What would today have been without a mention of Lord Nityananda? The day is almost over and Nitai-pada-kamala is echoing in my mind.
Last year I picked up a fairly new Bengali language publication about Nityananda Prabhu in Kolkata. The author is named Uma Bandyopadhyaya, title is Bangla Charitra Sahitye Nityananda ("Nityananda in Bengali Biographical Literature"). This is her Ph.D. thesis and Kanan Bihari Goswami has written a fulsome foreword.
There are pictures of Ekachakra, Khardaha, Kalna (the house of Surya Sarkhel, Nityananda's father-in-law and Gauridas Pandit's house), and Panihati. They are black and white and not super quality, but still it is nice to see these places. Raghava Pandit's home seems to have been fixed up since the last time I was there.
Some new stuff in this book: I had never heard of a book ascribed to Basu Ghosh called Subarna Bonik Katha o Kirti, "The Subarna Boniks, their story and fame." Strange title for a book by Basu Ghosh. It is about Uddharan Datta, primarily, as far as I can see, recounting Nityananda Prabhu's visit to Saptagram, initiation of Uddharan (his original name was Divakar, but Nitai gave him Radha Krishna mantra and changed his name because he had saved his jati).
According to this work, Uddharan Datta then started preaching all along the west bank of the Ganga as far as Katwa, establishing Nityananda vigrahas carved in wood to go alongside Gauranga. There is a village near Katwa called Uddharanpur, where he apparently lived out the later part of his life. It is not far from Krishnadas Kaviraj's birthplace also.
Nityananda himself established Gaura murti puja in many places, and it appears that Uddharan Datta may have simply added Nityananda murtis next to the ones that were already there.
kaṇṭaka-nagara madhye joto grama chilo
sarvatra prabhura mūrti uddhāraṇa sthāpilo
sahasra deule nityānandera vigraha
śobhā pāya śrī-caitanyera dāru-mūrti saha
Nityananda ordered Shashtibara, one of his best kirtan singers, to remain in Saptagram with Uddharan and this was how it became one of the principal preaching centers in Bengal. The book has a picture of the Gaura Nitai deities there. Unfortunately, I have never had the occasion to see these deities, even though I have been to Triveni, which is just nearby.
I just opened the book at random to be able to say something about Nitai Prabhu today. The next section is about his marriage.
The Caitanya-bhāgavata passage where Mahaprabhu sends Nitai back to Gauda Desh does not contain any specific mention of marriage. Dr. Bandyopadhyaya quotes a verse from Jayananda's Caitanya-maṅgala which does:
nityānanda gosāi tumāra gauḍa-deśa
āji hoite chāḍo gosāi avadhūta-veśa (Jayananda, 217)
nityānanda vivāha korite ādeśilā
gaura ājñāya bhakta-gaṇa nija-deśe gelā (Advaita-prakāśa)
Jayananda also says that Sachidevi told Nitai to get married. She said, "Start wearing the brahmin thread again and get married. Keep my word and it will be well for you." (Jayananda, 75) The author guesses that this took place in about 1519-20.
Nityananda came to stay in Khardaha in 1522. About his life there, UB quotes the Muralī-vilāsa describing the beautiful surroundings of the house by the banks of the Ganga. Virabhadra was born in 1535 in the Kunja Bati. His samadhi is there also.
In 1570, Birbhadra received a large piece of stone from the Nawab, which was then carved into the Shyamasundar deity.
Nityananda's disappearance year is not known with certainty. UB quotes several sources, that he left the world in 1542 (Vaishnava Digdarshini) at the age of 69. Jayananda says the tithi was Ashwin Krishashtami. There are two accounts. Jayananda says it happened during kirtan in the Shyamasundar temple in Khardaha, but this is impossible as there was no Shyamasundar yet. Another book attributed to Vrindavan Das, Nityananda Vamsa Mala, says that Nitai was taking Jahnava to visit Ekachakra and he merged into the Banka Ray deity there.
Bhakti-ratnakara says Nityananda merged into the Banka Ray deity in Ekachakra when he left this world. Anyway, there is no samadhi anywhere, just like there is no samadhi for Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
Interesting quote from Chaitanya Mangala by Jayananda. When the brahmins came complaining about Nityananda's behavior to Mahaprabhu, Mahaprabhu criticized Nitai. But Nitai told him that in the Kali Yuga, austerities are not necessary or helpful in the performance of sankirtan. (kAThinye kirtana kaliyuga dharma nohe) And with that he refused to change his way of doing things.
So, the main things that Nitai did was to get rid of caste consciousness. (jāti bheda nā karimu caṇḍāla javane--Jayananda). In particular, UB points to the Chira-dadhi Mahotsava in Panihati as a "revolutionary event" in Hindu society.
Anyway, while Mahaprabhu was engaged in high deliberations and ecstatic moods with Svarupa and Rama Ray, Nityananda was having kirtan everywhere. heno nitāi bine bhāi, rādhā kṛṣṇa pāite nāi. dṛḍha kori dharo nitāier pāi.