All glories to Sri Guru and Sri Gauranga
Lord Nitai's Flat Rice and Yoghurt Festival
at Sripat Panihati
Compiled by Jagamohini Dasi

jaya gaura-bhakta-gana - gaura yanra prana
saba bhakta mili' more bhakti deha' dana
Cc Antya 11.8

All glories to all the devotees of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, for the Lord is their life and soul. All of you, kindly bestow devotional service upon me.

Madman of Chaitanyachandra

In Sri Bhakti Raksak Divya-vani: Sermons of the Guardian of Devotion, His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj explains that when Mahaprabhu went to Advaita-bhavan, Sri Advaita Acharyya's home in Santipur, after taking sannyas, Raghunath Das Goswami came seeking His lotus feet. When he saw Lord Gaurahari - the Lord of his heart - he became mad with love of Krishna. Srila Guru Maharaj says that Sripad Raghunath Das was the son of a wealthy landowner but "his heart was completely melted by Mahaprabhu's beauty and charming personality, His devotion and His teachings of devotion for Krishna." Mahaprabhu Himself knew the heart of Sripad Raghunath Das Goswami. Raghunath Das would not leave the divine lotus feet of Mahaprabhu, but the Lord told him, "Go home. Don't be over-enthusiastic; control yourself. Keep your Divine love for Krishna within your heart, and don't express it outwardly. Don't advertise it. Very soon the time will come when Krishna will guide you. He will make a way for you. Don't allow any external show but keep it within your heart."

sthira hana ghare yao, na hao batula
krame krame paya loka bhava-sindhu-kula

C.c. Madhya 16.237

"Compose yourself and go home - don't be a madman.
One reaches the shore of the material ocean gradually."

Srila Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami narrates how inwardly, Sri Raghunath Das was completely renounced, even in family life, but he kept his renunciation hidden and pleased his parents by acting like an ordinary business man. In his heart, he was always feeling the burning pain of separation from his Lord. After one year, he tried to run to the shelter of Sriman Mahaprabhu but his father caught him in a distant place and brought him back. Almost daily Raghunath Das would run away from home. His father, or his father's men, would bring him back. His mother complained, "Our son has become mad. Just somehow keep him by binding him with ropes." But his father said, "Our son, Raghunath, has opulence like Indra, the heavenly King, and his wife is as beautiful as an angel. Yet these things cannot tie his mind down. How then can mere ropes bind him? Who can keep home such a madman of Chaitanyachandra."

"Make a Festival"

The next day Sri Raghunath Das went to receive the darshan of Sriman Nityananda in the village of Panihati in West Bengal. Lord Nityananda was sitting on a rock under a tree by the bank of the Ganges. The Lord appeared as effulgent as hundreds and thousands of rising suns. Many devotees sat, surrounding Him like rays of sunlight. Seeing the divine influence of Lord Nityananda, Raghunath Das was overcome with spiritual emotion. Due to his extreme humility, he offered his dandavat pranam from a distance. But the servant of Nityananda Prabhu saw him and called out to the Lord, "There is Raghunath Das, offering You obeisances."

Hearing this, Lord Nitai said, "You are a thief. Now you have come to see Me. Come here, come here. Today, I shall punish you!" The Lord called to him, but Raghunath Das did not approach the Lord. The Lord forcibly caught him and placed His lotus feet upon Raghunath's head. Nityananda Prabhu is by nature very playful. He is also an ocean of sweet mercy. He said to Raghunath, "You are just like a thief! Instead of coming near, you stay away at a distant place. Now that I have captured you, I shall punish you."

Lord Nityananda said to Raghunath, "Make a festival and feed all my associates yogurt and chipped rice." Hearing the instruction of Sri Dayal Nitai, Raghunath Das became very blissful. He immediately sent his own men to the village to purchase all kinds of eatables and bring them back. Raghunath brought chipped, or flat rice, yogurt, milk, sweetmeats, sugar, bananas and other delicious foods and placed them all around. As soon as they heard that there would be a festival, many brahmanas and other gentlemen began to arrive. Srila Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami notes that there were innumerable people - so many that one was unable to count them. And the crowd continued to increase.

Sri Raghunath Das arranged to get more and more foodstuffs from neighbouring villages and he bought several hundred large, round earthen pots. In the larger pots a brahmana began soaking chipped rice for the satisfaction of Lord Nityananda. Some of the rice was mixed with yogurt and some was mixed with condensed milk. Then sugar, ghee, camphor and a special type of banana known as champa-kala were added.

Nityananda Prabhu sat on a raised platform under a large banyan tree. The most important and intimate associates of the Lord, as well as other important men, sat in a circle on the platform around the Lord. Many more learned scholars, brahmanas and priests arrived. Lord Nityananda honoured them all and made them sit with Him on the raised platform. Everyone was offered two earthen pots. In one was the flat rice with condensed milk and in the other was the flat rice with yoghurt.

When there was no more room on the platform, many of the brahmanas went to the bank of the Ganges with their two pots of flat rice. Others, who could not find a place even on the bank, went into the pure water of the Ganges and began eating from their pots of rice. Raghava Pandit arrived and began to laugh with great surprise and amusement at the scene before him. Lord Nityananda made Raghava Pandit sit down to eat from two pots and said, "I belong to a community of cowherd boys, and therefore I generally have many cowherd associates with Me. I am happy when we eat together in a picnic like this by the sandy bank of the river."

Like the Whorl of a Lotus Flower

When the chipped rice had been brought to everyone, Sriman Nityananda, in meditation, brought Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. When Mahaprabhu arrived, He and Nityananda Prabhu walked through all the groups of eaters and observed how everyone was enjoying the flat rice with yoghurt and condensed milk. From each and every pot, Lord Nityananda took one morsel of chipped rice and pushed it into the mouth of Mahaprabhu as a joke. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, also smiling, took a morsel of food, pushed it into the mouth of Nityananda and laughed as He made Him eat it. All the Vaisnavas stood to see the playful mood of Lord Nityananda, but because they were unable to see Mahaprabhu, they could not understand his actions. Only a few devotees who were very fortunate were able to see the divine form of Mahaprabhu.

The two Lords sat and honoured the flat rice. Seeing Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu beside Him eating, Nityananda Prabhu became very happy and exhibited varieties of ecstatic love. In Sri Chaitanya Bhagavat, Srila Vrindavan Das Thakur said that he is unable to describe the unlimited ecstatic love of Lord Nityananda. He is always chanting just one Name, "Sri Krishna Chaitanya," no other Name escaped His lips even in dream. Lord Nitai is fully surrendered in His love for Lord Chaitanya.

To the crowd of devotees He ordered, "All of you eat, chanting the Holy Name of 'Hari.'" Immediately the Holy Names "Hari, Hari" resounded, filling the entire universe. When all the Vaisnavas were chanting the Names of the Lord and taking prasadam, they were remembering how Krishna and Balaram ate with Their companions on the bank of the Yamuna. "Like the whorl of a lotus flower surrounded by its petals and leaves. Krishna sat in the centre, encircled by lines of His friends, who all looked very beautiful. Every one of them was trying to look forward toward Krishna, thinking that Krishna might look toward him. In this way they enjoyed their lunch in the forest." (Bhag10.13.8.) The confidential devotees of the Lord who were cowherd boys actually felt the bank of the Ganga to now be the bank of the Yamuna. Sri Raghunath Das observed all these activities and felt his heart overfow with the gracious and liberal mercy of Sri Sri Nitai Chaitanyadev.

Still more and more food arrived. Sri Raghunath Das purchased it all and offered it to Nityananda Prabhu and the devotees. Others were offering garlands, sandalwood and betel nuts to the Lord. With His own hands Lord Nityananda distributed all the remnants. Raghunath Das, feeling great happiness, gave the remnants to his associates then took a little for himself.

Inundated in Ecstatic Love

After resting, Lord Nitai went to the home and temple of Sri Raghava Pandit and began kirttan. He inspired all the devotees to dance and then He Himself began dancing. Srila Krishna Das Kaviraj Goswami says that the entire world was inundated in ecstatic love. The dancing of Nityananda Prabhu cannot be compared to anything within these three worlds. No one can describe the sweetness of such dancing. Only Lord Nitai could see that Lord Gaurasundar Himself came to observe this dancing. Lord Nityananda danced with such ecstatic abandon that the earth reeled under His feet and roaring sounds like thunder came from His lotus mouth. His movements were like flashes of lightning, yet at the same time, they were graceful, charming and delicate. When His merciful glance fell on any person, he was instantaneously infused with Divine Love of Godhead.

It is said that Srimati Radharani Herself cooks in the house of Sri Raghava Pandit. She received the benediction from Durvasa Muni that whatever She cooked would be sweeter than nectar. That is the special feature of Her cooking. Following kirttan, the Lord and all the devotees ate the sumptuous prasadam with great satisfaction. All the devotees present requested Sri Raghunath Das to sit and take prasadam, but Raghava Pandit told them, "He will take later."

"Lord Gaurahari came here Personally to deliver you"

In the morning, Nityananda Prabhu sat with His associates under the same tree by the bank of the Ganges. Raghunath Das went there to worship His lotus feet. Through Raghava Pandit, he prayed:

"adhama, pamara mui hina jivadhama!
mora ichcha haya - pana chaitanya-charana"

"I am the lowest of men, the most sinful, fallen and condemned. Nevertheless, I desire to attain the shelter of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu."

Raghunath Das continued by saying that he is like a dwarf who wants to catch the moon. Every time he has tried to run to catch Mahaprabhu's lotus feet, he has been captured and returned to family life. Giving us his pure example, Raghunath Das prays to Sriman Nityananda for the shelter of Mahaprabhu.

Lord Nitai was very pleased by the humility and sincere prayers of Raghunath. He told the devotees that although Raghunath was situated in such opulent material happiness, he doesn't care for it at all. The Lord called Raghunath Das near to Him and placed His divine feet upon His head. "My dear Raghunath Das," He said with affection, "since you arranged the feast on the bank of the Ganges, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu came here just to show you His mercy. By His mercy He ate the flat rice and milk. Then, after seeing the dancing of the devotees at night, He took His supper. Lord Gaurahari came here personally to deliver you. Now rest assured that all the impediments meant for your bondage are gone."

The Lord told him that very soon he would attain the shelter of Mahaprabhu and become one of His most confidential servants under the charge of Sri Svarup Damodar. Lord Nityananda had Raghunath blessed by all the devotees and Raghunath Das offered his dandavat pranams to their lotus feet. Afterwards, with great devotion and humility, Sri Raghunath Das gave gold coins to Raghava Pandit saying, "I want to give money just to worship the lotus feet of all the great devotees, servants and subservants of Lord Nityananda." He also secretly gave one hundred gold coins and about seven tolas of gold for Lord Nitai. Raghunath Das left for home with a heart full of devotion. Desire realised is a sweetness to the soul. His mind was peaceful and happy because he knew that he had received the merciful benediction of Nityananda Prabhu and soon he would find his heart's treasure at the lotus feet of his Lord Gaurahari in Sridham Puri.

Sometimes a tiny glimpse of a Vaisnava's sincere humility will cause one's heart to break.

Srila Guru Maharaj said that Srila Raghunath Das Goswami is considered to be our Prayojanacharyya, the guide to show us the highest fulfilment of life: Radha-dasyam. All the Vaisnavas give honour and praise to Srila Raghunath Das Goswami whose qualities are too numerous to list here. When Mahaprabhu told Raghunath Das that the mercy of Krishna is stronger than anything and had delivered him from the ditch of materialistic life, Sri Raghunath Das Goswami prayed:

raghunatha mane kahe, - 'krsna nahi jani
tava krpa kadila ama, - ei ami mani'
Cc Antya 6.194

Raghunath Das answered within his mind, "I do not know who Krishna is. I simply know that Your mercy, O my Lord, has saved me from my family life."

Today is the observance of that glorious Chira-dadhi Mahotsav. In present day Panihati, the tree under which Lord Nityananda sat is still present near the bank of the Ganges. This festival is observed with great joy by the devotees of Sri Sri Dayal Nitai and Gaurahari. By observing this festival we remember how the most magnanimous Sriman Nityananda distributed His divine mercy to Srila Raghunath Das Goswami.

Nitai Gaurahari bol!
All glories to His Divine Grace Srila Govinda Maharaj!
All glories to our divine Sri Guru-varga!
All glories to the sincere devotees of Sri Guru and Sri Gauranga!

ithe aparadha mora na la-io, bhakta-gana
toma sabara charana - mora ekanta sarana
Cc Madhya 7.154
O devotees, please do not consider my offenses in this regard. Your lotus feet are my only shelter.

Offering obeisances,

Compiled and prepared by Jagamohini Dasi for Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math: