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Chapter 10: Cleansing Jagannath's garden-house

Before this, when the Master returned from the South, King Pratap Rudra Gajapati, eager to see Him, wrote to Sarvabhauma from Katak to get the Master's consent to an interview. On Bhattacharya replying that the consent was withheld, the king wrote again, "Entreat the bhaktas of the Master to intercede with Him for me. Through their favour I may reach His feet. I like not my kingship if I cannot gain His grace. If Chaitanya does not take pity on me, I shall give up my throne and turn a religious mendicant." Bhattacharya in great alarm went to the bhaktas, told them of the king's plight and showed them the letter.

They marvelled at the king's devotion to the Master and said, "He will never receive the king. If we entreat Him, it will only grieve Him." But Sarvabhauma said, "Let us all go to Him. We shall tell Him about the king's conduct without pressing Him to grant an interview."

So they all repaired to the Master's presence, eager to speak and yet silent. He asked, "What is it that you have all come to say? I see you have of something in your minds. Why then do you not speak it out?" Nityananda replied, "We have a prayer to make. We cannot keep it back, and yet we fear to speak. Proper or improper we shall report it all to you. If you do not see him the king wishes to turn hermit." The Master's heart was secretly softened by the speech, but with a show of harshness He said, "I see that you all wish to take me to see the king at Katak! Not to speak of the next world, even the people (of the earth) will blame me. Not to speak of other people, even Damodar will condemn me. If I ever receive the king it will be with Damodar's approval and not at your request." Damodar said, "You are God and a free being. You know best what is proper (for you) and what is not. How can a petty creature like me lay down the rule to you? I shall witness your granting him an audience of your own accord. The king loves you, love compels you, therefore his love will make you touch him. A free God as you are, it is your nature to be swayed by love."

Nityananda broke in, "Where is the man that dares bid you interview the king? But it is the nature of devoted ones that they give up their lives if they fail to obtain the object of their adoration. Witness how the sacrificing Brahman's wife gave up her life on failing to go out and see Krishna [Bhagabat, X. xxiii]. There is one way, however, if you will only listen to it, by which you will not meet the king and yet his life will be saved: give him of thy grace thy wearing apparel, by getting which he will hold to life."

The Master replied, "You are all highly learned. Do whatever you think fit." Then Nityananda begged from Govinda one of the dhotis of the Master, and sent it by Sarvabhauma to the king, who gleefully adored the cloth as if it were the Master Himself.

Thereafter when Ramananda Ray came back from the South and entreated the king to let him stay with the Master, the king gladly consented, and pressed him to entreat the Master, whose favourite he was, to grant him an interview. Then the two arrived at Puri, and Ramananda waited on the Master and reported to Him the king's love and devotion. He repeatedly took occasion to mention the subject, being a minister expert in diplomacy, and succeeded in softening the Master's mind.

Pratap Rudra could not contain himself in his eagerness, and again pressed Ramananda, who begged the Master to show His feet only once to the king. But the Master replied, "Judge for yourself, Ramananda, whether a hermit ought to receive a king. Such an interview ruins a hermit in this world and the next, and makes him a butt of ridicule." Ramananda pleaded, "You are God and your own master; whom fear you? You are subject to none!" The Master replied, "I am a sannyasi living in human habitations, and I fear worldly dealings with all my soul and body. Even the most trifling failing of a sannyasi is talked of by all men, just as a spot of ink on a white cloth cannot be hidden." The Ray urged, "You have saved (by your touch) many a sinner, while this king is a devotee of God and your bhakta." The Master parried the argument thus, "Just as a jar full of milk is shunned if it contains even one drop of wine, so is Pratap Rudra, clad in all the virtues, defiled by his title of King. Still, if you are keen about it, introduce his son to me. The Shastras say, the son is one's own self born again. My interview with the son will be equivalent to a meeting with the father."

The Ray reported it to the king and conducted the Prince to the Master. The royal youth was handsome and dark, clad in a yellow robe and jewels, --so that he reminded one of Krishna. On seeing him, the Master thought of Krishna, lovingly received him, and said, "A very pious personage is this youth, the sight of whom makes all men remember the Darling of Braja's lord. Blessed am I that I have seen him." So saying He repeatedly embraced the Prince, who was transported by the touch and began to perspire, tremble, weep, exult and stand inert, and (then) danced and wept chanting Krishna's name. The bhaktas present praised his good fortune. Then the Master composed him and bade him come there daily.

The Ray took the Prince away to the king who rejoiced at his son's exploit, and in embracing his son felt the touch of the Master's person as it were. Thenceforth the lucky Prince was numbered among the Master's bhaktas.

So did He pass His time blissfully in ceaseless sankirtan with His followers. He was feasted with His companions by the Acharya and others successively. Thus some time passed and the day of the Car Festival approached. At the outset He called for Kashi Mishra, the Parichha minister and Sarvabhauma, and smilingly said, "I beg to undertake the service of cleansing the Gundicha temple." The Parichha replied, "We are all your servants, bound to do whatever you wish for. On me has been laid the special command of my king to quickly perform whatever you bid. Cleaning the temple is not a task worthy of you; but it is one of your playful acts; do whatever you like. But many pitchers and brooms will be required. Permit me to bring them here to-day." So he delivered to the Master a hundred new pitchers and brooms.

Next morning the Master rubbed His followers over with sandal-paste, gave each a broom and went with them to the Gundicha temple to clean it. First He swept and cleaned the inside, the roof, and the throne. The two temples, large and small, were swept and washed, and then the dancing-hall in front. The hundred bhaktas plied their brooms, the Master in the middle guiding them by His own manner of sweeping. Following Him they gleefully chanted Krishna's name while at work. The dust covered His fair form; now and then His tears washed the ground. The god's dining-hall was swept and then the court-yard. At last all the rooms were cleaned. He made a bundle of the collection of straw, dust and pebbles in His outer clothing and threw them outside. So did His followers, too. The Master said, "I shall learn the amount of the labour done by each from the size of his bundle of sweepings." So their bundles were heaped together, but the Master's own bundle was seen to exceed the entire heap.

After cleansing the interior, He divided the work again among them, telling them to make the place thoroughly tidy by removing all the fine dust, small straws and gravel. He rejoiced to see the cleansing finished a second time by His party of Vaishnavs. A hundred other followers had been waiting with a hundred pitchers of water from the outset, for their turn. As soon as the Master called for water they placed the hundred pots before Him. He first washed the temple, top-floor, wall, and the throne in the interior. The water was dashed in earthen cups on to the top, and thus the upper walls were washed. He Himself washed the throne, while the bhaktas washed the inner shrine, and scrubbed it with their own hands. Some poured water on the Master's hands, some on His feet, and some covertly drank up the water (so consecrated). Some begged this water from others. After the temple had been cleansed they poured water into the drain and thus the court-yard was submerged. With His own cloth the Master wiped the building and the throne. It took a hundred pitchers of water to wash the temple.

The purified temple became spotless, cool and delicious, like His own mind laid bare to view. A hundred filled their pitchers at the tank, or, if crowded out, at the well. A hundred bhaktas brought the filled pitchers in, while another hundred ran off with the empty ones. Only Nityananda, Adwaita, Swarup, the Bharati, and the Puri did not draw water. (In their hurry) many pitchers were knocked together and broken, but men brought hundreds of new pots to replace them. They shouted Krishna! Krishna! as they filled their pots, or broke them, delivered the filled pitchers or begged for new ones. No other word was uttered there; Krishna's name became a mystic word to express all their different purposes. In ecstasy of devotion the Master chanted Krishna's name and did alone the work of a hundred men, as if He had put forth a hundred arms in washing and scrubbing. He also went up to each to instruct him, praising those whose tasks were well done and gravely chiding those who were slovenly. "You have done well, teach others to do the like,"--at these words of His they were put on the alert and did their work with all their heart. Then they washed the Jagmohan[1] the dining room, the dancing-hall, the court-yard, the kitchen, the environs of the temple, and all nooks and private places.

Just then an honest simple Bengali emptied his pitcher at the Master's feet and drank the water. At this the Master turned angry and sorry. He inly felt pleased, but for the instruction of others outwardly professed anger, calling out to Swarup "Look at the conduct of your Gauriya. He has washed my feet in God's temple and drunk the water. From this sin where can I hope for salvation? Your Bengal man has caused me this misery." Then Swarup took the man by the nape of his neck, shoved him out of the temple, and on his return entreated the Master to pardon the man. The Master was now satisfied. He seated all in two rows and sat in the middle, picking up straws and brambles with His own hands. "I shall see what a heap the gleaning of each can make. He whose collection is small must forfeit his cake and syrup to me!" Thus was the temple made clean, cool and pure, like His own mind. The water running down the drain looked like a new river flowing to the ocean.

He then cleansed the Man-lion temple in and out, rested a little, and then set up dancing. And in the same manner He swept the roads in front of the temple. The bhaktas danced around, while the Master danced in their midst like a raging lion, perspiring, trembling, turning pale, being thrilled, and roaring. After washing His body He marched in advance, showering down tears, while the bhaktas washed themselves clean, like unto the deluge of rain from the clouds in the month of Shravan. The loud sankirtan filled the sky, the vigorous dance of the Master shook the earth. The resonant singing of Swarup pleased the Master, who danced wildly in delight. After dancing thus, He took rest at the proper time.

Shri Gopal, the son of the Acharya, when allowed by the Master to dance, was so overcome by devotion that he fell down in a fit. The father hurriedly took him up in his arms, and was afflicted to see his breathing stopped. Uttering with a sky-splitting roar the "spell of Nrisingha" he dashed water on the youth's face. But the youth did not regain consciousness, in spite of all their efforts. The Acharya wept, the bhaktas wept too. Then the Master laid His hand on the youth's breast and cried out, "Rise Gopal!" and lo! at the cry Gopal came round. The bhaktas danced chanting Hari's name.

After a short rest, the Master disported with His followers in the tank. On rising from the water He put on dry clothes, bowed to Nrisingha, and went to sit in the garden, with His followers around Him. Then Vaninath, accompanied by Kashi Mishra and Tulsi Parichha, brought to Him the maha-prasad, rice, cakes, and syrup, enough to feed five hundred men. The Master delighted at the sight. On the terrace He sat down to meal with the Puri, Brahmananda Bharati, Adwaita Acharya, Nityananda, Acharya-Ratna, Acharya-Nidhi, Shribas, Gadadhar, Shankar Nyayacharya, Raghav, Vakreshwar and Sarvabhauma. Then the bhaktas sat down in the successive terraces below them, in due order. The garden was filled with them. The Master repeatedly called for Haridas, who from afar off replied, "Partake of thy repast with the bhaktas, Master. I am all too unworthy to sit with thee. Govinda will afterwards give me prasad outside the gate." Knowing his intent, the Master did not press him further. The food was served up by Swarup, Jagadananda, Damodar, Kashishwar, Gopinath, Vaninath and Shankar, while the bhaktas shouted Hari! Hari! at intervals. The Master remembered the picnic on the Jamuna bank which Krishna had held of yore. He checked, as inopportune, the rapture of devotion which seized His mind (at the thought), and said, Serve me with sauce and fry only, and let the bhaktas have the sweets. Being omniscient He knew who liked which dish, and directed Swarup to serve each according to his taste. Jagadananda, in the course of his serving, dropped sweet things unawares on the Master's plate, and though the Master angrily protested, he supplied more by force or cunning, as such serving was his delight. As Jagadananda came there on his rounds again and gazed at the sweets he had served before, the Master in fear of him ate a little of them, lest Jagadananda should himself fast! Swarup with his hands full of sweet prasad stood before the Master praying "Taste a little of this maha-prasad and see what Jagannath has eaten!" He placed them on the plate, and the Master moved by his kindness, ate a little. Thus did these two bhaktas repeatedly show their wonderful tender regard for Him. Sarvabhauma, who sat at the Master's side, smiled at their loving conduct. The Master ordered sweets to be served to Sarvabhauma and repeatedly pressed him to eat. Gopinath Acharya placed nice dishes before Sarvabhauma and said sweetly, "Bhattacharya! where is your former line of conduct now? Whence do you feel such supreme bliss? Answer me that." Sarvabhauma replied, "I was a sophistical disputant. Your grace has made me attain to this fortune. The Master is the only Gracious One. Who else could have turned a crow (like me) into a garuda (the favourite bird of Vishnu)? Formerly I used to howl with the sophist jackals, and now out of the same mouth I utter Krishna's name! What was my former concourse with externalist logician disciples, and what is this society of saints like merging in the ocean waves!" The Master said, "Your devotion to Krishna had already matured (before I met you). It is your society that has made us all devoted to Krishna!" There is none like the Master, in the three worlds, to exalt the glory of the bhakta and to soothe a bhakta's heart. Then the Master sent cakes and syrup from the leavings of His plate, to each bhakta by name.

Adwaita and Nityananda, sitting together began a mock quarrel, the former saying, "I have dined in the same row with a hermit (abadhut). Who knows what my fate will be in the next world? The Master Himself is a sannyasi, and as such is above defilement from food-contact (with a casteless man like an abadhut), for so the Shastras say. But I am a Brahman householder, and therefore liable to defilement. It has been a great sin on my part to dine in the same row with a man whose birth, pedigree, conduct and character are unknown to me!"

Nityananda replied, "You are Adwaita Acharya. According to the theory of Adwaita system (Monism), the duty is abstract bhakti. He who accepts your theory recognizes only one principle and no second. With such a person as you have I dined! I know not what led me to join your company." So they wrangled, really praising one another in the garb of abuse.

After the dinner, the Vaishnavs rose up shouting Hari loudly enough to split earth and heaven. The Master gave to each of them a garland with His own hand. Next the waiters, Swarup and the other six, sat down to their repast within the room. Govinda laid aside the leavings of the Master's plate, to be given to Haridas. The bhaktas and even Govinda himself took a little of this hallowed food. Various are the sports of the free God, such as this ceremony of washing and cleaning.

For a fortnight the people had been denied sight of the god Jagannath [while his image was being painted anew]; and their grief changed into joy when, at the expiry of the period, the eye-painting (i.e., the last stage) being over, they could again see him. The Master went thither with all His followers. First marched Kashishwar, making a lane through the crowd, next went Govinda with a bowl of water. In front of the Master walked the Puri and the Bharati, and by His side Swarup and Adwaita, the other bhaktas bringing up the rear. Anxiously did He go to Jagannath's temple and in passion of longing stepped beyond the rules, asking to see the fair face of the god in the dining room. The thirsty eyes of the Master ardently drank in the face of Krishna, like a pair of bees sucking in a lotus. The god's eyes surpassed the blooming lotus in beauty, his cheeks flashed radiance like a polished turquoise mirror, his lower lip was sweet as the Bandhuli flower, a light smile spread a ripple of nectar over his form. As the bhaktas gazed on, the charm of the god's countenance increased every moment; their thirst increased with its gratification; their eyes could not move from that face. Thus did the Master with His following gaze at the god till noon, perspiring, trembling, weeping incessantly, and again checking these outbursts in order to have a clearer view of the deity. At the time of bhog He began to sing kirtan, forgetful of everything else in the bliss of gazing. The bhaktas led Him back to His quarters at noon. The servitors offered to the god a double quantity of prasad, knowing that the Car Festival would take place next morning. [Text, canto 12.]

[1] A quadrangle in front of the inner shrine, where the worshippers stand when gazing on the idol.