Sri Raghunath Dasa Goswami is one of the six primary disciples of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He was the only son of a wealthy land owner. The wealth and opulence enjoyed by his family is compared to that of king Indra. Yet, RaghunathaDasa showed detatchment to worldly life right from an early age.
Raghunatha’s detachment from worldly life and attachment to Lord Chaitanya
Blessed by Namacharya, Haridasa Thakura and Lord Chaitanya, the young Raghunatha became very eager to join Sri Mahaprabhu in Puri and serve Him. He felt intense separation from the Lord. He tried to run away to Puri several times. This alarmed his family who placed a guard around him. To bind Raghunatha further to family life, his parents got him married to a very beautiful girl. However, these measures failed to check Raghunatha’s spiritual ardor and he resumed making attempts to flee the family and go to Puri. His mother told her husband to again put a guard on him. His father responded with deep understanding. “Raghunātha dāsa, our son, has opulences like Indra, the heavenly King and his wife is as beautiful as an angel. Yet all this could not tie down his mind. How then could we keep this boy home by binding him with ropes? It is not possible even for one’s father to nullify the reactions of one’s past activities. Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu has fully bestowed His mercy on him. Who can keep home such a madman of Caitanyacandra?”
When Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu had gone to Santipura on His way to Vrindavana, Raghunatha met Him and offered to dedicate his life at the Lord’s lotus feet. But Chaitanya Mahaprabhu asked him not to do so and assured that Krishna would deliver him soon from the clutches of maya.
Raghunatha seeks Lord Nityananda’s blessings at Panihati
A couple of years later, Nityananda Prabhu came to Panihati (a village on the banks of Ganges near Kolkata) and stayed there. Raghunatha met Lord Nityananda to seek His blessings. Raghunatha dasa was hesitant to approach the Lord and paid obeisances from a distance. But some of the devotees noticed him and informed Nityananda Prabhu. Nityananda Prabhu called Raghunatha dasa and said “Raghunatha dasa! You are hiding like a thief. Now I have caught hold of you. Come here, I shall punish you today.’’ Then Lord Nityananda forcibly caught him and put His lotus feet on Raghunatha’s head. Ordered by the Lord, he then served vast numbers of the Lord’s followers preparations made with chipped rice with yogurt and chipped rice with condensed milk.
Even Lord Chaitanya came there mystically to enjoy the feast. Placing His feet on Raghunatha’s head, Lord Nityananda blessed him, “Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, Gaurahari, came here personally to deliver you. Now rest assured that all the impediments meant for your bondage are gone. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu will accept you and place you under the charge of His secretary, Svarūpa Dāmodara. You will thus become one of the most confidential internal servants and will attain the shelter of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu.”
The Chida-dahi Mahotsava is celebrated every year in commemoration of this wonderful pastime. This festival is also known as Danda Mahotsava (the Festival of Punishment).
Significance of the pastime
When Raghunatha tried to approach Chaitanya Mahaprabhu directly, he was not accepted by the Lord. After taking blessings of Lord Nityananda at Panihati, Raghunatha again approached Mahaprabhu and was accepted. This reveals an important spiritual principle – that one cannot approach the Supreme Lord Krishna (incarnated as Mahaprabhu) directly. One has to first take shelter of the spiritual master (represented by Lord Nityananda, an incarnation of Sri Balaram). Surrender to the guru is an essential prerequisite for approaching the Lord.
Raghunatha exhibited a very high degree of renunciation. While serving Lord Chaitanya at Puri, he would collect the leftovers of Prasadam thrown by vendors at the end of the day which would not be even touched by the stray cows. He would wash the rice till he reached the hard uncooked part and then mix it with salt and that was his daily meal. It is practically unthinkable for a person from an opulent background to live a life of such utter penury.
brahmaloka-adi-sukhatanrenahibhaya” (CC Antya 6.136)
“One who experiences the fragrance of the lotus feet of Lord Krishna does not even value the standard of happiness available in Brahmaloka, the topmost planet. And what to speak of heavenly happiness?
The renunciation of Raghunatha Dasa Goswami is a testimony to the above statement.