Chapter 3 – The Holy Appearance of Divine Grace Srila Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja

“Brajabandhu Manik”

“…I can remember, from when I was very young, my grandfather and father and all my uncles, they had sikha, tilaka and wore kanthi-mala,
they were all Vaisnavas and they were always chanting Hare Krsna.”
-His Divine Grace Srila Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja

The Appearance of a Vaisnava

The birth of Vaisnava is unlike the birth of a conditioned soul; he takes his birth under the auspices of the Supreme Lord; he is not forced by the illusory energy (maya) to appear in this material world:

na karma-bandhanam janma vaisnavanam ca vidyate
visnur anucaratvam hi moksam ahur manisinah

“A Vaisnava does not take birth under the jurisdiction of karmic law. His birth and disappearance are transcendental. The wise have declared that the servants of Visnu are eternally engaged in the liberated service of the Lord and hence are free from the laws of material nature.”

ataeva vaisnavera janma mrtyu nai
sange aisena, sange yayena tathai
dharma, karma, janma vaisnavera kabhu nahe
padma-puranete iha vyakta kari’ kahe

“The Padma Purana has said; Vaisnavas do not undergo birth and death like ordinary persons. They appear and disappear within this world of their own accord. In this way sometimes we have their association and sometimes their association is withdrawn. The devotees are not subject to any worldly considerations of duty and karma.”
The Divine Appearance

His Divine Grace Srila Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja made his appearance in the village of Jagannathpur, in the district of Cuttack, in the state Orissa, India. Jagannathpur is approximately eighty-five kilometers from Bhubaneswar, the state capital, fifty-five kilometers from the city of Cuttack and fifteen kilometers from Gadai Giri. He was born on the second of September 1929 at 7:30 am*. This day fell one week after Janmastami (The holy appearance day of Lord Krsna) and one week prior to Radhastami (The holy appearance day of the Lord’s eternal consort Srimati Radharani). Having performed auspicious ceremonies (samskaras) according to the Vedic tradition, his begot their first son, whom they named Brajabandhu. At the time of his divine appearance the karatalas rang and the mrdangas beat a thunderous sound as they combined in kirtana to joyfully celebrate the birth in the family of kirtaniyas from Gadai Giri. Gadai Giri village was replete with the sound of the holy name and in Jagannathpur the infant Brajabandhu was nestled up against his mother sound asleep.

His father was Isvara Manik (dasa) and his mother was Pata Dei Giri. Both were born in families who had a long-standing Vaisnava tradition. His mother’s family were the residents of the famous Gadai Giri village, the descendants of the famous Gopal Giri.

Brajabandhu’s father’s family were also Vaisnavas. The whole family was initiated into the Vaisnava system. Those who take Vaisnava initiation vow to stop all eating of flesh, to stop gambling, to stop all intoxication and to refrain from illicit sex. Initiated Vaisnavas also vow to chant a prescribed number of rounds (japa)** each day.

At this time India was still under British rule. Yet pressure was mounting against the British to give India complete independence. These events had little effect on the Giri or the Manik families.

Also, at this time the powerful mission of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Prabhupada, the Gaudiya Math, was mighty force to be reckoned with. Under the guidance of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Prabhupada, this mission was preaching vigorously against the many atheistic mentalities that were prevalent in India at that time, especially the idea that anyone and everyone is God.

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Prabhupada preached powerfully against caste-ism and the sahajiyas, and was very effective at defeating and discrediting these very strongly rooted these very strongly rooted influences in Indian cultural and religious tradition. This was practically one of his most important contributions, coupled with his constant axe blows against the impersonalists and voidists.

He also did much to establish a unifying influence on the various Vaisnava sects by stressing the points of agreement shared by the four major sampradays. He published the writings of the other Vaisnava acaryas, especially Srila Madhvacarya and Srila Ramanujacarya and also published accounts of their lives.

In his travels throughout India and especially South India, he enjoyed a reputation as an incredibly powerful debator, and received the title “simha-guru”—the lion guru. Various proponents of the Mayavadi School would cross the street rather than confront him, and he was known to accost such scholars and chastise them for cheating the innocent public with false philosophy.

*This day is also the same day and month that His Divine Grace Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura took his birth in this world some 90 years earlier, one astrologer was also noted as saying that His Divine Grace Gour Govinda Swami in his last birth was Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura.

** Japa: The chanting of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra on a string of sacred tulasi-wood beads.

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Prabhupada had established sixty-four mathas (temples) within India, initiated sixty thousand disciples and had established four printing presses in order to print and distribute his own works and the works of the previous acaryas.

Despite the political upheaval modern India was going through, life in Gadai Giri and Jagannathpur was relatively peaceful and quite. They were not so interested in the fight for supremacy in Indian politics, whether it were the British or Indian Nationalists; service to Krsna was far greater than any mundane political system. They were too busy serving Krsna and doing Krsna-bhajana. And this beautiful child—a son—was born in their family, much to the delight of all the Giris and the Maniks.

In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna has said: man-mana bhava mad-bhakto, mad-yaji mam namaskuru—“Always think of Me, become My devotee, worship Me, and offer obeisances to Me.” This they did and this was their sole interest in life!

Vedic Dharma

It was and still is prevalent in India (Bharata-varsa)*** that children are born at home. His Divine Grace Gour Govinda Maharaja said, “I was born at home, not in the hospital, and so were six out of my seven children. This is the Vedic process.”

The Vedic system is that the children are born at home and stay with the mother for a period of up to thirty days. After they leave the house and enter the temple for the first time. Prior to this time the mother and the child do not leave the house. This is one of the many religious observances carried out by the mother and the child called samskaras, for the purification of the mother and the child. Brajabandhu and his mother followed this observance and his first journey from home was to see the beautiful form of the Lord in the local temple.

The main reason that the mother and child do not leave the house for a certain period of time is that during that time, the mother is considered unclean (asuci). Also at that time the mother and child undergo many types of ayurvedic and naturopathic treatments, so the custom in India is to keep the mother and child inside the room for the twenty-one days that they are not considered as suci (clean). After twenty-one days the mother can bathe nicely. Within that twenty-one day period, if she bathes she may become ill. Therefore generally the ayurvedic doctors do not advise bathing during this twenty-one day period. So since she has not bathed, she is not considered clean and therefore she remains inside.

Vaisnava Association From Birth

Daily his father would rise early, bathe, put on tilaka and chant Hare Krsna. His father also wore kanthi-mala which is a main feature of Vaisnava attire. Isvara Manik was a very simple-hearted person and very serious about his devotional practices. He was seen by the local people as a Vaisnava, a follower of the followers of the Mahaprabhu.

From his birth Brajabandhu was surrounded by Vaisnavas—devotees with sikha, tilaka, wearing kanthi-mala and chanting the Holy name of the Lord.**** His father chanted Hare Krsna, his uncles chanted Hare Krsna, his grandfather chanted Hare Krsna and his mother chanted Hare Krsna.

Srila Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja: I can remember, from when I was very young, my grandfather and father and all my uncles, they had sikha, tilaka and wore kanthi-mala, they were all Vaisnavas and they were always chanting Hare Krsna. After bathing they would put on Vaisnava tilaka, they were all Vaisnavas.

At home his life revolved around the service of the Supreme Lord, with both his parents and all of their relatives constantly engaged in service to the family deities.

As devotees, the Manik family and the Giri family had great faith in the words of Lord Krsna in Bhagavad-gita and the Srimad-Bhagavatam, the ancient Vedic scriptures of India. Every evening the Giri family would read one chapter of the Srimad-Bhagavatam after holding kirtana at the Sri Sri Radha-Gopala Jiu temple. Reading from the sacred scriptures was included as part of their puja, or their daily worship. In such ideal Vaisnava circumstances Brajabandhu took his birth.

*** Bharat-varsa: The scriptural name for India (the land of Bharata). Named after Bharata, son of Dusyanta and Sakuntala.

**** The sikha is the short tuft of hair that devotees have at the back of their head; tilaka are the markings found on the forehead and the body of a devotee. Wearing a tilaka spiritualizes the body and makes it a temple of the Lord. Kanthi-mala are the three strands of beads that devotees have around their neck. The wearing of these three items signifies that a person is a follower of Krsna His incarnation for this age, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.

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