Again this year Śrīla Bhakti Nirmal Āchārya Mahārāj is leading devotees to Pānihāṭi to commemorate Śrīla Dās Goswāmī’s service to Śriman Nityānanda Prabhu and His associates. This Pastime is described in Śrī Chaitanya-charitāmṛta.
When Śrīman Mahāprahu returned to Gauḍa after taking sannyās, Raghunāth Dās met Him in Śāntipur with the desire of abandoning his family life and staying with the Lord permanently. Śrīman Mahāprabhu instructed him as follows (Cc: 2.16.237–42):
“sthira hañā ghare yāo, nā hao vātula
krame krame pāya loka bhava-sindhu-kūla
“Be patient and return home. Do not be crazy. Gradually a soul reaches the shore of the ocean of material existence.
markaṭa-vairāgya nā kara loka dekhāñā
yathā-yogya viṣaya bhuñja’ anāsakta hañā
“Do not show yourself to the public like a ‘monkey renunciant’. Rather, be detached and befittingly continue your worldly life.
antare niṣṭhā kara, bāhye loka-vyavahāra
achirāt kṛṣṇa tomāya karibe uddhāra
“Be firmly devoted to Kṛṣṇa internally, but externally perform your social duties. Kṛṣṇa will rescue you very soon.
vṛndāvana dekhi’ yabe āsiba nīlāchale
tabe tumi āmā-pāśa āsiha kona chhale
“On some pretext, come to Me when I return to Nīlāchal after visiting Vṛndāvan.
se chala se-kāle kṛṣṇa sphurābe tomāre
kṛṣṇa-kṛpā yā̐re, tāre ke rākhite pāre”
“Kṛṣṇa will reveal this pretext to you at that time. Who can detain one who has received Kṛṣṇa’s mercy?”
eta kahi’ mahāprabhu tā̐re vidāya dila
ghare āsi’ mahāprabhura śikṣā ācharila
Saying this, Mahāprabhu bade Raghunāth farewell. Raghunāth came home and followed Mahāprabhu’s instructions.
Eventually Raghunāth’s desire to leave home and join Mahāprabhu captivated him (Cc: 3.6.35–51):
ei-mata raghunāthera vatsareka gela
dvitīya vatsare palāite mana kaila
Raghunāth passed one year engaged in his social duties. During the second year, he decided to flee again.
rātre uṭhi’ ekelā chalilā palāñā
dūra haite pitā tā̐re ānila dhariyā
One night, he arose and escaped alone, but his father caught him in a distant place and brought him back home.
ei-mate bāre bāre palāya, dhari’ āne
tabe tā̐ra mātā kahe tā̐ra pitā sane
Raghunāth fled in this way many times, but his father always caught him and brought him back. Finally Raghunāth’s mother spoke to his father.
“putra ‘bātula’ ha-ila, ihāya rākhaha bāndhiyā“
tā̐ra pitā kahe tāre nirviṇṇa hañā
“indra-sama aiśvarya, strī apsarā-sama
e saba bāndhite nārileka yā̐ra mana
“Our son has become crazy. Tie him up and keep him here.” Raghunāth’s father sadly replied, “Raghunāth has opulence like that of Indra (the king of heaven) and a wife as beautiful as a heavenly maiden, yet all this can not captivate his mind.
daḍira bandhane tā̐re rākhibā ke-mate?
janma-dātā pitā nāre ‘prārabdha’ khaṇḍāite
“So how can we keep him here tied with ropes? A father cannot nullify the fructifying reactions to his son’s previous life’s activities (prārabdha-karma).
chaitanya-chandrera kṛpā hañāchhe i̐hāre
chaitanya-chandrera ‘bātula’ ke rākhite pāre?”
“Chaitanyachandra has blessed him. Who can detain a man mad for Chaitanyachandra?”
tabe raghunātha kichhu vichārilā mane
nityānanda-gosāñira pāśa chalilā āra dine
Raghunāth reflected on his circumstances and then left the next day to meet Nityānanda Prabhu.
pānihāṭi-grāme pāilā prabhura daraśana
kīrtanīyā sevaka saṅge āra bahu-jana
Raghunāth met Nityānanda Prabhu in the village of Pānihāṭi. There the Lord was accompanied by singers, servants, and many other persons.
gaṅgā-tīre vṛkṣa-mūle piṇḍāra upare
vasiyāchhena—yena koṭī sūryodaya kare
He was sitting on a raised platform beneath a tree on the bank of the Ganges, and He shone as brightly as ten millions suns rising at once.
tale upare bahu-bhakta hañāchhe veṣṭita
dekhi’ prabhura prabhāva raghunātha—vismita
He was surrounded by many devotees on the platform. Seeing the Lord’s glory, Raghunāth was astonished.
daṇḍavat hañā sei paḍilā kata-dūre
sevaka kahe,—‘raghunātha daṇḍavat kare’
Raghunāth bowed from a distance, and one of the Lord’s servants said, “Raghunāth offers his obeisance.”
śuni’ prabhu kahe,—“chorā dili daraśana
āya, āya, āji tora karimu daṇḍana”
Hearing this, the Lord said, “That thief has shown himself? Come, come! Today I shall punish you!”
prabhu bolāya, te̐ho nikaṭe nā kare gamana
ākarṣiyā tā̐ra māthe prabhu dharilā charaṇa
The Lord called him, but Raghunāth did not approach. The Lord then drew Raghunāth near and placed His feet upon Raghunāth’s head.
kautukī nityānanda sahaje dayāmaya
raghunāthe kahe kichhu hañā sadaya
Nityānanda is naturally humorous and merciful. He mercifully spoke to Raghunāth.
“nikaṭe nā āisa, chorā, bhāga’ dūre dūre
āji lāg pāñāchhi, daṇḍimu tomāre
“You do not come near. You are a thief, and you stay away at a distance. Today I have caught you, and now I shall punish you.”
dadhi, chiḍā bhakṣaṇa karāha mora gaṇe”
śuni’ ānandita haila raghunātha mane
“Feed My associates yoghurt and chipped rice (chiḍā).” Hearing this, Raghunāth was overjoyed.
Raghunāth sumptuously fed Nityānanda Prabhu, all of His associates, and everyone who attended the festival that ensued (Cc: 3.6.86–88):
ājñā dilā,—‘hari bali’ karaha bhojana’
’hari’ ‘hari’-dhvani uṭhi’ bharila bhuvana
Nityānanada Prabhu ordered everyone, “Chant ‘Hari!’ and eat!” The sound of ‘Hari! Hari!’ then arose and filled the world.
’hari’ ‘hari’ bali’ vaiṣṇava karaye bhojana
pulina-bhojana sabāra ha-ila smaraṇa
Chanting, ‘Hari! Hari!’, all the Vaiṣṇavas ate. Everyone remembered Kṛṣṇa and Balarām’s Pastimes of eating on the bank of the Yamunā.
nityānanda mahāprabhu—kṛpālu, udāra
raghunāthera bhāgye eta kailā aṅgīkāra
Nityānanda Prabhu and Mahāprabhu are merciful and munificent. By Raghunāth’s good fortune, They accepted his service.
In this way Raghunāth Dās received their grace (Cc: 3.6.126–144):
prāte nityānanda prabhu gaṅgā-snāna kariyā
sei vṛkṣa-mūle vasilā nija-gaṇa lañā
The next morning Nityānanda Prabhu bathed in the Ganges and sat at the base of the same tree with His associates.
raghunātha āsi’ kailā charaṇa vandana
rāghava-paṇḍita-dvārā kailā nivedana
Raghunāth came and bowed at the Lord’s feet. Through Rāghava Paṇḍit, he prayed appealed to the Lord.
“adhama, pāmara mui hīna jīvādhama!
mora ichchhā haya—pāṅa chaitanya-charaṇa
“I am a lowly, sinful, and fallen soul! Still, I desire to attain Śrī Chaitanya’s feet.
vāmana hañā yena chānda dharibāre chāya
aneka yatna kainu, tāte kabhu siddha naya
“I am like a dwarf who wants to catch the moon. I have tried many times, but I have never been successful.
yata-bāra palāi āmi gṛhādi chhāḍiyā
pitā, mātā—dui more rākhaye bāndhiyā
“Every time I have left home and fled, my father and mother have caught me.
tomāra kṛpā vinā keha ‘chaitanya’ nā pāya
tumi kṛpā kaile tā̐re adhameha pāya
“Without Your mercy, no one can attain Śrī Chaitanya. But if you are merciful, even a fallen soul attains Him.
ayogya mui nivedana karite kari bhaya
more ‘chaitanya’ deha’ gosāñi hañā sadaya
“I am unfit and afraid to appeal to You, but still I pray, ‘O Lord, please mercifully give me Śrī Chaitanya.’
mora māthe pada dhari’ karaha prasāda
nirvighne chaitanya pāṅa—kara āśīrvāda”
“Put Your feet on my head and give me a benediction. Bless me: ‘May you attain Śrī Chaitanya without obstacles.’”
śuni’ hāsi’ kahe prabhu saba bhakta-gaṇe
Hearing this, Nityānanda Prabhu smiled and said to the devotees, “His standard of material happiness is equal to that of Indra.
chaitanya-kṛpāte seha nāhi bhāya mane
sabe āśīrvāda kara—pāuka chaitanya-charaṇe
“Yet by Śrī Chaitanya’s mercy he does not care for it. All of you bless him, ‘May he attain Śrī Chaitanya’s feet.’
kṛṣṇa-pāda-padma-gandha yei jana pāya
brahmaloka-ādi-sukha tā̐re nāhi bhāya”
“One who smells the fragrance of Kṛṣṇa’s lotus feet does not care for the happiness found in Brahmaloka or anywhere else.
yo dustyajān dāra-sutān suhṛd-rājyaṁ hṛdi-spṛśaḥ
jahau yuvaiva mala-vad uttama-śloka-lālasaḥ
“‘Longing for the Lord, Bharat Mahārāj abandoned his heart-touching wife, sons, friends, and kingdom during his youth as though they were stool.’”
tabe raghunāthe prabhu nikaṭe bolāila
tā̐ra māthe pada dhari’ kahite lāgilā
Nityānanda Prabhu then called Raghunāth over to Him, placed His feet on Raghunāth’s head, spoke.
“tumi ye karāilā ei pulina-bhojana
tomāya kṛpā kari’ gaura kailā āgamana
“You arranged this feast on the Ganges’ bank. Śrī Gaura blessed you and came here.
kṛpā kari’ kailā chiḍā-dugdha bhojana
nṛtya dekhi’ rātrye kailā prasāda bhakṣaṇa
“He mercifully ate chipped rice and milk. In the evening he watched the devotees dance and took prasādam.
tomā uddhārite gaura āilā āpane
chhuṭila tomāra yata vighnādi-bandhane
“Śrī Gaura personally came here to deliver you, and He has now freed you from all of bondage and obstacles.
svarūpera sthāne tomā karibe samarpaṇe
‘antaraṅga’ bhṛtya bali’ rākhibe charaṇe
“Śrī Gaura will give you to Svarūp Dāmodar. He will accept you as one of his confidential servants and keep you at His feet.
niśchinta hañā yāha āpana-bhavana
achire nirvighne pābe chaitanya-charaṇa”
“Be worry-free and return to your home. Without obstacles, you will soon attain Śrī Chaitanya’s feet.”
saba bhakta-dvāre tā̐re āśīrvāda karāilā
tā̐-sabāra charaṇa raghunātha vandilā
Thus, through all of the devotees, Nityānanda Prabhu had Raghunāth blessed, and Raghunāth bowed at their feet.
In time Nityānanda Prabhu’s words came true, and Raghunāth Dās escaped from home and permanently joined Śrīman Mahāprabhu in Purī. Nityānanda Prabhu first called Raghunāth a thief because he tried to join Mahāprabhu without receiving Nityānanda Prabhu’s blessing. Thus Nityānanda Prabhu arranged this festival known as the ‘Daṇḍa Mahotsav’ [‘Punishment Festival’]. When Raghunāth accept his ‘punishment’ of performing Vaiṣṇava-sevā, He received the mercy of the devotees, Nityānanda Prabhu, and Śrīman Mahāprabhu.
This Pastimes teaches us to approach Guru, Vaiṣṇava, and Bhagavān in the proper manner and illuminates the sweetness and joy that is involved in the process. May we all appeal to Śrī Guru, Nityānanda Prabhu, for grace, and proceed in our spiritual life engaged in the service of His servants, our hearts overjoyed with the hope of receiving their blessings.