A repost from 2010, the events in this article revolve around a special kirtan that is performed each year on Devotthan Ekadashi.
O Beloved! I dreamt I saw a place surrounded by a river. On its wide banks many people danced, just as we do here in Vrindavan on the bank of the Yamuna. They were playing musical instruments like the mridanga, like we do. And I saw a youth, the best of brahmins, with a golden body bright as lightning, drowning the world in a deluge of prema. (Srila Vishwanath Chakravartipad’s Svapnavilāsāmṛtam v. 1, stavāmṛta laharī)
priye! svapne dṛṣṭā saridinasutevātra pulinaṃ
yathā vṛndāraṇye naṭanapaṭavas-tatra bahavaḥ
mṛdaṅgādyaṃ vādyaṃ vividhamiha kaściddvijamaṇiḥ
sa vidyudgaurāṅgaḥ kṣipati jagatīṃ premajaladhau
प्रिये! स्वप्ने दृष्टा सरिदिनसुतेवात्र पुलिनं
यथा वृन्दारण्ये नटनपटवस्तत्र बहवः
मृदङ्गाद्यं वाद्यं विविधमिह कश्चिद्द्विजमणिः
स विद्युद्गौराङ्गः क्षिपति जगतीं प्रेमजलधौ
Where the trees grow with curving branches, making natural archways and alcoves to hide the Divine Couple’s late-night love games; where the Divine Couple come to take shelter after the Ras; where even now nobody goes after dark for fear of death or madness, because the Divine Couple are still here, still performing their lila, and the Forest will not permit any obstacle to their happiness; where Radha and Krishna come together in heart and mind and every limb. This is Nidhivan.
Here Sri Banke Bihari appeared to Swami Haridas, first as two swarups. But when the brilliance of Radharani’s complexion and her Love blinded him to Krishna’s presence, they merged to become a single form. Here a special murti of Srimatiji testifies to a certain secret lila, wherein She took on Krishna’s persona and dress, played his flute, and made him dance like a gopi in the Ras, along with her sakhis like Lalita and Visakha. This is Nidhivan.
Shri Ramdas Babaji Maharaj said, brajer nibhrta kunjer nibhrta kunja, nabadwip roope vekata. This is Nidhuvan, This is Nadiya. Radha and Krishna are always separated and never apart – only in this secret of secret Kunjas is this statement made true.
Swapnavilas Kirtan in Nidhivan
Perhaps it was for that very reason that every year on the last ekadashi of Kartik, Devotthan Ekadashi, Babaji Maharaj would come to Nidhivan to perform kirtan. Based on four songs by the ancient rasik padakartas of the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition, the Svapnavilas Kirtan tells the story of Radharani’s unusual dream of one night. The kirtan begins as follows.
nidhubane duhu jane, chaudike sakhigane,
shutiyache rasera alase
chakite chandramukhi, uthilena swapna dekhi, re!
kandi kandi kahen badhu pashe…
“One morning Shri Radha and Krishna were sleeping in Nidhivan surrounded by their dear sakhis, when suddenly Radharani woke up crying. Radharani said to Krishna, “O my Beloved! Wake up! I have had the most amazing dream.
“‘I dreamt I saw a handsome youth with a body bright as gold. I have never seen anyone like him. In a battle of beauty, his gorgeous figure would conquer an army of kamdevs. He was full of sweetest joy, the prince of bliss.
“’His tender golden body was ornamented with jewels of ecstasy like shivering and tears. The soft hairs of his body stood on end as he sang and danced in perfect madness. Seeing his incomparable form, the home of all loveliness and radiance, my eyes were soothed and my heart was spellbound.’
“Radharani anxiously cried, ‘O Beloved! Why does my mind yearn so much for this other boy? From the day I was born until today I have known nothing in waking, dreams or deep sleep but your beautiful body, dark as a raincloud, a deep well brimming with ras. Why now this strange reversal? In my life here in Vrindavan I have seen men and gods, sylvan sprites and even Narayan himself. Seeing them never satisfied my mind, but this Gauranga has stolen my heart!’
“As she spoke Radharani fell unconscious. Then that supreme romantic Shri Krishna embraced Radharani and kissed her again and again (as the poet Jagadananda watches in delight).”
Click below to hear the Swapnavilas Kirtan sung by Shri Ramdas Babaji Maharaj’s grand-disciple Shri Birbhadra Das Babaji (live recording from Nidhivan, Devotthan Ekadashi 2014):
Swapnavilas Kirtan and the Prostitute Nayantara
In Babaji Maharaj’s time, too, something happened here in Nidhivan which is worth recalling when we sit to relish this kirtan. This story is related in Sri Brajagopal Das Agrawal’s Hindi book on Babaji Maharaj’s life, Mere Dadu – Sri Ramdas Babaji Maharaj. It is also mentioned very briefly in The Life of Love, but Brajagopal Ji’s account is much more elaborate:
“It was around noontime during a solar eclipse in the year 1922. Babaji Maharaj had just returned from celebrating a Naam Yagya at the home of Munsif Ramchandra Babu in Raghunathpur. This time he came to bless the city of Bankura with Kirtan. The people danced joyfully with their arms in the air; the shopkeepers showered candy over the crowd; the women ululated and blew conchells. The kirtan passed through Bara Bazaar, Kiraniganj, Poddarpara… and soon they were near the red light district. When they heard the sound of the kirtan, the prostitutes came out to have a look.
“All of a sudden, a gorgeous young woman fell to the ground, grabbed onto Babaji Maharaj’s feet and started wailing. She said, ‘You are my Nitaichand! You have to save this fallen woman, or I will never let you go!’ Far from touching women or wealth, Babaji Maharaj was totally unacquainted with the faintest scent of worldly pleasures. Such a mahatyagi renunciant was he… yet now this voluptuous young prostitute had latched on to his feet. With much difficulty, his companions were able to pull her away.
“Being an extension of his beloved Lord Nityananda himself, Srila Babaji Maharaj’s compassion overflowed. Trembling, with hair standing on end and tears of ecstasy pouring from his eyes, Babaji Maharaj gave diksha to the prostitute, whose name was Nayantara. Then, saying, ‘Nitai, Nitai!’ he sent her on her way.
“But Nayanatara’s story does not end there. Come, let’s hear the rest of her tale. After getting the kripa of a capable guru in the form of Srila Babaji Maharaj, the very next day she left for Braj. Whatever she had, she gave away to the other women of her neighborhood. Upon arriving in Braj, she took bhek (a vow of renunciation) from Tota Madhavdas Babaji of Kusum Sarovar. He arranged for her to stay with an elderly Vaishnavi in Abhiram Kunj, and told his bhek disciple Bhavananda Baba to make arrangements for her Prasad.
“Bhavananda had tempered his body and mind through intense discipline and spiritual practice, but somehow Nayantara made him restless. He kept going to her to bring Prasad by the order of his bhek guru Sri Madhavadas Ji – but internally he kept on praying to his diksha guru Srila Babaji Maharaj, ‘Prabhu, please save me from this danger!’
“Babaji Maharaj in the form of antaryami (the Lord in the heart) heard his plea. It was Kartik. One night as Bhavananda was doing his japa, his heart became restless, and disturbing thoughts overwhelmed his mind. He decided at that moment, that before any impropriety could occur that night, he would go to Yamuna before sunrise and give up his life in her waters.
“As soon as he made that decision, a Vaishnava came and said, ‘Babaji Maharaj has just arrived in Vrindavan. He is sitting in the old mandir of Govindaji and doing kirtan. He’s calling for you. He wants you to come right now.’ Paying obeisance to Babaji Maharaj in his heart, Bhavananda followed that Vaishnava. Seeing Babaji Maharaj weeping in kirtan, body trembling and thrilling in bliss, and hearing his voice overflowing with nectar, Bhavananda’s mind became peaceful.
“As the sun rose, Babaji Maharaj finished the kirtan and got up. Bhavananda went to him and fell at his feet.
“Babaji Maharaj said, ‘Go to Nabadwip now. Haridas Das* is waiting for you.’ Upon reaching Nabadwip, Bhavananda lived and performed bhajan in a hut at Prachin Mayapur ghat.
“Ten or eleven years passed. It was 1933. Babaji Maharaj was in Vrindavan for the Ras Purnima festival. On Devotthan Ekadashi, he performed the Svapnavilas kirtan in Nidhivan. In the course of the kirtan, he described how Krishna told Radharani that he would appear in Nabadwip.
“In the words of Radharani, he sang, ‘You are going to leave Braj? We gopis will die without you.’
Babaji Maharaj spontaneously elaborated,
moraa kemone bancbo
tomaare virahe badhu kemone banchbo
Oh Beloved! How can I go on living, separated from you?
“Nayantara was in the audience. Hearing Radharani’s sorrowful words, she suddenly fell at Babaji Maharaj’s feet and entered the nityalila.
“Bhavananda heard the news, but nobody ever saw him again after that. Babaji Maharaj told my Gurudev Sri Gauranga Das Babaji, ‘When Bhavananda comes to Vrindavan, keep him with you.’ Bhavananda came to Vrindavan in his siddha deha, there is no doubt about that. Jaya jaya sri guru, prem kalapataru, adbhuta yahako prakash. ‘Glory, glory to Sri Guru, the wishing-tree of love, amazing is his presence in this world.’
“Babaji Maharaj was the very form of sweetness and compassion. He truly lived the example of ‘Hari in the form of Sri Guru’ by always keeping his eye on those who took refuge in him, protecting them and taking them across the ocean of material existence. Chota Haridas gave up his life and sang kirtan for Mahaprabhu in a divine form. It may be that Bhavananda, too, performed seva for Babaji Maharaj’s abhinnapran Sri Gauranga Das Babaji in his manjari svarup – who knows?”
*Haridas Das is a famous saint and servant of Gaudiya Vaishnava literature (Haribol Kutir, Nabadwip).