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The Biography of Srila Narottama Das Thakura

Narottama Dasa Thakura

 

Kayastha by caste, Narottama was the son of King Krsnananda Datta. Krsnananda was the Zamindar of Gopalpur Pargana in the Rajsahi district of Bangladesh. His capital was located at Kheturi, about a mile northeast of Prematali on the bank of the river Padma, about a distance of twelve miles northwest of Rampur Boalia. Narayani devi was Narottama's mother. Narottama was born about the middle of the fifteenth Saka century (Bhaktiratnakara 1.466-468). From his childhood he was extremely attracted to Lord Caitanya. According to some, after the disappearance of his father, Narottama entrusted his elder paternal uncle's son, Santosa Datta, with the responsibility of the royal duties and left for Vrndavana.

 

Premavilasa 8 narrates as follows: One day while dancing in kirtana at Kanair Natsala village, Lord Caitanya suddenly began calling out the name, "Narottama, Narottama." Tears streamed from the Lord's eyes and He appeared to be restless. After speaking with Nityananda Prabhu the Lord expressed His desire to visit Gaderhat on the bank of the Padma. Mahaprabhu explained to Nityananda that he wanted to deposit the treasure of love of Godhead on the bank of the Padma for Narottama to pick up later. The river Padma then asked the Lord how she would be able to identity Narottama, and the Lord explained that the person whose touch would make her surge up would be none other than Narottama.

 

At the age of twelve Narottama had a dream in which Nityananda Prabhu appeared to him and commanded that he collect the prema which was left in the custody of the river Padma. Early in the morning Narottama went alone to the river Padma to take his bath. As soon as his feet touched her, the river surged forth. Remembering the words of Lord Caitanya the Padma now transferred the treasure to Narottama. Upon receiving this divine love Narottama's bodily complexion changed. His parents tried every means by which keep him with them, but Narottama was drunk with the nectar of Lord Caitanya and Nityananda and could not be kept in check. Leaving behind all worldly bondage Narottama rushed for Vrndavana. Premavilasa 11 explains how Narottama was comforted by the divine touch of Rupa and Sanatana Gosvami, and how he received the grace of his spiritual master Lokanatha Gosvami.

 

After Narottama was initiated by Lokanatha Gosvami, he received all instructions regarding the practice of spiritual life. Narottama was spiritually named Campakamanjari. With the approval of the local Vaisnavas, Jiva Gosvami deputed Srinivasa, Narottama and Syamananda to carry the Gosvamis books to the devotees in Gauda. Although they were properly escorted by protected vehicles and guards, the books were stolen near Vanavisnupur. Srinivasa then sent Narottama to Kheturi and Syamananda to Utkala.

 

Narottama is widely believed to be the incarnation of Nityananda Prabhu. Narottama established his asrama, named Bhajantuli, about two miles away from the capital of Kheturi. Sometime after his return from Vrndavana, Narottama installed six Deities; Lord Gauranga, Vallabhikanta, Lord Krsna, Lord Vrajamohan, Lord Radhamohan and Lord Radhakanta. On the occasion of this installation ceremony Narottama held a grand festival at Kheturi, which is famous amongst all Vaisnavas.

 

Narottama was the first exponent of the Garanhati tradition of kirtana. He arranged this musical tradition in a way as to accommodate all parsada (associates) of both prakata and aprakata lila of Lord Gauranga, which gave immense pleasure to the audience. Narottama Thakura was always engaged in the singing the glories of Sri Gaura and Nityananda. Through his preaching many fallen souls were purified. Ramacandra Kaviraja was a very close companion of Narottama throughout his life (see Bhaktiratnakara and Narottamavilasa for details on Narottama's biography). Among the writings of Narottama, Prarthana and Premabhakticandrika are the most well-known. The brief write-up titled 'Hatapaltana' is also attributed to Narottama but the contents do not seem to be in harmony with historical events and thus some believe that it is a fake work. From evidence in older manuscripts Haridasa dasa has concluded that the real author was one Ramesvara dasa. Some argue that Narottama wrote Siddhabhakticandrika, Sadhyapremabhakti, Camatkara candrika, etc., but these are not published works and the few mss. which are available do not seem to be in Narottama's writing style. Narottama did translate Smaranamangala into Bengali verse. In eleven slokas this work describes the pastimes of Radha Krsna in eight parts of the day (astakaliya).

 

After taking permission from Narottama, Sri Ramacandra Kaviraja went to Sri Vrndavana, a few months thereafter he breathed his last. When Srinivasa Acarya heard this he could not bear the shock and after a few days he too disappeared. When this news reached Srila Thakura, he was overwhelmed with grief and began singing in a choked voice. He gathered all the devotees around him in the temple of Sri Mahaprabhu and started sankirtana. Slowly the sankirtana party proceeded to the bank of the Ganga. With eyes full of tears, Narottama fell prostrate on the ground and entered into the Ganga to take bath. Sitting knee deep in the water he continued singing loudly, along with Sri Ramakrsna Acarya and Sri Ganganarayana Cakravarti. Narottama requested that they massage his body as he continued singing. As they massaged him, Thakura Mahasaya's body simply merged with the sacred water of the Ganga. Thus on the fifth day of the dark fortnight in the month of Karttika (Oct.-Nov.) he entered into the eternal pastimes of the Lord.

 

UPDATED: July 26, 2010