Appearance in Puri Dhama
On Friday, February 6, 1874 (Magh 25, 1280 Bengali, 1795 Saka), at 3:30 P.M., in the home of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur, Om Vishnupada Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur appeared from the womb of Bhagavati Devi as an effulgent, golden-skinned child. It was Krsna Pancami of the month of Magh. This house, named Narayan Chata, is situated not far from the Jagannath Temple on the Grand Road in Puri and was constantly reverberating with the sound of Harinama. Those who saw the newborn child were amazed to see that his umbilical cord was wrapped around his shoulder like a natural Brahmin thread. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur named the child after Jagannath Deva’s para sakti, Vimala, calling him Vimala-prasada (Bimala Prasad).
The child’s preference
Six months after the appearance of the child, it was time for the Rathayatra festival. That year, by Jagannath’s desire, the cart stopped in front of Bhaktivinoda’s house and simply would not move forward. Jagannath remained motionless before the Narayan Chata for three whole days. Under Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s direction, a kirtan festival was held in front of the Deity for the entire three-day period. During one of these days, the six-month old baby came before Jagannath in the arms of his mother, he grabbed Jagannath’s feet and took the garland from around the Deity’s neck. Bhaktivinoda gave the child Jagannath prasad for the Anna-prasana ritual in which a child eats its first solid food.
The child stayed in Purushottam Dhama for ten months after his birth, after this he went with his mother in a palanquin by land to Ranaghat in Bengal. He went through his entire childhood in the midst of an extended festival of Harinama sankirtan.
Initiation in Harinama and Nrisingha-mantra
While Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur was living in Sriramapura (Serampore), he came back one day from a visit to Puri with a garland of tulasi leaves which had been used by Jagannath. He gave it to Bimala Prasad, who was a seventh grade student at the time, and initiated him in the chanting of the Holy Name and the Nrisingha mantra. While he was in the fifth grade, the boy had invented a type of phonetic writing which he called Bicanto, or vikrnti. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur read him his own Chaitanya-siksamrta.
Worship of Kurmadeva
In 1881, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur started construction of Bhakti Bhavana in Calcutta’s Ram Bagan district. While digging the foundations for the building, a small deity of Kurma was found. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur taught his seven-year-old son the rules for worshiping a deity and the Kurma mantra, after which Bimala Prasad started to regularly wear tilaka and to perform the deity’s puja. In 1885, a centre for publishing Vaishnava literature named “The Vaishnava Depository” was opened at Bhakti Bhavan. From this time, the boy started to gain experience with the printing press and helped with proofreading, etc. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur resumed publishing his monthly magazine Sajjana-tosani in that year. He also travelled with his father to many of the Sripatas of some of Mahaprabhu’s associates, such as Kulinagrama and Saptagram, where he heard his father lecture on the doctrines of the Holy Name.
Receives the title Siddhanta Saraswati
When Bimala Prasad was a fifth grade student, he began to show a natural talent for mathematics and astrology. He went to study the astrological texts with the great scholar Mahesh-candra Curamani from the Siyakhala village on the Tarakesvara railway line. In a very short time he mastered the arts of calculating astrological charts. Later he went on to advanced studies of astrology with Aloya resident, Sundar Lal Pandit.
Curamani Mahasaya was astounded by the talents of the fifteen year old boy. From this young age, he was called Sri Siddhanta Saraswati by his teachers. After taking sannyas in 1918, he took on the name Parivrajakacharya Sri Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati. At other times, he identified himself as Varsabhanavi-dayita Das.
The World Vaishnava Association
In 1885, which was 399 years after the appearance of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur formed the Visva-vaisnava Sabha or World Vaishnava Association at the home of Rama Gopal Basu in Krishnasimha Gali, which is today known as Bethune Row. The association organized the 400th anniversary celebrations of Mahaprabhu’s appearance the following year. Some of its wel-known members were Madana Gopal Goswami, Nilakanta Goswami, Vipina Vihari Goswami, Radhikanatha Goswami, Sisira Kumara Ghosh, etc. Sri Saraswati Thakur attended the Association’s weekly meetings every Sunday in the company of his father, and carried his father’s copy of Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu for him. He would listen attentively to the discussion of scripture which took place at these meetings.
Distaste for bad company and material learning
While Saraswati Thakur was a student, he never mixed with children who had behavior problems. Thus from his very earliest life, the determination to avoid asat-sanga and to associate exclusively with saintly persons was evident in his character. In the early years of high school, he spent more time studying astrology and Vaishnava scriptures than the course subject matter. In fact he had a hard time maintaining interest in the school’s text books. He considered it unnecessary to even touch these books once outside the school grounds. His reading material consisted mainly of Narottama’s Prarthana and Prema-bhakti-candrika, and the books written by his father.
The August Assembly
While still a student, Saraswati Thakur published Surya-siddhanta, Bhakti-bhavana-panjika, and other books related to astrology. In the afternoons, he would go to Calcutta’s Beadon Square and engage in debate with other students about religion, politics and other subjects. In 1891, this debating society took the name “The August Assembly” and all its members had to promise to never get married. People of all ages, including the educated and respectable attended the Assembly’s meetings.
At the Sanskrit College
In 1892, Saraswati Thakur was admitted to the Calcutta Sanskrit College. There once again, instead of studying the books which were on the curriculum, he started systematically reading all the books in the library. He spent most of his time there studying the Veda with the scholar Prthvidhara Sarma. Later, in 1898, when teaching Sanskrit at the Sarasvata Catuspathi in Bhakti Bhavan, he studied Siddhanta-kaumudi with the same Prthvidhara Sarma, and went through the entire text very quickly. Prthvidhara Sarma advised him to devote his life to the study of Siddhanta-kaumudi and Sanskrit grammar, but Saraswati Thakur disagreed with him, saying that human life was meant for worshiping the Supreme Lord and not for studying children’s grammar manuals with their verb roots and conjugations, nor for reading mundane poems.
While studying at the Sanskrit College, Saraswati Thakur also came into public disagreement with the opinions of the renowned scholar from Kashi, Vapudeva Sastri and the professor Pancanana Sahityacarya.
Saraswati Thakur abandons material learning
Just as Mahaprabhu first engaged in student pastimes in which he took pleasure in study and debating, and then later turned to chanting and preaching the Holy Names, his eternal companion Saraswati Thakur also set the same example. In his autobiography, he wrote, “‘If I go on to study at the university, my family will inevitably harass me terribly to get married. On the other hand, if I present myself to the world as a useless fool, no one will try to interest me in that kind of life.’ This was the reasoning behind my quitting the Sanskrit College. I started seeking an honest means of making my livelihood by a minimum effort, just so that I could lead a life of devotion to the Lord.”
In 1895, Saraswati Thakur took a job with the royal family of Tripura, which was then an independent state. He was engaged as associate editor of the royal family’s history, Raja-ratnakara. While there, he had the opportunity to study the major works held in the royal library. When the Maharaj Viracandra left this world on December 11, 1896, his son Radha Kisora Manikya Bahadura was placed on the throne. The new Maharaj engaged Saraswati Thakur as the Sanskrit and Bengali tutor for the crown prince Vrajendra Kisora. Later, he was sent to Calcutta with various responsibilities. When he wished to permanently leave the employ of the royal family in 1905, the Maharaj gave him a full pension equal to the salary which he had been earning. Saraswati Thakur received this pension until 1908.
In 1897, the Sarasvata Catuspathi Sanskrit school was established at the Bhakti Bhavan. Many educated and important people came there to study astrology, including Lala Hara Gauri Sankara, Dr. Ekendranatha Ghosh, M.B., Satakari Cattopadhyaya Siddhantabhusana, Syamalala Goswami (the noted scholar of the Nityananda family), Saraccandra Jyotirvinoda, etc. From the Sarasvata Catuspathi, Saraswati Thakur published the monthly magazines Jyotirvid and Brhaspati, as well as many ancient astrological works.
On pilgrimage with Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur
In October of 1898, Saraswati Thakur set off on a pilgrimage with Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur during which they visited Kashi, Prayag, and on the way back, Gaya. While in Kashi, he met Rama Mishra Sastri, with whom he discussed many aspects of the Ramanuja sampradaya. On this occasion also, Saraswati Thakur began to show the spirit of renunciation which ran through his life. Starting in 1897, he had begun to follow the rules of Caturmasya according to the Vaishnava scriptures, cooking havisyanna (boiled food without salt or spices) himself which he would eat directly off the floor without using a plate and sleeping on the ground without a pillow.
An investigation of the Sri-sampradaya
Saraswati Thakur first started his study of the Ramanuja sampradaya while in Bengal and he published books and articles as the results of his research. In 1898, he wrote about Srinatha Muni, Yamunacharya and other acharyas of this school in a series of articles which appeared in Sajjana-tosani. Prior to this, he had books in the four South Indian languages provided to him by Sundaresvara Srauti, from which he learned about the Ramanuja and Madhva schools.
In 1899, he wrote articles on spiritual matters in the weekly magazine, Nivedana, and in 1900, he published a book, Bange Samajikata (“Bengali Social Customs”), a study of religous and social behavior in Bengal, which was the fruit of a great deal of research.
First encounter with his guru
In 1897, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur established his place of worship in Navadipa’s Godrumadvipa area, near the Saraswati River, and called it Ananda-sukhada Kunja. It was there, in 1898, that Saraswati Thakur first saw his future guru, Srila Gaura Kisora Das Babaji Maharaj. He was attracted by the extraordinary character of this Vaishnava paramahamsa, who was indifferent to all social conventions, and later, in the month of Magh (January-February), 1900, on the order of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur, took Bhagavati diksa from him.
Satasana Math and Bhakti-kuti
In March of 1900, Saraswati Thakur accompanied Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur on a trip to Balesvara and Remuna, where he had darshan of Ksiracora Gopinath. Then they travelled on to Bhuvanesvara and Puri. On this occasion, Saraswati Thakur deepened his attachment to the holy city of Puri. When he expressed a wish to establish a math near the samadhi of Hari Das Thakur, the local sub-registrar, Jagabandhu Pattanayaka and other prominent citizens asked him to take over the service of one of the seven seats of the Satasan Math, that of Giridhari. In 1902, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur himself started construction of a residence not far from Hari Das Thakur’s samadhi and named it Bhakti Kuti. During this time, Cossim Bazar’s Maharaja, Manindra Candra Nandi Bahadur, in mourning at the loss of a loved one, came to live in a tent on the beach near to this site. He came frequently to hear Bhaktivinoda Thakur and Saraswati Thakur speak on the Vaishnava scriptures. Saraswati Thakur also regularly read and spoke on the Chaitanya Charitamrita in the presence of his father.
Collecting materials for Manjusa
While in Puri, Saraswati Thakur engaged in collecting materials for his book Vaishnava-manjusa. He was introduced to the abbot of the Govardhana Math, Madhusudana Tirtha, with whom he had many philosophical discussions. Tirtha Svami held Saraswati Thakur in high esteem. Other people whom he met in Puri and with whom he engaged in scriptural discussions included Vasudeva Ramanuja Das and Damodar Ramanuja Das of Samadhi Math; Raghunandan Ramanuja Das of Emara Math, Jagannath Das of the Jamayet sampradaya’s Papariya Math, Omkara Japi Vrddha Tapasa of Svargadvarer Chata, the scholar Sadashiva Mishra, the lawyer Hariscandra Basu, Vihari Das Pujari of Ganga Mata’s Math, Radhakanta Math’s abbot Narottama Das, Anantacarana Mahanti, etc.
During this time, he would preach door to door to prominent people in Puri, out of which many difficulties and dangers arose. Problems also came up in the responsibilities which he had accepted at the Giridhari Asana of Satasana Math. Saraswati Thakur showed the same attitude as Prahlad Maharaj, however, demonstrating exemplary fortitude and turning a deaf ear to the foul-mouthed accusations made against him. In these circumstances, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur advised him to go to Mayapur and worship in solitude, just as Ramanuja had done at TiruNarayanpura.
Mahatma Vamsi Das
When he arrived in Nabadwip, Saraswati Thakur was introduced to Vamsi Das Babaji by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur. Not long afterward, Carana Das Babaji along with Kalna’s Vishnu Das and many others, accompanied Saraswati Thakur on a kirtan party to Mahaprabhu’s birthplace in Mayapur to participate in the Dola Purnima festival there. The following year, Carana Das Babaji announced to Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur that he wished to take a party on a tour of Nabadwip Dhama every year. Unfortunately, his disappearance in 1906 made it impossible for him to carry out this wish.
Winning an astrological debate
On January 2, 1902, Saraswati Thakur engaged in a debate on the beginning of the new year on the basis of the sun’s precession with an accomplished student of Vapudeva Sastri. Ray Bahadur Rajendra Candra Sastri, President of the Royal Society, presided over the debate in which Saraswati Thakur so badly defeated his opponent that the latter’s professor passed stool and urine in the assembly out of shock.
In January of 1904, Saraswati Thakur visited Sitakunda and Candranatha. In December of the same year he went to Puri and on February 23, 1905, he went on a pilgrimage to South India. He visited Simhacalam, Rajahmundry, Madras, Perembadur, Tirupati, Conjeevaram, Kumbhakonam, Srirangam, Madurai, etc., before returning to Calcutta and Sri Mayapur. In Perembadur, he learned the scriptural rules and regulations surrounding Vaishnava tridandi-sannyasa from a member of that order in the Ramanuja sampradaya.
The vow to chant a billion Holy Names
While staying in Mayapur in 1905, Saraswati Thakur began preaching the message of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and, following in the footsteps of Hari Das Thakur, he undertook a vow of chanting a billion (ten crores) of Holy Names, chanting a minimum of three lakhs (300,000) every single day. In 1906, Rohini Kumara Ghosh, the nephew of Justice Candra Madhava Ghosh, had an extraordinary dream telling him to go to Saraswati Thakur and take initiation from him. Rohini Kumara Ghosh thus became his first initiated disciple.
In 1909, Saraswati Thakur had a cottage (“Vraja-pattan”) built on the site of Chandrasekhara’s house where he continued to engage in his vrata, visualizing himself on the banks of Radha Kund.
Victorious in debate
A crisis arose for the Vaishnava world in 1911. The Smarta Brahmanas were engaged in a concerted attack on the Vaishnava religion and its acharyas. Those who claimed descendence from Nityananda Prabhu and other associates of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu had taken the side of the Smartas in the hope of extracting some advantage from the alliance. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur was bed-ridden at the time, so when an assembly of hundreds of scholars and panditas was called in Midnapore at Balighai village to debate the issues, he sent Saraswati Thakur in his place. In the debate which was presided over by Visambharananda Deva Goswami, he was invited by Vrindavan scholar Madhusudana Goswami to speak. He read an article and gave a discourse on the distinction between Brahmins and Vaishnavas which completely destroyed the arguments of the materialistic karmi Smartas.
In the same year, at Bara Akhara in Nabadwip town, a debate was held on the Gaura-mantra. Saraswati Thakur established on the basis of the Atharvaveda’s Caitanyopanisad and other scriptural evidence that a special mantra for worshiping Gauranga Mahaprabhu was eternally valid.
On March 23, 1912, Saraswati Thakur went to a religious conference held at Cossim Bazar where he gave a speech, establishing the characteristics of pure devotional service and criticizing the materialistic ambitions and sycophancy of those who claimed to be the leaders of the Gaudiya Vaishnava religion. In order to demonstrate non-cooperation with these so-called leaders of the school, he fasted for the four days he was there before returning to Mayapur where he resumed taking prasad.
Pilgrimage through the Gauda Mandala
On November 4, 1912, Saraswati Thakur took a small group of devotees on a tour of Srikhanda, Jajigrama, Katwa, Jhamatpura, ~Akai Hat, Cakhandi, D~ai Hat and other places where Mahaprabhu’s associates had had their homes. In every place he preached the gospel of pure devotional service.
The publication of Anubhasya
In April of 1913, Saraswati Thakur established a publishing house named Bhagavata Yantralaya in Calcutta’s Kalighat area. The first book printed was Chaitanya Charitamrita with his Anubhasya commentary. Others which followed were the Bhagavad-gita with Vishvanath’s commentary and the maha-kavya, Gaurakrsnodaya of the Orissan poet, Govinda Das.
After Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s disappearance on June 23, 1914, Saraswati Thakur took over the editorship of Sajjana-tosani, the monthly magazine founded by his father. In January of 1915, the press was moved to Vraja-pattana in Mayapur and more books continued to be printed. On June 14, 1915, the Anubhasya commentary to Chaitanya Charitamrita was completed at Vraja-pattana. In July of 1915, the printing press was again moved to Krishnanagara, and Sajjana-tosani and various books written by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur were published from there.
The disappearance of Gaura Kisora Das Babaji
On November 17, 1915, Utthana Ekadasi, Srila Gaura Kisora Das Babaji entered into his eternal pastimes. Saraswati Thakur performed his last rites according to the prescriptions of Gopal Bhatta’s Samskara-dipika, establishing the samadhi of his guru in the Nutana Cara neighborhood of old Kuliya (the present-day town of Nabadwip).
Saraswati Thakur takes Tridandi-sannyasa
On March 7, 1918, on the occasion of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s appearance day, Saraswati Thakur took tridandi-sannyasa in Sri Mayapur. Although as an eternally perfected soul, he had already achieved the goals of the renounced order, he took this step in order to preach the gospel of Lord Chaitanya everywhere without restriction, to crystallize the conception of the daiva-varnasrama social system, and to demonstrate the transcendental character of the paramahamsa (babaji) dress taken by his gurus, Jagannath Das, Saccidananda Bhaktivinoda Thakur and Gaura Kisora Das Babaji.
On the same day, he consecrated the deities of Guru-Gauranga and Radha-Govinda at the house of Chandrasekhara Acharya and established the Sri Chaitanya Math. The Sri Chaitanya Math became the headquarters for the branch Gaudiya Maths throughout the world, the flagship of which is situated in Calcutta.
At the end of March, Saraswati Thakur gave a exhaustively researched lecture on Vaishnava philosophy in the Krishnanagara town hall. In May, he went to Daulatpur and other places to preach Harikatha.
Visit to Sri Ksetra
From June 2-23, Saraswati Thakur and a group of devotees left Calcutta for Puri. They stopped at Sauri, Kuamara and other places along the way to preach. As they followed the route Mahaprabhu had taken to Puri, Saraswati Thakur was overcome with ecstatic feelings of separation from the Lord. The party stopped at Remuna where they saw Gopinath and then at Balesvara where he gave a lecture on Mahaprabhu’s Siksastaka to the town’s Haribhakti-pradayini Sabha. He was welcomed to Balesvara by the Subdivisional Magistrate, Ray Saheb Gaura Syama Mahanti and other distinguished personalities of the town. At Cuttack, he was invited by Diwan Bahadur Sri Krishna Mahapatra to stay at his home and preach on the Bhagavat there. Then in Puri, the party stayed at Bhakti Kuti and did the parikrama of Sri Ksetra Mandala. Once again, Saraswati Thakur was in a state of ecstatic separation the whole time.
The former Collector and present Deputy Magistrate of Puri Atala Vihari Maitra had heard Saraswati Thakur explain Chaitanya Charitamrita and Srimad Bhagavatam. In a great meeting held on the grounds of Harivallabha Basu Ray Bahadur’s house, Sasi Bhavana, Saraswati Thakur gave a lecture on the difference between personal and impersonal conceptions of the Absolute Truth. He wrote a Sanskrit poem of a few verses about the memorial to Mahaprabhu’s lotus feet enshrined in the Jagannath temple.
Silencing enemy tongues
In August and September of 1918, a spokesman for a group of atheists with little philosophical knowledge sent a list of 29 questions challenging the Vaishnava faith and its acharyas. Saraswati Thakur silenced these critics with answers based on logic and scripture. The questions and his answers were published in a pamphlet named Pratiper prasnere pratyuttara, “Answering the enemy’s questions”.
Bhaktivinoda Asana and Visva Vaishnava Rajasabha
To increase the preaching activity in Calcutta, in November of 1918, Saraswati Thakur established a center at 1, Ultadingi Junction Road, which he named Sri Bhaktivinoda Asana. From there, he travelled to various towns in Jessore and Khulna districts. On February 5, 1919, he reestablished the World Vaishnava Association under the name Visva Vaishnava Rajasabha at the Bhaktivinoda Asana. On June 27, 1919, he consecrated a deity of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur at Svananda-sukhada Kunja in Godrumadvipa. The first month-long kirtan festival was held at the Bhaktivinoda Asana from August 18 to September 18, 1919.
Preaching in East Bengal
On October 4, 1919, on the appearance day of Madhvacharya, Saraswati Thakur set off on a preaching trip to north and eastern Bengal. In April of 1920, he and the other leaders of the Visva Vaishnava Rajasabha sent a letter with seven questions to the Maharaj of Cossim Bazar’s annual convocation of Vaishnava scholars, challenging them to clarify the distinction between pure and blemished devotion.
Six years to the day after the disappearance of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur, on June 23, 1920, Saraswati Thakur’s mother Bhagavati Devi left for her eternal abode.
The first Gaudiya Math
On September 6, 1920, deities of Guru and Gauranga, Radha and Govinda, were installed at the Bhaktivinoda Asana and the first Gaudiya Math was established at that time.
At the request of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur and Sisira Kumara Ghosh, Saraswati Thakur had been working on the compilation of a Vaishnava encyclopedia, for which he had travelled throughout India. In October of 1920, he came to Cossim Bazar at the invitation of Maharaj Sir Manindra Candra Nandi Bahadur whom he described the scope of this Vaishnava encyclopedia. The Maharaj agreed to donate a monthly stipend for the publication of the encyclopedia, but in the end was unable to fulfill his commitments. Saraswati Thakur left Cossim Bazar and went with his party to Saidabad, Nowallis Para, Kheturi and other places in the area that had been blessed by the touch of Mahaprabhu’s associates. Everywhere he went, he preached Mahaprabhu’s message.
The first sannyas disciple
On November 1, 1920, Saraswati Thakur initiated Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s disciple Jagadisa Bhakti-pradipa, Vaishnava-siddhanta-bhusana, Sampradaya-vaibhavacharya, B.A., in the renounced order as a tridandi-sannyasa. He was thus the first member of the order in the Visva Vaishnava Raja Sabha and was known thenceforth as Tridandi Svami Bhakti-pradipa Tirtha Maharaj.
On March 14, 1921, Saraswati Thakur revived the annual parikrama or tour of Nabadwip Dhama. At the end of March, he left again for Puri on a preaching trip. Meanwhile, H. H. Bhakti-pradipa Tirtha Maharaj published a book Acara o Acharya (“Standards of conduct and the spiritual master”) which caused a great stir amongst the caste Goswamis, most of whom acted as gurus professionally.
Preaching and establishing Maths in East Bengal
Afterwards, Saraswati Thakur visited Dhanbad, Katrasgarh and Dhaka. In Dhaka, he spoke on the janmady asya verse of the Bhagavat for an entire month, explaining it in thirty different ways. On October 13, 1921, he established the Madhva Gaudiya Math in Dhaka. On October 31, deities were installed and a great feast held in their honor. From Dhaka, he went on to Mymensingh for preaching.
After this, he returned to Nabadwip where he reestablished the worship of Gaura Gadadhara at Champa Hati, as well as a deity installation at the birthplace of Vrindavan Das Thakur in Modadrumadvipa. Then he returned to Calcutta to preach there and in the surrounding area.
Sri Purushottam Math
According to Vedavyasa, hy utkale purusottamat, the pure message of the Vaishnava religion would spread out of Jagannath Puri. In order to do honor to this prediction, Saraswati Thakur established the Sri Purushottam Math at Bhakti Kuti on June 9, 1922, installing a deity of Gauranga Mahaprabhu. Then, in the spirit of Mahaprabhu, he and his followers participated in the cleaning of Gundicha, did the parikrama of Jagannath Puri and went to Alalanath during Jagannath’s anavasara period when his is taken off the temple altar. He established an annual memorial festival at the Purushottam Math in honor of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur and Srila Gadadhara Pandit Goswami.
He also sent disciples to Cuttack, Baripada, Kuwamara, Udala, Kaptipada, and Nilgiri, etc., to preach Mahaprabhu’s gospel of pure devotion.
On August 19, 1922, the monthly magazine and organ of the Gaudiya Math, the Gaudiya, was published for the first time from the Bhagavata Press.
Visit to Vraja Mandala
On September 28, 1922, Saraswati Thakur left for Vrindavan with the intention of establishing a preaching centre. Accompanied by his disciples, he visited Mathura, Vrindavan and Radha Kund, etc. He gave a speech on Mahaprabhu’s teachings and the Vaishnava religion at an assembly of learned Vaishnavas at Lala Babu’s temple in Vrindavan.
A few days later, during the month of Karttik, he came to Dhaka where he once again delineated the true character of devotional service. After this he went to Kuliya where he revealed the site where Mahaprabhu forgave Devananda Pandit and Capala Gopal for their offenses. From there, he went on to the Santal Paragana to preach Harikatha.
The construction of the temple at the Chaitanya Math
On the appearance day of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, March 2, 1923, work began on the construction of a temple at the Chaitanya Math. It was to be built according to an idea of Saraswati Thakur in which the deities of Guru-Gauranga and Radha-Govinda would be installed in the main deity room, while in the four corners the founders of the four sampradayas (Lakshmi, Brahma, Rudra, the four Kumaras) with their acharyas (Ramanuja, Madhva, Vishnusvami, Nimbarka) would be installed.
After preaching in West and East Bengal, Saraswati Thakur returned again to Puri for the annual festival and, emulating the pastimes of Mahaprabhu in separation from Krishna, danced in front of the Rathayatra cart. He also preached to large numbers of devotees, including Raja Manindra Candra Nandi, Sasimohana Goswami of Bhadrak, etc. He sent preachers to Mayurbhanj and Madras to spread Mahaprabhu’s gospel and himself took a party of devotees to Amalajora in Burdwan and then to Banari Para in Barisal district.
Preaching the Bhagavat
In 1923, just before the annual festival at the Gaudiya Math in Calcutta, the Gaudiya Printing Works were established and the first fascicules of the Srimad Bhagavatam were published with the Gaura Kisoranvaya (word by word translation), Svananda-kunjanuvada (translation), and the Anantagopala Tathya and Sindhu-vaibhava commentaries.
On February 24, 1924, on the tithi commemorating the 50th anniversary of Saraswati Thakur’s appearance in the world, the first Vyasa Puja in his honor was held at the Calcutta Gaudiya Math. The speech that he gave on that occasion stands as an immortal jewel in the history of Vaishnava literature.
Not long thereafter, on the occasion of Mahaprabhu’s appearance day, the first edition of the Chaitanya Bhagavat was published from the Madhva Gaudiya Math in Dhaka.
Tridandi Math and Sarasvata Asana
On July 9, 1924, Saraswati Thakur established the Tridandi Math in Bhuvanesvara in Orissa. From there he went to preach in the Madras presidency where he established the Sarasvata Asana. There he gave extensive instruction to his disciples from Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s books. In the first part of September of the same year, many distinguished persons came to hear him speak, including Raut Ray of Mayurbhanj, His Excellency General Jang Bahadur of Nepal, Justice Manmathanatha Mukhopadhyaya, etc.
In October, he set foot in Dhaka for the fifth time and spoke extensively on Madhvacharya’s life and the Madhva sampradaya, giving a learned explanation of the differences between the Madhva and Gaudiya doctrines, especially underlining Madhva’s vision of varnasrama dharma.
At the Benares Hindu University
On December 16, Saraswati Thakur came to the Benares Hindu University to lecture on the place of Vaisnavism in the world’s religions. Amongst those in the audience who greeted his lecture with enthusiasm were the director of the Department of Western Philosophy, Pramathanatha Tarkabhusana, Professor Phanibhusana Adhikari, M.A., etc. Afterwards, he and his followers went to places in Kashi visited by Mahaprabhu, then to Prayag, where he indicated the exact spot where Rupa Goswami had taken instruction from Mahaprabhu, and then to Arail, where Mahaprabhu had met with Vallabhacharya.
Tour of Gauda Mandala
On January 29, 1925, Saraswati Thakur took a large group of devotees on a tour of Gauda Mandala to visit the various sites made holy by Mahaprabhu and his associates. Overcome with the mood of devotional fervor inspired by them, he lectured on bhakti in all these places.
In the same year, during the Nabadwip Parikrama, deities of Radha Govinda were carried on the back of an elephant through the streets of Koladvipa. The envious leaders of those in the guru business incited a number of ruffians to throw bricks at the deities and the devotees who were accompanying them, including Saraswati Thakur, at Pora Ma Tola. One witness of the event was quoted in the next day’s (Phalguna 24, 1331) Ananda Bazar Patrika as saying, “Today I witnessed the same pastime that was enacted about four hundred years ago when Nabadwip’s constables, two thugs named Jagai and Madhai, tried to do injury to Nityananda Avadhuta.”
Madan Mohan Malaviya
On April 17, 1925, Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, the leader of the Hindu Mahasabha, a nationalist organization, came to the Calcutta Gaudiya Math and heard Saraswati Thakur explain the daiva-varnasrama system according to the book, Agama-pramanya. Saraswati Thakur sent preachers to Sylhet and other places.
In 1926, a three-day sacrifice to the Holy Name was performed to commemorate the appearance of Nityananda Prabhu. This subsequently became an annual tradition. In April of the same year, a math was founded in Ciruliya (Midnapore), and given the name Bhagavata-janananda Math. Now possessed of an increasing number of Tridandi sannyasis, Saraswati Thakur sent them throughout India to preach the message of pure devotion, while he himself spoke and lectured through Midnapore. This is the time when the large-scale expansion of the Gaudiya Math really started.
Travelling and preaching through India
In the beginning of November 1926, Saraswati Thakur started on a trip throughout India, when he would meet with various learned persons to discuss scriptures and gather information. He was also, of course, preaching Krishna consciousness to the people in large assemblies. The acharyas of many schools acclaimed him as the leading acharya of the Gaudiya Vaishnava school. The Mahanta of Nathadvara, Gokulanatha Goswami Maharaj of Bombay, the abbot of the Udipi monastery of the Madhva sampradaya and the abbot of the Salimabad seat of the Madhva sampradaya all received him with the honor due the spiritual master of a Vaishnava sampradaya.
While on this trip, he established a Math in Naimisaranya called Paramahamsa Math. Upon his return, he opened the Paravidya Pith school in Mayapur, as well as the newly completed 29 towered temple at the Chaitanya Math. Deities of the acharyas and Radha Govinda were installed there.
In 1927, Saraswati Thakur started publishing Sajjana-tosani in three languages -- English, Sanskrit and Hindi. The English edition was given the name The Harmonist. On September 17, 1927, in Dumurakonda in Manbhoom district, the Chaitanya Gaudiya Math was founded.
At the end of September, Saraswati Thakur set out again on a preaching tour of northern India. In 1928, during the Gaudiya Math festival period, he spoke at Calcutta’s Albert Hall and in other public places in the city to give access to Mahaprabhu’s message to the common people. The fourth edition of the Chaitanya Charitamrita was published. On September 26, the foundations of the Bagh Bazar Gaudiya Math were laid near the banks of the Ganges. On October 7, he went with a large party of devotees to Assam, where he spoke in Shillong to several large assemblies. Amongst those who came to hear him explain the unexcelled doctrines of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was the prince Saradindu Narayan Ray.
At Kuruksetra for the solar eclipse
On November 4, in order to experience the mood of separation that was experienced by the gopis and by Mahaprabhu during the Rathayatra, Saraswati Thakur went with a party of devotees to Kuruksetra at the time of a solar eclipse. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims who had also come there had the good fortune to hear the Gaudiya Math devotees singing the names of Gaura. Deities of Gauranga were installed at the Sri Vyasa Gaudiya Math and a spiritual diorama exhibition (the Bhagavata Pradarsini) was opened.
The opening of the Ekayana Math
On December 30, the great scholar Pramathanatha Tarkabhusana came to the Gaudiya Math and heard an extended explanation of the daiva-varnasrama system from Saraswati Thakur. In January of 1929, Saraswati Thakur established the Ekayana Gaudiya Math in Krishnanagara. At the opening ceremony, he gave a lecture with an original explanation showing that the single path of exclusive devotion (ekayana) is the trunk and the various other paths (bahvayana) are the branches of the Vedic tree.
On January 14, 1929, Saraswati Thakur met the Ohio State University professor, Albert E. Suthers, and explained to him how the Vaishnava religion was an extended and perfect Christianity. On January 16, he was in New Delhi to open the Delhi Gaudiya Math and with it the opportunity to preach Mahaprabhu’s gospel to thousands of respectable persons in India’s capital.
A speech in the Krishnanagara town hall
On March 30, 1929, Saraswati Thakur gave a lecture on the Holy Name in the Rama Gopal Town Hall building. In May of the same year, he was in Puri where he started Gaurasundara’s Candana-yatra festival. At the same time, he started repair work on the Alalanath temple. On August 12, he spoke at Calcutta’s Albert Hall on the Gaudiya philosophy.
Shrines of Mahaprabhu’s footprints
It was Saraswati Thakur’s wish to establish 108 shrines throughout India as memorials to the places Mahaprabhu had sanctified by the touch of his feet. These shrines or pada-pithas would house prints of Gaurasundara’s feet stamped in marble. For this purpose, he went to Kanair Natasala on October 13, 1929, and to Mandara two days later. From there he went on to Rajmahal, Bhagalpur, Nalanda, Rajgiri, etc., to preach Mahaprabhu’s message. Then he went on to Kashi where he discoursed on Mahaprabhu’s teachings to Sanatan Goswami.
He was welcomed by many educated and respectable people to Kashi, Faizabad, Ayodhya, Naimisaranya, Karauna, Misrik, Sitapura, Lucknow. Many seekers of the truth were initiated by him into the religion of pure devotion. The widely-renowned bar-at-law, Mr. A. P. Sen, the professor Dr. Radhakumuda Mukhopadhyaya, Dr. Radhakamala Mukhopadhyaya, Dr. A. N. Sen Gupta, and many other highly regarded citizens came to hear him speak.
The Sri Mayapur post office
On June 1, 1929, a temporary post office was opened at Sri Mayapur and made into a permanent branch in October. During this time, he had his devotees establish the “Lord’s garden” (Ishodyan) that Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur had desired in Mayapur. He also had electricity brought to Mayapur and electric lights placed on the pinnacle of the Chaitanya Math temple.
Mahamahopadhyaya Haraprasada Sastri
On January 8, 1930, the great scholar Dr. Haraprasada Sastri visited Saraswati Thakur and discussed many matters with him about the history of the various Vaishnava sampradayas including the Gaudiya, the dates of many acharyas, the Pancaratra, and Sri Chaitanya.
In the middle of January, he went to the Purna Kumbha Mela in Prayag. He engaged the Chaitanya Math’s preachers in talking about Mahaprabhu’s teachings to Rupa Goswami. He installed deities of Radha Govinda, the life and soul of Sri Rupa Goswami, at the confluence of the three rivers, Triveni. By the grace of the best of Rupa Goswami’s followers, the pilgrims who came to Prayag to bathe in the confluence of the holy rivers were fortunate to be able to hear the message of pure devotion.
Exhibition in Sri Dham Mayapur
From February 3 to March 17, 1930, an unprecedented spiritual diorama exhibition was held in Nabadwip-Mayapur. The famous chemist, Dr. Prafulla Chandra Roy, opened the exhibition. On February 18, on the occasion of Vyasa Puja, a shrine to the feet of the acharya was inaugurated at the Chaitanya Math.
On May 4, Mr. I. H. Napier came to hear about Indian spriitual philosophy from Saraswati Thakur. On May 25, Saraswati Thakur went to Chatrabhoga, a place that Mahaprabhu visited on his way to Puri and blessed many seekers of the truth. In July, he went to tbhe Saccidananda Math in Cuttack and spoke on Krishna to both learned and general audiences. On August 22, he travelled to Allahabad where he stayed with his party at the house of retired Sessions Judge, Manomohan Sannyal. He spoke there for several days, attracting Mr. Sannyal to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s lotus feet. He also resolved many of the questions asked by educated citizens of the town, especially Professor Dr. P. K. Acharya.
On October 5, 1930, the move with the devotees and deities was made from the Ultadingi Junction Road Math to the new buildings at Bagh Bazar. At the same time, a festival in honor of Radha-Madanamohana, Radha Govinda and Radha Gopinath. A transcendental diorama exhibition was also opened and a great spiritual conference was called at the same time. The chief contributor to the construction of the temple, Jagabandhu Bhakti-ranjana, died on November 19 of the same year.
On December 25, Saraswati Thakur was in Jajpur; on the 26th, in Kurmaksetra; on the 27th in Simhacala; Kovvur on the 29th and on the 31st in Mangalagiri. In all these places, he installed shrines of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s lotus feet and preached his gospel. Sir P. S. Shivasvami Iyer, K.C.S.I., Dr. U. Ramrao, and P. N. Subrahmanya Iyer were among the distinguished persons who were attracted by Saraswati Thakur’s preaching.
The Bhaktivinode Institute
On April 3, 1931, Saraswati Thakur opened the Bhaktivinode Institute in Sri Mayapur, and to the large assembly of people present for the occasion, spoke on the difference between material and spiritual knowledge. On May 3, he went to Darjeeling to preach in that district. On June 28, he officially accepted responsibility for the management of the Sripata of Nityananda Prabhu’s associate, Mahesh Pandit, in Chakdaha. At the opening ceremonies, he spoke to a large crowd of seekers.
On July 12, he installed the deity of Gauranga named Gaudiyanatha at the Brahma-Gaudiya Math in Alalanath. Five days later, he set the foundations of the Purushottam Math temple on land which had been donated by the Maharaj of Mayurbhanj. From there he went on to Cuttack where he spoke on Krishna at the Saccidananda Math. He sent a party of preachers to Simla in northern India.
On July 30, he spoke Harikatha to an audience including the well-known professor Kalidas Nag of Calcutta University at the Bagh Bazar Gaudiya Math. On September 5, Honorable Justice Manmathanatha Mukhopadhyaya came to listen to Saraswati Thakur speak at the Gaudiya Math.
The spiritual education exhibition in Calcutta
At the time of the Gaudiya Math’s annual festival, on September 6, Saraswati Thakur opened a spiritual education exhibition (Sat-siksa Pradarsini) in Calcutta. Over the next few weeks, some of the prominent people who came to hear him speak were Dr. Dinesh Chandra Sen Ray Bahadur, Biraj Mohan Mazumdar, Vice Principal of Institutional College, German world-traveller and scholar, Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld, and Dr. Stella Kremrisch of Calcutta University, etc.
Saraswati Thakur spoke at the Gaudiya Math’s many festivals. On September 29, he spoke on the nature of spiritual sound to the principal of the Calcutta Medical College, Colonel Dvarakaprasada Goyel, I.M.S. and the American traveller and scholar A. J. Jacobs. On October 11, in Prayag he met Allahabad University Vice Chancellor, Dr. Ganganatha Jha, Allahabad District Commissioner, Vinayaka Sankara Mehta, I.C.S. and answered their questions on spiritual life.
The Hindi magazine, Bhagavat
On October 16, Saraswati Thakur was welcomed to Benares by its distinguished citizens and stayed and spoke at the Maharaj’s Mint Palace. On the 19th and 20th, he spoke at length on Vaishnava philosophy and Krishna-lila to Deputy Accountant and General of Bengal man of letters, Vasanta Kumara Cattopadhyaya. From there he went on to Lucknow on Oct. 31, and then to Naimisaranya, where on November 9 he introduced the new Hindi fortnightly, Bhagavat, published from the Paramahamsa Math.
On November 14, Saraswati Thakur sent preachers to New Delhi to tell the Viceroy, Lord Willingdon, about the Math’s preaching activities. On November 17, he established the annual festival at the Delhi Gaudiya Math and spoke to many distinguished personalities about the life of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He also gave a speech about bhakti at the Gurudwar Bungalow Saheb Hall in New Delhi. On November 29, a great spiritual assembly in the garden of Honorable Council of State member, Ray Bahadur Lala Jagadish Prasad, at which Saraswati Thakur gave a speech. Then on November 30, he went with his entourage to Sukaratala the place where Suka first narrated the Bhagavatam, and himself spoke from the Bhagavatam there.
On December 6, he installed Radha-Govinda deities in the Delhi Gaudiya Math. On the 9th, he came to Calcutta to speak at the first annual memorial service in honor of Jagabandhu Bhakti-ranjana, the builder of the Bagh Bazar Gaudiya Math buildings. The Honorable Justice Manmathanatha Mukhopadhyaya presided over the assembly. On the 13th, Mr. Mukhopadhyaya visited Mayapur where he again heard Saraswati Thakur speak. He also visited the Dhama and the Bhaktivinode Institute.
Preaching in Madras
On January 10, 1932, Saraswati Thakur went with a party of twenty devotees to Madras. A large group of devotees and dignitaries, including Madras Corporation President, T. S. Ramasvami Iyer, the Honorable T. Rajan, Mr. S. V. Ramasvami Mudaliyar, the honorable Diwan Bahadur, G. Narayan Svami Cetiyar, C.I.E. [Companion of the Indian Empire], and T. Punurulla Pillai, etc., greeted him at the Basin Bridge Station and accompanied him in a huge sankirtan procession back to the Gaudiya Math which at that time was situated in the North Gopalpuram neighborhood. In the assembly which followed, the honorable Diwan Bahadur Kumarasvami Reddiyar offered a speech in which he indicated the depth of his esteem for the acharya, Saraswati Thakur.
On January 14, Madras High Court Justice, Diwan Bahadur Sundaram Cettiyar visited Saraswati Thakur at the Madras Gaudiya Math and was satisfied by answers to his questions on spiritual matters. On January 23, deities were installed in the Madras Gaudiya Math. On the same day, the cornerstone for a new Math was laid in the Rayapetta district. On January 24, a huge meeting was held with many important personalities as guests, including Sir P. S. Shivasvami Iyer. Saraswati Thakur spoke and attracted many of these people to Mahaprabhu’s teachings. On January 27, the governor of Madras Presidency, Sir George Frederick Stanley, laid the cornerstone for the Sri Krishna Kirtana Hall at the Madras Gaudiya Math.
On January 29, Madras City Corporation gave an official welcome to Saraswati Thakur. He gave a speech of thanks in the Corporation’s Rippon Building.
On the 30th, Saraswati Thakur went to the town of Eluru in the West Godavari district, where he was greeted by a huge sankirtan party of townspeople. He received an official letter of welcome from the Janardana Prarthana Samaj. He gave a speech and then initiated and inspired a large number of people from that region in the practice of pure devotional service. On his 58th birthday, he wrote a speech which was sent to Calcutta to be read at the Vyasa Puja festivities there.
He returned to Mayapur before the 1932 Nabadwip Parikrama. On the occasion of Mahaprabhu’s appearance day, he laid the cornerstone for a new temple building at Advaita Acharya’s house. He gave a speech at the annual meeting of the Sridhama Pracarini Sabha as well as instituting the examinations for Bhakti-sastri and Bhakti-vaibhavacarya. On April 3, he presided over the annual award-giving ceremony at the Bhaktivinode Institute where he gave a speech on “Altruism and Extended Altruism”.
Madras, Udagamandalam, Mysore and Kovvur
On May 23, 1932, Saraswati Thakur returned to Madras. This time he had the opportunity to explain the particularities of the Gaudiya Vaishnava sampradaya to the religious leaders and scholars of the Sankara, Ramanuja and Madhva schools. On May 25, he spoke to a group of questioners led by Prof. K. Pancapagesasan of Padukot College, and was able to settle their doubts. On May 29, he was welcomed to Combatoire by its citizens. He spoke there and on the banks of the Bhavani River to the people of the town of Mettuppalaiyam. From there he went to Udugamandalam in the Nilgiri Hills, where he stayed at the Rangavilas Bhavan. He stayed there long enough to revise Prof. Nishikanta Sannyal’s English book, Sri Krishna Chaitanya, as well as completing his own English translation of Brahma-samhita, his Gaudiya Bhasya commentary on the Chaitanya Bhagavat, and a short English book on the life of Ramananda Raya.
While in Udagamandalam, several distinguished people came to visit him and had the opportunity to hear his teachings through his principal disciples. They included the Nizam of Hyderabad’s prime minister, Sir Kisana Prasada, G.C.I.E. (Knight and Grand Commander of the Indian Empire), Hyderabad zamindar Dhanaraja Girji, Sir P. S. Shivasvami Aiyer, and the honorable Diwan Bahadur P. Munisvami Naidu.
On June 17, the Maharaj of Mysore, Sir Krishnaraja Wadhiyar, G.C.S.I. [Knight and Grand Commander of the Star of India], G.B.E. [Grand Cross of the British Empire] invited Saraswati Thakur and his disciples to Mysore where they stayed as his guests in the Rama Mandira and tirelessly preached the Chaitanya Gospel throughout the area. On the way from Udagamandalam to Mysore, Saraswati Thakur visited various places such as the Lingayat temple to Kanthesvara and the Madhva Math, etc., in Nanjangud. On June 19, Saraswati Thakur visited Krishnaraja Sagara and Srirangapattanam (20 km north of Mysore). In the morning on June 20, Saraswati Thakur visited the Mysore Sanskrit College and spoke to the professors on Krishna consciousness. That afternoon he was invited to the Maharaj’s palace where he gave a discourse on Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and answered the Maharaj’s questions.
From there he went to Kovvur, the place on the banks of the Godavari where Mahaprabhu met with Ramananda Raya for the first time. On July 5, he installed deities at the Ramananda Gaudiya Math. Hundreds of thousands of people come around that time to take bath in the Godavari on the occasion of the Puskara-yoga and were blessed by the chance to hear the chanting of Gauranga’s names. Saraswati Thakur spoke on the gradual process of spiritual life and its ultimate goal to the educated people of the locality.