Haridasa Thakur

Introduction

Born in1451 or 1450 into a Muslim family from the village of Buron in Bangladesh, Haridasa was extremely handsome and had aristocratic features. Haridasa was also an intellectual of high order and had tremendous grasp over Sanskrit. After spending some time in Bangladesh, Haridasa later came over to Fulia, near Shantipur, where he met his longtime associate Advaita Acharya. Right from his childhood, Haridasa was completely immersed in the devotion of Lord Krishna.

Haridasa,Advaita Acharya and Mohammedan King

Both Advaita Acharya and the Brahman residents of Fulia were extremely happy with the presence of Haridasa in the area. His glory began to spread at a rapid pace. A Mohammedan administrator, with malevolent intentions, informed his King about Haridasa. The King immediately summoned Haridasa to his court and requested him to give up his activities and instead recite the Kalma. Haridasa replied, “The Supreme Lord is one, though His names might be different. The Hindu sastras are the Puranas and the Muslim sastra is the Koran. Everyone acts as he is inspired by the Lord, as do I. Some Yavanas become Hindus and some Hindus become Yavanas, to worship the Lord. O Maharaja, you can now judge me”. Haridasa further said, “Even if you cut my body into pieces, I will never give up the chanting of Hari nama”. Upon hearing this, the Mohammedan King, who too was cruel-hearted, ordered that Haridasa be beaten up in twenty-two market places and if he survives this torture, only then would he be recognized as a saint.

Thus, Haridasa was openly lashed in the market place, but he could not feel any pain, since he kept on chanting the name of Lord Krishna. The King’s men upon seeing the miracle, requested Haridasa to do something, or else their King would take away their lives. Haridasa, disguised as a dead person, was brought before the King, who ordered the body to be thrown away in the River Ganga. The King’s men followed the orders and after some time Haridasa’s body appeared at the banks of Fulia. The local Brahmanas received Haridasa with great joy and ecstasy.

The Story of the Snake

Haridasa used to chant the Hari Nama inside a cave-like hollow structure at the base of a tree. The tree cave is existent till date in Fulia, on the banks of the River Ganga. However, the devotees were terrified to visit this cave, owing to a poisonous snake which dwelled here. Reacting to the distress of his devotees, Haridasa whispered to the snake,
“My dear sir, if in fact you are residing here, then I am requesting that you please leave by tomorrow, otherwise I myself will definitely leave from here”. Immediately the snake came out of its hole and left the place.

Haridasa’s Loud Chant

Harinodegram, a village in Jessore District, was predominantly inhabited by Brahmins and on one particular day, one of the Brahmins asked Haridasa, “O Haridasa! Why do you chant the holy name loudly? In the scriptures it is recommended to chant within the mind”. Haridasa replied, “The birds, beasts and insects cannot chant themselves, but if they get to hear Hari Nama then they also become delivered. If one chants only to himself then he delivers only himself, but if one chants loudly, the benefit is a hundred times greater. This is the conclusion of the scriptures”. Upon hearing this, the Brahmana abhorred the idea of Hari Nama being chanted by a Shudra. Haridasa did not react, but silently left the place. A few days later the Brahmana was inflicted with Ulcerous Leprosy, which was a punishment for Vaishnava-Aparadha.

Advaita Acharya was so fond of Haridasa, that he offered Haridasa the first prasadam, after the performance of his father’s Shraddha.

Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Haridasa

Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu had manifested himself as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Once, while addressing his devotees, Sri Chaitana Mahaprabhu revealed, “Haridasa! when those Mohammedans were beating you I was ready to destroy them with My Sudarsana Cakra, but as you were praying for their welfare I was unable to do anything. Therefore I accepted their blows on My own body. Just see, the scars are still here on my body”. Upon seeing those scars, Haridasa immediately fainted, out of ecstasy. Haridasa had accompanied Chaitanya Mahaprabhu during his pastimes at Nadia and Jagannath Puri. Haridasa used to worship the Chakra, atop the temple, from a distance, owing to him being a Mohammedan by birth, which would be considered objectionable by some upper caste Brahmanas. After the performance of Mangal Aarti, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu would bring some prasadam of Lord Jagannath for Haridasa and spend some time with him.

Haridasa Thakur receives Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s Grace

Once Haridasa requested Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, “I fear that soon You will close Your pastimes in this material world. My dear Lord, please do not let me see this closing chapter of Your pastimes. Before that day comes let my body fall before You. This is my one cherished desire, my Lord. Allow me to take Your most cherished, worshipful lotus feet and embrace them to my heart. Allow my eyes to gaze at your moon-like face, and let my tongue constantly chant your Holy Names, Shri Krishna Chaitanya. In this state take the life air from my life and allow me to fall at Your feet. Please my Lord if it is possible by Your mercy, fulfill this one wish of mine.” He further pleaded, “Oh my Lord, please hear my plea. I am born in a low family. My body is abominable. I am always engaged in inferior works. Therefore I am the lowest and most condemned amongst men. I am untouchable. But yet You have magnanimously given me the opportunity to serve You. In giving me the opportunity to serve You, You have delivered me from the most horrible hellish conditions and You have elevated me to the platform of Vaikuntha. My Lord, You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead and your independent will is supreme. The whole world is dancing according to your sweet will, and out of your causeless mercy you have made me dance in so many ways. For example even though I am most sinful and most condemned, in the assembly of qualified Brahmins, in the house of Advaita Acharya you gave me the honour of taking the first remnants of the sraadha although I have no qualification for that. My dear Lord, you are always merciful to your Devotee. And although I am not a Devotee – I am only an imitation of your Devotee, I have a very strong desire that I wish You to fulfill. I have had this desire, this one single desire in my heart for a very long time”.

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, finally relented to the ardent request of Haridasa of taking away the air of life from his body and ordered his devotees to arrange for Naam Sankirtana. Thus, amidst ecstatic singing and dancing, Haridasa left the materialistic world. Later, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu organized a feast at the temple, in honor of Haridasa and named him the Acharya of the chanting of Holy Names. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was deeply anguished at the loss of his associate, but found ecstasy in the thought that he has been able to fulfill Haridasa’s wishes.

Teachings

As per Haridasa’s philosophy, Namabhasa or the early and reflective stage of chanting liberates the devotee or gives him Moksha. Whereas, Pure chanting provides Prema or the Love for God.

The Chaitanya Charitamrita narrates the story of a Shakta Brahmana who tried to seduce the celibate Haridasa, by deploying a harlot. The Brahmana was ultimately inflicted punishment, through divine justice, just like the Mohammedan King.

Haridasa, throughout his lifetime, was immersed in the chanting of Hare Krishna mantra, also known as the Maha Mantra, which originally appeared in the Kali-Saṇṭāraṇa Upaniṣhad. The mantra is as follows:

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama
Rama Rama Hare Hare

Haridasa is thus considered as a gem amongst all the Hari Bhaktas and his selfless contributions for the sake of humanity at large, is written in golden letters in the annals of Indian history.

Death

The following verse by Bhaktivinoda Thakura, is inscribed on the tomb of Haridasa at Puri:

“He reasons ill who tells that Vaishnavas die

When thou art living still in Sound!

The Vaishnavas die to live & living try

To spread the holy name around!”

Dr. A.N. Chatterjee aptly mentions that the death of Haridasa is of immense significance in the later years of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Haridasa had breathed his last, grasping onto the lotus feet of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Mahaprabhu had danced in trance, holding the body of Haridasa, along with all his devotees. Mahaprabhu had himself placed the body of Chaitanya in the tomb, located on the shores of Puri.

Portraying the Gaudiya Vaishnava perspective on the death of Haridasa, Prabhupada writes:

“Sometimes devotees are personally attacked with violence. Lord Jesus Christ was crucified, Haridasa Thakura was caned in twenty-two marketplaces, and Lord Caitanya’s principal assistant, Nityananda, was violently attacked by Jagai and Madhai…. Although a Sadhu is not inimical toward anyone, the world is so ungrateful that even a Sadhu has many enemies. However if one gets the association of such a mahatma and is receptive to his blessings, it is believed that one will infallibly be benefited.”