Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Beautiful Devotee, Narahari Sarkar Thakur

About four miles west of Katwa, in the rural Barddhaman district, is the small Bengali village of Shri Khanda, the birthplace of Narahari Sarakara Thakura. I spent one week there four years ago, for the annual mela that celebrates Sri Narahari Thakur's Tirobhav, his disappearance day, on this Ekadasi of the dark moon.

When i visited Sri Khanda it seemed caught between those golden times of Mahaprabhu's associates and modern times of West Bengal. The temple sevant and leading citizen of Sri Khanda, Nityananda Thakur, is the 18th generation from Narahari Thakur, if i remember correctly. He was 91 years old when i stayed at his home four years ago. He was in charge of the temples and a living descendent of the great mahabhagavatas and associates of Mahaprabhu, Narahari Thakur, his brother Sri Mukunda (the royal physician) and Mukunda's son, Sri Raghunandana Thakur. All three are mentioned in the Caitanya Caritamrita as major branches of Lord Caitanya's tree.

Sri Narahari Thakur was connected with many of Mahaprabhu’s pastimes. Narahari Chakravarti Thakur writes in Bhakti Ratnakara: “Sri Narahari Thakur's glories are wonderful. In Vrindavana he was Madhumati, and his excellences were boundless.” Sri Lochan Das Thakur was a dear disciple of Narahari Thakur. In his Chaitanya Mangala he describes his gurudeva as follows: “Sri Narahari is my Lord. He has taught me transcendental knowledge, and I am under his influence in many other ways. His abundant Krsna-prema saturates his very being; its symptoms are clearly evident in his body. No one can understand the extent of his Krsna-prema. In his former existence in Vrindavana he was known as Madhumati, a dear gopi friend of Sri Radha who was a storehouse of sweetness. That very sakhi friend of Sri Radha appeared in the pastimes of Shri Gauranga during the age of Kali as Narahari, a storehouse of Radha-Krsna prema.”

Bhaktivinoda Thakura mentions Narahari Sarakar in his Gaura-Aroti song: “narahari adi kori chamara dulaya, sanjaya mukunda vasughosh adi gaya.” Narahari Thakur was a great singer as well as a poet. He wrote many poems and songs in connection with the pastimes of Gauranga and Nityananda. He wrote in Bengali and also in Sanskrit. One book of his Sanksrit songs is called Shri Bhajanamrita. A book of songs called Padakalpataru, describing intense separation from Shri Gauranga has also been attributed to him.

In Sri Khanda, there is a special five day festival to remember and glorify Narahari Thakur. Over a thousand pilgrims attend the mela, where Mahaprabhu is carried in procession, and many songs written by Narahari Thakur are sung by a few family members and local devotees who carry on his tradition of sankirtan. I could not follow the meaning, but the expression is very beautiful. I filmed this festival and have many hours of dv footage of the kirtans, processions, darshans and interviews with some of the surviving family members. I would like to make a documentary of this festival which has been annually celebrated since Narahari Thakur's passing. With most of the family descendants now living in Kolkata and disconnected from the bhakti line, and very few devotees left in Sri Khanda, i'm not sure how much longer the tradition will continue.

It is said that Narahari Thakur was the first of the associates to glorify Mahaprabhu directly in poetry and songs. Srila Lochan Dasa Thakura has written, “Before the sankirtan lila of Sri Gauranga began, many different ragas were written by Narahari which sang of Vraja-rasa, glorifying Radha and Krsna. Later he wrote songs of Gauranga Mahaprabhu."

Narahari Thakur was the only devotee who had the adhikara (right) to do Gaura-kirtana in Gaurasundara's presence. Ordinarily, if anyone would praise Mahaprabhu or chant his names in front of Him, Lord Caitanya would block his ears and call out: "Visnu! Visnu!" Narahari, however, enjoyed the special privilege of being allowed to sing about Mahaprabhu in his presence, in a unique and intimate mood, with sweet descriptions of his transcendental beauty.

Sri Narahari's disappearance is on the Krsna ekadasi (the eleventh day of the dark moon) in the month of Agrahayana. That corresponds to today or tomorrow (depending on which continent you are standing). An excellent time to sing one of his songs or remember him in any way.
Sri Narahari Sarkar Thakur ki jaya!

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