Lord Nityananda Bestows His Mercy on Raghunatha dasa
Raghunatha dasa was a young man, wealthy and renounced. His love for Lord Chaitanya rendered his family and possessions insignificant for him. His only desire was to escape the confines of family and serve Lord Chaitanya at Jagannath Puri. Repeated attempts to flee the family had ended in failure because of his protective father for whom Raghunatha was the only heir.
Raghunatha had been wedded to a beautiful girl to tie him to family life. His intense desire to serve Lord Chaitanya was undiminished. He tried to run away again and again, but was recaptured. When he came to know that Lord Nityananda had come to Panihati, He begged permission from his father and accompanied by many guards went there to take the blessings of the Lord.
At Panihati Raghunatha saw the magnificent visage of Lord Nityananda,effulgent as hundreds of thousands of suns, seated on a rock underneath a tree surrounded by His devotees. He immediately offered prostrated obeisances to the Lord his heart overwhelmed with devotion. One of the devotees of the Lord pointed out Raghunatha dasa to Him. The Lord ordered Raghunatha “You are a thief. Now you have come to see Me. Come here, come here. Today I shall punish you!” Raghunatha hesitated. The Lord grabbed him and placed His lotus feet on his head. It was a great blessing to the humble Raghunatha. The Lord playfully chastised, “You are just like a thief, for instead of coming near, you stay away. Now that I have captured you, I shall punish you. Make a festival and feed all My associates yogurt and chipped rice!”
Raghunatha was overjoyed at the prospect of serving the Lord. He sent his men to the village and bought chipped rice, yogurt, milk, sweetmeats, sugar, bananas and other eatables and placed them all around. The news of the festival spread and many brahmanas and other gentlemen began to gather at Panihati. Raghunatha then ordered for more food from nearby villages. He purchased two to four hundred large, round earthen pots. He also obtained five or seven especially large earthen pots, and in these pots a brahmana began soaking chipped rice for the satisfaction of Lord Nityananda. In one place, chipped rice was soaked in hot milk in each of the large pots. Then half the rice was mixed with yogurt, sugar and bananas. The other half was mixed with condensed milk and a special type of banana known as canpa-kala. Then sugar, clarified butter and camphor were added.
Lord Nityananda wore fresh garments and sat on a raised platform. The brahmanas brought the seven large pots and placed them before Him. Many of the Lord personal associates sat on the raised platform along with Him. Learned scholars and brahmanas who arrived, attracted by news of the festival, were honourably seated on the raised platform. Everyone was offered two earthen pots. In one was served chipped rice with condensed milk and in the other chipped rice with yogurt.
All the other people sat in groups around the platform. No one could count how many people there were. Each and every one of them was supplied two earthen pots–one of chipped rice soaked in yogurt and the other of chipped rice soaked in condensed milk. Some of the brahmanas, not having gotten a place on the platform, went to the bank of the Ganges with their two earthen pots and ate their chipped rice there. Others, who could not get a place even on the bank of the Ganges, got down into the water and began eating their two kinds of chipped rice. Thus some sat on the platform, some at the base of the platform, and some on the bank of the Ganges, and were all served two pots each by twenty men who distributed the food.
At that time Raghava Pandita who usually served the Lord His lunch arrived and was wonderstruck at the sight of the festival. Lord Nityananda told him that He would have His dinner at RaghavaPandita’s house. He said, “I belong to a community of cowherd boys, and therefore I generally have many cowherd associates with Me. I am happy when we eat together in a picnic like this by the sandy bank of the river.” He then gave Raghava Pandita two pots of chipped rice.
When everyone had been served chipped rice, Lord Nityananda Prabhu brought Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu there in meditation. When Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu arrived, Lord Nityananda Prabhu stood up and They saw the others enjoying the chipped rice with yogurt and condensed milk. From every pot, Lord Nityananda Prabhu took one morsel of chipped rice and jokingly pushed it into the mouth of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu too smilingly, took a morsel of food and pushed it into the mouth of Nityananda and laughed as He made Lord Nityananda eat it. In this way Lord Nityananda walked through all the groups of eaters, and all the Vaisnavas standing there saw the fun. No one could understand what Nityananda Prabhu was doing as He walked about. Some, however, who were very fortunate, could see that Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was also present.
Then Nityananda Prabhu smiled and sat down. On His right side He kept four pots of chipped rice that had not been made from boiled paddy. Lord Nityananda offered Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu a place and had Him sit down. Then together the two brothers began eating chipped rice. Seeing Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu eating with Him, Lord Nityananda Prabhu became very happy and exhibited varieties of ecstatic love. Lord Nityananda Prabhu ordered, “All of you eat, chanting the holy name of Hari.” Immediately the holy names “Hari, Hari” resounded, filling the entire universe. When all the Vaisnavas were chanting the holy names “Hari, Hari” and eating, they remembered how Krsna and Balarama ate with Their companions the cowherd boys on the bank of the Yamuna.
It was Raghunatha dasa’s great fortune that Lord Chaitanya and Lord Nityananda accepted these dealings. The mercy and influence of Lord Nityananda is unfathomable. He is so powerful that He could induce Lord Chaitanya to join the festival at Panihati and eat chipped rice at the banks of the Ganga.
After Lord Nityananda Prabhu finished eating, He washed His hands and mouth and gave Raghunatha dasa the food remaining in the four pots. There was food remaining in the three other big pots of Lord Nityananda, and a brahmana distributed it to all the devotees, giving a morsel to each. Then a brahmana brought a flower garland and placed it on Nityananda Prabhu’s neck. He smeared sandalwood pulp all over the Lord’s body. Another servant brought betel nuts and offered them to Lord Nityananda, and the Lord smilingly chewed them.
With His own hands Lord Nityananda Prabhu distributed to all the devotees whatever flower garlands, sandalwood pulp and betel nuts remained. After receiving the remnants of food left by Lord Nityananda Prabhu, Raghunatha dasa, who was greatly happy, ate some and distributed the rest among his own associates.
Lord Nityananda blessed Raghunatha dasa saying, “Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Gaurahari, came here personally to deliver you. Now rest assured that all the impediments meant causing your bondage are gone. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu will accept you and place you under the charge of His secretary, Svarupa Damodara. You will thus become one of the most confidential internal servants and will attain the shelter of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Being assured of all this, return to your own home. Very soon, without impediments, you will attain the shelter of Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.”
Thus concluded an ecstatic festival on the banks of the Ganga that Vaishnavas all over the world still celebrate by the name ‘Panihati ChidaDahi Utsava!’