on a jewelled platform as the crowned jewel of all spiritual rasa.
And He told Dāsa Gosvāmī, “Do not delay. Many days have passed in hiding.”
Nityānanda Prabhu thus arranged for the first time for Raghunātha dāsa, Rati Mañjarī, to distribute the love in his heart, vraja-rasa, through this Dahī-ciḍā-mahotsava feast. There is a specialty in the prasāda arranged and distributed by the mañjarīs that is not found in the prasāda arranged by other bhaktas.
On the occasion of the Dahī-ciḍā-mahotsava, Nityānanda Prabhu distributed mahā-prasāda from the hands of Rati Mañjarī to a seemingly endless number of people. So many people took this prasāda that there was no place for them to sit on the banks of the Gaṅgā and surrounding countryside, and many climbed in trees to take there, or stood in the water and took prasāda there, or climbed on the top of roofs and took prasāda there. Everyone was completely absorbed in the bliss of honoring mahā-prasāda.
During this time, Rāghava Paṇḍita arrived at the scene. Astonished, he began laughing. He brought many preparations cooked in ghee and placed them before the Lord, which were then distributed among the devotees.
Rāghava Paṇḍita said to Nityānanda Prabhu, “I cooked many foodstuffs for You and have offered them to the Deity, but I see You are having a festival here, and so the prasāda is lying at my house uneaten.”
Nityānanda Prabhu replied, “We shall honor all these preparations here during the day, and I shall take at your house in the evening time.”
gopa-jāti āmi bahu gopa-gaṇa saṅge
āmi sukha pāi ei pulina-bhojana-raṅge
Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Antya 6.76
By caste I am a cowherd boy and I stay with many other cowherd boys. I become very happy when we enjoy eating together on the sandy bank of the river.
Saying this, Nityānanda sat Rāghava Paṇḍita down and had two clay pots given to him as well.
When everyone had received their pots, Nityānanda Prabhu called Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu by His meditation. Seeing that Mahāprabhu had arrived, He stood up and from each and every pot, big and small, Nitāi took some of the preparation and jokingly pushed it into the mouth of Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Smiling, Mahāprabhu also fed Nityānanda Prabhu and laughed as He made Him eat it.
In this way, Nitāi walked through the crowd, and all the Vaiṣṇavas stood up to watch. No one could understand what Nitāi was doing as He walked about. Mahāprabhu appeared in a form that not everyone could see. Those who were very fortunate had the darśana of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu.
Nitāi then seated Mahāprabhu on an āsana. Four pots of yoghurt soaked flat rice that had not been made from boiled paddy, milk, sandeśa, fruits, and other ingredients, were brought before Mahāprabhu and Nityānanda Prabhu. The two brothers ate with great love and affection. Observing Mahāprabhu eating by His side, Nityānanda Prabhu became blissful and manifested various ecstatic loving moods.
Nityānanda Prabhu then told everyone to honor mahā-prasāda while chanting the names of Hari. At once the sound of ‘Haribol’ resounded throughout the land.
All the Vaiṣṇavas chanted “Hari, Hari,” while taking mahā-prasāda in great bliss. They remembered Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes with His cowherd boys eating on the bank of the Yamunā.
Nityānanda and Mahāprabhu are extremely kind and magnanimous. It was Raghunātha dāsa’s great fortune that They engaged him in this pastime. Who can fathom Nitāi’s mercy? Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu Himself came and performed pulina-bhojana, the pastime of enjoying breakfast on the banks of the river. All the gopas, headed by Abhirāma Ṭhākura, became absorbed in divine love. They began thinking the sandy bank of the Gaṅgā to be the sandy bank of the Yamunā in Vraja.
Hearing about the festival, many shopkeepers arrived with their goods from other villages and began selling their flat rice, yogurt, sandeśa, and bananas. As they brought their goods, Raghunātha dāsa purchased it all from them, and then began feeding it to them. All those who came to witness this spectacle were also served this preparation.
After Nitāi finished eating, He washed His hands and mouth and gave Raghunātha dāsa what was remaining in the four pots. Whatever was left over in the other three big pots was distributed by brāhmaṇas to all the devotees.
A brāhmaṇa then placed a flower garland on Nityānanda Prabhu’s neck and applied sandalwood paste on the limbs of His body. A sevaka brought betel nuts and Nitāi laughingly accepted and chewed them. Nitāi distributed the remnants of His flower garland, sandalwood paste, and betel nuts to everyone.
Rāghava Paṇḍita gave the remnants of Mahāprabhu and Nityānanda Prabhu to everyone. Raghunātha dāsa ate Their remnants in great bliss and distributed some to his own associates. As soon as everyone honored these remnants, they became immersed in vraja-bhāva.
In Vraja, there are two types of love and prasāda: ghṛta-sneha (ghee-like affection) and mādhu-sneha (honey-like affection). Ghṛta-sneha is greasy and rich, but not sweet. This is comparable to dakṣina-bhāva, or the right-wing mood of some of the vraja-gopīs, which is submissive by nature. Mādhu-sneha on the other hand is full of sweetness. This is comparable to vamya-bhāva, or the left-wing mood of some of the gopīs, most prominent being Śrīmatī Rādhikā, and is contrary by nature. This pleases Kṛṣṇa the most.
Through Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī, Nityānanda Prabhu began distributing both mādhu-sneha and ghṛta-sneha. One of the clay pots of Dāsa Gosvāmī’s flat rice was the pot of mādhu-sneha. In this, he mixed flat rice with yogurt and added honey, varieties of bananas, fruits, and sweets like sandeśa. In the pot of ghṛta-sneha, he soaked flat rice with condensed milk, sugar, ghee, camphor, and cāmpa-kalā. Dāsa Gosvāmī offered everything to Nityānanda Prabhu, who offered everything to Mahāprabhu. Nitāi had these two pots of condensed divine love distributed to everyone.
When Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī distributed this prasāda, those who partook of it received sevā-vṛtti, a spiritual service tendency. By this, Nityānanda Prabhu gave them entrance into the realm of vraja-bhāva.
Nitaī Blesses Raghunātha
tāṅra ājñā lañā gelā prabhura caraṇe
prabhu tāṅre samarpilā svarūpera sthāne
Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya 1.284
Receiving Nityānanda Prabhu’s blessings, Śrī Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī renounced his home and took shelter of the lotus-feet of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu at Jagannātha Purī. The Lord then offered him into the care of Svarūpa Dāmodara Gosvāmī.
After the festival was over, Nityānanda Prabhu rested. Early that evening, He went to the temple of Rāghava Paṇḍita and started kīrtana. Nityānanda Prabhu made all the devotees dance, and danced Himself, drowning the world in prema. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, Svarūpa Dāmodara, Gadādhara Paṇḍita, and all the bhaktas manifested there from Kṣetra-maṇḍala, Gaura-maṇḍala, and Vraja-maṇḍala. All the bhaktas assembled in manifest or unmanifest forms and kīrtana went on until late that evening. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, who was unseen by all but Nitāi Himself, stood and watched Nitāi’s dancing. There is no comparison in the three worlds to Nityānanda Prabhu’s dancing. It is incomparable, just like the dancing of Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Who can describe the sweetness of Nitāi’s dancing? Mahāprabhu Himself comes to witness it.
After dancing in saṅkīrtana, Nitāi rested for some time, and then Rāghava Paṇḍita requested Nitāi to accept prasāda. Nityānanda Prabhu sat down for prasāda with His associates and laid out a seat to His right for Mahāprabhu. Caitanya Mahāprabhu then appeared and sat down on the seat. Seeing this, Rāghava Paṇḍita was filled with bliss.
First, Rāghava Paṇḍita served prasādam to Gaura-Nitāi and then to all the other Vaiṣṇavas. Who can describe all the varieties of prasāda Rāghava Paṇḍita cooked for the Lord? Its taste defeated even nectar. Mahāprabhu eats everyday at the house of Rāghava Paṇḍita. Śrīmatī Rādhā Ṭhākurānī personally cooked there. This has all been elaborately described by Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī in his Caitanya-caritāmṛta.
The Vaiṣṇavas requested Raghunātha dāsa to honor prasāda, but Rāghava Paṇḍita told them Raghunātha would take later. Once the two brothers had finished eating, Rāghava Paṇḍita mercifully gave Their remnants to Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī, saying, “Caitanya Mahāprabhu has eaten this prasāda. By taking His remnants, you will be freed from bondage.”
The next morning, after taking His bath in the Gaṅgā, Nityānanda Prabhu took His associates with Him and sat beneath the same tree under which they had sat the previous day.
aghunātha dāsa came and worshiped Nityānanda Prabhu’s lotus feet and made a request through Rāghava Paṇḍita, “I am the most fallen. I am like a dwarf who wants to catch the moon—and have been always unsuccessful. Every time I try to give up my family relationships, my father and mother stop me. One cannot attain Mahāprabhu’s shelter without Your mercy. If You are merciful, even the most degraded person can attain His shelter. Although I am unqualified, please be especially kind toward me and grant me shelter at the lotus feet of Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Please be kind and place Your feet on my head. Bless me that I may achieve Mahāprabhu’s shelter without any obstacle.”
Hearing Raghunātha dāsa’s prayer, Nityānanda Prabhu smiled and spoke to the devotees, “Raghunātha dāsa’s material happiness is equal to that of Indra’s. Due to Mahāprabhu’s mercy, he has no desire for it. Therefore all of you be kind toward him and bless him that he may attain Mahāprabhu’s lotus feet.
“One who receives the fragrance of Kṛṣṇa’s lotus feet does not care for the happiness in Brahmaloka, what to speak of heavenly happiness?”
yo dustyajān dāra-sutān
jahau yuvaiva mālā-vāda
Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who is offered sublime prayers, is known as Uttamaśloka. Being very eager to attain the Lord’s association, King Bharata, although young and healthy, gave up his beautiful wife, children, friends and rich kingdom, just as one gives up stool after passing it.
Nitāi called Raghunātha dāsa near Him, and placed His lotus feet upon Raghunātha’s head. He said, “Raghunātha, you arranged for the feast on the bank of the Gaṅgā, therefore Gaura came here just to give you His mercy. Out of kindness He ate the flat rice and milk, and after watching the devotees dance in the evening, He accepted prasāda.
“Gaura came here only to deliver you. Now all the impediments that were binding you are gone. Gaura will accept you and place you in the care of Śrī Svarūpa Dāmodara. You will thus become a close, intimate servant of Mahāprabhu. Without worries, return home. Soon, without obstacles, you will attain the shelter of Mahāprabhu’s lotus feet.”
Nityānanda had all the devotees bless Raghunātha, who in return worshiped their lotus feet. After taking leave of Nityānanda Prabhu and all the Vaiṣṇavas, Raghunātha dāsa met with Rāghava Paṇḍita in private and discussed the proper way of giving a donation to Nitāi and all the Vaiṣṇavas. One hundred coins and a fair amount of gold was given to Nitāi’s sevaka, and Raghunātha dāsa requested him to inform the Lord only after he returned home.
Rāghava Paṇḍita took Raghunātha dāsa to his home for darśana of the Deity and gave him a garland, sandalwood paste, and lots of prasāda for his journey. Raghunātha dāsa gave a hundred coins and some gold to Rāghava Paṇḍita for vaiṣṇava-sevā, saying, “All of Nitāi’s associates, servants, and assistants are worshipful to me. Please distribute the money to them.”
Raghunātha dāsa drew up an account of the sum to be donated to the devotees and gave it to Rāghava Paṇḍita, who then made a list of the different devotees, showing how much they were to receive.
Taking the dust from the feet of Rāghava Paṇḍita, Raghunātha dāsa returned home, feeling successful having received Nitāi’s mercy.
This pastime teaches an important lesson. Many people think, “Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī followed strong renunciation and ate rotten leftovers, and Rūpa and Sanātana took only some dry chickpeas, therefore we must also follow this type of renunciation. What is the need to make such elaborate preparations for Ṭhākurajī and the devotees? It is an over-endeavor to arrange such festivals.”
But we see in Mahāprabhu’s pastimes, as explained by Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī in the Caitanya-caritāmṛta, how the devotees prepared 365 preparations for the Lord’s pleasure and observed festivals and feasts on days like Annakūṭa, Rāthā-yātrā, Snāna-yātrā, Candana-yātrā, Jhulan-yātrā, Vyāsa-pūjā, and this Cīḍā-dahī-mahotsava. In scriptures like Śrī Caitanya-Bhāgavata is written how Mahāprabhu’s bhaktas made so many preparations with so much rasa and speciality.
The prasāda distributed during the Dahī-ciḍā-mahotsava was done both under guidance and by the desire of Nityānanda Prabhu. We should always act under the authority and desire of Guru-pāda-padma. Endeavor to do everything according to his desire. Then you will be protected from the fault of mundane vision or intelligence, and you will become connected to the transcendental truth. If we do something by our own desire and endeavor it will lead to an undesirable outcome. When we do a festival without guidance of Guru and Vaiṣṇavas, many obstacles will come and cause disturbance.
In the pastime of the Dahī-ciḍā-mahotsava, the result of Nityānanda Prabhu’s mercy is seen. After Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī distributed this prasāda to everyone, he received Nityānanda Prabhu’s mercy in the form of his remnants, which he honored and shared with others with great love.
Nityānanda Prabhu filled everyone with rasa. As mentioned earlier, there is ghṛta-sneha and mādhu-sneha. By great tolerance and sweetness, you can attract a person and connect him to God. If there is no ghṛta-sneha, or tolerance, you cannot keep anyone with you. And without mādhu-sneha, or sweetness, no one will be attracted. You will not be able to bind anyone to you with affection without ghṛta-sneha and mādhu-sneha. Therefore Nityānanda Prabhu distributed both of these in the form of prasāda. This is one part of the meaning of the Dahī-ciḍā-mahotsava.
Srila Gurudeva ki Jaya! (Excerpted from a Bhaktabandhav book publication, “Srila Raghunatha Das Gosvami”. Available from firstname.lastname@example.org )