SRI CAITANYA MAHAPRABHU
1486 - 1533

Sri CaitanyaIs the founder of the Caitanyaite Vaisnava sect, he is revered as a saint, teacher and deity.

Sri Caitanya was a brilliant child and young man who, at the age of 22, underwent a spiritually transforming experience that led him to devote himself entirely to his relationship with Sri Krishna.

He was born in Navadwip on the banks of the Ganges in Bengal on the night of the full moon that marks the spring celebration of Holi and during a lunar eclipse. He was named Visvambhara Misra but his mother called him Nimai.

Through his close association with Sri Nityananda and their renowned practice of kirtana they were to become the hallmark of the Caitanya Vaisnavas devotionalism and the iconography of Sri Caitanya almost always depicts the two of them together.

After his initiation, Nimai was given the name Sri Krishna Caitanya “he who awakens consciousness of Krishna”. From Sri Jagannatha Puri Sri Caitanya launched a two year pilgrimage through south India where Krishna bhakti had been developing for several centuries. After returning to Puri he began a pilgrimage to Vrindavan reaching on the night of the full moon in November. That particular night is the night of the great circle dance in the ritual calendar – the culmination of Krishna’s youthful relationship with the cowherd women in Vrindavan. Celebrating this occasion on the ritual calendar as well as Caitanya’s arrival, on this night, a group of Bengali kirtana singers walk around and through Vrindaban for eight hours.

For eight months Sri Krishna Caitanya Mahaprabhu stayed in the area. He filled gaps in the sacred geography by identifying places such as Radhakund, Barsana and Nandagaon from the literary geography. Sri Krishna had long had a strong presence as a literary image, but his physical manifestation was very much hidden in Vraja. Sri Caitanya assembled a team of spiritual persons, academicians and administrators, the famous six Goswamis. They were joined by other saints such as Sri Hita Harivamsa, Swami Haridasa, Sri Vallabhacharya and others. As a result of their activities, the 16th century saw an all-round manifestation of Krishna in Vraja. The building of temples, riverfront ghats, tanks, creation of literary and other art forms all helped Krishna dance again.

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