The Padma River at Rajshahi
Srila Guru Maharaj mentioned many songs of Srila Bhakti Vinod Thakur and Srila Narottam Thakur. I see here that you can sing very nicely, and you have much regard for that. I am happy to hear the songs of Bhakti Vinod Thakur and Narottam Thakur. Sometimes spelling mistakes happen, but Krishna is very merciful: He is not thinking of that, He is only taking the devotion from His devotee.
Do you know this song?
bada sela marame rahila
paiya durlabha tanu sri-krsna-bhajana vinu
janma mora viphala ha-ila
And another song is,
viphale janama gonainu
Do you know that song? I want to sing that song with you. This song was very dear to Guru Maharaj, and Prabhupad Saraswati Thakur also liked this song very much. It is Narottam Thakur’s song.
বিফলে জনম গোঙাইনু ।
মনুষ্যজনম পাইয়া রাধাকৃষ্ণ না ভজিয়া
জানিয়া শুনিয়া বিষ খাইনু ॥১॥
viphale janama gonainu
manusya-janama paiya radha-krsna na bhajiya
janiya suniya visa khainu 
(jene sune visa khelam)
(radha-krsna na bhajiya, jene sune visa khelam)
গোলোকের প্রেমধন হরিনাম-সঙ্কীর্ত্তন
রতি না জন্মিল কেন তায় ।
সংসার-বিষানলে দিবানিশি হিয়া জ্বলে
জুড়াইতে না কৈনু উপায় ॥২॥
golokera prema-dhana hari-nama-sankirtana
rati na janmila kena taya
samsara-visanale diva-nisi hiya jvale
judaite na kainu upaya 
ব্রজেন্দ্রনন্দন যেই শচীসুত হৈল সেই
বলরাম হইল নিতাই ।
দীনহীন যত ছিল হরিনামে উদ্ধারিল
তার সাক্ষী জগাই মাধাই ॥৩॥
vrajendra-nandana yei sachi-suta haila sei
balarama ha-ila nitai
dina-hina yata chhila hari-name uddharila
tara saksi jagai madhai 
হা হা প্রভু নন্দসুত বৃষভানুসুতাযুত
করুণা করহ এইবার ।
নরোত্তমদাস কয় না ঠেলিহ রাঙ্গা পায়
তোমা বিনে কে আছে আমার ॥৪॥
ha ha prabhu nanda-suta vrsabhanu-suta-yuta
karuna karaha ei-bara
narottama-dasa kaya na theliha ranga paya
toma vine ke achhe amara 
(ei bar amay daya kara)
(ha ha prabhu nanda-suta, ei bar amay daya kara)
(vrsabhanu-suta-yuta, ei bar amay daya kara)
(sri charane seva diya, ei bar amay daya kara)
(sri charane seva diya, ei bar amay daya kara)
(sri charane seva diya, ei bar amay daya kara)
(patit-pavan gaurahari, ei bar amay daya kara
(hari he, hari he, hari he, hari he)
(gaurahari he, hari he, hari he, hari he)
This is a heartfelt song of Narottam Das Thakur, and it is a very attractive and useful prayer for the conditioned souls. Some of the songs are very useful for the conditioned souls, and some other songs give great happiness to the liberated servitors. This song is actually a prayer of the conditioned soul who knows that his position in this mundane world is very bad and wants the mercy of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and through that liberation and connection with Sri Sri Radha-Krishna. The expression here is very deep. Extreme feelings of separation from Radha-Krishna are shown by Narottam Thakur in this song.
“We have got this human body and we have got the senses also, but through our senses and intention we have not worshipped and not adored Radha and Krishna, who are our life’s goal. We have got this manusya janma, this human body, and we have not served Radha-Krishna, so we are neglecting our future—neglecting the nectar—and eating the poison. Our life’s wealth is Hari-nam-sankirtan, and Hari-nam-sankirtan is the wealth of Goloka and gives us Krishna-prema, but we have not got any attachment for that. We are very much attached with samsara, where we are always getting pain and fire is always burning us. It is very easy to become free from that and peaceful through Hari-nam-sankirtan, but we do not have any attachment to that sankirtan.”
These kinds of feelings of separation are expressed here.
“We know that Krishna and Radharani both appeared in the form of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and we know that Nityananda Prabhu is nondifferent from Balaram. When They appeared in this mundane world, They rescued all the jiva-souls through Hari-nam-sankirtan. Jagai and Madhai are very exalted witnesses of that: Jagai and Madhai were extremely bad-natured men, but through the power of Hari-nam, Mahaprabhu and Nityananda Prabhu rescued them. They are exalted witnesses of the power of sankirtan, but we are not following that sankirtan.
“I have not felt much attachment to Nama-sankirtan, but now I am praying to Mahaprabhu, the nondifferent form of Krishna and Radharani, ‘O Mahaprabhu, please bestow Your mercy upon me. Before I did not have any sense of that transcendental mood of devotion, but now I can understand by Your mercy it is possible to get that ecstasy. Now I have this consciousness, so please bestow Your mercy upon me. This is my heartfelt desire and prayer. I have taken shelter of Your lotus feet. Do not push me from Your lotus feet; please bestow Your mercy and do not leave me. Without Your mercy, I have no future.’”
Summarily, this is the meaning of this song. Narottam Thakur’s expression here is a very sweet and very heartfelt prayer which very deeply touches the heart of the devotee and also Krishna. Srila Narottam Thakur composed many songs like this for us.
Protector of our sampradaya
All of Narottam Thakur’s songs are devoted to Radha-Krishna and Mahaprabhu, Nityananda Prabhu, Gurudev, and so on, and they are mostly expressing the mood of separation. Narottam Thakur’s devotion was very powerful, and when he would sing, Mahaprabhu and Nityananda Prabhu Themselves appeared in his sankirtan. Narottam Thakur had this kind of devotion. Actually, he is the protector of our sampradaya through song. In his songs, he has shown us how we shall pray to Krishna, pray to Guru, pray to Mahaprabhu, and pray for our devotional upliftment. You already sang Sri-Guru-charana-padma kevala bhakati-sadma; that is also Srila Narottam Thakur’s song.
Expression through song is very attractive and fruitful. Srila Guru Maharaj likes Narottam Thakur’s songs and Bhakti Vinod Thakur’s songs very much. Many goswamins composed many other songs, but from those Srila Saraswati Thakur collected one or two or three. Saraswati Thakur mostly organised the songs of Narottam Thakur and Bhakti Vinod Thakur for our benefit. It is very nice that what our Guru Maharaj, Saraswati Thakur, Srila Swami Maharaj, and myself discuss about Krishna consciousness is all within the songs of Narottam Thakur and Bhakti Vinod Thakur. Bhakti Vinod Thakur took all the Sanskrit prayers of the devotees and composed them in the form of Bengali songs.
When I came to Srila Guru Maharaj’s lotus feet, Guru Maharaj gave me thirty-two songs to memorise, including this Hari Hari biphale janama goyainu, Hari Hari bada sela marame rahila, and ye anilo prema dhana karuna prachura. Narottam Thakur’s songs are very beautiful. Guru Maharaj tick-marked thirty-two songs and told me to memorise those first, and so I first memorised those, and then many of the other songs.
Narottam Das Thakur was a parsad of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He was not born in Mahaprabhu’s time, but when Mahaprabhu went for preaching Krishna consciousness, He went to the Padma River in a hidden way, and on the bank of the river He called out three times, “Narottam, Narottam, Narottam!” The devotees at that time could not understand why Mahaprabhu was loudly calling someone as “Narottam” but they believed that a parsad of Sriman Mahaprabhu would come from this land and Mahaprabhu was calling him today.
After Mahaprabhu’s time, Narottam appeared in that land named Natore, in Rajshahi District [in what is now Bangladesh]. Narottam Thakur was a king’s son, a prince. His mother was a very good devotee of Krishna; his father was also a devotee, but his mother was very extremely devoted. When Narottam Thakur was growing up, he studied Sanskrit, Bengali and other languages like Parsi, but his mood was very much devoted to Krishna, and everybody thought he was an incarnation of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He had that kind of devotion. Narottam Das Thakur did not want to stay in the house; he wanted to preach and go to Vrndavan, but his father would not give him permission. His mother was very affectionate to him, however, and she thought, “If I do not help our son, he will die out of separation from Mahaprabhu and Radha-Krishna.”
When he went to Vrndavan, he met with Jiva Goswami and learned from Jiva Goswami all the scriptures of Rupa-Sanatan, the other goswamis, and also the Vedic scriptures. Later, in Bengal, Nityananda’s sakti Jahnava Mata was very affectionate to him.
Srila Narottam Thakur was a very exemplary disciple of Srila Lokanath Goswami. Lokanath Goswami did not want to take disciples, and he had promised, “I shall not take disciples.” Our Guru Maharaj’s mood was also like that. But when Narottam Das Thakur went to Vrindavan, he saw Lokanath Goswami and had the inspiration, “Lokanath Goswami is my Guru.” Mahaprabhu had also given instruction to Narottam Thakur in a dream to take initiation from Lokanath Goswami. Narottam Thakur therefore prayed to Lokanath Goswami, “Please initiate me. You are my Guru, and without your mercy I do not want to live.” But Lokanath Thakur was very strict, and he told him, “No, there are many goswamis in Vrndavan; you take shelter at their lotus feet. I shall not take disciples. Go away.” But by the mercy of Nityananda Prabhu and Mahaprabhu, Narottam Das Thakur was determined, “I must take initiation from Lokanath Goswami.” From time to time, he went to Lokanath Goswami, “Please, Prabhu, bestow your mercy upon me.” A few years passed, and he approached Lokanath Goswami for initiation seventeen times.
Narottam Das Thakur thought, “In any way I must get his mercy.” Lokanath Goswami was living in a thatched hut in Khaira, a village in Vrndavan where some Pastimes of Radha-Krishna took place. Narottam Das Thakur came to stay near to the hut, and every day at midnight he would clean the place where Lokanath Goswami was passing stool. Lokanath Goswami was not taking service from anybody, and so Narottam Thakur tried to do some service for him in this way. Narottam Das Thakur thought, “If my lord, my Gurudev, will not initiate me, then what shall I do with this body? Whether he will initiate me or not, he is my Guru, and I must somehow try to do a little service for him. He will not give me service directly no doubt, so in this way I shall try to do some seva for my Guru.” He cleaned the stool every night, and Lokanath Goswami was very suspicious about who was doing this. Sometimes he thought it could be some hogs or pigs eating the stool, but when hogs or pigs are eating stool it is not so clean.
One night Lokanath Goswami watched to see who was coming and cleaning this place, and then he saw Narottam. He was angry with Narottam and said, “Why are you doing this nonsense work?” His heart was melted to see that service, but he chastised Narottam. Then Narottam Thakur fell down at his lotus feet and said to Lokanath Goswami Prabhu, “I know you will not give me initiation, but you are my Guru. I feel wholeheartedly that I am your disciple and so I must do some seva for you, but I know that you will not give me any seva. Because of that I am doing this; please don’t take my offences. I did not want you to know about this, and I do not want to displease you in any way. That is why I am doing this in the night time, and if there is any offence, please don’t take that. The Guru is not taking the offences of his disciples.” Seeing Narottam’s mood of service, Lokanath Goswami’s heart was melted. Lokanath Goswami thought, “He is a king’s son, he is a prince, and he is really devoted to Krishna. If I have something, I must give it to him.” That was the eighteenth time that Narottam Thakur prayed to Lokanath Goswami. Then, he embraced Narottam Thakur and told him, “Go and take bath in the Yamuna and I shall initiate you.”
This is an extreme example. Lokanath Goswami promised, “I shall not take disciples”, but through the devotion of Narottam Thakur he broke his promise. The goswamins have a variety of moods, and this was Lokanath Goswami’s mood. He took one disciple, and that one disciple is now very famous all over the world for sankirtan. We see that Narottam Thakur’s sankirtan has now spread all over the world, like Mahaprabhu’s sankirtan. At that time everybody considered Narottam Thakur an incarnation of Mahaprabhu.
After a few years, Srila Jiva Goswami sent Narottam Thakur, Syamananda Prabhu, and Srinivas Acharya with all the goswamis’ scriptures to Bengal. In North Bengal, Narottam Thakur preached very nicely. He preached all over Bengal, but his zone was especially in North Bengal. Syamananda Prabhu and Srinivas Acharya also preached in an organised way. Syamananda Prabhu preached Krishna consciousness in the district of Midnapur and some other districts, and Srinivas Acharya in Bakora and other districts in that zone. There were three zones in Bengal where they preached. Manipur was especially enlightened by the preaching of Narottam Thakur.
These three goswamis, Narottam Thakur, Syamananda Prabhu, and Srinivas Acharya, composed many Sanskrit and Bengali songs and slokas. Their songs were very famous at that time, and now still Narottam Das Thakur is very famous in Bengal. Before Bhakti Vinod Thakur, only Narottam Das Thakur was very famous through Bengali song.
Narottam Das Thakur’s character was very exalted. Jahnava Mata herself went for the installation of six Deities that he installed once at the same time. Mahaprabhu and Nityananda Prabhu, although They had already disappeared, also came to the sankirtan of Narottam Das Thakur at that time. By the devotional power of Narottam Thakur, the entire gathering there saw that sankirtan.
Narottam Das Thakur’s disappearance was also very miraculous. He did not appear in a brahman family, but hundreds of brahmans’ sons became his disciples and so the brahmans were very angry with him. Lokanath Goswami did not take disciples, but Narottam Das Thakur took disciples from every corner, and the brahmans were very angry. When he disappeared, he showed some serious sickness, and the brahmans thought, “Oh, it is because of the sinful work he has done in his life that he has this kind of reaction.” When he disappeared, the brahmans were insulting the disciples of Narottam Thakur and so they prayed in front of Narottam Thakur’s body, “Prabhu, you have disappeared, but please don’t go in this way or our preaching will be spoiled. It will be a massacre.” Then, Narottam Thakur again came in his body.
He stayed for two more months, and then one day Narottam Thakur said, “It is by your prayer that I came back in my body, but my time is finished in this world. My service is finished and I must leave this body.” Then, he called all his disciples and told them, “No harm will come through my death, and I shall leave my body today in the Ganges.” In front of the Ganges, thousands of disciples gathered, and Narottam Thakur went into the Ganges and melted as milk in a liquid form. Everybody saw that he took on a milk form and the liquid mixed with the Ganges water. His disappearance from this mundane world is very famous. We cannot see his samadhi anywhere.
This is the life history of Srila Narottam Das Thakur.
An address to the devotees in Caracas, Venezuela, in 1993 during the Fourth World Tour.
See also: The Elixir of Life