Srila Narottam Das Thakur

Akumara-Brahmacari Sarva-Tirtha-Darsi Parama-Bhagavatottamah Srila-Narottama-Dasah ||

Narottam Das was a brahmachari throughout his entire life. He visited all the places of pilgrimage. He was on the highest platform of devotional achievement. Narottam Thakur was Champaka Manjari in Krishna lila. Eternally assisting Rupa Manjari in her service to Radha and Krishna, Champaka Manjari had merciful to the conditioned souls of this earth and appeared as Narottam in the village of Kheturi, about twelve miles from Rampur Bowaliya in the Gopalpur subdivision of Rajshahi district. This took place on the full moon day of the month of Magh sometime around the middle of the 15th century of the Saka era. Narottam was born on the maghi purnima. From that day on he thrived and grew like the waxing moon. Narottam’s father was Raja Krishnananda Datta, the zamindar of the Gopalpur area. His mother’s name was Narayani Devi. Raja Krishnananda had a younger brother named Purushottam Datta, who had a son named Santosh. In order to show that his associates can take birth in any caste, Krishna had Narottam take birth in a kayastha family. From his early childhood, Narottam began to display symptoms of his future greatness. Everyone was amazed to see his great intelligence and devotional demeanor. He was constantly absorbed in meditation on the wonderful qualities of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Nityananda Prabhu. The Lord and His associates appeared to him in his dreams. As tears poured from his eyes, Narottam would offer prayers of surrender to Sri Krishna Chaitanya, Nityananda, Advaita and the other associates of the Lord. Finally, the Lord and his associates appeared to him in a dream and consoled him with kind words.

 MAHAPRABHU LEAVES PREMA BEHIND FOR NAROTTAM

According to the Prema-vilasa, when Mahaprabhu passed through Kanair Natshala, as he was dancing ecstatically in kirtan, he began to call out Narottam’s name. When Nityananda asked him why he was calling out this name, Mahaprabhu answered, “My Lord, you do not know your own glories. When we were in Jagannath Puri, you shed tears out of divine love, day after day. I managed to capture your divine love and save it. Now I wish to place it here by the Padmavati River in safekeeping for Narottam Das.” Mahaprabhu then went to the place known as Kutubpur on the Padmavati River, where He bathed and sang and danced in ecstasy. He then called out to the river, “O Padmavati! Take my love and keep it here. When Narottam comes and bathes here, give it to him. ”The Padmavati inquired, “How will I recognize him?” Mahaprabhu answered, “You will have no trouble recognizing Narottam, for as soon as he enters your waters, they will overflow. ”The place where Mahaprabhu placed prema for Narottam’s sake was later given the name Prematoli. When Narottam was twelve years old, he had a dream in which Nityananda Prabhu told him to bathe in the Padmavati and take the prema that had been stored there for him. He went the next day to the Padma and as soon as he put his foot in the water, the river started to overflow. Padmavati then remembered Mahaprabhu’s words and gave Narottam the prema which she had guarded for All that time.

NAROTTAM LEAVES HOME

As soon as he experienced the ecstasies of prema, Narottam’s character, his appearance– everything about him changed. His parents noticed the transformation and did everything they could to bring him back to his normal state, but failed. Having drunk the wine of divine ecstasy, Narottam had become intoxicated and the bonds of family life could no longer hold him back. Narottam began to wonder how he could escape from his material entanglements. Finally, one day when his father and uncle were away on official business, he practiced some deception on his mother and tricked his bodyguards so that he could leave his family for Vrindavan. It was the full-moon day of Karttik when this event took place. According to others, Narottam waited to go to Vrindavan until after the death of his father when his cousin Santosh was given the responsibility for the zamindari. Even though he was the son of a rich zamindar, in his desire to unite with the Lord, he was ready to abandon the pleasures of the body in a moment. Day and night, walking barefoot, crying, forgetting to eat and drink until finally he fell unconscious under a tree. Then a golden-skinned Brahmin came and offered him a cup of milk and said to him in a sweet voice, “O Narottam, drink this milk. Your cuts and bruises will go away. Compose yourself, for everything will turn out well. ”After saying this, the Brahmin vanished and the exhausted Narottam finally able to rest. That night, he dreamt of Rupa and Sanatan Goswami. The two Goswamis placed their hands on his chest and fed him the milk that Mahaprabhu Himself had brought him. All of Narottama’s fatigue disappeared.

NAROTTAM IS INITIATED BY LOKANATH GOSWAMI

The Prema-vilasa also describes how Narottam took initiation from Lokanath Goswami. Narottam was born on the full-moon day of Magh, his renunciation took place on the full-moon day of Karttik, and he was initiated by Lokanath on the full-moon day of Shravan. Lokanath Goswami is considered to be a personal associate of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Indeed, he was the first Gaudiya Vaishnava to be instructed by the Lord to go to Vrindavan, along with Bhugarbha Goswami. Lokanath set the standard for worship in a spirit of renunciation while in the Holy Dham. He was a viviktanandi Vaishnava, that is, a hermit one who worships the Lord in solitude. In this spirit, he had vowed not to take any disciples. Narottam Das too made a vow — to take initiation from no one other than Lokanath. Though he was the son of a raja, Narottam’s desire to receive Lokanath’s mercy was so great that he went in the middle of every night to clean the place he used as a toilet. He would also leave fine earth and water for him to clean himself afterward. This is described as follows in the Prema-vilasa: Narottam went to the place where the Goswami performed his bodily functions and did a special job of cleaning it. He sifted the soil to make fine, clean earth with which Lokanath could clean his hands. He would hide his coconut-leaf broom and take it out each night to sweep the place clean, his heart filled with joy. All these things he did as a regular service.  He considered himself to be fortunate to have this service and that it made his body worthwhile. He would hold the broom to his chest, repeating, “This is where I will get the strength to attain my Lord’s lotus feet.” As he said these words, he cried and torrents of tears washed over his chest. Lokanath was astonished to see that his toilet area was daily being kept clean. He became curious to find out who was doing it and so, one evening, he went and hid in the jungle, chanting japa the entire night in wait for the anonymous benefactor. At midnight, he saw someone engaged in cleaning the place and asked him who he was. When he found out that Narottam, the son of a raja, was doing this filthy task, he felt embarrassed and told him to desist. Narottam, however, immediately fell at Lokanath’s feet began to cry. When Lokanath saw Narottam’s humility and pain, his resolve softened and he finally gave him initiation. Thus Narottam Das gave an outstanding example to the world of how one should engage in the service of one’s spiritual master. Narottama went there and engaged in whatever service was necessary to his guru, performing it with great enthusiasm. Lokanath was pleased by Narottam’s service and showed him the greatest mercy by initiating him in the mantra. Without caring for his youth or his looks, he left home on the full moon day of the month of Karttik. After wandering through many pilgrimage places, he finally came to Vrindavan where he became Lokanath Goswami’s disciple. On the auspicious day of sravani purnima, Lokanath initiated Narottam. Narottama Das was thus Lokanath’s one and only disciple. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur demonstrated similar perseverance and patiencea in service to his spiritual master in order to convince him to accept him as a disciple. Gaura Kishor Das Babaji, like Lokanath, had vowed to take no disciples. He refused Srila Prabhupada three times, but this did not break Prabhupada’s will. When Gaura Kishor saw Srila Prabhupada’s humility and intense desire, he finally relented and gave him mantra diksha. Srila Prabhupada was Gaura Kishor Das’s only disciple. After the disappearance of Rupa and Sanatan Goswamis, Sri Jiva Goswami became the Gaudiya Vaishnava sampradaya’s undisputed intellectual leader throughout Mathura, Bengal and Orissa and the chief-minister of the universal court of Vaishnavas at Vrindavan — the Visva-vaisnava-raja-sabha. Srinivas Acharya, Narottama Das, and Duhkhi Krishna Das all studied the scriptures under Jiva, receiving detailed personal instruction from him. When their studies were completed, Jiva gave them the titles of Acharya, Thakur and Shyamananda, respectively.

NAROTTAM RETURNS TO BENGAL

After their studies were complete, Jiva sent his three students to Bengal with the Vaishnava scriptures. Sri Jiva heard the news that the books had been stolen in Bana Vishnupura and then later that they had been recovered. This story has been told in this book in the chapter on Srinivas Lokanath Goswami considered Narottam’s previous life as a wealthy zamindar to be particularly suitable for preaching in his home area of northern Bengal and thought that with his status he would be able to teach the standards of renounced devotional behavior. Out of compassion for that country’s people, he ordererd Narottam to return to his home town of Kheturi. Srinivas was aware of Lokanath’s intention, so when the books were stolen, he told Narottam to continue on his way to Kheturi. Srinivas Acharya said, “Go quickly to Kheturi and carry out Lokanath’s orders. ”Anchorite devotees (viviktanandis), being absorbed in the intimate service of the Lord on the transcendental platform, normally have no taste for engaging in any welfare activity which brings only temporary succor to materialistic persons, bound by Maya and absorbed in their bodily identification. Materialistic welfare activities are considered to be of great value only when there is a misunderstanding about the real goal of life–service to Krishna. Lokanath taught the world through his disciple, on the principle that “a housewife teaches the daughter-in-law by instructing the daughter.” Though Narottam himself was distraught with separation from his spiritual master, he nevertheless took his order seriously and returned to Kheturi where he began preaching the doctrines of pure devotional service to the people of northern Bengal. Narottam’s humility and sorrow were expressed in his Prarthana,

Aneka Duhkhera Pare, Layechile Vraja-Pure

Krpa-Dora Galaya Bandhiya |

Daiva-Maya Balatkare, Khasaiya Sei Dore

Dhava-kupe Dileka Dariya ||

Punah Yadi Krpa Kari, E Janare Kese Dhari

Taniya Tulaha Vraja-Dhame |

Tabe Se Dekhiye Bhala, Natuba Parana Gela

Kahe Dina Dasa Narottame ||

“After I had suffered for such a long time, you finally tied the rope of mercy around my neck and dragged me to Vraja Dham. But now, the forces of fate and illusion have loosened that rope and You have thrown me back down the well of material existence. If you would only be merciful to me and grab me by the hair, pulling me back into Vraja Dham. Then everything would seem right once again. If not, Narottam says, his life is over. ”On Lokanath Goswami’s orders, Narottam installed six sets of deities in his temple in Kheturi: Gauranga, Vallabhi Kanta, Vraja Mohan, Sri Krishna, Radha Kanta, and Radha Raman. The great festival which he held on that occasion is still remembered in the Vaishnava world. Narottam arrived in the land of Gauda. He had been ordered by Lokanath to establish the deity service of both Gauranga and Krishna, to serve the Vaishnavas and to preach the congregational chanting of the Holy Names. He immediately dedicated himself to carrying out these orders. First he set about establishing the service of six sets of beautiful deities, whose names, taken together, bring joy to the heart of the devotees

Gauranga Vallabhi-kanta

Sri-Krsna Vraja-Mohana |

Radha-Ramana He Radhe

 Radha-Kanta Namo’stu Te ||

THE GREAT FESTIVAL AT KHETURI

Prior to the Kheturi-mahotsava, Narottam Das Thakur travelled throughout Bengal and Orissa, visiting various places where Mahaprabhu had performed his pastimes, meeting the Lord’s associates and receiving their blessings. Amongst the places he visited were Uddharan Datta’s home in Saptagram; Khardaha, where he met Paramesvari Das, and Nityananda’s shaktis, Jahnava and Vasudha; Khanakula Krishnanagar, the home of Abhiram Thakur; Shyamananda’s home in Nrisinghapur; the Sripats of Narahari and Raghunandan in Srikhanda; the birthplace of Nityananda Prabhu in Ekachakra Dham; and in Jagannath Puri, Gopinath Acharya’s home, Hari Das Thakur’s samadhi tomb, Gadadhar Pandit’s place of worship, the Jagannath temple and Gundicha, the Jagannath-vallabha gardens, and Narendra-sarovara, etc. Most of the living associates of Mahaprabhu and other leaders of the sampradaya came to Kheturi on the occasion of the festival organized by Narottama Das. A list of names has been given by Narahari Chakravarti in his books, Bhakti-ratnakara and Narottama-vilasa. Among those who attainded were Shyamananda Prabhu, Jahnava Devi, Paramesvari Das, Jahnava’s uncle Krishna Das Sarkhel, Nityananda’s son-in-law Madhava Acharya, Raghupati Vaidya, Minaketan Rama Das, Murari Chaitanya Das, Jnana Das, Mahidhara, Sri Shankar, Kamalakar Pippalai, Gauranga Das, Nakari, Krishna Das, Damodar, Balaram Das, Sri Mukunda, Vrindavan Das Thakur; Raghunandan Thakur and other devotees from Srikhanda; Srivasa Pandit’s brothers Sripati and Srinidhi from Nabadwip, Advaita’s sons, Achyutananda, Gopal Mishra and Krishna Mishra from Shantipur, and Hriday Chaitanya and other devotees from Ambika Kalna. Srinivas Acharya acted as the officiating priest at the festival and performed the rituals installing the deities. In the kirtan led by Narottam which followed, Mahaprabhu and His associate appeared. Who can describe the joy of that kirtan? Mahaprabhu Himself descended with all His associates in its midst just like lightning in a conglomeration of rainclouds.

The kirtan was amazing: you could see Nityananda Prabhu and Advaita Acharya overcome with ecstasy and Gaurachandra, encircled by the devotees. What wonderful compassion the Lord displayed on that day! Who can understand these wonderful pastimes? What blessings he poured on Narottam and Srinivas, for they and their companions found the fulfilment of all their desires. After the Kheturi festival, Narottam’s fame spread throughout the Vaishnava world. Prominent Brahmins like Ramakrishna Acharya and Ganga Narayan Chakravarti became his disciples.

NAROTTAM’S PREACHING ADVENTURES

Narahari Chakravarti extensively described Narottam’s activities in his Narottama-vilasa. One can understand his outstanding accomplishments by reading this book. Some of this are given here. In Gopalpur village lived a Brahmin named Vipra Das. He had a poisonous snake living in his wicker grainstorage bin (gola). When Narottam visited Vipra Das’s house, the snake vanished, and deities of Gaura and Vishnupriya appeared in its place. “Gaurasundar and his beloved Vishnupriya came out of the gola and climbed into Narottam’s lap in plain view of everyone.” Everyone was quite amazed. These same deities are today being served in the town of Gambhila. A certain smarta Brahmin scholar blasphemed Narottam, calling him a shudra. The result of this offense was that he was attacked by leprosy. After suffering for sometime, he was given a vision of the Goddess in a dream. She told him to fall at Narottam Das’s feet and beg he went and fell at Narottama Das’s feet and beg for forgiveness, and it was only after he followed this advice that the Brahmin was freed from his terrible disease. Hariram and Ramakrishna, the sons of Shivananda Acharya, were taking a goat and a buffalo to be offered as a sacrifice to the Goddess on the order of their father. They met Narottam and Ramachandra Kaviraj on the way and were attracted by their effulgent beauty. Narottam Thakur advised the two young Brahmins to abandon worship in the modes of passion and ignorance that entailed violence to animals and to worship the Supreme Lord without any desire. The brothers immediately let the goat and buffalo go and bathed in the Padma. They then took initiation from Narottam and dedicated their lives to the service of Lord Krishna and his devotees. Shivananda Acharya became angry when he heard about this. He called a Smarta scholar from Mithila named Murari to come and defeat Narottam’s Vaishnava philosophy. However, Hariram and Ramakrishna were given divine blessings by their guru and were able to defeat every one of the Smarta’s arguments with scriptural evidence. Defeated, Shivananda Acharya went to pray to the Goddess. She appeared to him that night in a dream and rebuked him for his enmity toward the Vaishnavas and told him to cease all such behavior. In the course of time, Ganga Narayan Chakravarti, Jagannath Acharya and other well-known Brahmins started to become Narottam’s disciples. This caused a stir in the Smarta community and they went to complain to Raja Narasingha: “Narottam is a Shudra who makes disciples of Brahmins. He is using some kind of mystic powers or hypnotism to convert them. He should be stopped. ”After discussing the matter with Raja Narasingha, it was decided that a scholar named Rupa Narayan should be summoned to debate Narottam. This Brahmin had won numerous debates of this sort and was known as a digvijayi. The Raja himself set off with Rupa Narayan and a number of other Brahmins toward the village of Kheturi. Ramachandra Kaviraj and Ganga Narayan Chakravarti were upset to see the wicked intentions of the Raja and his pandit. When they heard that the Raja and his entourage were resting overnight in Kumarapur village, they went in disguise as a potter and a pan-seller and set up stalls in the village market. When the Brahmins came through the market, Ramachandra and Ganga Narayan spoke with them in Sanskrit. The Brahmins were astounded that even ordinary stall-keepers in the village were able to speak in Sanskrit. Ramachandra and Ganga Narayan began a debate with the Brahmins, defeating every Smarta argument that they put forward and establishing the pure doctrine of devotional service. The Raja and his Digvijayi Pandit were rendered speechless by the scholarship of the two ordinary stallkeepers. When they learned that the two men were disciples of Narottam Das, the Raja said to his pandit, “If Narottam’s ordinary disciples can defeat you in debate, there is no need of going to see him.” But once again, the Goddess appeared to Raja Narasingha and Rupa Narayan and ordered them to go to Narottam and pray for forgiveness for their offenses. The two of them did so and became devotees of Radha and Krishna.

TWO SONGS BY NAROTTAMA

In the Gaudiya Vaisnava Abhidhana, the following comments are found: “Narottam’s ashram was in a place called Bhajantuli, about two miles from his capital city, Kheturi. Narottam did his preaching through kirtan. He created the style of kirtan known as garanahati. He wrote two books, Prarthana and Prema-bhakti-candrika, which are the very life of the devotees. He has written songs that are appropriate for every devotional mood, and this touches the devotees’ hearts. These two books are so popular that they have been published countless times. Narottam’s influence can be appreciated even in distant Manipur where everyone agrees that the Vaishnava religion spread through Maeipura through his spiritual potency. His devotional songs are sung in every home throughout Manipur state. Srinivas Acharya’s disciple Ramachandra Kaviraj was Narottam’s dearest companion. Narottam received news of Ramachandra’s disappearance first; not long afterward he heard of Srinivas’s disappearance, he wrote the following song in the mood of separation, which is capable of melting even a stone-like heart.

Je Anila Prema-Dhana Karuna Pracura |

hena prabhu kotha gela acarya thakura ||

kahan mora svarupa rupa, kahan sanatana?

kahan dasa raghunatha patita-pavana?

kahan mora bhatta-yuga, kahai kaviraja?

eka-kale kotha gela gora nataraja?

pasane kutiba matha anale pasiba

gauranga gunera nidhi kotha gele paba ||

se saba sangira sange je kaila vilasa

se sanga na pana kande narottama-dasa ||

“Where has Acharya Thakur, who out of great mercy for the world brought it the wealth of love, gone? Where are

my Svarupa and Rupa, where is Sanatan? Where has

Raghunath Das, the deliverer of the most fallen, gone?

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Where are Raghunath Bhatta and Gopal Bhatta? Where is

Krishnadas Kaviraj? Where has the king of the dance,

Gauranga, suddenly disappeared to? I will beat my head

against the rocks or enter the flames of a fire–but where can I go to

find that ocean of virtue, Gauranga? Deprived of the association of all these

companions of the Lord, Narottam Das can do nothing but cry.”

Narottam Das Thakur was the topmost of the followers of

Rupa Goswami, Mahaprabhu’s close associate. His devotion

to Rupa Goswami can be recognized from the following song which was much beloved by Srila Prabhupada:

sri rupa manjari pada sei mora sampada

sei mora bhajana pujana

sei mora prana-dhana sei more abharana

sei mora jivanera jivana

sei mora rasa-nidhi sei mora vancha-siddhi

sei mora vedera dharama

sei vrata, sei tapa sei mora mantra japa

sei mora dharama karama

anukula habe vidhi se pade haibe siddhi

nirakhiba ei dui nayane

se rupa madhuri-rasi prana-kuvalaya-sasi

praphullita habe nisi-dine

tuwa adarsana ahi garale jarala dehi

cira-dina tapita jivana

ha ha prabhu kara daya deha more pada-chaya

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narottama laila sarana

Rupa Manjari’s feet are my treasure; they are my worship, they

are my ritual. They are what keep me alive, they are my

ornament, they are the life of my life.

They are my ocean of nectar, they are the perfection of my

desire, they are my Vedic religion. They are my vow, they are

my austerity, they are the mantra that I chant on my beads.

They are my religious duty.

When Fate will be kind to me, and I will find my perfection by

attaining Rupa Manjari’s feet. Then I will be able to see the beauty of Radha and Krishna’s form, the moon of the lily

of my life, with my own eyes.

The snake of your absence has burned up my body with its

poison; I have suffered this pain for so long. O my master, be

merciful to me, give me the shade of your feet for I, Narottama, seek refuge there.

  NAROTTAMASTAKA BY VISHVANATH CHAKRAVARTI

sri-krsna-namamrta-varsi-vaktracandra-

prabha-dhvasta-tamo-bharaya |

gauranga-devanucaraya tasmai

namo namah srila-narottamaya ||1||

I offer my repeated obeisances to Srila Narottam Das

Thakur, the glorious follower of the divine Gauranga, who destroys the darkness of ignorance with the

nectarean rays of Krishna’s holy name, which emanate from

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his moon-like face.

sankirtananandaja-manda-hasyadanta-

dyuti-dyotita-din-mukhaya |

svedasru-dhara-snapitaya tasmai

namo namah srila-narottamaya ||2||

I offer my repeated obeisances to Srila Narottam Das

Thakur, who is bathed in torrents of tears and

Perspiration and who lights up every direction with the effulgence of

his teeth, revealed as he laughs out of the joy of Harinam sankirtan.

mrdanga-nada-sruti-matra-cancatpadambujamanda-

manoharaya |

sadyah samudyat-pulakaya tasmai

namo namah srila-narottamaya ||3||

I offer my repeated obeisances to Srila Narottam Das

Thakur, whose body is covered with horripilation and whose lotus feet dance enchantingly, being set into

motion as soon as he hears the sound of the mridanga.

gandharva-garva-ksapana-svalasyavismapitasesa-

krti-vrajaya |

sva-srsta-gana-prathitaya tasmai

namo namah srila-narottamaya ||4||

I offer my repeated obeisances to Srila Narottam Das

Thakur, whose fame has

spread through the songs he has written and whose dance and song, indeed, every action in

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kirtan brings shame to the Gandharvas.

ananda-murcchavanipat-bhatadhuli-

bharalankrta-vigrahaya |

yad-darsanam bhagya-bharena tasmai

namo namah srila-narottamaya ||5||

I offer my repeated obeisances to Srila Narottam Das

Thakur, who

can be seen only by one who has unlimited good fortune, whose figure is decorated with the dust that covers it as he falls to the ground in an ecstatic faint.

sthale sthale yasya krpa-prapabhih

krsnanya-trsna jana-samhatinam |

nirmulita eva bhavanti tasmai

namo namah srila-narottamaya ||6||

I offer my repeated obeisances to Srila Narottam Das

Thakur, who rains down mercy wherever he goes, causing

every person’s desires, other than those for service to

Krishna, to be uprooted.

yad-bhakti-nistha pala-rekhikeva

sparsah punah sparsa-maniva yasya |

pramanyam evam srutivad yadiyam

tasmai namah srila-narottamaya ||7||

I offer my repeated obeisances to Srila Narottam Das

Thakur, whose commitment to devotion is like a line scratched in a

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stone, whose touch is like that of the philosopher’s stone and

whose every word is as authoritative as that of the Veda.

murtaiva bhaktih kim ayam kim esa

vairagya-saras tanuman nrloke |

sambhavyate yah krtibhih sadaiva

tasmai namah srila-narottamaya ||8||

I offer my repeated obeisances to Srila Narottam Das

Thakur, who appears to some as devotion itself incarnate, or

as the essence of renunciation in human form — this is

forever the opinion of the wise.

rajan-mrdanga-karatala-kalabhiramam

gauranga-gana-madhu-pana-bharabhiramam |

sriman-narottama-padambuja-manju-nrtyam

bhrtyam krtarthayatu mam phalitesta-krtyam ||9||

May the dancing of Srila Narottam Das Thakur’s lotus feet,

which follows every beat of the drum and hand cymbals and

which incarnates the beauty of his intoxication in the songs

glorifying Gauranga, bring fulfilment to me, his servant, by

bringing to fruition all his sacrifices.

____________________________________

 28 The Padmavati or Padma River is one of the branches of the Ganges that splits east from the Bhagirathi. It forms the current border between West Bengal and Bangla Desh for about 50 km. Rajshahi lies on the northern shore. Mahaprabhu would have been on the south shore, closer to Murshidabad.