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VIPINA BIHARI CATTAPADHYA

Page history last edited by Juan Castañeira 10 years, 8 months ago

VIPINA BIHARI CATTAPADHYA

 

Vipina Bihari was born in the month of Pausa in the Bengali year 1276 (1869 A.D.) in a Radhi clan Kulina family of Kayastha lineage at the village of Makadadaha on the bank of a river, previously known as Sarasvati, in the district of Howrah. The place was well known on account of its temple of the goddess Makadacaudi. It is said that the deity of Makadacaudi was originally very tall but gradually became smaller due to the deity going underground over a period of time. The inhabitants of the village mainly consist of a group of prosperous and respectable brahmanas.

 

Vipina bihari was the second son of Syamacarana Cattopadhya, (his mother's name was Tarangini devi, while Kedara babu was Vipin's elder brother), a devout Vaisnava of virtuous practices, and lived in a house in close proximity of the famous temple. Syamacarana, a highly-ranked employee in charge of a group of post offices, had his posting at Srihatta. He used to hold Harinama-sankirtana at his residence everyday. It is said that in course of his kirtana Syamacarana and his associate, Devendra Cakravarti, used to become so charged with devotional ecstacy that they would drop on the floor and remain unconscious for hours after concluding their nama-recital. Some non-believers among the audience who lived in the neighborhood, did not accept the said state of unconsciousness of Syamacarana and Devendra. Thus one day they held pieces of burning charcoal against their unconscious bodies. However, they were shocked to see that there was no visible reaction from the bodies lying on the floor, neither where there an marks of injury on them. Upon realizing their mistake, the non-believers had a change of heart and became devotees of Syamacarana.

 

Vipina babu had to face many obstacles in the progress of study during his boyhood due to financial difficulties. Nevertheless, through sheer perseverance and dedication he passed his B.A. examination with honors and went on to complete his law degree with success. In due course he started to practice as a lawyer at the Hugli Court (at that time Howrah and Hugli were under one district).

 

He had a religious trend of mind from a very early age. He is stated to have asked his kula-guru (family priest) when the latter had been reciting Vedic incantations during his Upanayana ritual, to reveal to him the prescribed mantra. The Kula-guru said that he was not empowered to do so and advised Vipina to keep company of saints and ascetics.

 

During his boyhood Vipina was fond of enacting rasa-lila in the company of boys and girls of his own age. Sometimes he would sit in the posture of meditation with his eyes closed and then become fully absorbed. Vipina himself was a very simple and truthful person and acted according to the advice of others without hesitation, which endangered his life on many occasions. In course of his search for the association of saints as advised by his kula-guru, Vipina became the target of many wicked persons in the guise of sadhus. On one occasion he was convinced by a so-called sadhu to smoke ganja, though with repugnance, and was robbed of his possessions.

 

On another occasion a sadhu came to Vipina's place at Makadadaha and told him that he would be able to have the darsana of Devi provided Vipina would worship kavna-pisaci (evil spirits) for twenty one days without taking any food except the juice of a green coconut at night only after completion of his daily worship. Natural believer that he was, Vipina at once agreed to abide by the sadhu's advice and after receiving the mantra dedicated himself to the prescribed method of worship. He rapidly lost weight and became weak, yet without paying any heed to the advice of his relatives and friends, he continued with the worship. On the night of the twentieth day of worship, Vipina experienced a vision Sarasvati and was startled. So, he requested his boyhood friend Madhusudana Bhattacarya to sleep near the adjoining veranda on the following night and warned him to come to his rescue if he heard a loud scream. After going through the routine worship around midnight of the last day when Vipina was offering leaves of vela to invoke the goddess, he suddenly realized that the vela leaves instead of falling on the ground were becoming disappearing instantaneously. Out of fear he lost his concentration and began chanting the prescribed mantra incorrectly. He felt as if his body were being forcibly pulled by the evil spirit of Kavna and screamed out in fright. As pre-arranged, his friend Bhattacarya quickly came into the room and slowly nursed Vipina back to a normal state of mind.

 

But there was no respite for Vipina babu, because soon after this incident, as if under the influence of an evil spirit, he became seriously ill with very high fever resulting in a state of delirium, malfunctions of his liver and kidney and constant bleeding from his gums. He remained bed-ridden for a long time and the doctors gave up all hopes of his survival. A deed of will in respect of his properties was drawn up. Vipina had become so weak that he could neither talk nor express his feelings. He helplessly watched his mother shedding tears of grief sitting by his bedside. Although he was not so bothered about the impending danger to his life, but he became apprehensive that people around him may attribute the cause of his dangerous state of health to the dishonest and mischievous actions of sadhus with whom he got mixed up, and turn antagonistic against all sadhus in general.

 

Thinking in this way Vipina felt despondent and exclaimed "Oh Hari, Oh Hari." The very remembrance of the name of the Lord caused a spontaneous turbulence within, which permeated through his body and mind. Before he was able to get control of himself, he heard the musical recital of some kirtana from very close quarters saying, "Premadata, Nitai says Gaura-Hari Haribol. Nitai has brought the nama Gaura-Hari Haribol." Hearing this his whole physical structure became energized. Vipina babu, who had remained speechless for over a month, who could not even turn on his side without the help of others, suddenly sat upright on his bed, as if released from the influence of the evil spell of Kavna-pisaci and requested his mother Tarangini devi to invite the kirtaniyas inside his room. In great joy his mother rushed downstairs covering two and three steps at a time and begged the devotees to go up to her son's bedroom.

 

Vipina fell prostrate before them and collecting the holy dust of their feet rubbed it on his body. He then washed their feet with water and drank the `carana-jala.' At Vipina's earnest request the Vaisnavas spent a few days with him and Vipina served them with great devotion. During the course of conversations with them Vipina found out one of the Vaisnavas in the group was his maternal cousin, Bhupala Harivola, and that they were all disciples of Sri Harivola Thakura, under whose instructions they had come to Vipina's house at Makadadaha. Sri Thakura lived at Kasi and did not wish to visit Bengal.

 

Soon thereafter, Vipina left for Kasi, but told his relatives and friends that he was going to Vaidyanatha to recoup his health. Vipina's father-in-law was a distinguished and prosperous Zamindar of Gourdalpada in Caudanagar, and had a house at Kasi. Upon arriving at Kasi, Vipina stayed with his in-laws. He then located Sri Harivola Thakura and had his darsana. Thereafter he regularly visited Thakura's place.

 

Although Vipina loved to hear discourses on Hari-katha from Thakura, he could not grasp the intrinsic religious value of Thakura's words even after visiting him for fifteen days. When he humbly presented his problem before Thakura the latter said, "Oh yes, oh yes." From that day forward, Vipina not only understood what he heard, but also stored everything like a treasure in his memory. Thakura then initiated him with the eighteen lettered holy mantra, gave Vipina the name Nityananda and bestowed divine power in him.

 

After some time, Thakura Harivola decided to test the advancement of his disciple Nityananda (Vipina). On the pretext of his own financial problem, Thakura asked Vipina if he would sit in front of the Annapurna temple with a piece of cloth spread before him like a mendicant and at the end of the day, make over all his collection to Thakura. Without any hesitation Vipina positioned himself as directed by his guru. Some members of his in-laws family noticed Vipina on their way to Annapurna-Visvesvara temple. They tried every possible means to persuade him to stop begging, but Vipina's determination to execute the order of his guru was fixed and he would not yield to their pressure. In the evening, when Vipina handed over his days collection of alms consisting of some cloth, holy thread, some small coins and rice to his guru, Thakura held the collections on his head and danced in joy.

 

Vipina continued to serve his guru with devotion, efficiency and punctuality and in appreciation of his commendable performance Thakura made him the chief of all disciples. After three months Thakura advised Vipina to return to his family and home. Vipina was not keen to return to his life of a practicing lawyer, which involved dealing with lies and fraudulence. However, when his guru told him that he would become a munsiff within seven days, he returned to his work. Sure enough, within seven days of his return Vipina joined his new post as a munsiff (moonshee, translator and language teacher).

 

He used to attend Harinama sankirtana twice everyday with the members and servants of his family regardless of his place of posting. His neighbors like him very much and craved his company. Vipina babu had an exceptionally sweet and melodious voice and his kirtana recitals were unique. Those who were fortunate enough to hear his recitals cherished them throughout their lifetime. In the course of his recitals he became so surcharged with devotion that he would begin to dance in a manner of skipping, frisking and leaping with occasional loud sounds. Sometimes, while dancing in a devotional trance, he would slap someone lovingly or mount on some other person's shoulders.

 

While he was posted as a Munsiff at Rouyana in the district of Cattagrama, some of his devotees approached him just before the Ratha yatra festival and requested him to lead the procession with his kirtana recital. Vipina babu agreed on the condition that people from all communities must participate and join him in a chorus. His opening recital "Vole-Haribol-Gaura Haribol" followed by his kirtana recital was stated to be so outstanding and intoxicating that many devotees had the vision of Lord Jagannatha in person on the chariot and many others were overwhelmed with deep devotional absorbtion.

 

Vipina babu had the habit of chanting aloud "Haribol" regularly at daybreak and hearing his voice his devotes from far and near would arrive at his place to join his kirtana session from 4:00 AM to 7:00 AM. Then Vipina would perform his daily prescribed prayer, sit down and write his professional judgement, take a bath and after doing routine tilaka seva, perform his worship of the Deity. Finally after taking prasadam he would leave for the court.

 

Before commencing his court proceedings he would bow his head in obeisances and after completing his days work he would chant "Haribol." When he returned home his devotees would already be there waiting for him. After taking a bath Vipina would join them for the evening session of kirtana and also recitals from Srimad Bhagavatam. Thereafter he would take prasadam with his devotees before retiring to bed. Even on the day of (Sri Harivasara) fasting, Vipina would follow the same routine, except that he would not take any meal.

 

The preaching and practice of Vipina was filled with devotion and dedication at the lotus feet of his guru, by whose grace he was able to realize the Supreme Lord as depicted in the Srimad Bhagavatam. Due to their deep attachment for each other, guru (Thakura) and his disciple (Nityananda) though physically apart, enjoyed the company of each others association on the spiritual platform.

 

It is said that once in the course of his recital of the verses on `Kazi-daman' from Sri Caitanya Bhagavata, Vipina became so engrossed in prema-bhava that a shining reflection of a picture, depicting Lord Gauranga on his way to subjugate the Kazi, appeared on the wall in full view of the devout audience, then disappeared shortly thereafter. It has also been said that Vipina Babu received darsana of Sri Haridasa Thakura at Comilla and that of Prabhu Nityananda at another place.

 

While Vipina would not hesitate to reprimand his sons or disciples for any lapses on their part, he remained silent when his daughters or the women folk acted in a similar manner. He inculcated a spirit of devotion and love amongst all the members of his family.

 

He never allowed his daily kirtana session to be interrupted even when he was seriously ill. Any devotee, irrespective of his caste, creed or religion was welcome to live under his shelter and dedicate himself to his own way of mediation, while Vipina would bear the expenses for the maintenance of the said devotee's family.

 

While posted at Nadaila, many teenage boys, inhabitants of Mahisakhola colony, used to assemble at his place to participate in kirtana. Amongst these boys Kirana Caudra Mitra and Girindranatha Ghosh were the leaders. Vipina's charming kirtanas transformed Girindra and he became a permanent servant of Nityananda. Girindra gave up his studies and went along with his master from Nadaila to Bankura. Girindra served Nityananda for more than twenty years, during which time he was fortunate enough to witness bhava-lila of Nityananda. Their relationship was more of a father and son, full of love and affection, rather than that of a master and servant. Nityananda did not hesitate to chastise Girindra whenever he noticed any lapse on his part. Sometimes he would go out of his way to help Girindra during difficult periods and even cured him from a dangerous illness through his divine power.

 

While Nityananda was posted at Kumilla (Visnupura), Raja Bahadura Manindra Candra Nandi organized a Vaisnava conference. A few days prior to the occasion, Nityananda, for no apparent reason, began to put on the pattern of tilaka according to Sri Gadadhara's clan instead of his prescribed pattern of Prabhu Nityananda's clan. Soon thereafter, the famous Gauda-bhakta Sripada Harimohana Siromani Gosvami of Sripata Adial (Vikvampura) in Dacca appeared at Nityananda's place without any prior intimation. The meeting of the two great Vaisnavas brought about an atmosphere of transcendental bliss. Nityananda was so impressed with Siromani's firm faith and love in Lord Gauranga that he himself became a member of the family of Sri Gadadhara after receiving initiation in Gaura-mantra from Sripada Siromani Prabhu. When Sripada Siromani visited Makadadaha again on Nityananda's request, Nityananda arranged that all his family members, servants and associates were initiated in Gaura-mantra by Sripada Siromani Prabhu.

 

Due to taking some medicine from a `Bhairavi', Nityananda again became seriously ill with bronchitis. He took leave from work and first went to Kasidhama and from there went to Calcutta, under the advice of his nephew and other associates. There he stayed with his boyhood friend Vipina Datta at Hogala Kuvide Lane (now known as Sahitya Parisada Street). After recovering from his illness under the care of Dr. Bidhana Candra Raya he returned to his work.

 

His beloved disciple Girindra used to sleep near the feet of his guru. One night he had a bad dream suggesting that Nityananda would leave the world after two days. Upon awaking Girindra began to sob at the feet of Nityananda, whose consolation did not change his gloomy state of mind. Two days after Girindra's dream, Atula Campati Mahasaya, a very close friend of Nityananda, came to the latter's residence at Makadadaha at about three in the afternoon. When the two friends started their conversation, with Nityananda holding the smoking pipe, Campati Mahasaya said, "Look Vipina, you need not worry about your death. When Nityananda asked the reason for such a remark, Campati replied, "After all you have your wife and son, at least they will give you some drops of water at your last moment, whereas I have no one to do so at the end of my life." As soon as Nityananda heard Campati's reply he threw away the smoking pipe from his hand and said, "What do you say Campati? Nityananda Dasa' would just chant "Hari" and drop dead." At that moment he expired. Later, Campati was heard to say that Vipina had taught him a good lesson as to how one should die. Vipina died on the eight lunar day of the dark fortnight of the month of Magha in 1923 A.D. (1330)

 

 

 

 

 

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