Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (Sanskrit: श्री चैतन्य महाप्रभु, romanizedCaitanya Mahāprabhu), born Vishvambhara Mishra (IAST: Viśvambhara Miśra),[1] was a 15th-century Indian Hindu saint from Bengal who was the founder of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, which considers him to be an incarnation of Krishna.[2]

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu
Vishvambhar Mishra

(1486-02-18)18 February 1486
Died14 June 1534(1534-06-14) (aged 48)
Puri, Gajapati Kingdom
(present-day Odisha, India)
SpouseLakshmi Priya (first wife) and Vishnupriya
Known forExpounded Gaudiya Vaishnavism, kirtan
Founder ofGaudiya Vaishnavism
Achintya Bheda Abheda
PhilosophyBhakti yoga, Achintya Bheda Abheda
Religious career
GuruSwami Isvara Puri (mantra guru); Swami Kesava Bharati (sannyas guru)
Literary worksShikshashtakam

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's mode of worshipping Krishna with bhajan-kirtan and dance had a profound effect on Vaishnavism in Bengal. He was also the chief proponent of the Vedantic philosophy of Achintya Bheda Abheda Tattva. Mahaprabhu founded Gaudiya Vaishnavism (a.k.a. the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya Sampradaya). He expounded Bhakti yoga and popularised the chanting of the Hare Krishna Maha-mantra.[3] He composed the Shikshashtakam (eight devotional prayers).

Chaitanya is sometimes called Gauranga (IAST: Gaurāṅga) or Gaura due to his molten gold–like complexion.[4] His birthday is celebrated as Gaura-purnima.[5][6] He is also called Nimai because he was born underneath a Neem tree.[7]


Deity of Shadabhuja Gauranga at Ganga Mata Math in Puri

Caitanya was born in a Brahmin family as Viśvambhara Mishra aka Nimāi, the second son of Jagannātha Mishra and his wife Śacī Devī, the daughter of Nilambara Chakrabarti, both Brahmins of Sylhet region.[1] Jagannātha Mishra's family were from the village of Dhakadakshin in Srihatta (Sylhet) (now in Bangladesh). The ruins of their ancestral home still survive in present-day Bangladesh.[8][9][2]

Yogapith temple at Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's birthsite established in the 1880s by Bhaktivinoda Thakur in Mayapur, West Bengal

According to Chaitanya Charitamrita, Caitanya was born in Nabadwip (in present-day West Bengal) on the full moon night of 18 February 1486, at the time of a lunar eclipse.[10][11][12]

While still a student, his father died, and he soon married Lakṣmīpriyā. He travelled to east Bengal to become a scholar and support his family but his wife died in his absence. He then married Viṣṇupriyā, daughter of paṇḍit Sanātana Miśra. Viśvambhara, also known as Nimāi Paṇḍit, was a promising Sanskrit scholar, and once defeated Keśava Bhaṭṭa of the Nimbārka school in a debate on Sanskrit prosody.[2]

In 1508-1509 he left Nabadvip to go to Gaya to perform śrāddha, a ritual homage to his dead father. There he met an ascetic named Īśvara Purī and was initiated by him using a mantra for Kṛṣṇa worship. After this meeting Viśvambhara abandoned all scholarly and domestic pursuits and had no interest except hearing and speaking of Kṛṣṇa. Within a year he took a vow of saṃnyāsa (renunciation) and changed his name to Kṛṣṇa Caitanya under his guru Keśava Bhāratī. His mother then asked him to at least live in the city of Puri so that he would not be too far from Bengal.[2]

After becoming a renunciate he spent his time converting and instructing followers in the tenets of Kṛṣṇa bhakti and engaging in communal saṁkīrtana. Notably he is said to have debated and converted followers of Advaita Vedānta or Māyāvāda. He spent two months in Vrindavan in c. 1515 where he instructed Sanātana Gosvāmī and Rūpa Gosvāmi. The last two decades of his life were spent in Puri where he focused on immersing himself in devotional yearning for Kṛṣṇa and his consorts, mainly Rādhā. He died c. 1528-1534.[2]



Works on Chaitanya:[13][14][15]

  • Krsna-Caitanya-Caritamrta (c. 1513 or 1536–1540; Sanskrit)
By Murari Gupta. Known as a kadcha or chronicle. Chaitanya's Navadwipa līla and each panca-tattva presented as a form of the Lord. Caitanya went for the first time to Murari's house at Navadwipa. Murari's standing and reputation for learning gave his biographical materials great weight in the Vaishnava community. This Kadcha (notes) became the guiding lines for other biographers.
  • Kadcha or chronicle (Sanskrit)
By Svarupa Damodara. He was the personal secretary of Chaitanya. Details the life of Caitanya.
  • Govindadaser Kadcha (Bengali)
By Govinda Dāsa who accompanied Chaitanya on his tour of Deccan. This poem describes their experiences on the journey and some imaginary events in the life of Chaitanya as well as his ideas and philosophy. It is another significant biographical work, but it was regarded as controversial because of the authenticity.
By Vrindavana Dasa Thakura. Three parts: Adi-Khanda, Mādhya-Khanda, and Antya-Khanda. Chaitanya's earlier life, activities, early movement in Navadwip.
  • Krsna-Caitanya-caritra-mahakavya (c. 1535)
By Kavi Karnapura (Paramanand Sen).
  • Krsna-Caitanya-candrodaya-natakam (c. 1535 – 1570s)
By Kavi Karnapura. Based on Murari Gupta's Krsna-Caitanya-Caritamrta. When Karnapura was a small child, he interacted with Chaitanya personally.
  • Caitanya-candrodaya-natakam (c. 1538 or 1540 or 1572 or 1579; Sanskrit)
By Kavi Karnapura (Paramanand Sen). Dramatic play in ten acts of Chaitanya's life.
  • Caitanya-caritāmṛta-kavya (c. 1542 – late 1500s; Sanskrit)
By Kavi Karnapura (Paramanand Sen). A long biographical poem on Chaitanya's life and acts.
By Krishnadasa Kaviraja. Three parts: Adi-lila, Madhya-lila, and Antya-lila. Massive authoritative composition of Chaitanya's biography and teachings. According to Manring, he draws liberally from previous writers (poets, theologians and biographers) as he deems correct, omitting Kavi Karnapura's works perceived as threatening Rupa's authority.
  • Caitanya-Mangala (c. 1560 or late 1500s; Bengali)
By Jayananda. Nine parts: Adikhanda, Nadiyakhanda, Vairagyakhanda, Sannyaskhanda, Utkalkhanda, Prakashkhanda, Tirthakhanda, Vijaykhanda, and Uttarkhanda. Biographical poem in the form of a narrative play focused on Chaitanya's godly image. It is the only work in which his death is mentioned. Introduction mentions several previous biographers, of whom only Vrindavan is known. Written for the common people (not devotees).
By Lochana Dasa (a.k.a. Trilocan Dasa). Four parts: Sutrakhanda, Adikhanda, Madhyakhanda, and Antyakhanda. A narrative play depicting Chaitanya's childhood activities and his human side without highlighting any divine matters to make it popular. Influenced by Murari Gupta's Krsna-Caitanya-Caritamrta and Vrindavana Dasa Thakura's Chaitanya Bhagavata as well as the Mahabharata and different Puranas.
  • Chaitanya-chandrodaya-kaumudi (Bengali)
By Premadas (Purushottam Mishra). A verse adaptation to Kavi Karnapura's Caitanya-candrodaya-natakam drama.
  • Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika (c. 1576)
By Kavi Karnapura (Paramanand Sen).
  • Chaitanya-samhita (Bengali)
By Bhagirath Bandhu. Work follows the tradition of agama or tantric texts in its presentation as a story told by Shiva to his spouse.
  • Chaitanya-vilasa (c. 1500s; Odia)
By Madhava Dasa. A short poetical work in ten sections dealing with the life of Chaitanya. The poet probably came into contact with the saint when the latter came to Puri.
  • Gauranga-vijay (c. 1500s)
By Chundamani dasa. Biographical epic, believed to have been written in three volumes, only part of the first volume still exists. It contains some information about Chaitanya, Nityananda and Madhavendra Puri not found elsewhere.
  • Sriman-mahaprabhor-asta-kaliya-lila-smarana-mangala-stotram (c. late 1600s; Sanskrit)
By Visvanatha Chakravarti. Eleven sutras (seed verses) describing the eternal eight-fold daily pastimes of the fair-complexioned Lord.
  • Sri Gauranga-Lilamrta (c. late 1600s – 1700s; Bengali)
By Krishna Dasa (disciple of Visvanatha Chakravarti). Expounded on his guru's eleven sutras, often quoting verses from Vrindavana Dasa Thakura's Chaitanya Bhagavata, plus songs by Narahari Ghanashyama (author of Bhakti-Ratnakara) and Lochana Dasa (author of Chaitanya-Mangala).
  • Caitanya-upanisad
A book that is a part of the Atharvaveda which offers overwhelming evidence of Chaitanya's identity as the Supreme Lord and Yuga Avatara.
By Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. Commentary on an original handwritten manuscript of the Caitanya-upanisad from one pandita, Madhusudana Maharaja, of Sambala-Pura.
  • Amrita-pravaha-bhashya (c. late 1800s – early 1900s; Sanskrit)
By Bhaktivinoda Thakur. Commentary on Caitanya-upanisad.
By Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati. Commentary on Krishnadasa Kaviraja's Caitanya-caritāmṛta
By A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami in English with original Bengali and Sanskrit. Commentary on Krishnadasa Kaviraja's Caitanya-caritāmṛta, based on Bhaktivinoda Thakur's Amrita-pravaha-bhashya and Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati's Anubhāsya commentaries.
  • Krishna-Caitanya, His Life and His Teachings (2014; English; ISBN 978-91-981318-1-9)
By Walther Eidlitz, originally written in German - Kṛṣṇa-Caitanya: sein Leben und seine Lehre, and published by Stockholm University, 1968, as a part of the scientific series "Stockholm studies in comparative religion".



Chaitanya's epistemological, theological and ontological teachings are summarised as ten root principles called dasa mula.[16]

Philosophy and tradition


From the very beginning of Chaitanya's bhakti movement in Bengal, Haridasa Thakur and others, Muslim or Hindu by birth, were participants. Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, the great sage of Dakshineswar, who lived in the 19th century, emphasised the bhakti marga of Chaitanya, whom he referred to as "Gauranga." (The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna). This openness received a boost from Bhaktivinoda Thakura's broad-minded vision in the late 19th century and was institutionalised by Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati in his Gaudiya Matha in the 20th century.[17]

In the 20th century the teachings of Chaitanya were brought to the West. For the first time, by Baba Premananda Bharati (1858–1914),[18] author of Sree Krishna—the Lord of Love (1904)—the first full-length treatment of Gaudiya Vaishnavism in English,[19] who founded in 1902 the short-lived "Krishna Samaj" society in New York City and built a temple in Los Angeles.[20][21] He belonged to the circle of guru Prabhu Jagadbandhu[22] with teachings similar to the later ISKCON mission.[21] His followers later formed several organisations, including now defunct the Order of Living Service and the AUM Temple of Universal Truth.[21] Another prominent missionary was A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (1896-1977), a representative of the Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati branch of Chaitanya's tradition. Prabhupada founded his movement known as The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) to spread Chaitanya's teachings throughout the world.[23] Saraswata gurus and acharyas, members of the Goswami lineages and several other Hindu sects which revere Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, including devotees from the major Vaishnava holy places in Mathura District, West Bengal and Odisha, also established temples dedicated to Krishna and Chaitanya outside India in the closing decades of the 20th century. In the 21st century, Vaishnava bhakti is now also being studied through the academic medium of Krishnology in a number of academic institutions.[24]

Cultural legacy


Chaitanya's influence on the cultural legacy in Bengal, Odisha and Manipur, has been significant,[25] with many residents performing daily worship to him as an avatar of Krishna. Some attribute to him a Renaissance in Bengal,[26] different from the more well-known 19th-century Bengal Renaissance. Salimullah Khan (b. 1958), a noted Bangladeshi linguist, maintains, "Sixteenth-century is the time of Chaitanya Dev, and it is the beginning of Modernism in Bengal. The concept of 'humanity' that came into fruition is contemporaneous with that of Europe".[27]

Noted Bengali biographical film on Chaitanya, Nilachaley Mahaprabhu (1957), was directed by Kartik Chattopadhyay (1912–1989).[28] A Bengali film based on Chaitanya's demise, Lawho Gouranger Naam Re, will be directed by Srijit Mukherji where Parambrata Chatterjee will be seen portraying Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.[29]



In 2024, speaking at the commemorative event for the 150th birth anniversary of a leading proponent of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi called Chaitanya Mahaprabhu “the touchstone of love for Krishna. He made spiritualism and meditation accessible to the masses”[30] and recalled his own personal experience of the transformative power of bhakti through kirtan.[30]

See also



  1. ^ a b Stewart, Tony K (2012). "Chaitanya, Sri". In Islam, Sirajul; Miah, Sajahan; Khanam, Mahfuza; Ahmed, Sabbir (eds.). Banglapedia: the National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Online ed.). Dhaka, Bangladesh: Banglapedia Trust, Asiatic Society of Bangladesh. ISBN 984-32-0576-6. OCLC 52727562. OL 30677644M. Retrieved 15 June 2024.
  2. ^ a b c d e Valpey, Kenneth (2018). "Caitanya". In Jacobsen, Knut A.; Basu, Helene; Malinar, Angelika; Narayanan, Vasudha (eds.). Brill’s Encyclopedia of Hinduism Online. Brill.
  3. ^ Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu Archived 28 December 2017 at the Wayback Machine "He spread the Yuga-dharma as the practice for attainment of pure love for Radha-Krishna. That process is Harinam-Sankirtan, or the congregational chanting of the Holy Names of Krishna "Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare"
  4. ^ In the Name of the Lord (Deccan Herald) "He was also given the name of ‘Gora’ because of his extremely fair complexion." Archived 7 December 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "Gaura Purnima". Archived from the original on 12 March 2008. Retrieved 16 December 2008.
  6. ^ Sri Gaura Purnima Archived 1 October 2020 at the Wayback Machine""
  7. ^ KCM Archive"They named Him Nimai, as he was born under a neem tree." Archived 24 April 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Sen, Dinesh Chandra. "Chaitanya and his age". Internet Archive. Retrieved 16 August 2020.
  9. ^ Nair 2007, p. 87.
  10. ^ Chattopadhyay, Nripendra Krishna (1961). Sri Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita.
  11. ^ Kabiraj, Krishnadas (1897). "Sachitra Sree Sree Chaitanyacharitamrita(Adi Lila)". Internet Archive (in Bengali). Retrieved 29 July 2020.
  12. ^ Swami, A. C. Bhaktivedanta. "Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta(Ādi-līlā)". Archived from the original on 7 August 2020. Retrieved 12 August 2020.
  13. ^ Mukherjee 1999, pp. 65–66, 174, 280.
  14. ^ Manring 2005, pp. 34–42, 44.
  15. ^ PDF Archived 26 June 2020 at the Wayback Machine.Mamoni, Sarma. "Chapter 14". History of Vaishnavite cultures in Assam and Bengal a comparative study. pp. 253–255. hdl:10603/127571. Note, Sarma Mamoni is a researcher at Gauhati University under Chakraborty Amalendu.
  16. ^ Thakura, B. (1993). Jaiva dharma: The universal religion (K. Das, Trans.). Los Angeles, CA: Krishna Institute.
  17. ^ Sherbow 2004, p. 138.
  18. ^ Carney 2020, pp. 135–136.
  19. ^ Carney 2020, p. 140.
  20. ^ Carney 2020, p. 152.
  21. ^ a b c Jones & Ryan 2007, pp. 79–80, Baba Premanand Bharati.
  22. ^ Carney 2020, pp. 140–143.
  23. ^ "History of the Hare Krishna Movement |". Archived from the original on 24 January 2021. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
  24. ^ Krishnology (definition) Archived 5 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  25. ^ "Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu". Archived from the original on 7 June 2002. Retrieved 2 November 2020.
  26. ^ Bengal Studies Conference Archived 17 December 2014 at the Wayback Machine "History says that the Bengali people experienced the renaissance: not only once but also twice in the course of history. Bengalis witnessed the first renaissance in the 16th century when Hossain Shah and Sri Chaitanya’s idealism influenced a sect of the upper literal class of people"
  27. ^ "Chaitanya Mahaprabhu". Archived from the original on 17 November 2020. Retrieved 2 November 2020.
  28. ^ Sur, Ansu; Goswami, Abhijit (1999). Bengali Film Directory. Nandan, West Bengal Film Centre. p. 96.
  29. ^ Chakraborty, Shamayita (16 July 2021). "Parambrata to play Gourango in Srijit's next; will also sing in the film". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 31 March 2022. Retrieved 31 March 2022.
  30. ^ a b Modi 2024.

Works cited


Further reading