pulinda-tanaya malli kalidaso’dhunabhavat
Kali Das was previously the tribal girl named Malli in Vraja.
Mahaprabhu’s Devotee Kali Das was born in a kayastha family. His home was in the village of Bheda or Bhaduwa in Hoogly district. This village is about three miles south of Raghunatha Das Goswami’s birthplace in Saptagram Krishnapura and one mile west of the present-day Bandel Junction train station. Jharu Thakur, who was born in a sweeper caste (bhuni-mali), lived in the same village. These places are served by the Devanandapura post office. Kali Das’s Deities used to be worshiped in Shankhanagara village, but they have since been moved to Triveni. Jharu Thakur’s Deity was named Madana Gopal and is still being worshiped in Bhaduwa.
Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami has glorified these two Devotees in his Chaitanya Charitamrita, in the sixteenth chapter of the Antya-lila. There we learn that Kali Das was related to Raghunatha Das Goswami as a distant uncle.
He was related to Raghunatha Das as an uncle and he made a vow of eating the remnants of the Vaishnavas throughout his life. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.16.8)
Kali Das’s Devotion to the Remnants of the Devotees
Kali Das was a great Devotee who constantly chanted the Holy Names of Krishna. He used the words “Hare Krishna” throughout all his activities. His devotion to eating the remnants of the Vaishnavas resulted in his receiving extraordinary blessings from Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. The Lord gives so much mercy to anyone who has faith in the Vaishnavas and eats their remnants that he has nothing left to give.
Therefore, set aside your shame and disgust and eat the Vaishnavas’ remnants, for by so doing you will be able to fulfill all your desires. The remnants of Krishna’s food are called Maha-Prasad, but the remnants of the Devotee are given the name maha-maha-prasad. The dust of a Devotee’s feet, the water that has washed his feet, and the remnants of his food are three very powerful aids to spiritual practice. All revealed scriptures loudly declare again and again that one can attain the supreme goal of ecstatic love for Krishna through the use of these three substances. So, my dear Devotees, please listen to me, for I insist on this point: keep faith in these three substances and render service to them with complete faith. Through these three substances you will taste the joy of sacred love found in the Holy Name of Krishna and you will win Krishna’s pleasure. This has been proved by the experience of Kali Das. Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.16.58-63)
While living in Bengal, Kali Das ate the remnants of all Devotees, without taking their caste status into consideration. He would go to their houses with gifts of the finest foodstuffs. After they had finished eating, he would ask for their remnants. If any of them were unwilling to give him their remnants, he would take them without their knowledge. He would hide and wait for them to throw away the leaf-plates on which they had eaten and lick them clean.
Kali Das Visits Jharu Thakur
All Vaishnavas are worshipable, irregardless of the caste in which they were born. A Vaishnava is beyond the material qualities and thus is not to be identified with his nationality or caste. Anyone who makes a judgment of a Devotee on the basis of the caste into which he was born is said to have a hellish mentality. Though Jharu Thakur was born into the Bhuimali, one of Bengal’s untouchable castes, he was a great Devotee.
Kali Das recognized Jharu Thakur’s humility as being appropriate to a Vaishnava and said, “I am extremely fallen. It is only as a result of great good fortune that I have been able to meet you today. If you would only be so kind as to place the dust of your feet on my head.”
Jharu Thakur was embarrassed and felt uneasy. Kali Das recited a few verses that glorify the Devotees of the Lord:
na me’bhaktash catur-vedi
mad-bhaktah shva-pacah priyah
tasmai deyam tato grahyam
sa ca pujyo yatha hy aham
A scholar learned in the four Vedas is not dear to Me if he is not My Devotee, whereas someone born as a dog-eater who is devoted to Me is very dear to Me. All respect should be given to such a person, and one should accept his gifts, for such Devotees are as worshipable as I am. (Hari-bhakti-vilasa 10.29, Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.16.25)
viprad dvi-shad-guna-yutad aravinda-nabha-
padaravinda-vimukhac chva-pacam varishtham
pranam punati sa kulam na tu bhuri-manah
A person born in a Brahmin family and possessing all twelve brahminical qualities, but adverse to the lotus-navelled Lord Krishna’s lotus feet, is inferior to a dog-eater who has dedicated his mind, words, activities, wealth and life to the service of the Lord. Such a person purifies not only his own life but his whole family, whereas one who is proud of his qualifications cannot. (Shrimad Bhagavatam 7.9.10, Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.16.26)
aho bata shva-paco’to gariyan
yaj-jihvagre vartate nama tubhyam
tepus tapas te juhuvuh sasnur arya
brahmanucur nama grinanti ye te
How wonderful it is that the dog-eater who always keeps your Holy Name on his tongue is greater than a Brahmin! Despite his low caste, anyone who chant Your names is understood to have performed all kinds of austerities and the great Vedic sacrifices, to have studied all the Vedas, and to have bathed in all the holy places of pilgrimage. They are the real nobility.
(Shrimad Bhagavatam 3.33.7, Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.16.27)
When Jharu Thakur entered his house, he placed the mangoes in a banana-bark bowl and mentally offered them to Krishna. His wife then took the mango Prasad from the bowl and gave them to her husband. Jharu Thakur ate the mango, and after sucking the seed, placed it back in the bowl. She herself took his remnants and then took the mango seeds and skins and threw the bowl into the refuse pit. When she had gone, Kali Das came and sucked on the seeds and even licked the outside of the skins. As he tasted the remnants of the Vaishnavas, Kali Das was overwhelmed with ecstatic symptoms.
This, then, was Kali Das’s procedure as he paid obeisances to all the Vaishnavas in Bengal and ate their food remnants.
Kali Das Receives Mahaprabhu’s Mercy in Puri
Every year, the Bengali Devotees went to Puri to visit Mahaprabhu. Kali Das went in the second year of this institution. As the Supersoul, the Lord knew of Kali Das’s dedication to the Devotees’ remnants and so He gave him profuse blessings. Whenever Mahaprabhu went on His daily visit to the Jagannath Temple, He would be accompanied by Govinda who carried His kamandalu (water pot). Mahaprabhu would wash His feet before entering the Temple and the water would run off into a pool situated at the bottom of the twenty-two steps at the northern entrance at the Simhadvara. Mahaprabhu had given Govinda the strict order to not allow anyone to touch the water which washed His feet. For this reason, no one dared to make the attempt. Only a few intimate Devotees found ways to get some of this holy liquid.
One day, as Mahaprabhu was washing His feet as usual, Kali Das came there and stretched out his hand to take some of the water. He drank not once, not twice, but three times as Mahaprabhu watched. The Lord only stopped him when he cupped his hands for the fourth time.
The all-knowing Supreme Lord, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, knew of the faith that Kali Das had in the Vaishnavas. Happy with him for this great virtue, He allowed him to win a blessing impossible for others to achieve. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.16.48-9)
Mahaprabhu returned to Kashi Mishra’s house after visiting Jagannath to take His midday meal. Kali Das sat outside the door, hoping to receive some of the Lord’s remnants. The Lord knew of his desire and signaled Govinda to bring him His Prasad after He had finished eating.
This is the wonderful result of eating Vaishnavas’ remnants: through so doing, Kali Das attained Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s supreme mercy. Therefore, set aside your shame and disgust and eat the Vaishnavas’ remnants, for by so doing you will be able to fulfill all your desires. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.16.57-8)
[Excerpted from “Shri Chaitanya: His Life & Associates” by Shrila Bhakti Ballabh Tirtha Maharaj]