Pishima Goswamini

Chandrashashi Mukhopadhyay, better known as Pishima Goswamini's story centers around the Gaur-Nitai deities who are found today in Vrindavan in Bankhandi near Loi Bazaar.

These deities at one time belonged to Chaitanya’s childhood companion Murari Gupta, whose name is carved on the base of one of the statues.

They were apparently lost at one time and later rediscovered in Siuri in Birbhum district in north-western Bengal. A wandering Oriyan monk, Balaram Das Babaji, while passing through Siuri had a dream in which he was instructed to take over the service of the deities.

Not long thereafter, the daughter of a wealthy landowner in Nadia district, Chandrashashi, at the time only twenty years old, came to Siuri for business reasons. She became attracted to the deities and attended services regularly in the temple while there.

One night she had a dream in which Gaur-Nitai came to her in the form of young boys and said that they were very hungry and wanted her to feed them kheer. Because she had not been initiated, Balaram Das was not prepared to give food prepared by her to the deities, so she took initiation from him so that she could comply with Gaur-Nitai's request.

A few days later, when she was about to leave Siuri for home, she had another dream in which Gaur-Nitai begged her not to leave, for otherwise no one would give them such good things to eat. Like children, they tugged on her skirts and even tore off a piece of her cloth.

Chandrashashi awoke with a start and saw that her cloth was indeed torn. She went to Balaram Das who found the missing bit of cloth in the hands of the deity of Gaur. From that day on, she abandoned any intention of returning home to her village and decided to stay on in the service of Gaur-Nitai.

Not long thereafter, however, speculations about the nature of her relation with the monk Balaram Das started in the town. Balaram Das and Chandrashashi decided, again on the basis of instructions given to them in a dream, to take Gaur-Nitai with them to live in Vrindavan. They placed the deities on a boat and made the 1600 km. trip along the Ganges and Yamuna to Braj.

Chandrashashi, known in Braj as Pishima ("aunt") managed to build a new temple in Bankhandi for the deities who became known locally as Pishima's Gaur-Nitai.

One day, while preparing a meal for Gaur-Nitai, whom she treated as her own children, her menstrual period started, rendering her ritually unfit for service to the deities. This interruption gready distressed her. When she nodded off to sleep, Gaur-Nitai came to her and told her that just as an ordinary mother does not interrupt her service to her own children while menstruating, neither should she. Furthermore, they assured her, she would be liberated from this discomfort from that day on. She bathed and made the food offering to the deities and never again experienced the female cycle.

Pishima Goswamini led a strict life according to the Vaishnava regulations, bathing in the Yamuna three times a day, chanting on her japa-mala daily, etc., but her real focus was on archana deity worship.

She was engaged in a regular conversation with Gaur-Nitai, who also appeared occasionally to other people to demand various types of service etc. Later, when she was old and no longer able to personally bathe the deities or render other types of service, she still was able to know whether seva was being performed in the proper manner by this personal communication.

On one cold winter morning Pishima's successor, Gopishwar Goswami, bathed Gaur-Nitai with cold water. She realised the blunder when she saw that the deities had running noses. To Gopishwar Goswami's amazement, she ran a handkerchief over their noses to show him the proof that they had caught a chill due to his carelessness.

Haridas Das recounts that Gopishwar Goswami personally told him that when Pishima Goswamini first asked him to take over the service of Gaur Nitai, he complained that he felt no pleasure in serving such small deities as he did not have the same type of parental affection as she, but was rather moved by the sentiment of friendship. He said that Pishima then went to the deities, pulled on their chins and they changed size to take on their present form.

Ma Yashoda (d. 1944)

Ma Yashoda is known more through her relationship with her disciple, Krishna Prem, than for her own achievements.  Sri Krishna Prem, or Ronald Nixon (b.1898), was a British pilot in the First World War who felt that he had been miraculously saved in the course of a mission in Germany.

After the war, Nixon undertook a spiritual search that led him to India. A degree holder from Cambridge, he taught English at Lucknow University while staying in the home of the Vice-Chancellor, Jnanendranath Chakravarty, a leader of the Theosophist movement.

Manika Devi, the wife of the Vice-Chancellor, was also a very learned woman and had maternal feelings for Nixon, calling him Gopal, as many Bengali mothers call their sons. Nixon recounted to the Bengali singer and bhakta Dilip Ray, Mrs. Chakravarty was heavily involved in her husband's rather busy Western-style social life.

As he himself took an increasing interest in Buddhism and Hinduism, studying Sanskrit and Pali, Nixon observed that even within her superficially mundane life, she exuded a spiritual peace. He noticed that she disappeared from the scene during parties and returned rejuvenated.

Curious, he followed her on one such occasion and saw her absorbed in a deep meditation. Upon being questioned, she explained to him that she and her husband had developed an interest in Vaishnavism and had been initiated by Balakrishna Goswami of the Radharaman family in Vrindavan.

Impressed, Nixon then asked to be initiated by her. Eventually he asked to take sannyas from her, and in order to be able to do so, she herself went to Vrindavan and there took sannyas so that she could give him this initiation too. The name Yasoda Ma was given to her on this occasion, while Krishna Prem was the sannyas name given to Nixon.

Abandoning academic life, the two of them went to Mirtola, near Almora in the Himalayan foothills, where they founded an ashram which they called "Uttara Vrindavan." They installed a Radha-Krishna murtis. She taught local children to read and write and opened a dispensary, while Krishna Prem wrote several books and attracted a number of Englishmen as well as Indians to become his disciples.

In her childhood, while living at Ghazipur, Yasoda Ma had had several formative experiences with holy men. As a girl of twelve or thirteen, she was chosen as a representative of the goddess at a Kumari-puja in which Swami Vivekananda himself offered flowers to her feet.

On another occasion she heard that a local yogi, Pawhari Baba was giving a free cloth and kamandalu to all monks who came to his cave. Curious about how he could fit the large amounts of cloth, etc., that would be required to make this gift, she disguised herself as a boy and stood in line as the goods were handed out. When it came her turn, she jumped into the small space of his grotto and saw that it was empty. Through this act, she showed a great deal of daring; her discovery produced in her a lifelong belief in miracles.

Yashoda Ma had a deep emotional attachment to her deities in the parental mood and had a number of extraordinary experiences with her Gopal deity that she recounted to Dilip Ray.

Siddheshvari Devi, Sadhu Ma (d. 1944)

The daughter of Govinda Chandra Goswami in Pabna district of what is now Bangladesh, she was a descendant of Chaitanya's associate Advaita Acharya. Born during the annual Durga Puja festival, her father considered her to be an incarnation of Yogamaya.

From her childhood, she showed a devotional propensity and studied the scriptures under her father who also initiated her. She took sannyas after the death of her father (wearing saffron cloth like Prabodhananda Saraswati).

Although still a young girl, she wandered throughout India visiting all the major places of pilgrimage, depending on God alone for her protection. She met the famous Shakta Bama Khepa at Tarapith, who told her to spend some time at Belur and then to go to Vrindavan. It is said that Bama Khepa also recognized her as an incarnation of Yogamaya.

When she finally came and settled in Vrindavan, she built a large ashram dedicated to Radha Kunjakishori near the Ranganathji temple gardens. She had hundreds of Punjabi and Bengali disciples, including many who were prominent and wealthy citizens, and eventually built other temples and ashrams in Belur, Govardhan, Bhubaneswar, Chakratirtha (Puri), etc.

In the tradition of the Advaita family, she strictly followed the Hari-bhakti-vilasa, performing vedic havan in all her temples except in Braj where she supposedly had a vision of Radharani who prohibited such rituals as unnecessary.

She loved rasa-lila performances, but is said to have fainted once on hearing Mahaprabhu's sannyas being sung. Like many of the other powerful women devotees of Braj, she placed a lot of emphasis on service to the devotees who all called her mother.

Srimati Devi

Krishnananda Swami, a Punjabi disciple of the Nityananda family descendant Pran Gopal Goswami worshiped Krishna in the friendly mood (sakhya bhava). Though his guru wanted him to take disciples and preach devotion to Krishna, Krishnananda Swami was reluctant to do so because he wished to avoid the association of women.

For years he had kept the vow that he would never look upon the face of a woman and this continued to keep this vow until he came in contact with the eleven-year old girl named Srimati Devi.

Srimati lived in the village of Nagla Lakshmanpur within the Braj area. Widowed at the age of eleven, she devoted herself fully to the worship of her Krishna deity. She herself had a tendency of sakhya-bhava (sentiment of friendship with Krishna), and had heard of Krishnananda Swami and had become attached to the idea of becoming his disciple.

Eventually, at the insistence of some of her relatives, Krishnananda Swami wrote the maha mantra on a piece of paper and some instructions in how to worship Krishna.

Srimati Devi still wished to see her guru and vowed that until she saw him, she would not go outside in the light of day. She awoke everyday at four in the morning and would bathe, then sit indoors, chanting the holy names until sunset. She kept this up for three years, but still she was not given the opportunity to see her guru.

Finally, she stopped all food and drink and had thus been fasting for nine days when Krishnananda had a vision in which Sri Balaram told him that he could break his vow for her sake.

After making this breakthrough and receiving personal contact with her Guru, Srimati Devi quickly attained perfection in the friendship mood. She began to dress like a boy; her behavior, her language, etc., all took on the characteristics of a cowherd boyfriend of Krishna and people even began to call her bhaiya ("brother"). She became progressively absorbed in a total consciousness of Krishna's presence.

Her health was poor and she did not live much longer after this. One day, when her Guru came to visit her, he took her head in his lap and she said, "Buddy, let's go. Look, Balaram and Krishna are calling their friends to come.” Krishnananda Swami replied, overcome with emotion, "Go ahead, buddy. I’ll be right along." Having received this permission from her Guru, she entered the eternal world of Braj.

Girija Devi

Girija Devi was the wife of a rich landowner in Jamira in the state of Bihar, and was thus habituated to a life of comfort and luxury. She started to lose interest in family life, however, when her oldest son died at the age of eighteen, followed shortly thereafter by the death of her second son.

In her grief she became indifferent to food and drink. Her husband asked his family guru for advice, and the guru began to read Bhagavata Purana to her with to calm her. The result of these readings was that she began to develop an interest in devotion to Krishna and then a desire to move to Braj. Despite the family tradition that kept strict purdah on its women, her husband eventually gave her permission to go.

In Vrindavan Girija Devi rented a room in the Radharamana Ghera and quickly began to experience visions of the deity, Radharaman. Radharani would appear to her to complain about imperfections in the service that would have been impossible for an outsider to know about. On occasion, Radharaman spoke to her by possessing one of the temple priests and speaking through him.

Girija Devi smoked tobacco from a hookah and maintained other habits from her days in Bihar, as a result of which she was not always looked upon with faith, but eventually her divine visions with Radharaman dev caused the sevayats of Radharaman to revere her.

Even so, Nilamani Goswami, her landlord, once decided to evict her in order to rent out the house at a higher rent. On that very day he made this decision, but before he could carry out his plan, on going to his house, he found that neither he nor any of his companions could open the locked door, even though he had the key.

Another neighbour, a woman devotee, suggested to him that he had perhaps offended Girija Devi and that if she gave permission he would be able to open the door. Nilamani went to her and asked her to open the door. Much to her own astonishment, she was able to unlock the padlock and the door opened. They attributed the mysterious event to the workings of Radharaman Himself.

After the death of her husband, Girija Devi spent the remainder of her days in Jamira, maintaining her devotional practices while running the family estate through agents.


Gaur premanande Hari Hari Bol!!

Jai Jai Sri Radhey !

Jai Sri Guru !