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12 Shridhara Kholavecha
All glories to Shri Kholaveca Shridhara Thakura, who is full of compassion and tenderness. His bananas and radishes were eaten by the Lord Himself, Shri Shri Gauranga Raya. He is Kusumasva cowherd boy in Vraja. More »« Less
Kholaveca Shridhara Thakura lived just on the border of Nadia (Mayapur). He maintained himself by selling bananas, vegetables, banana leaves and cups. Whatever little income he had, fifty percent went for worship of Mother Ganges, and with the rest he somehow or other maintained himself. Towards the end of night, during the early morning hours (brahma muhurta) he would loudly chant Hari Nama. His atheistic hindu neighbours, devoid of devotion, couldn't tolerate this, and they used to berate him with abusive language: "This clumsy, boorish knave couldn't get enough rice to fill his belly, but it is we who have to suffer, as he keeps us awake by his loud moaning in hunger." [C.B.Madhya 9.148]
Shridhara, however, didn't bother with their ranting and raving. Rather, in great happiness, he simply carried out his own business service. In the bazaar at Bamonpukkur he had a store. He was extremely honest and asked a fair price for his banana leaves and vegetables. He didn't like to haggle over the prices, so he simply asked a fair price to begin with. Thus saving valuable time and energy, he used it to remember the Holy Names.
He didn't like to waste time speaking so much. The customers would simply hand him the correct price and take their goods in exchange. Whatever money he got from selling the various parts of the banana plant, bananas and radishes, he would use half for purchasing flowers and sweets for worship of Mother Ganges. Whatever remained he used for maintaining his household.
Sometimes, as instructed by His mother, Lord Gaurasundara would come to the bazaar to purchase bananas, radishes and spinach. He used to barter with Shridhara all the while cutting jokes. Shridhara would sell his goods at a fixed price, so Shri Gaurasundara would offer half that much. Then Shridhar would get up and try to snatch away the vegetables from Shri Gaurasundara's hands. But He wouldn't let go. Finally it would end up that the two of them would be pulling the vegetables back and forth. Then many people would crowd around to see the fun.
One day Mahaprabhu was haggling over the price of a banana flower with Shridhara. When Shridhara tried to snatch back the banana flower, Mahaprabhu chide, "Why do you behave like this, My dear brother Shridhara? Some think that you are renunciant, but I know that you have so much hidden wealth. You are trying to snatch these things out of My hand, but after so many days, you still don't know who I am? I am the father of the Ganges whom you worship. I am only telling you the truth." [C.B. Mad 9.173]
"Shridhara then cried "Vishnu! Vishnu!" and put his hands over his ears. Hearing Nimai Pandita's seeming blasphemy, he thought that perhaps He had gone crazy. But Shridhara then reflected upon Shri Gaurasundara's character very carefully. "Gauranga-sundara's form is beautiful enough to bewilder cupid himself (madana-mohana-rupa-Gauranga-sundara). The beautiful tilaka on His forehead steals one's mind away. His dhoti looks very beautiful tied in three places, and His hair is very wavy.
Two things are very restless: His nature and His eyes. The white brahman thread encircling His body looks so beautiful, as though a subtle form of Ananta is residing on His body. His lips red from chewing pan, He laughs and looks at Shridhara. And again He takes some bananas, picking them up Himself." [C.B. Mad 9.169-172]
As they conversed, Shri Gaurasundara played with the bananas, setting them back down on the ground and then, laughing, picking them up again. Shridhara then said, "Please listen to me, Thakura! I am Your dog, so kindly forgive me. You don't have to pay anything. Take it for free!"
Mahaprabhu replied, "You are very clever, Shridhara! By selling bananas you have become quite wealthy." Then Shridhara, as if to get rid of Him, asked, "My dear Thakura, are there no other stores in this bazaar?" "There are so many, but what is that to Me? You are My regular supplier! Why should I give you up?" "Yes, yes, dear Thakura, now I fall at Your feet. I am defeated by You.
From today, I will give You what You want. You can take things for free."
"But you'll just give Me old, rotten things!"
"Dear Thakura, why should I give you bad vegetables?"
"Then it's all right. Very well, that sounds good."
After disputing in this way for a while, Mahaprabhu went home. Shridhara sat transfixed, gazing after Him. "Someday this boy will be a great liberated soul. How sweetly He speaks and what wonderful expressions He makes! Though He behaves with me in such a ticklish manner, still I feel no remorse in my mind. He doesn't go to any other shop in the market but comes only to me. I am so fortunate!"
Every day Shri Gaurasundara used to eat vegetable preparations of Shridhara's banana stalks and banana flowers from his banana leaf plates and cups.
"The Lord eats what is offered by His devotees. He doesn't even look at what may be offered by nondevotees even though there may be ten million varieties of preparations." [C.B. 9.185] Every day, Shri Gaurasundara would go for walks and wander throughout the town with His disciples. One day He came to Shridhara's house. Shridhara knew the Lord very well, having seen Him so many times in the marketplace. Though He did not cut jokes today, Gaurasundara would not leave Shridhara's place. Shridhara offered Shri Gaursundara a seat. Sitting down, Shri Gaurahari told Shridhara, "All day you chant 'Hari, Hari'. You worship Shri Shri Laksmi-Narayana as well. But how is it you are so poor? You have so little to eat and your clothes are so meager!"
"But Thakura, though I may eat little I am not fasting, and as for my clothes, whether they are few or many, still I wear something."
"My dear Shridhara, you may indeed be wearing some cloth, but I see that it is patched in at least ten places. And though you live in a house, there is no thatching on the roof. Just see, the people of Navadwipa worship Goddess Candi and Durga. They get so much material happiness from this, isn't that so?"
"You have spoken correctly, dear Thakura. Still, everyone's days are passing the same. The king lives in a jewelled palace and eats dainty foodstuffs and wears the most excellent apparel. And the birds simply live in the treetops. But tomorrow they will become equals, because everyone has to reap the results of his own activities according to the will of the Lord." [C.B. Adi 12.189-190]
Then Mahaprabhu began to joke again. "Shridhara! I know you have so much wealth, but you are simply hiding it! I am going to tell everyone! I see how you cheat the people!"
"Thakura! You should go home now! I don't want to quarrel with You." "Just one more thing, Shridhara. Whatever you want to give Me, please
bring it now. Unless you give me something, I cannot leave here"
"Look, Pandita! I am a poor man. By selling banana stalks and bananas, I am not even able to feed myself properly. I just don't have anything suitable to give You."
"All right, let your buried riches remain hidden. For now, just give Me some banana stalks, bananas and banana flowers."
Shridhara thought to himself, "This brahmana youngster might be somewhat touched in the head. If I answer back too much He might even beat me. And, because He is the son of a brahmana, if He beats me, I won't be able to retaliate. Then again, I can't afford to give vegetables and bananas away to Him for free everyday. Yet again, because He is a brahmana and thus an expansion of the Lord, whatever service I can render to Him is actually my great fortune."
Then he spoke. "You don't have to pay me anything today, Thakura. Here, take these bananas, banana stalks and banana flowers! But don't quarrel with me anymore."
"If you give away nice things, my dear Shridhara, who can quarrel with you? But give nice ones. Don't give a blind cow in charity to a brahmana!"
Thus having again enjoyed some joking words with Shridhara, Shri Gaurasundara, along with His disciples, got ready to set out for His house. Just as He was about to leave, he again asked Shrid?hara, "What do you think of Me? If you tell Me truthfully, then I'll go."
"You are the son of a brahmana. An expansion of Vishnu."
"Shridhara! I'm surprised you still don't know who I am! I am a cowherd boy! The glories of your Mother Ganges are also due to Me."
"You don't even respect Mother Ganges! As people get older, they become subdued and temperate, but at Your age You are getting more and more restless. Now You had better go home. Don't fight with me anymore."
Hearing Shridhara's parting words, Shri Gaurasundara laughed and went home. For as long as the Lord chooses not to reveal Himself, no one can recognize Him.
For a few more days, Shri Gaurasundara continued with His daily pastimes of learning and education. But then He went to Gayadhama where His mood radically changed. By the time He returned home He was completely intoxicated with love for Krishna. He was now intensely absorbed in the moods of transcendence; the courtyard of Shrivasa Pandita's house was the principal place where these manifestations of divine rapture blossomed forth with the outpouring of His heart. It is not possible to describe the ecstatic transformations which occured in His person. They gradually increased with the passage of day to night and night to day.
One day, Mahaprabhu decided to reveal His true self, and sitting on the throne of Lord Vishnu within Shrivasa Pandit's temple, He began to display His divine potencies. At that time He called His devotees, one after another.
"Bring Shridhara here! Let him see My divine form. He has executed so many penances and austerities and tolerated so much trouble in order to have My darsana."
Though it was the middle of the night, as the devotees approached Shridhara's house, they could hear him chanting the Holy Names. As they arrived, they called out, "Shridhara! Shridhara!" But he was so much absorbed in loudly chanting the Holy Names of Hari that at first he didn't hear them. After a little while he became conscious of their presence and coming out of his house he saw their shining faces in the moonlight. "What brings you here in the middle of the night?"
"Shridhara! Hurry up! Mahaprabhu is calling you. He sent us to bring you!" Simply hearing mention of Mahaprabhu, Shridhara fainted to the ground in a swoon of ecstatic love." [C.B. Mad 9.154]
The devotees picked him up and brought him to see Mahaprabhu. Seeing His dear devotee, Mahaprabhu called out, "Shridhara! Come here, come here! In order to get a glimpse of Me, you have performed so much worship in so many births, and in this life as well you have served Me so much. With great satisfaction have I tasted your vegetables, bananas and banana flowers, eaten with rice from your banana leaves. Shridhara, have you forgotten all this?! Shridhara! Just get up and see My divine form. This form even the personified Vedas are not qualified to see."
Shridhara very slowly got up and began to gaze at the divine form of the Lord.
Tamal Shyamal dekhe sei Vishwambhar
Hate Mohan bansi dakkhine Balaram
Mahajyotirmoy sab dekhe vidyaman
Kamala tambul dei hater upare
catur mukh pancamukh age stoti kore
[C.B. Mad 9.190]
"He saw his Lord Visvambhara, but with a bluish bodily complexion, holding in His hand the flute and accompanied by Balarama standing on His right. Emanating from the Lord and His associates he saw an effulgence illuminating the temple. The goddess of fortune was handing Him betel and pan leaves, while Lord Brahma and Lord Siva continued to recite hymns."
Seeing his Lord Gaurasundara in His form of Syamasundara, Shridhara again fell to the ground in a swoon of love of God. By His touch, Mahaprabhu brought him back to consciousness and told him to offer hymns in praise of Himself. Shridhara replied, "Thakura! I don't know anything."
"My dear Shridhara, whatever you say will be a hymn in praise of Me and I bless you that the goddess of learning, Mother Sarasvati, be present on your tongue."
Then Shridhara proclaimed, "Jaya jaya Mahaprabhu, jaya Visvambhara, (the Maintainer of the universe). Jaya jaya Navadvipa Purandara (Who is full with all beauty). Jaya jaya ananta brahmanda kotinatha (the Lord of tens of millions of universes) Jaya jaya saci punyavati garbhajata (Who took birth from the womb of the pious and chaste Saci).
Jaya jaya Vedagopya jaya dvijaraja (Who is hidden within the Vedas and is the Lord of the brahmanas). Yuge yuge dharma pal kari nana saja (Who comes in various forms to uphold religions during the different ages). [C.B. Mad 9.200-202]
In this way Shridhar offered prayers for almost an hour and a half. Being very pleased, Mahaprabhu told him, "Now ask any benediction from Me."
"Thakura, I don't want any benediction. But if You want to bless me someway then this is my request:
Se brahman kari nilo mor kholapat
Se brahman hauk mor janma janma nath
Se brahman mor sange karilo kondol
Mor Prabhu hauk tar caran yugal [C.B. Mad 9/224]
"That brahmana who snatched away my banana leaves and cups, may He be my Lord birth after birth. That brahmana Who would wrangle with me over the price of my bananas, may His lotus feet always be my object of worship."
Having requested this blessing, Shridhara began to cry very loudly.
Seeing his tears of love, the devotees also began to cry. Mahaprabhu replied, "You, Shridhara, are My servant birth after birth. I have tested you in so many ways, but I am extremely pleased with your conduct. I have become indebted to you by your service and love for Me."
Hearing these loving words from Mahaprabhu the devotees made the sky reverberate with the sounds of "Hari! Hari!" "Neither wealth, followers or scholarship do they desire. Who can understand these servants of Shri Chaitanya? What is the effect of learning, wealth, beauty, fame and aristocratic birth, other than to simply increase one's false ego and thus bring about one's end. What Shridhar gained, simply by selling bananas and radishes, is unatainable by the richest of men in tens of millions of ages." [C.B. Mad 9.283-235]
After performing various pastimes with His devotees in Nadianagara, the Lord then desired to perform the pastime of accepting sannyasa in order to deliver all the living entities. The day before His departure He passed in ecstatic dancing and chanting of the Holy Names, and in the evening returned to His house. The devotees accompanied Him there.
"Today how unprecedentedly beautiful Prabhu looks! Smiling so sweetly He is presenting His flower garlands to His various devotees, who are floating in oceans of bliss. Advaita Acarya is here, Shrivasa Pandit and Shri Vakresvara Pandit, and here comes Shridhara with a bottle gourd in his hand, to offer to Mahaprabhu."
Taking the gourd in His hand Mahaprabhu began to laugh. He thought to Himself, "How will I go to take sannyasa without first eating Shridhara's bottle gourd? I can't refuse the offerings of My devotees."
He called His mother - "Ai! Shridhara has taken the trouble to bring this gourd! Cook it and offer it to Krishna."
Just at that time another devotee brought some milk. So Saci Mata prepared halavah from the gourd and milk and after offering to the Deity she brought it before her son. While feeding His devotees He honoured the prasada Himself also.
"Shridhara! How can I refuse what you have brought for Me? But tell Me if you will honor My request."
"Thakura! Just say whatever it is. Why shouldn't I be able to keep Your request?" "Then please come here to My house every day so that I can see you."
After enjoying some joking words with His devotees He instructed them to always engage in Shri Krishna sankirtana. Then He prepared to take rest. In the dead of night He left to accept sannyasa. When He resided at Puri, Shridhara used to come every year with the other Bengali devotees to see Him.