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Sri Sachi Mata

Sachi Mata was the daughter of Pandit Nilambar Chakravarti and a resident of Belpukhuria. Her father had only one daughter (Sachi) and two sons, Yogeshwara and Ratnagarbha.

At a young age, she was married to Jagannatha Mishra, a famous scholar and astrologer of Nabadwipa. They established the new family home on the banks of the Ganga, where Chaitanya‟s father Jagannath Mishra had been born.

The young couple had eight daughters, but none survived childbirth. Finally Sachi Mata’s ninth child, a boy named Vishwarupa, was born. Twelve years later, Chaitanya followed.

Sachi Mata embodied the highest ideal of a Hindu mother and wife, who was called on to make the biggest sacrifices any woman can make. Born after twelve miscarriages, both of her sons accepted sanyasa at a young age for the welfare of the world. Her husband was rich in spiritual merit and her two daughters-in-law were the divine consorts of the Supreme Lord. Yet, she carried a heavy cross throughout her life.

Although as mother, she could easily have imposed her will on her Son, yet she obeyed His instructions and even agreed to undergo repentance for her ‘offence’ at the feet of Sri Advaita Acharya.  On her young son’s request, she started observing the vow of Ekadashi. Finally, when Nimai departed from his home right in front of her to take sanyasa, even then she desisted from stopping Him. 

Despite tremendous tragedies in her own life, such as the successive loss of eight new-born infants, the death of her husband; her elder son accepting sanyasa; her daughter-in-law Lakshmipriya’s untimely death; Nimai’s sanyas and resultant abandonment of herself and her adolescent second daughter-in-law Vishnupriya Devi, she continued to stoically lead her life of silent penance in support of her Son’s mission.  

The life of Sachi Mata and Vishnupriya Devi was one long saga of sacrifice and devotion. It was because of their exemplary strength of character that Mahaprabhu Chaitanya’s mission was successful to a great extent. Many people at the time considered that the two forlorn women were even greater than Sri Chaitanya Himself in sheer renunciation.

According to accepted belief, Sachi Mata’s father had formerly been the cowherd Sumukha, who was Yashoda Mata’s father. Sachi Mata’s mother was Patala Devi, the wife of Sumukha in Krishna Leela.

 

Sita Thakurani

The wife of Sri Advaita Acharya, Sita Thakurani, was a woman who, like her husband, lived a long life. It appears that after marrying Sita, Advaita moved to Shantipur. Nevertheless, most biographies of Chaitanya tell that she was present at his birth ceremonies, and was even responsible for giving him the nickname, "Nimai."

According to Gaura-Ganodesha-Dipika, Sri Sita Thakurani is Yogamaya. The Gaura-Parshada-Charitvali says that in Krishna Lila, she was Purnamasi, the mother of Sandipani Muni, grandmother of Madhumangal and Nandimukhi and a disciple of Narada Muni. In Dvapara-yuga, during the celebration of Krishna's birth ceremony, she was present in the house of Nanda, and at that time gave Nanda and Yashoda many instructions on how to care for the child.

It is said that after the death of Sachi Mata’s husband, she took it upon herself to watch over the family and provide comfort and guidance to Sachi Mata in raising her young sons.

Again after Nimai's sanyas, she tends to a disconsolate Sachi and Vishnupriya by providing succor and counselling through the traumatic events.

 

Malini Devi

Malini Devi was the wife of Sri Chaitanya's intimate associate Srivas Pandit.

Hers was again a strong supportive role to the mission of Mahaprabhu.  During the nightly riotous kirtan in her home, she never complained of any inconvenience and diligently provided food and drink to the large group of devotees.  Even when her young son, burning with fever, dies in her arms, she does not create any disturbance in Mahaprabhu’s sankirtan, but quietly informs her husband after the kirtan is over. 

Her exceptional devotion was acknowledged by Sri Chaitanya Himself, who brings her dead son back to life. On another occasion, when due to want of money, the family of Srivas Pandit undergoes starvation themselves while feeding the group of devotees, Mahaprabhu is deeply moved and utters a benediction that the home of His devotee would never again suffer from want.


Vishnupriya Devi

Sri Chaitanya's second wife Vishnupriva is given a more important place in Gaudiya Vaishnava culture as she was the wife who witnessed his transformation into an ecstatic. She is described as a devastated young girl who helplessly watched her husband’s growing obsession with his devotional love for Sri Krishna.

She was probably not much more than twelve or thirteen years old at the time of her marriage and her separation from Sri Chaitanya took place not long thereafter. The pivotal event in her life was Chaitanya's departure for the life of renunciation.

Several descriptions have been given of Vishnupriya Devi in the years that followed Chaitanya's departure. The primary image is that of a loyal and dutiful wife, carefully leading the pious life that was her lifelong penance.

Though it does not seem as though she took an active leadership role in the devotional movement inaugurated by her husband, she nevertheless remained an icon and living place of pilgrimage during her lifetime. Continuing to live and serve her mother-in-law Sachi, after Chaitanya’s disappearance, she adhered to a high standard of austerity which impressed the followers of the movement.

In the Advaita-prakasha (Chapter 21), Chaitanya's disciple Jagadananda describes to him the daily activities of Vishnupriya: She would rise early each morning before daybreak with Sachi Mata to bathe in the Ganges, but then remained indoors the entire day, never letting either the sun nor the moon shine upon her. The devotees would never see her face except when she came to eat, and no one ever heard her speak. She would only eat Sachi's remnants and spent all her time absorbed in the repetition of the Holy Names while meditating on a picture of Chaitanya as he looked before taking the renounced order of life.

Vishnupriya Devi seems to have taken the bhajan path promulgated by Chaitanya seriously. One of the most often repeated descriptions of her recounts that she counted each completion of the sixteen names of Krishna by placing a grain of rice in a clay pot. When she had completed her daily meditation sometime in the early afternoon, she would cook the rice, offer it, and then eat only those grains.

By the exemplary conduct, her prestige among the followers of Chaitanya expanded beyond merely that of being his wife. She was considered as being perhaps more sacrificing and renounced than even Sri Chaitanya. She seems to have had a close friendship with Jahnava Devi and was instrumental in the adoption of Ramachandra by the latter.

Vishnupriya Devi initiated the formal worship of Sri Chaitanya’s deity in Nabadwipa. It is said in the 17th century Vamshi-siksha, a history of the Baghnapada Goswamis, that after Chaitanya's renunciation, Vishnupriya had abandoned food and drink until he appeared to her in a dream, telling her to have an image of himself carved from the wood of the neem tree under which Sachi had sat to suckle him.

When the sculpture was completed Vishnupriya gazed at the image and sang the verse of Chandi Das: "Here is the lord of my life. I am finally able to see him for whom the arrows of desire have caused me to burn and come to the point of dying.”

This same deity, known as Mahaprabhu, is still worshiped by the descendants of Vishnupriya's cousin, Madhava Acharya, in Nabadwipa where it remains the central focus of pilgrimage.

 

Janhava Thakurani

Sri Jahnava Devi was born of Sri Suryadasa, along with her sister Sri Vasudha. The Gaura- Ganodesha-dipika explains that They are both expansions of Varuni (Sri Vasudha) and Revati (Jahnava Mata), and that they are both incarnations of Ananga-manjari. In time the daughters attained marriageable age. Suryadasa one night had a dream in which he gave both of his daughters to the Avadhoot Sri Nityananda.

Suryadasa then told a brahmana friend about this and it was arranged to deliver the message to Sri Nityananda Himself. Upon hearing of it He agreed, after which arrangements were made for the wedding at Borogacchi Gram, and many devotees from all around attended.

Lord Nityananda stayed in Shaligrama Pura for a while but then went to Nabadwipa to present His two wives to Sachi Mata. Sachi Aata was delighted to see them. On the instructions of Sachi Mata, Nityananda Prabhu went to the house of Advaita Acharya in Shantipura. When his wife Sita Thakurani saw Vasudha and Sri Jahnava, she was overjoyed.

Sri Nityananda wandered from place to place performing many sankirtana pastimes. In due course, Sri Vasudhadevi gave birth to a daughter named Ganga and a son named Virachandra. Sri Jahnava devi had no children.        

After the disappearance of Nityananda Prabhu, Advaita Acharya and other contemporaries of Sri Chaitanya, Jahnava Mata seemingly took over the mantle of leadership of the Gaudiya Vaishnavas in the Bengal and Orissa region. At the famous dadhi-chida mahotsava of Kheturi, during a rousing sankirtan Sri Chaitanya and Nityananda Prabhu who had already left the world, made their presence felt amidst the jubilant chanting of Hari Naam.

After the Kheturi festival when Jahnava Thakurani went to Nabadwipa with the other devotees, she was heartbroken due to not being able to meet Sachi Mata, Lord Chaitanya’s mother. She went on to the home of Sripati and Srinidhi, but again was heartbroken because of not seeing Srivasa Pandit and Malini Devi there. After spending the night the group of devotees led by Jahnava Thakurani went on to Shantipura and again discovered that Sri Advaita Acharya and his wife Sita Thakurani had also both passed away. Though greeted by their sons, Achyutananda and Gopala, Sri Jahnava was filled with grief.

Sri Jahnava Mata continued to travel with her associates and devotees, always gathering to perform sankirtana, the congregational chanting and singing of the Lord’s holy names. In this way, many devotees immersed themselves in the nectar of sankirtan, and even many atheists and sinners were greatly purified.

Sri Jahnava Mata was a wonderful cook and would prepare herself mahapradas such as rice, vegetable curries and other foods to be offered to the Deities at such festivals. Thereafter, she would distribute the prasada herself with her own hands to the devotees who were gathered there.

When Sri Jahnava went to visit Vrindavana, she was greeted by many great devotees and her ecstasy was unlimited. The Gosvamis offered their pranams and she also offered her obeisances in return. She was very happy seeing the efforts of the Gosvamis in re-establishing the holy land.

She toured the holy places of Vrindavana and saw the different Deities. After visiting the many pilgrimage places, she returned to Gaudadesha, Bengal. While there she also visited the town of Sri Nityananda’s birth, Ekachakra, and was happy to see the places of His childhood pastimes.

She continued her travels, returning to Nabadwipa and seeing the birthplace of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu where she fainted in ecstasy. She then went to the nearby courtyard of Srivasa, where she spent the night and the devotees engaged in a great sankirtana, for this is where Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu began His sankirtan movement. That night she had a dream of Lord Chaitanya in which He performed different pastimes.

In this way, Jahnava Mata continued in her pastimes of traveling to visit various devotees and engaging in sankirtana festivals, cooking food to be offered to the Deities, and even witnessing the appearance of Lord Chaitanya and Nityananda in the midst of some of those ecstatic kirtans. Thus, being considered the divine shakti of Lord Nityananda Himself, she continued the mission of Lord Chaitanya and Lord Nityananda by her activities, which centered around sankirtana and cooking and distributing prasada to everyone.

To be continued..

 

Jai Jai Sri Radhey !

Jai Sri Guru !