Srila Gopala Bhatta Gosvami (the son of Vyenkata Bhatta, a Sri Vaisnava brahmana) appeared in Sri Rangam, South India. Lord Chaitanya once stayed for four months in his home, and converted the family to Gaudiya Vaisnavism. A mere boy at that time, Gopala personally served the Lord. Sri Chaitanya treated him affectionately giving His remnants and blessings to become an acharya.
His childhood and youth
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu initiated him, and ordered him to move to Vrindavan after the disappearance of his parents and perform bhajan and write. He instructed him to serve his mother and father and always engage in chanting Krishna’s glories and thereafter to come to Vrindavan.
Very quickly Gopal became expert in grammar, poetry and rhetoric and then began his study of Vedanta. His uncle Prabodhananda, specifically began to instruct him from the devotional scriptures (Bhakti – shastra).
Gopal Bhatta always remained thinking of the lotus feet of Mahaprabhu and when he might again be able to meet Him. At the same time however he couldn’t leave his aged mother and father. Finally having reached their final days they called their son Gopal and instructed him to go to the lotus feet of Mahaprabhu in Vrindavan. Then while meditating on His lotus feet themselves they went to join Him in His eternal lila.
Thus Gopal set out for Vrindavan and when he arrived there Rupa Gosvami immediately sent word to Mahaprabhu to inform Him of Gopal’s arrival. Mahaprabhu had previously indicated to Rupa and Sanatan that Gopal Bhatta would one day come there to Vrindavan, so upon his arrival they treated him with the same care and affection they would their own brother. They immediately became lifelong companions.
However, the all-knowing Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu received word that Gopal Bhatta had come to Vrindavan. He was very pleased and sent with that messenger His personal wooden sitting plank which He had used, along with a pair of His undergarments and one of His upper cloths – uttara or chaddar. Having received these gifts Gopal Bhatta was in ecstasy and he worshipped them as the prasad (tadiya) of Mahaprabhu.
When he would worship his Deities he would sit on that wooden plank. This wooden seat and Mahaprabhus clothes are still being worshipped at Radha-Ramana Mandir. Gopala Bhatta, like Rupa and Sanatana, had no fixed residence and would spend the night in various kunjas (forest groves). He spent his time studying the scriptures and composing various literatures.
After Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s disappearance Srila Gopala Bhatta Gosvami felt intense separation from the Lord. To relieve his devotee, the Lord instructed Gopala Bhatta in a dream :”If you want my darsan then make a trip to Nepal”.
The Story of Sri Sri Radha-raman Deva
In Nepal, Gopala Bhatta bathed in the famous Kali-Gandaki River. Upon dipping his waterpot in the river, he was surprised to see several Shaligrama shilas enter his pot. He dropped the shilas back into the river, but the shilas re-entered his pot when he refilled it.
After emptying and refilling his waterpot for the third time, Gopala Bhatta Gosvami found twelve Shaligrama shilas sitting there. Thinking this must be the Lords mercy, he kept all the shilas and returned to Vrindavan.
Srila Gopala Bhatta Gosvami used to worship twelve Shaligrama shilas. Wherever he would go he would bring them with him in a piece of cloth tied at the corner. Once a wealthy man came to Vrindavan and offered Gopala Bhatta Gosvami a variety of clothes and ornaments for his Shaligrama shilas in charity. However, Gopala Bhatta Gosvami couldn’t use these for his round-shaped Shilas. He advised the donor to give the deity decorations to someone else. But the donor refused to take them back and Gopala Bhatta Gosvami kept the clothes and ornaments with his shilas. While Gopala Bhatta Gosvami was absorbed in remembering how the half-man, half-lion form of the Supreme Lord had manifested from the pillar in Hiranyakasipu’s palace, he prayed in transcendental lamentation to the Lord: “Oh my Lord, you are very merciful and always fulfil the desires of your devotees. I wish to serve you in your form, having arms and legs and blissful smiling face, with lotus eyes…. If I had a Deity then I would be able to decorate Him so nicely with these clothes and ornaments.”
In the evening after offering some bhoga and arotika to his Shaligram shilas, Gopala Bhatta put them to rest, covering them with a wicker basket. Late in the night, Gopala Bhatta took a little rest and then, in the early morning went to take bath in the Yamuna river. Returning from his bath, he uncovered the shilas to render the puja, and saw amongst Them a Deity of Krishna playing the flute. There were now eleven shilas and this Deity. The “Damodara shila”, had manifested as the beautiful three-fold bending form. Floating in the ocean of ecstasy, he fell to the ground in order to offer his dandavats and then recited various prayers and hymns. This wonderful event of the appearance day of Sri Sri RadhaRaman happened on the day after Sri Nrisimha Chaturdasi, and is celebrated on that day accordingly. That day 500 litres of milk and many other sweets are offered for the Lord’s pleasure. The RadhaRaman temple has the highest standard of Deity worship in all of Vraj.
When Rupa and Sanatana Gosvamis as well as many other devotees received news of this miraculous event they came running to see the Lord. Gazing on the Lord’s transcendental form, which bewildered all the living entities of the many various planets, they all bathed Him with their tears. This Deity whom the Gosvamis named, “Sri Radha-raman Deva” made His appearance on the full moon day of Vaisakha in the year 1542.
Except for Vrindadevi, Sri Radha-Ramanaji is the only one of the original Deities of Vrindavan who never left to go to Jaipur. Sri Sri Radha-raman-ji is still being worshipped in His temple in Vrindavan near Nidhivan. Srimati Radha is present with Him in an unmanifest form here hence Her paraphernalia like her clothes and ornaments etc are kept beside the Lord.
Sri Radha-ramana Deva, unlike other Deities, has very intricate features, including fingernails and even teeth. On the back side of His body parts of the original Shaligram shila from which He manifested Himself can be seen.
About today’s descendents
Once Sri Gopala Bhatta went to Haridwar. As he was returning, suddenly a downpour started and thus he took shelter in the house of one brahmana. This brahmana was very devoted and he very carefully began to serve Sri Gopala Bhatta, who thus became very pleased. As this brahmana had no children Srila Gopal Bhatta Goswami blessed him that he might have a son who would be a devotee of Lord Hari. The brahmana replied out of gratitude that, “My first son will serve you.”
Approximately ten years later when Gopala Bhatta returned from bathing in the Yamuna one day, he saw a young boy sitting at the door of his kutir. When the boy saw the Gosvamiji approaching, he got up and then fell down to offer his dandavats (obeisances like a stick on the floor before him). Srila Gopala Bhatta Goswami enquired who the boy was to which he replied, “My home was in Devandyagram within Saharanpur near Haridwar. My father has sent me here to serve you. My name is Gopinatha.”
Then Gopal Bhatta could remember the time when he went to Haridwar many years ago. So this boy remained with him and very carefully began to serve him. Eventually he became known as Sri Gopinatha Pujari Gosvami. He served Sri Radha-ramana Deva throughout his life as a brahmachari. His younger brother Sri Damodara dasa, along with his family, accepted initiation from Sri Gopinathaji and also became engaged in the service of the Deity. Sri Damodara dasa’s three sons were Harinatha, Mathuranatha and Harirama. Family members of the same Gopinath’s brother are serving Sri Sri Radha-Ramanji till now.
Lord Chaitanya ordered Gopala Bhatta to write a book to check the spread of pseudo-loving rasas and negligence to vaidhi bhakti. In corroboration with Srila Sanatana Gosvami he compiled the Hari-bhakti-vilasa, the authorized book explaining the ritual and devotional practices of the Gaudiya Vaisnava sampradaya. He also wrote Sat-kriya-dipika and the outline for Srila Jiva Gosvami’s Sat Sandarbhas. Srila Gopala Bhatta Gosvami initiated Srinivasa Acarya and many other stalwart Vaisnavas.
He eternally serves Srimati Radharani as one of Her asta manjaris, Guna-manjari. This is confirmed in Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika. Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika is a unique work of Kavi Karnapura, describing the identities of the prominent associates and followers of Sri Chaitanya, in krsna-lila. This book is a definitive guide for those who want to know who is who in mahaprabhu-lila and in krsna-lila.
His birth was on the day of the dark fortnight of the month Pausa in the year 1503 (Christian), 1425 (Saka).
His disappearance was on the sixth day of the dark fortnight of the month of Sravan in the year 1578 (Christian – A.D.), 1500 (Sakabda era).