Vishnupriya devi

 

     The Supreme Lord Visnu has three different Saktis: Sri, Bhu, and Nila. Sri Visnupriya is the internal potency known as Bhu-sakti. She appeared in Gaura-lila to assist Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu with his mission of spreading the holy name of Krsna.

     In Nabadwipa-dhama there lived a brahmana named Sanatana Misra, who was an extremely exalted Visnu-bhakta. He was a pious and generous brahmana as well, and used to feed, clothe and shelter many people. He was famous as the king of panditas.  In fact, in Dvapara-yuga, he had been a king named Satrajit.  As a result of his pure devotion to Visnu he was blessed with a beautiful daughter who was rich in all good qualities. From her early childhood, Visnupriya devi used to bathe in the Ganges three times daily. She was devoted to her parents and carefully followed the scriptural principles, and performed puja, arcana, and served the tulasi tree, while observing many different vows of austerity and piety.

     Every day, when Visnupriya went to visit the Ganges, she would bow at the feet of Mother Saci with great humility. When Sacidevi noticed the modest and beautiful Visnupriya-devi she gave Visnupriya-devi her blessing that she might find a good husband, saying, “May Krsna bestow upon you a good husband.” Fom that moment, she began thinking of how  Visnupriya would make a good bride for her son Nimai. Upon further inquiry she found that the girl's name was Visnupriya, that she was the daughter of Sanatana Misra, a wealthy and respect pandita of Nabadwipa.

     At this time, the Lord's first wife, Laksmipriya had passed away and entered into the spiritual domain. Saci's heart had been tormented with great pain at first, but as the days passed, she had become anxious for her son's happiness. In this way she began to think of  quickly arranging for a new bride for her son. When she found that Sri Gaurasundra had no objections to the idea, Sacidevi  began to make arrangements in earnest.  She sent a servant to the house of Kasinatha Pandita, the matchmaker to arrange an appointment.  When she met with Kasinatha Pandita, she proposed that a match be made between Nimai Pandita and Visnupriya-devi, saying, “Speak to the Raja-pandita; If he so desries he may bestow his daughter's hand in marriage upon my son Nimai.”  When the matchmaker heard of these plans, he was overjoyed and was eager to conclude the arrangements quickly.  He set out immediately for the house of Sanatana Misra, chanting the holy name of Hari in jubilation.

     According to caste, Sanatana Misra was situated in a higher social position, and so might not agree to the wedding. Saci was concerned that Sanatana Misra, who was higher in social position would refuse to marry his daughter to Nimai Pandita, the son of poor parents, and who had a reputation as an eccentric.

      When Sacimata submitted the proposal to the matchmaker, he was highly pleased. When she told him she was worried whether or not Sanatana Misra would accept the idea, she said, “Thakurani! If Sanatana Misra wouldn't give his daughter's hand in marriage to Nimai Pandita, whom would he have her marry?”

      Meanwhile, Sanatana Misra had always hoped that Visnupriya would be wed to Nimai Pandita. In fact, for a long time Sanatana Misra himself had been considering just such a match.  As he had seen his daughter approaching marriageable age, he had begun keeping his eye our for a boy who would make her a suitable husband.  After surveying the field, he concluded that the best possible husband for her would be Nimai Pandita.  He was the only choice of Sanatana Misra, who found that in personal beauty and in good qualities Nimai Pandita had no equal.  His age was also just right. He thought that if such a perfect match could take place, he would be extremely fortunate. He prayed to Hari, “O Lord! If I have any pious credits as a result of my previous births, let  my daughter and Nimai Pandita be married.”

     One day, just as the brahmana and his wife were confidentially discussing the possibility of arranging their daughter's wedding, Kasinatha Pandita, the matchmaker sent by Sacidevi, arrived. Sanatana Misra offered him a respectful seat and  a glass of sweet water.  Sanatana Misra thought within himself that the appearance of the famous matchmaker Kasinatha Misra must bode well for him. He began to think that perhaps his prays had been answered. He said, “Pandita! What news?”  Kasinatha Pandita smiled and explained to him all about Sacimata's plans for the marriage of Nimai Pandita and Visnupriya-devi.

     This is recorded in the Caitanya-Bhagavata as follows: Kasinatha Pandita said, “You should give your daughter in marriage to Visvambhara Pandita, and thus arrange a wedding between the  divine Lord and your daughter, the highly chaste and gentle Visnupriya-devi. Visnupriya and Nimai Pandita would make a perfect match. It would be a marriage made in heaven, just as the wedding of Rumkini-devi  and Sri Krsna.”

     Hearing the news of Kasinatha Pandita, Sanatana Misra and his wife felt as if  their souls had been stolen by happiness. The Supreme Lord, acting as the Supersoul within, knew their heartfelt desires to marry their daughter to Nimai Pandita and satisfied their desire.

     Sanatana Misra said, “O Kasinatha Pandita Prabhu, how is it that you come to suggest such a thing?”  Then Kasinatha Pandita explained everything about Sacidevi's proposals for the wedding and told him that marrying his daughter to Nimai Pandita would be the cause of supreme good fortune, both for his daughter and for his family.  Sanatana Misra was overjoyed, and discussed everything with relatives and friends for their approval. As all of them said, “This wedding should be performed immediately.”  eagerly set about making all the necessary arrangements with the matchmaker Kasinatha Pandita, saying, ““By all means, I shall give my daughter's hand in marriage to Nimai Pandita.  This will certainly enhance the good fortune of my entire family. Go to them and give them my assurances. You have my word.”

      In this way, Kasinatha Pandita, having set everything right with Sanatana Misra, retruned to the house of with great satisfaction Sacidevi and told her everything about their meeting.  After hearing all this, Sacidevi said, “Now I have done everything that I can. The rest is up to Sri Hari; now everything is in the hands of Providence.”

     Nimai himself, up to this point knew nothing of all this; but after everything was set, his mother informed him of the arrangements she had made and Nimai gave his consent to the marriage.  When the people of Nabadwipa heard that Nimai Pandita was soon to be married they were filled with joy.

      Different friends of the family and students of Nimai Pandita wanted to step forward and offer something charity so that the wedding would be a success, but a rich landowner named Bhuddhimanta Khan proclaimed, “I myself will bear the entire cost of the wedding!”  Mukunda Sanjaya, in whose worship hall Nimai Pandita conducted his school said, “Listen, friend and brother: why should you bear all the expense? Let us share some of the cost with you. We all wish to ensure the success of this event.” But Buddhimanta Khan refused saying, “Listen my brother: this wedding is not to be performed in the style of poor brahmanas, but in a manner entirely fit for a prince. This is not a time for brahminical austerity.” Nimai Pandita's students also took the matter seriously and helped to see to it that the wedding was a grand one, with great pomp and circumstance.

     Thereafter an auspicious day was selected, and at an auspicious time, the preliminary ceremonies began. The  whole of  Nabadwipa turned out for the wedding of Sri Nimai Pandita and Srimati Visnupriya-devi. Immense canopies were set up, and an enclosure was made with rows of plaintain trees. Sri Nimai Pandita and his new bride looked beautiful together,  dressed in fine garments. Decorated with all the traditional wedding ornaments, the two of them shone together on the raised wedding platform as radiantly as the spotless harvest moon. The temple was also finely decorated: the earth was sprinkled with colored rice powder in paintings of auspicious symbols, and fresh green plaintain leaves created a festive atmosphere. The temple was also decorated with waterpots filled with fresh water, as well as mango leaves, lighted ghee lamps, new rice paddy, as well as pots filled with yogurt, and many other auspicious things.

     Not only did the whole of Nabadwipa turn out for the wedding, but people came from all the neighboring villages from miles around to see the wonderful event.  Everyone was invited. The poets came and sang the songs they had composed in honour of the happy couple. Many friends and well-wishers came to congratulate Sacidevi and express their best wishes for the nuptial bliss of Sri Nimai and Visnupriya-devi. 

As noon approached, musicians began playing their instruments—mrdanga, sanai, big drums, cymbals, all arose together in song to create a beautiful sound. The professional poets chanted verses of praise, and everything was auspicious. Then Lord Visnu was worshiped, bhoga was offered to the Deities and arotika was performed, and the auspcious wedding ceremony was performed.

     As the wedding took place, everyone's eyes were upon Nimai and Visnupriya as if to devour the beauty of the divine couple.  The ladies present there all adored Nimai, but so pure were their hearts upon seeing the holy spectacle that none of them felt the least bit of envy or jealously at Visnupriya-devi's good fortune. Within the inner parts of the house reserved for the ladies, the sounds of jubilation were uproarious.  Some of them sounded the call of the peacocks as is traditionally done by Hindu ladies on festive occasions, while others blew on conches to celebrate.

     All the Vaisnavas present chanted the glories of Hari. And brahmanas chanted the Vedas, as the jewel of the twiceborn took his seat in their midst. The brahmanas surrounded him on all sides with great enthusiasm. At the wedding of the Lord the four directions were inundated by a sea of joy; those who did not drown in that sea of joy simply floated in bliss.

     The ceremonial offerings of sweet water and betel nut to the new bride and groom were made. And one by one all the devotees and brahmanas stepped forward had their brows  daubed with sandalwood pulp by the Lord,  placed fragrant garlands of exotic flowers around their necks and gave them boxes of betel nuts. It was impossible to count all the brahmanas who had gathered there. Among them, some were greedy, and after standing in line once for garlands and betel-nut, they would again get in line, repeatedly receiving gifts of sandalwood, garlands, and betel. Everyone was lost in a sea of joy, and did not notice this, as Gauranga Himself ordered that gifts be given three times over for everyone. The stock of garlands, sandalwood paste, and betel turned out to be endless; this was a great miracle that no one could understand. What to speak of what the people gathered there actually received, what was disgarded and left on the ground was enough for five weddings.  Everyone cheerfully made their offerings of auspicious gifts to the Lord and Visnupriya-devi. And in this way, all of Nadia was drowned in the ocean of bliss. 

     Everyone said, “This purificatory ceremony is praiseworthy beyond belief: we have seen great wealth in Nabadwipa before, but such a celebration on the eve of a wedding has never taken place.  No one has ever given such charity to the brahmanas with such an open hand. Sanatana Misra, the Raja-pandita, filled with delight, arrived with all manner of auspicious articles just suitable for the occasion, accompanied with friends, relatives, and brahmanas amdist a joyous display of dance, song, and musical performances. With a cheerful mind, he then performed the ceremony of anointing the Lord with perfume, and then the crowd began a triumphal chant in praise of the holy name of Hari.

     Sri Gaurasundara performed the customary cermonies, worshiping Visnu and the ancestors amid a happy atmosphere of song and dance. Earthen vessels filled with water, unhusked rice, curd, lamps, and mango twigs decorated the hall and the courtyard as the banners waved.  With all these decorations, an auspicious atmosphere was created. Then Sacidevi in the compnay of the local ladies began to perform the customary rites, worshiping the Ganges and the goddess Sasthi. Finally she returned home and loaded the local ladies down with charity: she made gifts of rice, plaintains, ghee, betel, and vermillion. By the Lord's mystic power, she was able to give all these things in abundance beyond belief.  All the women were drowned in ghee, rice, and vermillion beyond measure and everyone's desires were thus fulfilled and their minds pacified.

     The mother of Visnupriya-devi also rejoiced with the local ladies, and the pious Sanatana Misra himself swam in the ocean of ecstatic delighht. Sri Gaurasundara meanwhile, had finished performing all the duties enjoined by the sastras, and sat smiling in a leisurely fashion for some time.

     Thereafter, Sri Gaurasundara satisfied the brahmanas by distributing great wealth in charity. He humbly gave them nice foodstuffs and fine cloth in charity, honoring everyone according to his status with appropriate gifts, respects, and affection. After all this, the brahmanas returned to their homes for their afternoon meals.  Having already performed his ceremonial duties, Sanatana Misra had returned home to prepare for the Lord's arrival.

     As the afternoon wore on, the Lord's devotees and well-wishers took great pleasure in decorating the person of the Lord. They anointed his body with sandalwood paste and perfumed oils. Upon his forehead they painted a crescent moon with sandalwood paste.  Then they crowned his forehead with a tiara and covered his body with garlands. After giving him beautiful garments to wear, they applied collyrium to his lotus eyes.  Then they tied unhusked rice, kusa grass and fine thread to his arm and placed in His lotus hand a fresh plaintain leaf and a mirror. His ears were ornamented with golden earrings and his forearms and biceps with bangles and gold chains. And as they decorated the Lord's body, his devotees were enchanted and entranced.

     As the sun began to set, everyone said, “Let us now perform the auspicious ceremony of starting for the house of the bride. After circumambulating Nabadwipa, Nimai Pandita will arrive near the bride's house at the end of twilight.  At that time, Buddhimanta Khana, having prepared the palanquin, had it brought there. A loud vibration of chanting and songs arose, as the brahmanas chanted hymns from the Vedas and the poets again sang their verses. Sri Gaurasundara, after receiving all the wedding gifts offered to the bride and groom, offered his humble respects to his mother, the brahmanas,  and his guru, bowing down before their feet. 

After this  Gaurasundara was carried upon a palanquin to the banks of the Ganges amidst cries of jubilation. After bathing in the Ganges and offering respects to Gangadevi,  he again sat upon the wedding palanquin as the poets sang auspicious prayers that resounded throughout the four directions with the glories of the Lord as the festival procession began.

     The parade itself is wonderful to recall: thousands of torches were lit and various musical instruments created a sweet vibration as the singers sang and dancers danced.  Behind the palanquin marched the foot-soldiers of Buddhimanta Khan and all his servants and bearers in parallel lines. Behind them marched the flag-bearers who held various multi-colored banners of wondrous designs and emblems.  After the flag-bearers were the clowns and tumblers, magicians and dancing actors, entertaining the crowd. All kinds of musicians followed the procession with their various instruments: victory drums, war drums, wedding drums, mrdangas, kholas, patasas, conches, flutes made of reeds, cymbals, varanga, horns, all produced a great concert.  Hundreds of thousands of children danced in that procession as Sri Gaurasundara smiled. Not only children behaved like children, but the old and wise also threw off their inhibitions and danced like jubilant peacocks.

     They all halted on the banks of the Ganges for some time, where there was a wonderful concert of music, song, and dance.  At last, after bowing to the Ganges and circumambulating the whole of Nabvadwipa, the wedding procession of Nimai Pandita arrived at the home of Sanatana Misra, where Visnupriya-devi waited eagerly to meet her new husband.

     In this way, as the sun set over Nabadwipa dhama, Nimai Pandita arrived at the house of his waiting bride  accompanied by music, torches and fireworks and followed by a garish parade and a huge crowd.  On beholding the vast and superhuman procession, the people gathered there were awed. “Such opulence surpasses that of even the King of Heavan or the Lord of Vaikuntha,” they said, “Never before have we seen such pomp and circumstance,”  they said.  “What opulence!”  Those unlucky brahmanas who failed to marry their own daughters to Nimai Pandita all though to themselves that they had missed an opportunity that only passes once in many lifetimes.

       Upon reaching the house of Sanatana Misra, there was an uproar of triumphal shouts of joy.  The musicians, competing to defeat each other in dexterity and tempo,  began playing faster and faster and the crowd became excited.  The Raja-pandita, Sri Sanatana Misra came forward to greet the Lord and helping him down from the palanquin, he took him by the hand, led him to the seat of honor within the wedding hall and made him sit. He had made many grand arrangements to accommodate the bride and groom and was overjoyed to see Nimai Pandita's arrival at his home. After seating the Lord, he too took his seat, so that he could perform the reception ceremonies. Sanatana Misra then offered the Lord water for washing his feet, and a fragrant mouthwash for rinsing his mouth.  He also offered the Lord fine garments and ornaments, thus welcoming the Lord to his family and home.

     After this, Sanatana Misra's wife, in the company of the ladies present there did her part in the ceremony.  She placed a finely woven wreath of fresh rice stalks and blades of kusa straw upon the Lord's beautiful head and after performing the arotika ceremony and waving the lamp of seven wicks, she chanted various hymns, threw rice, and blew the conch.  After all the customary rituals had been thus performed, they carried Sri Visnupriya-devi, Laksmi herself, into the wedding arena on a palanquin.

      It is said that Nimai Pandita, royally dressed in the finery of his wedding garments put cupid himself to shame. When the Supreme Goddess of Fortune, Visnupriya appeared before the assembled devotees, brahmanas, and guests garbed in silk and richly adorned with jewels, she looked just like an angel from heaven. 

      With her radiance dazzling the eyes of all present, she performed the traditional circumambulation of the groom, walking in seven circles around Sri Nimai Pandita, before offering herself at his feet by bowing down. According to tradition they were required to exchange their first glances with one another at that time, but due to her natural shyness, Visnupriya-devi  was unable to look upon the Lord's holy face. But according to the customs of Hindu marriage this ceremony had to be performed. A screen was therefore placed around the bride and groom, that they might privately exchange their first glance at one another. At first glance they re-established their eternal relationship, for just as Laksmi and Narayana are eternally inseparable, Sri Visnupriya-devi and Sri Gaurasundara are eternally related to one another as consorts.

     At last the Supreme Laksmi, Visnupriya-devi exchanged garlands with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Gaura-Narayana, and at that time the crowd let out  a tumultuous roar of jubilation.  Visnupriya-devi first offered the garlands at the holy feet of the Lord, thus surrendering herself. After this, Lord Gaurasundara picked up the garlands and placed them around Visnupriya's neck.  At this time, Laksmi and Narayana, (Visnupriya-devi and Sri Gauranga) began throwing flowers at each other with great delight, while from above, in the heavens, all the gods headed by Brahma invisibly showered flowers upon the divine couple.

     At that time, various mock quarrels broke out between the families of the two parties as everyone laughed and joked with one another.  The Lord smiled, and his smile brought bliss to the hearts of all who were assembled there. As thousands of torches burned brightly, the crowd became ecstatic. Their cries of joy filled the four directions with a pleasing vibration as the bride and groom beheld each other for the first time.

     Then Sanatana Misra with joyful heart sat down to officially give his daughter away to Nimai Pandita. Having washed his feet and rinsed his mouth, he performed the ceremony of bestowing his daughter's hand upon the Lord.  At that time he gave the Lord as a dowry many cows, lands, and servants. After this the final fire sacrifice was performed, and having finished all the scriptural procedures and having observed all the rituals, ceremonies and customs of a proper Hindu wedding, they led the bride and groom into their new quarters within the palatial home of the Raja-pandita, Sanatana Misra. And as the two of them resided there, the house of Sanatana Misra was transformed into Vaikuntha.

     Who can describe the ecstasy tasted by Sanatana Misra and his family upon the wedding of their beloved Visnupriya-devi to Nimai Pandita? The same good fortune that was bestowed upon Janaka Maharaja when his daughter Sita was married to Rama, the same good fortune that was showered upon Bhishmaka when his daughter Rukmini was married to Sri Krsna was now being rained upon Sri Sanatana Misra along with his family.

     On the following day, Sri Gauracandra, the essence of all the worlds, performing the remaining customary rites. That afternoon it was time for  Gauracandra and his new bride to return to their home.  Amid joyous song, music and dance, and the benedictions of the brahmanas and poets gathered there, Sri Gaurasundara and Visnupriya-devi, bowed to the assembled exalted personalities, and ascended the finely decorated palanquin.  Everyone cheered them on with shouts of victory as the divine couple were carried in procession on the palanquin to their new home. Everyone who saw them praised Nimai and Visnupriya. Some of the ladies said, “This girl is supremely fortunate. She must have served Kamala and Parvati in her previous lives to have wed such a husband.“ Others said, “They must be Kamala and Sri Hari themselves.” Others said, “They must certainly be Rati and Kamadeva themselves, the god and goddess of love.” At this point in Caitanya-Bhagavata, Vrndavana dasa Thakura remarks, “Who can estimate the good fortune of the residents of Nabadwipa who were able to behold the wedding of Sri Gaurasundara and Visnupriya-devi?”

     The wedding procession continued in this way, surrounded by jubilation, song, dance, showers of flowers and the vibration of various musical instruments including the mrdanga, shenai, kartals, baranga, and dhak. Finally the divine couple arrived at their new home. At that time, mother Saci and those ladies who were close friends of the family welcomed Sri Visnupriya devi into the home as her new daughter. As Visnupriya-devi and Sri Gaurasundara (Laksmi and Narayana) entered their home and took their seats, shouts of jubilation filled the entire universe.

     After this, the Lord gave charity to all, satisfying them according to their station. To the poets he offered sweet words; to the dancers fine clothes, and to the beggars he gave money. In this way he gave something to everyone and satisfied all the friends and relatives by his lavish charity. Upon Buddhimanta Khan, who had borne the majority of the wedding expense, he bestowed his embrace. No one can describe the joy of Buddhimanta Khan upon being embraced by the Lord. 

    In this way, Vrndavana dasa Thakura describes the wedding of Visnupriya-devi and Gaurasundara.  Whoever hears the description of the Lord's wedding festival with faith and love will attain the mercy of Sri Gauranga. 

     After describing Visnupriya-devi's wedding with Sri Gaurasundara, Vrndavana dasa Thakura does not give any further elaborate description of her pastimes, except to mention that when Gauranga returned from Gaya after having been initiated by ^svara Puri she was greatly relieved and felt as if her life had returned. Vrndavana dasa does not describe the separation she felt at the sannyasa of the Lord, as it is a painful subject.  This is, however, discussed by Locan dasa Thakura, and this description may be found in the chapter on his life. After the disappearance of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, When Srinivasa acarya made his pilgrimage to Navadwipa dhama he was fortunate enough to meet Sri Visnupriya-devi when she was approaching old age.  The description of their meeting may be found in the chapter on Srinivasa acarya.

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