indradyumno maharajo jagannatharcakah pura
jatah prataparudrah san sama indrena so’dhuna
Indradyumna, who previously worshiped Lord Jagannath, was born as Prataparudra, with the same opulences as Indra himself. (Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika118)
[Note: In a Satyayuga during the second half of Brahma’s lifetime, a certain king named Indradyumna was born into the Dynasty of the Sun. He ruled over the kingdom of Malava and had his capital at Avantipura. He was a great Devotee of Vishnu, as was his priest Vidyapati. In the first half of Brahma’s life, Jagannath had appeared in Nilachala as Nila Madhava with the purpose of delivering the conditioned souls of this world. He was served by a tribal king named Vishvavasu. Nila Madhava manifested the Deity form of Jagannath through these three persons: Indradyumna, Vidyapati and Vishvavasu. The Lord appeared in three forms at the place known as Banki Mohana in order to show His mercy for King Indradyumna. These three Deities are, of course, Balaram, Subhadra and Jagannath.]
The ancestors of King Prataparudra are listed in the Orissan history, Madala Punji. It is said there that when King Kajjalabhanu, the last ruler of the Ganga dynasty, was absent from the kingdom during wartime, his minister Kapilendra Deva led a coup and took over the throne. Also known as Kapileshvara, this king founded the Gajapati dynasty of Orissa. Kapilendra’s queen was Parvati, to whom was born their son and successor, Purushottam Deva, Prataparudra’s father. Prataparudra’s mother was Padmavati or Rupambika.
Prataparudra was an associate of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and is considered a branch of Gadadhara Pandit Goswami. During the Lord’s lifetime, he was an independent king of considerable power. His capital city was Chuttack (Kataka). He, his wives and sons, were all Devotees of Mahaprabhu. His chief wife (or patta-mahishi) was named Gauri. She had five sons, the eldest of whom was named Purushottam Jana. This is mentioned in Bhakti-ratnakara (6.65).
Prataparudra, Disciple of Kashi Mishra
King Prataparudra accepted Kashi Mishra as his spiritual master and served him with great dedication. While staying at Puri, he would daily go to Kashi Mishra’s house and massage his guru’s feet after his midday meal. At this time he would inquire about the state of Jagannath’s service, etc.
Prataparudra had a regular duty which he performed whenever he was at Nilachala. He would daily massage Kashi Mishra’s feet and would hear a report on Jagannath’s service. (Chaitanya Charitamrita)
Mahaprabhu stayed at Kashi Mishra’s house in a one-roomed cottage on the veranda. In Orissan, such a small cottage is called a gambhira.
We also learn from Ramananda Raya’s Jagannath-vallabha Nataka that Prataparudra was a mighty and heroic military leader, despite which he maintained a humble demeanor. He was a generous and open-hearted Vaishnava. It is also said there that he was devoted to the promotion of learning. Every one of Mahaprabhu’s biographies states that he received the Lord’s mercy. Kavi Karnapura also writes about Prataparudra’s military qualities in his Chaitanya-chandrodaya Nataka. He protected brahmanical culture and was especially benevolent towards the Vaishnava religion. Many works of Vaishnava history dating to that period have given testimony that he was the object of affection for Mahaprabhu, Ramananda Raya, Kashi Mishra and Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya.
Many books have been attributed to Prataparudra, such as Saraswati-vilasa, Pratapa-martanda, Kautuka-chintamani, Nirnaya-sangraha, etc. In fact, the first two of these books were written by two of his court scholars, Lolla Lakshmidhara and Ramakrishna, respectively. There is a legend that when Mahaprabhu left Puri for Vrindavan, Prataparudra felt such separation that he had a murti of the Lord made. He assigned 54 Brahmins to the service of the Deity, as well as giving a large tract of land for its maintenance. In the royal palace at Puri, Deities of Gaura-Nityananda and Gaura-Gadadhara are worshiped alongside numerous other images.
Purushottam Fights for Jagannath’s Honor
During Prataparudra’s reign, his kingdom stretched as far as Rajamahendri in modern Andhra Pradesh. It is not necessary to go into detail here, but the following is a brief summary of some of the historical background. Prataparudra’s father, Purushottam Deva, retrieved lands which had been lost to his kingdom as well as expanding it further through his own might. Being entirely surrendered to Jagannath, he was successful in extending Orissan lands as far as Rajamahendri, or Rajahmundry. It was said that Jagannath Himself would appear on the battlefield to assist the king in his fight.
On one occasion, marriage was contracted between Purushottam and the king of Kanchi’s daughter Padmavati. The king of Kanchi came to Puri to have a look at the groom. He arrived there during the time of the Rathayatra and saw his prospective son-in-law sweeping the parade ground before the chariot of the Lord, as was the custom. Though Purushottam was sweeping the ground with a golden broom, the king of Kanchi thought that it was an insult to his daughter to marry her to someone who took the tasks of a sweeper, the lowest outcaste of Hindu society. He thus cancelled the marriage between them. The king of Kanchi was a Devotee of Ganesha, and had no great faith in Jagannath.
When Purushottam heard of the sovereign of Kanchi’s faithlessness, he became angry and attacked his territories with a large force. At first he was unable to secure a victory, so he prostrated himself before Jagannath and surrendered to Him. This time Jagannath assured him that He would aid his war effort and so Purushottam took up arms again.
As Purushottam passed through the village of Anandapura, about 12 miles from Puri, a milk maid said to him, "Two horsemen passed through here. They bought milk, yogurt and buttermilk from me and paid for it with a ring. They told me to give you the ring and ask for money in exchange." When Purushottam looked at the ring, he was able to recognize that the two horsemen had been none other than Jagannath and Balaram. He rewarded the milkmaid and set off to certain victory against Kanchi. He returned with the jewelled throne of that kingdom and offered it to the service of Jagannath. He also took the Ganesha Deity which was worshipped in Kanchi back to Puri. In this way, Jagannath Deva crushed the arrogant pride of the king of Kanchi. It is said that Ganesha tried to cast obstacles in Purushottam’s way during the battle. Since he went against his customary role of eliminating obstacles, he was given the name Bhanda ("deceitful") Ganesha.
Kanchi’s king personally returned to Puri with his daughter Padmavati and offered her as Purushottam’s bride while he was sweeping the Rathayatra route for Jagannath. Purushottam kept his promise and remained king of Puri until 1497 AD. He was followed by Prataparudra who remained on the throne until his death in 1540. Other than the abovementioned queen Gauri, he also had four other wives, named Padma, Padmalaya, Ila and Mahila.
Prataparudra Wishes to Meet Mahaprabhu
Prataparudra was the most fortunate member of the Gajapati dynasty of Orissan kings, as he received the mercy of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the combined form of Radha and Krishna. Even though Mahaprabhu felt that it was not beneficial for a sannyasi to come into contact with a worldly man like a king, His disdain for him was pure show. Inwardly, He was won over by the king’s pure devotional attitude and He showered him generously with His causeless mercy. Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami has described how the Lord taught the people of this world through King Prataparudra in his Chaitanya Charitamrita. The story is told in the eleventh chapter of the Madhya-lila.
At first Prataparudra approached Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya to tell him of his desire to meet Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He asked him so many times that finally Saravabhauma asked Mahaprabhu to allow the king to see him. As soon as he heard the request, however, the Lord covered His ears and said, "For a sannyasi like Myself, to see a king is the same as looking at a woman– it is pure poison." (2.11.7) Even though the king was a great Devotee, the fact that he was a king made him an object of fear, like a black snake.
In the fifth chapter of the Antya-khanda of the Chaitanya Bhagavat, Vrindavan Das Thakur has described the King’s deep desire to meet with the Lord as well as a dream in which the King saw that Lord Jagannath and Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu are non-different. The first time the King saw Mahaprabhu dance, He observed body covered in dust and His mouth filled with frothing saliva from his ecstatic dancing and so felt some doubts.
That very night, he saw Jagannath in a dream. Jagannath too was covered in dust and saliva; then he saw the same dust-covered form of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu sitting on Lord Jagannath’s simhasana along with the Deity. From this amazing dream he understood the divine nature of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
[Jagannath said,] "Just look! My body is covered with dust and saliva. You are a king and the son of a king. Surely it is not proper for you to touch someone like Myself." Having said this, Lord Jagannath looked at His servant and laughed. In that very moment, the King saw Chaitanya Mahaprabhu sitting on the altar alongside the Lord. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 3.5.175-7)
Ramananda and Sarvabhauma Try to Intervene
One day, Prataparudra came to Puri with Ramananda Raya and other members of his retinue. Ramananda knew of the king’s eagerness to meet Mahaprabhu, so when he went to visit the Lord, he tried to persuade Him to allow such a meeting to take place, telling Him of the king’s deep affection for Him. He added that the king had given him leave from his job with full pay to allow him to stay with the Lord. When He heard how the king was filled with love for him and how he had served His Devotee, Mahaprabhu replied: "The king has shown so much love for you that the Lord is sure to accept him on the basis of this virtue alone."
ye me bhakta-janah partha na me bhaktash ca te janah
mad-bhaktanam tu ye bhaktas te me bhaktatama matah
Those who claim to be My Devotees are in fact not so. The best of My Devotees are those who are devoted to My servants.
However, Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya again entreated the Lord on the king’s behalf to allow such a meeting to take place, the Lord said that under no circumstances would He come face to face with a king, and that if people continued to ask Him to do so, He would leave Puri and go to live elsewhere. When the king heard this, he was desolated. He said,
"The Lord has descended just to deliver all kinds of sinful, lowborn persons. He has even delivered sinners like Jagai and Madhai. But it seems that He has made a promise to deliver the entire universe with the exception of someone named Prataparudra. He may have sworn not to see me, but I have sworn to give up my life if I cannot see Him. Without Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's mercy, my life and kingdom are worthless." (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.11.45-6, 48-9)
Vasudeva Sarvabhauma thought up a way to arrange a meeting between Prataparudra and the Lord. During the Rathayatra festival, after having danced in the sankirtan with His Devotees, the Lord customarily went into a flower garde to rest. Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya suggested to the king that he take this opportunity to approach the Lord dressed as a common person and to recite the verses of the Rasa-panchadhyaya from the Bhagavat. The Lord would be in a trance-like state and would be transported by the recital of the loves of Krishna and the gopis. In this condition, He would surely embrace the king. The king was relieved to hear these words of advice.
When the Lord returned from His pilgrimage to the South of India, Prataparudra sent a letter to Sarvabhauma in which he once again expressed his desire to meet with the Lord. Sarvabhauma showed the letter to the other Devotees and all were duly impressed by the degree of devotion exhibited by the King. Nityananda Prabhu decided that he would speak to the Lord, not about meeting the King but simply about his personal qualities and actions. He said the following to the Lord:
We want to submit everything to You, whether or not it is fitting. The King has decided that he will become a yogi if he cannot meet You. He says, "I will pierce my ears and place earrings there and become a mendicant. I have no desire to enjoy this kingdom without the mercy of Gaurahari. When will I be able to see the Lord’s moonlike face to my full satisfaction and when will I be able to hold His lotus feet to my heart?" (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.12.19-21)
Though the Lord listened to Nityananda’s account of the King’s mood, He took a hard-line position in order to teach the world. He said that for the sake of His spiritual advancement, a sannyasi is forbidden to even see a King. If He were to engage in such forbidden acts, Damodar Pandit would criticize Him. Damodar Pandit answered, saying:
"I am merely an insignificant jiva, so what power do I have to tell you what to do? I shall see you meet the King of your own volition. The King loves You very much, and you are influenced by a Devotee’s feelings of love. It is the power of this love for You that will reward him with the opportunity to touch You. Although You are the Supreme Lord and are completely independent, still it is Your nature to be influenced by the love and affection of Your Devotees." (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.12.27-9)
Nityananda added that people who experience unrequited love tend to commit suicide. Thus, in order to save the King’s life, he asked Mahaprabhu to give him a used loincloth (bahirvasa). The Lord could not refuse, so Nityananda asked Govinda for the loincloth and sent it to the King via Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya. Prataparudra was overjoyed to receive the cloth and he began to worship it as though it were the Lord Himself.
Mahaprabhu Sees the King’s Son
When Ramananda Raya received the King’s permission to come to live near the Lord in Puri, he also described Maharaj Prataparudra’s intense desire to see the Lord and tried to persuade the Lord to fulfill that desire. Mahaprabhu spoke out of a desire to establish the rules of conduct for the renounced orders: He said that just as even a slight mark on a piece of white cloth immediately becomes noticeable, the smallest character flaws of a sannyasi are noticed by the general public. A jug full of milk is contaminated by even a drop of liquor; similarly, though King Prataparudra may possess all virtues, the very fact that he is a king makes his association contaminated.
However, the Lord was unable to completely ignore Ramananda Raya’s request, because of their close friendship. He Himself suggested that He could see the King’s son, for according to the maxim atma vai jayate putrah ("one is reborn as one’s own son"), there is no difference between the father and the son. When he learned of the Lord’s will, Prataparudra immediately sent his son to Him. When Mahaprabhu saw the teenaged prince with his almond eyes and dark skin wearing a yellow cloth, He immediately thought of Krishna. He embraced the lad which caused Him to experience the ecstatic transformations of prema. The King embraced Him and felt the same ecstasies through the medium of his son. From that day onward, the King’s son was considered one of Mahaprabhu’s associates.
The King’s Humble Service to Lord Jagannath
A Devotee who is free from pride, is surrendered and without any ulterior motive, is eligible to receive the Lord’s mercy.
dinere adhika daya karen Bhagavan
kulin pandit dhanir baria abhiman
The Lord bestows greater blessings on the meek and humble. Those who are well-born, who are learned, and who are rich are filled with pride. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.4.68)
Maharaj Prataparudra was without any pride, even though he had so much material power as well as possessing all good qualities. Mahaprabhu had noticed his willingness to engage in even menial service and was pleased with him and ready to give him His mercy, even though externally He made a show of being hard-hearted.
(While Lord Jagannath was being carried from the throne to the car) King Prataparudra personally engaged in the Lord's service by sweeping the road with a gold-handled broom. He sprinkled the road with sandalwood-scented water. Although he was the owner of the royal throne, he engaged in such menial service. Although the King was the most exalted respectable person, still he accepted menial service for Lord Jagannath and was therefore a suitable candidate for Jagannatha’s mercy. Mahaprabhu was happy to see the King’s service to the Lord and it was through this service, that he finally received the mercy of the Lord. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.13.15-18)
The Lord’s mercy has no cause. Only He knows who will receive His blessings and when. Often, He does so in an indirect manner rather than doing it openly. The Lord was pleased by the King’s engagement of a menial service and even though He did not make a public show of mercy to him, He did reveal His personal form to the King and thus fulfill his deepest desire.
Harichandana is Slapped by Shrivasa Pandit
In the thirteenth chapter of the Madhya-lila, these events are described. During the Rathayatra festival, the Bengali Devotees were divided into seven groups for chanting the Holy Names. Each one of these groups thought that Mahaprabhu was with them alone. Prataparudra was able to witness this pastime and felt wonder and ecstatic love. All this was Mahaprabhu’s indirect mercy.
When Mahaprabhu Himself wanted to dance in front of Jagannath’s chariot, He would gather the seven sampradayas together into one kirtan group. Meanwhile, the Devotees formed three rings of protection around the Lord. The innermost line of defense was headed by Nityananda Prabhu, the second by Kashishvara Pandit, Mukunda and other Devotees. Prataparudra and his soldiers formed the outermost circle to defend the Lord from the crowds.
Maharaj Prataparudra watched mesmerized while the Lord danced, resting his hand on the shoulder of his minister (mahapatra) Harichandana. At that time, Shrivasa Pandit, who was also absorbed in watching the Lord’s ecstatic dancing, came and stood in front of the King, blocking his vision. Harichandana repeatedly tried to push Shrivasa to one side, telling him to let the King see until finally Shrivasa lost his temper and slapped Harichandana. When Harichandana became angry and was about to respond to Shrivasa’s aggression, the King said:
"You are very fortunate, for you have been graced by the touch of Shrivasa Thakur. I have not been so fortunate. You should feel obliged to him."
Prataparudra Catches the Lord
In Mahaprabhu's lila we find a delightful mixture of the highest manifestations of love, mercy and teachings for the general public. As He pulled the chariot of Lord Jagannath, Mahaprabhu was absorbed in the mood of Radha and the other gopis at their meeting with Lord Krishna who had come to Kurukshetra from Dvaraka on the occasion of the solar eclipse. Thus Mahaprabhu wished to drag Krishna (in His Jagannath form) from the site of His majestic pastimes in Kurukshetra, represented by Nilachala (the Jagannath Temple) to the site of His sweet, loving pastimes in Vrindavan, represented by Suryachala or the Gundicha Temple. Sometimes, Mahaprabhu would lag behind as He tried to understand the depth of the gopis’ loving power; Jagannath Himself would seem to understand the Lord’s emotions and slow down the movement of the chariot. Thus, the Lord danced more frenziedly as He and Lord Jagannath went deeper and deeper into ecstatic communication. As He danced in this divyonmada state, the Lord seemed about to fall down just in the very spot where King Prataparudra was standing. The King immediately held the Lord to keep Him from falling. This was how the Lord blessed the King and allowed him to touch Him, but He immediately began to rebuke Himself for having allowed a materialistic person to touch Him. The inconceivable activities of the Lord contain both delightful manifestation of emotion and teachings for the world, neither of which are easy to understand.
When He saw that it was the King, Mahaprabhu condemned Himself, saying, "O, how pitiful it is that I have touched a person interested in mundane affairs." … Even though the Lord had had made up His mind to see the King upon seeing him act as a sweeper in the service of Lord Jagannath, He still externally expressed feelings of anger in order to warn His personal associates.
The Lord Embraces the King
There is a spot about halfway between the Jagannath Temple and Gundicha, or halfway between Shraddhabalu and Ardhasani Devi, which is called Balagandi. During the Rathayatra, Lord Jagannath’s chariot stops here at midday so that the He can rest. The custom is that all Devotees, whether important or less so, can make food offerings to Him on this occasion. Because of the large crowds which normally accumulate, Mahaprabhu went to rest in a flower garden near a coconut grove. Raja Prataparudra remembered Sarvabhauma’s counsel and approached the Lord in the dress of a commoner and began to massage His feet. He began to recite gopi-gita verses from the Rasa-lila of the Shrimad Bhagavatam, starting with the following verse:
jayati te’dhikam janmana vrajah
shrayate indira shashvad atra hi
dayita drishyatam dikshu tavakas
tvayi dhritasavas tvam vicinvate
The glories of Vraja-bhumi have increased ever since You took birth here; since then, the goddess of fortune has taken up residence here. O beloved! We whose lives depend completely on You are searching for You, please show Yourself to us. (SB 10.31.1)
Mahaprabhu was ecstatic and told the King to go on reciting. The King reached the ninth verse of the chapter:
tava kathamritam tapta-jivanam
kavibhir iditam kalmashapaham
bhuvi grinanti te bhurida janah
Nectarean discussions about You give life to those who are suffering; the philosophers have glorified them for they destroy all of one’s sins. They are auspiciousness f or the ears, they bring the fortune of love /divfor Krishna. Those most munificent of beings distribute these wonderful words throughout the world.
As soon as Mahaprabhu heard this verse, He became ecstatic with love and embraced the King, while repeating the word bhurida ("most munificent beings") from the verse. Though the Lord is all-knowing, He asked the King his identity. Prataparudra answered that he was the servant of the servant of the Lord. Satisfied with the King’s answer, the Lord revealed to him a glorious divine form. All the Devotees were overjoyed to see that the King had finally received the Lord’s mercy.
Prataparudra Sees Other Wonderful Pastimes
While spending the four months in Puri, the Bengali Vaishnavas witnessed numerous pastimes of Lord Jagannath. On the Nandotsava, the day after the Krishna’s birth ceremony, Mahaprabhu would dress up as a cowherd and put on a play about the Vraja pastimes with His Devotees. Prataparudra also participated in this lila.
The Lord made His first attempt to go to Vrindavan, He left Puri on Vijaya-dashami and went to Cuttack where He met Prataparudra in a garden under a bakula tree. Here too, the Lord saw the great prema of the King and embraced him, drenching him in His own tears of love. From that day on, the Lord was given the epithet Prataparudra-santrata, "the savior of King Prataparudra".
Bhavananda Raya’s son Gopinath Pattanayaka was placed on the scaffold by the King’s son for having misappropriated state funds. Some Devotees came to Mahaprabhu to ask Him to intervene in order to save Gopinath’s life. The Lord was unhappy at being asked to get involved in such mundane affairs and made up His mind to go to Alalanath. The King himself was disturbed at hearing this news and prepared himself to give up everything in order to keep the Lord in Puri. These are all further proofs of the extent of the King’s love for the Lord’s lotus feet.
When King Prataparudra heard all these details, he felt great pain in his mind. "I shall give up all that is owed me," he said, "if Mahaprabhu only stays here at Jagannath Puri. Even a moment’s contact with the Lord is worth more than millions of chintamani stones. I care nothing for this small sum of 200,000 kahanas (Note: a kahana equals 1280 cowries.); I would indeed offer everything not only this, but my life and kingdom at the lotus feet of the Lord."
A Song Written by King Prataparudra
In the description of Bengali manuscripts in the Banga Sahitya Parishad library in Calcutta, a notice is given of a song with the signature of Prataparudra. There is some doubt as to whether the song is indeed his or not. A portion of that song is as follows:
A Prayer to Radha
I will become an ornament on your body,
the ankle bells upon your feet.
I will become the chakora who gazes
at the moons of your fingernails,
the bee who buzzes around your lotus feet.
I will become the mirror you look into,
the whisk that fans you.
And I have yet another desire
Let me become a layer of fine dust on your feet.
If I cannot become the dust of your feet,
then be merciful and do with me as you please,
this is Prataparudra’s prayer.
When Mahaprabhu disappeared, Prataparudra felt great separation from Him. This is described in the Bhakti-ratnakara as follows:
When the King heard that the Lord had departed, he fell to the ground and began lamenting. Hitting his head again and again, he fell unconscious and only the association of Ramananda Raya kept him alive. The King was unable to bear the absence of the Lord and so he left Puri, remaining elsewhere for the rest of his days. (Bhakti-ratnakara 3.217-19)
Maharaj Prataparudra’s descendants are: (1) Kaluwa Pratapa, (2) Kakharuwa Pratapa, (3) Govinda Vidyadhara, (4) Chakra Pratapa, (5) Narasimha Deva, (6) Raghurama Deva, (7) Mukunda Deva Harichandana, (8) Ramachandra Deva, (9) Purushottam Deva, (10) Nrisingha Deva, (11) Gangadhara Deva, (12) Balabhadra Deva, (13) Mukunda Deva II, (14) Divyasimhadiv Deva, (15) Hare Krishna Deva, (16) Gopinath Deva, (17) Ramachandra Deva II, (18) Virakeshari Deva, (19) Divyasimha Deva II, (20) Mukunda Deva III, (21) Ramachandra Deva III, (22) V_rakeshari Deva II, (23) Divyasimha Deva III, (24) Mukunda Deva IV, (25) Ramachandra Deva IV, (26) Virakeshari Deva III, (27) Divyasimha Deva IV.
[Excerpted from "Shri Chaitanya: His Life & Associates" by Shrila Bhakti Ballabh Tirtha Maharaj]