Śrīla Bhakti Rakṣak Śrīdhar Dev-Goswāmī Mahārāj summarises the early life of Śrīla Narottam Dās Ṭhākur.
Student: Can you tell us something about the life of Narottam Dās Ṭhākur?
Śrīla Śrīdhar Mahārāj: Yes. When Mahāprabhu went to Rāmakeli after taking sannyās on His way to Vṛndāvan, it is told that on the bank of a river He called out to the opposite bank, “Narottam! Narottam! Narottam!” His party could not understand why He was taking the name ‘Narottam’ there. On the other side of that river, the Padmā, was the family a big kayastha zamindar in a town known as Keturi. The Padmā is the large branch of the Ganges; the small branch is this Bhāgirathī Gaṅgā. And just on the other side of the Padmā there was Keturi, a town where there was a big zamindar family. Narottam was a son in that kayastha family, a big zamindar family, that of a small king there.
Narottam was brought up and was naturally inclined towards Mahāprabhu, Rādhā-Govinda, and Vṛndāvan, all these things. He did not marry. From a young age, he was given to this side, and gradually he found a friend in Śrīnivās Āchārya and later in Śyāmānanda Prabhu. In his young age, it is told that he came to see Nabadwīp Dhām and with Śrīnivās began practically the circumambulation of different parts of Nabadwīp Dhām. Before this, Jīva Goswāmī was shown the different parts of Nabadwīp Dhām by Nityānanda Prabhu, but the second attempt we find here that Īśān, the old servant in Mahāprabhu’s house, showed Narottam and Śrīnivās the places of the Pastimes of Mahāprabhu on the nine islands.
As Narottam grew up, he came to such life exclusively and then he met Śyāmānanda Prabhu and went to Vṛndāvan. He lived there for some time and tried hard to get initiation from Lokanāth Goswāmī.
Lokanāth Goswāmī’s original house was in the Jessore district of Bengal. He went to Vṛndāvan and lived the life of a sannyāsī there. His speciality was this that he did not like to mix with anybody. His apprehension was that talking with a man would break his continuous memory of Kṛṣṇa. So, he did not like to meet with anyone, so much so that he did not even store any water with him: neither a glass nor any scanty water. Why? If any guest were to come and ask for some water, he could not deny them: “I won’t give you any drinking water.” So, his water pots were always empty. In such a strict way, he used to keep up his continuous devotional life without any gap. And he did not like to accept anyone as his disciple. He was determined, “I will not mix with anybody.”
Narottam Ṭhākur, however, found that he must have his initiation from this noble man, this great soul. Narottam knew that Lokanāth had already almost promised that he won’t accept any disciples. Śrīnivās Āchārya received initiation from Gopāl Bhaṭṭa, and Śyāmānanda received initiation Jīva Goswāmī. There is also a story behind that. Narottam’s inclination was towards Lokanāth Goswāmī. But how could he get that? He tried to find out where in the early morning Lokanāth went to pass stool. He detected the place and then began to cleanse it in a fine way each day. After a few days, this caught the attention of Lokanāth Goswāmī: “Who is cleansing this place? I come to pass stools in this place, but who knows it? Who is coming and cleaning this place?”
Then, one day he caught Narottam: “Why have you come to do this without my permission?” Narottam fell flat, crying at his feet: “I want your blessings, your grace. Without that, my life is useless. You please be kind to me. I am a wretched man who has come from Bengal. You must be pleased with me.” In this way, Lokanāth Goswāmī was defeated, and at last he gave initiation to that single person Narottam. Narottam Ṭhākur in his turn came, and we are told that he inundated the whole of Northern Bengal. The whole of Maṇipur came under his control, under his grace. He gave initiation right and left throughout Northern India, and especially Eastern Assam and Maṇipur. Maṇipur wholesale, including the king of Maṇipur, all came to be disciples of Narottam Ṭhākur.
Similarly, Gaura Kiśor Dās Goswāmī had no disciples; we our told that our Guru Mahārāj is the single one. But Guru Mahārāj himself preached and gave it to many many thousands.