Chapter 5 – The Move to Gadai-Giri

“…There is a temple there, Radha-Gopala… So when I was studying there at my maternal uncle’s house, I was spending my days in that temple.
That deity is my favorite deity. Whenever I meditate I see that deity always. The deity’s name is Gopala Jiu. My family are all devotees, they do sankirtana nicely. So I had the opportunity to be brought up in that company, that association and atmosphere.
Yes, from my very boyhood, Krsna consciousness was very deep rooted.”

- His Divine Grace Srila Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja

The Village of Kirtana

Once middle school had finished, Brajabandhu moved to the famous village of his ancestors, Gadai Giri, for high school training, because there was no facility in Jagannathpur for higher education. So he was brought from Jagannathpur to Gadai-Giri by his older cousin Ghanasyam Giri, to help him with his education after his Middle English standards (higher primary school). The distance from Jagannathpur (Brajabandhu’s birth place) to Gadai Giri is approximately fifteen kilometers. He was not too enthusiastic about the idea of beginning high school, but he was very enthusiastic about living in Gadai Giri with the temple of Sri Sri Radha-Gopala Jiu and the wonderful kirtanas of the Gadai Giri kirtaniyas. This appealed to him far more than just going to high school! Brajabandhu went to live in the house of Gopinatha Giri, and because of this he had the chance to see and worship his beloved Gopala Jiu regularly.

Srila Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja: “In 1942 I moved to the village of my mother’s family, Gadai-Giri, and began my high school studies there. I was twelve years old when I began high school, for four years, from 1942 to 1946. I stayed at the house of my maternal uncle (Gopinath Giri); the members of my maternal uncle’s family were all devotees. They would do kirtana everyday—hari-nama-sankirtana.

“There is a temple there, Radha-Gopala… So when I was studying there, at my uncle’s house, I was spending my days in that temple. That deity is my favorite deity. Whenever I meditate I see that deity always. The deity’s name is Gopala Jiu. My family they are all devotees, they do sankirtana nicely. So I had the opportunity to be brought up in that company, that association and atmosphere. Yes, from my very boyhood, Krsna consciousness was very deep rooted.

Whilst living in Gadai Giri, Brajabandhu’s uncle would read the Caitanya-caritamrta to him in Bengali on a regular basis. For Brajabandhu this was the real schoolwork, so he would listen. Once he read how Gopinatha, in Remuna, Balasore, stole khir (condensed milk) for His dear devotee Madhavendra Puri, and Brajabandhu became so overjoyed to hear that. He was thinking, “O, Gopinatha steals khir for his devotee Madhavendra Puri. O, what a devotee Madhavendra Puri is!” Young Brajabandhu was thinking at that time how pleasing this pastime was; he was very much attracted—naturally attracted—to the recitation of the Caitanya-caritamrta and particularly to that particular pastime and he then became very attracted to Gopinatha, the deity from Remuna.

Ghanasyam Giri: This village of Gadai Giri was the home of Brajabandhu’s maternal uncles, so he was studying here, studying Bhagavad-Gita, reading and doing bhajana. In the evenings he would come into the temple room and dance and chant in front of Sri Sri Radha-Gopala Jiu, and sometimes he would sleep on the floor in the temple room. He was doing bhajana with his uncles, he would play karatalas. His eldest uncle Gopinath Giri, my father, would play mrdanga, our second uncle Jagannath Giri would play harmonium and karatalas, and together they would have very wonderful kirtana.

In the evening at the house of Brajabandhu’s maternal uncle Gopinath Giri, there was sankirtana every night, nama-sankirtana. He was taking part, many devotees were there, his eldest uncle Gopinath Giri played very nice mrdanga and his second uncle Jagannath Giri played nice harmonium and sang very sweetly. Many devotees would come and they would have sankirtana everyday and sometimes they would have asta-prahara-sankirtana—all night. Asta-prahara, twenty-four hour kirtana through the villages.

Balikuda, Katikata, Alabol, are places nearby to Gadai Giri. So when any asta-prahara-sankirtana was going on Brajabandhu would go with his uncles if it was one, two, three, kilometers distance, but for long distance villages his uncle would not permit Brajabandhu to go with him. When he was not permitted to go because of the long distance, Brajabandhu would go without his uncles, knowledge. First his uncle went, and at night Brajabandhu would go secretly, making his way to the kirtana and joining in. when his uncle saw Brajabandhu in the kirtana he would chastise him, and ask, “How did you come?” and Brajabandhu would answer, “What can I do, I want to take part in the kirtana, Gopala Jiu is protecting me.” Then his uncle said, “How will you do your studies, if you are here?” and Brajabandhu answered, “I’ll do it very quickly and I will do it nicely.” Then at 3:30 or 4:00 am after the all-night kirtana, his uncle would see that he was gone.

Brajabandhu would walk all the way home, and when he arrived home he did not go to sleep, instead he did his study, nicely, then without any sleep he went off to school. Brajabandhu would always say that he did not have any fear as he was always meditating on Gopala (Gopala Jiu) and therefore Gopala was protecting him.

Whilst living in Gadai Giri he would always arise from bed before 4:00am. He would take his rest at midnight or after, because his uncle was a businessman and would come home from his business late, and then they would eat prasada.

Young Brajabandhu As Supervisor

While in Gadai Giri young Brajabandhu would help his uncles. They were landowners, they had many acres under cultivation and were also dealing in brass and metal utensils which were housed in different warehouses. They also had warehouses of textiles. Brajabandhu would have to manage for this for his uncles, and sometimes he would have to manage the laborers working the land under cultivation. He would be assigned a specific duty and would carry it out. Sometimes he would have to supervise the harvesting of a crop dal, rice or corn. He would also have to take care of the textile warehouse, making sure that the workers were not stealing any of the cloth or brass utensils. As a young boy he had to supervise many different aspects of his uncle’s business, plus do his schoolwork, which was on the wane. He didn’t have time to study because of this workload from his uncles. So as it came closer to exam time he went to Gopala Jiu and said, “I have no time for my schoolwork; pleases, You must help me pass the exams. You help me to write in the exam; I do not know what to write. Please help me.” And with this request Gopala Jiu helped him and he succeeded in his exams very nicely without any preparation and with hardly any sleep.

The high school that Brajabandhu attended was at Balikuda—Balikuda high school. Balikuda is a town approximately two and a half kilometers from the village of Gadai-Giri. It was easily accessible for Brajabandhu, but his heart was not in school—his heart was in the kirtana.Brajabandhu’s high school course was four years, and at that time Sanskrit was a compulsory language. He began his studies of Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam in earnest at high school age. In the evening he would also find time to read the Srimad-Bhagavatam.

The Shrine of the Bhagavatam

In Orissa there are bhagavata-tungis.* In every village in Orissa, traditionally there is a bhagavata-tungi, a small room where the Bhagavatam is kept and read aloud every evening by the village brahmanas. In the past, most of the members of a village would come and listen but nowadays the recitation of the Bhagavatam has been replaced by television and radio. His Divine Grace would often reflect on his own life saying, “As soon as I had learned the alphabet I began to read the Bhagavatam. In those days there was no electricity so I used a castor oil lamp and read Bhagavatam at such a bhagavata-tungi.”

Every evening he recited the Bhagavatam, which was the custom, by the light of a castor oil lamp as there was no electricity. He was reciting Srimad-Bhagavatam every day; they were palm leaf books and the books were worshipped by the local brahmana, and in the evening one chapter must be read.

* Bhagavata-tungis are also called bhagavata-kutiras, special cottages where one would go to recite scripture and pay honor to the scriptures.

When he was young, he would read every day. In the words of Srila Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja. “The most important thing was when I moved to Gadai-Giri; it was very concentrated, the Krsna Consciousness. That is the most important thing!”**

Once, when Brajabandhu was thirteen years of age in year nine at school, his aunty suggested he should go and see the opera/drama performance with his brother. He was totally upset; he closed the door and cried for a long time. He would not open the door. He was totally against anything that did not have a religious theme. When he finally came out of the room he said, “My father is a poor man, I am not a lazy person. I am worshipping Lord Gopala and reading the scriptures; it is life.” According to his cousin-sister Dhobani Dei, “He would never go to a movie, to the drama or a theater in his life, he was totally against it.”

The Kirtaniyas

In Gadai Giri there were three uncles of Brajabandhu, all sons of Bauribandhu Giri. Two were the great kirtaniyas Gopinath and Jagannath Giri, and the third and youngest was a businessman; he was not as interested in kirtanas as the rest of the family. His name was Dinabandhu Giri; he cultivated the land and sold bell metals. The other male members of the Giri family were also involved in the selling of bell metals but their main business was kirtana and puja. Jagannath Giri attracted everyone by his singing Radha-Krsna lila and he had accepted many kirtana disciples from the locality. Brajabandhu would write down the bhajanas sung by his uncles from these bhajanas he would organize dramas in which the devotees would act, and many of the villagers would come to watch the performances.

One local resident who teaches the harmonium in the village of Gadai Giri, recalls that Gopinath Giri, the mrdanga player, was a wonderful dancer and when he played the mrdanga it made a sound like thunder. “Such mrdanga players,” he said, “are not to be found these days.”

Gopinath Giri had two sons, Ghanasyam Giri and Damodara Giri, and one daughter Dhobani Dei. Damodara Giri was adopted by Jagannath Giri since he did not have any children. Ghanasyam played mrdanga and Damodara played harmonium and sang very nice, sweet kirtana; they were Brajabandhu’s association while he was at Gadai Giri.

Sankirtana and Puja

Whilst at Gadai Giri Brajabandhu would rise at 4:00 a.m. on rising he would brush his teeth and take a bath under a pump in the fields; then he would go immediately to see the deities Sri Sri Radha-Krsna-Gopala Jiu and do his bhajana—chanting Hare Krsna and doing whatever service he could for Their Lordships. Then he would take prasada; he would only eat that which was offered to the deities. Then he would get ready and go to school. This part of the day he disliked most; he had no taste for learning mundane subjects. Then as soon as school was finished he would not wait to play with the other children, but would go directly home, wash his face, hands and feet and then again go to the temple to see the deities. In the evening there would be kirtana in the temple. Young Brajabandhu would join in with his uncles and when the kirtana was over he would do his homework and school studies, and then take his rest.

Srila Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja: my boyhood days were spent there [at Gadai-Giri] chanting, doing sankirtana and studying also, at high school. Secondary school course, but I was too much negligent of my studies. I paid more time to sankirtana—nama sankirtana. I would spend three weeks, or less than that, out of every month at school. I was not so attentive at study but miraculously I came out successful in the last final examinations, (I was hopeless because I had not studied!)

Dhobani Dei: From when he came to Gadai-Giri for high school education, I had see him anointing the deities’ body with sandalwood paste, doing arati to the deities. He would assist in any way whatsoever with the deity worship. He was completely absorbed in the deities and anything to do with the deities and the temple.

Asta-prahara-kirtana

Whenever there was kirtana or bhajana going on at a nearby house or at a neighboring village, Brajabandhu would accompany his uncles and they would all join in the kirtana or bhajana. On certain occasion Brajabandhu’s uncles would have kirtana all through the night, twenty-four hour kirtana with his uncles through Gadai Giri and through the neighboring villages. At the end of the kirtana young Brajabandhu would mix with all the villagers and was very fond of discussing Krsna-katha with them, much to their amazement. Many of the villagers, and also the members of the family, would say that young Brajabandhu was always very, very polite to all and always calm, and peaceful, and that he had a very quite nature. His cousin-brother Ghanasyam Giri said, “Brajabandhu could not do anything wrong.”

As has already been mentioned, his uncles were expert kirtaniyas, singing and playing mrdanga and they would sing the songs of Narottama dasa Thakura very nicely. Brajabandhu used to hear this everyday, in the morning and in the evening when he was a boy; there was kirtana everyday. His uncles would come to the temple and there was very nice, sweet kirtana, so he took part in that kirtana. His Divine Grace would always say, “From my boyhood I got such a chance, Krsna gave me such an opportunity, such an environment, such circumstances to be brought up in!”

In this Giri dynasty there were always these kirtaniyas. There were players, both mrdanga and singer-harmonium, in that dynasty. Bauribandhu Giri (grandfather) told them, “In our house there should always be two persons; there must always be one singer and one mrdanga player. [‘Singer’ also meant that he should play the harmonium]. So if no one is available, then from our house we will do kirtana and render service to Gopala [Gopala Jiu]. Then we will get His mercy and you will never suffer!”

Attachment to the Sastra

Brajabandhu’s mother Pata Dei was a very pious woman, who relished listening to the sastra such as the Mahabharata and the Bhagavad-Gita. When her brother Gopinath Giri would come to her house she would always ask him to recite the Mahabharata for her.

Once, in the rainy season, the Mahabharata was being recited before the Gopala deity. At that time Brajabandhu’s mother stayed for two months in Gadai Giri to hear the Mahabharata continuously. This was also the time that Brajabandhu was studying in Gadai Giri and he suggested that his mother should go back to their home because his father and the other family members might need her. His mother avoided his arguments and said that she would return to her home only after the recitation of the Mahabharata was finished. She was very devoted to the scriptures and any chance that she could get she would sit and listen to their recitation. Brajabandhu was very pleased with his mother because she could remember everything that she heard from the recitation of the different scriptures (sastras, Puranas etc.) and she could explain their meanings. According to all at Gadai Giri, Brajabandhu was very much like his mother.

* Bhagavata-tungis are also called bhagavata-kutiras, special cottages where one would go to recite scripture and pay honor to the scriptures.

**His Divine Grace felt that his Krsna Consciousness took a major leap forward while living at Gadai Giri. His real goal in life was realized in those years at Gadai Giri; his life’s aims were developed in that period. His going to school, his getting married, which we will read about later, his life as a school teacher, were interim activities which very soon were to be eclipsed by the greater goal of preaching Krsna Consciousness and the message of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, under the guidance of a bonafide guru—sad-guru, to all who would listen. That was his life’s aim!

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