Rāmāi Ṭhākura and Anaṅga-mañjarī-sampuṭikā

By Swami Sri Bhaktivedanta Tripurari, excerpted from his forthcoming book, Circle of Friends as part of a series of articles concerning Balarāma Tattva.

After Jāhnāva’s passing, at which point she became identified with Anaṅga-mañjarī, Rāmāi Ṭhākura settled in Bengal at Baghnapara, a place named after its abundance of Bengali tigers. It is said that Rāmāi Ṭhākura was able to tame a tiger with his chanting of harināma, and thus he captured the faith of the locals by his compelling example of spiritual prowess. Once established there, Rāmāi started his own school of thought based squarely on the Goswāmī theology but departing from it at times, especially when it came to Baladeva tattva and Anaṅga-mañjarī/Jāhnāva. This departure is evident in Rāmāi’s book, Anaṅga-mañjarī-sampuṭikā. Although he is a notable devotee by example, his theological efforts, aside from arguably contradicting the founding Gauḍīya ācāryas at times, leave something to be desired in comparison to the tightly knit, scripturally-supported theology of the Goswāmīs that studious members of the sampradāya have come to expect.

Anaṅga-mañjarī-sampuṭikā is a Bengali text with Sanskrit quotations cited here and there from obscure texts in support of some of its theological insights. Dharaṇī-śeṣa-saṁvāda is one such text that the book relies upon most in the name of scriptural pramāṇa. This book is sometimes thought to be a section of the Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa, a conversation between Earth and Śeṣa. However, after scouring two editions of this Purāṇa, I found no such conversation.1 Another work relied upon by Rāmāi Ṭhākura is Bhajana-candrikā. The author of this book is Vṛndāvana Candra dāsa, a member of the Nityānanda parivāra. Neither of these books has been cited in any core Gauḍīya text, and they reach conclusions that are not entertained by the founding ācāryas of the sampradāya.

The first wave (laharī) of Rāmāi’s work focuses on śakti-tattva and is subtitled śakti-tattva-vicāra (“Deliberation on Śakti-Tattva”). The following three waves are rasa-kautuka (“The Play of Rasa”), yūtha-vivaraṇa (“Description of Anaṅga’s Group”), and a second yūtha-vivaraṇa that includes atha samprārthanā (“Concluding Prayers”). The entire text consists of 184 verses. It was written somewhere between 1590 and 1610, predating Caitanya-caritāmṛta (1615). Let us first examine its śakti-tattva section.

In Bengali verse, this wave starts out in traditional praise of the guru, Śrī Caitanya, Nityānanda-rāma, Advaita, and Gadādhara. This is followed by praise of Nityānanda’s wives, Jāhnāva and Vasudhā, and the son of Vasudhā and celebrated disciple of Jāhnāva, Vīracandra. Verses 1.10 and 1.11 are in Sanskrit, and the second line of verse 1.10 states the following—namaḥ kṛṣṇa-svarūpāya namāmy anaṅga-mañjarīm, “I offer my praṇāma to the svarūpa of Kṛṣṇa, Anaṅga-mañjarī.” These Sanskrit verses are followed by Bengali verses asserting that Nityānanda has the form of Anaṅga-mañjarī—sei tanu anaṅga-mañjarī—and that Anaṅga-mañjarī is the śakti of Balarāma—rādhāra anujā yei, balarāma śakti sei. Rāmāi Ṭhākura supports the latter claim with a Sanskrit verse from Bhajana-candrikā.

Then in his own Bengali verse (1.18), Rāmāi Ṭhākura emphatically states that Kṛṣṇa, Balarāma, and Rādhā are one—rādhā-kṛṣṇa balarāma, aikya vastu. He adds to this that their dhāma, their aiśvarya, their mādhurya, and their prema are all one and that one should not think otherwise. In verses 1.19–21 he identifies Rāma with sat-śakti, Kṛṣṇa with cit-śakti, and Rādhā with ānanda-śakti. As such he appears to say that the Absolute is sat-cit-ānanda and personifies as these three persons, who are thus one. Rāmāi supports this with a reference from the Dharaṇī-śeṣa-saṁvāda, the last line of which adds something controversial—sad-ānandāmśato rāmaḥ puṁ prakṛtyātmakaḥ paraḥ, “The sat aspect of Balarāma expresses itself as both puruṣa and prakṛti [male and female].” Rāmāi Ṭhākura then tells his readers that the Absolute is sat-cit-ānanda appearing as three persons.

Verse 1.29 is a citation from Bhajana-candrikā stating that there are two types of līlās, internal and external, both of which are eternal. The former appears in many forms, while the latter is said to be secret. Rāmāi takes this to mean that the external līlās refer to those of Balarāma manifest in his male form in dāsya, sakhya, and vātsalya. He goes on to explain something about Balarāma’s saṅkula-bhāva without using this term, citing the prominent examples from the Bhāgavatam illustrating Rāma’s servile, fraternal, and parental love. Then before concluding the first wave, Rāmāi asserts that when the sat and cit features combine, Balarāma’s male form and pastimes manifest. This is somewhat confusing because he has already said that Balarāma is the manifestation of sat unto itself. But perhaps he means to say that Balarāma presides over sat and the sandhinī-śakti, even as he himself is of course composed of sat-cit-ānanda. Then Rāmāi goes on to say as a lead-in to the second wave that it is the ānanda feature of Balarāma from which his secret internal līlās are manifest, alluding to his proposed female form that is addressed in the text’s second wave—rasa-kautuka.

Regarding the points from the first wave highlighted above, the idea that Anaṅga-mañjarī is the svarūpa of Kṛṣṇa and that Nityānanda is also the form of Anaṅga-mañjarī constitutes a blurring of tattvas. The idea that Anaṅga-mañjarī is the śakti of Balarāma of course follows from the idea that she is Jāhnāva’s Vraja līlā svarūpa. This point is perhaps novel more than it is controversial.

Rāmāi’s emphasis on the oneness of Rādhā, Kṛṣṇa, and Balarāma turns on a yellow light of caution, while the idea that Balarāma has male and female forms changes it to red. Regarding the yellow light, according to the Goswāmīs’ theology, Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma are one and Kṛṣṇa and Rādhā are one. But this does not mean that because Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma are one and Kṛṣṇa and Rādhā are one, therefore Balarāma and Rādhā are nondifferent. Why not? Because the sense in which Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma are one is different from the way in which Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa are one. Balarāma and Kṛṣṇa are both Viṣṇu tattva/śaktimān. Balarāma is Kṛṣṇa’s vaibhava-prakāśa, whereas Rādhā is Kṛṣṇa’s śakti, with whom he is one and different as śakti and śaktimān. And of course, Balarāma also has his śakti counter whole with whom he is one and different.

As for the red light, this flashes as something unheard of in the Goswāmī theology, wherein Balarāma tattva is explained at length. And when the text implies that the female, internal, so-called secret līlās of Balarāma are the preoccupation of the more rasika devotees, this does not help its claim. But to be fair, in this section Rāmāi demonstrates that he is acquainted with the mainline Gauḍīya perspective on Balarāma tattva, and in brief he represents it accurately. Without arguing against it or desiring to contradict it, he goes on to say further that there is another inner side to Balarāma that we can assume he has been chosen to reveal.2 In developing this revelation, his notion that Balarāma in male form is a combination of his sat and cit features is peculiar, as is the idea that it is the ānanda feature of Balarāma from which his female feature manifests, especially when he goes on to explain in the second wave that this female feature is a manifestation of Balarāma’s sat combined with his ānanda. Indeed, in effect Rāmāi appears to have left male Balarāma without ānanda and female Balarāma without cit. While it is hard to imagine that he intends to say this, in the least his presentation begs for more clarity.

The second wave introduces us to an example of Anaṅga-mañjarī’s participation in līlā. However, this narrative is preceded by eighteen verses in which we learn the following:

  1. It is the sat feature of Balarāma that has both a male and female expression (2.4 citing Dharaṇī-śeṣa-saṁvāda).
  2. The syllable in Rāma is Rādhā and the syllable ma in his name is Madhusudana/Kṛṣṇa (2.9 citing Dharaṇī-śeṣa-saṁvāda). This, of course, implies that Rāma is Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa.
  3. From the union of sat and ānanda, Balarāma comes into being (2.12 citing Dharaṇī-śeṣa-saṁvāda).
  4. In his ānanda feature, Balarāma assumes a yellow complexion in the mood of Rādhā (2.14).
  5. Anaṅga-mañjarī is another form of Rādhā, nondifferent from her (2.15).
  6. Balarāma assumes the form of Anaṅga-mañjarī to give pleasure to Kṛṣṇa (2.16).
  7. In his ānanda feature, Balarāma is Rādhikā herself (2.17 citing Rasa-kalpataru).3
  8. Through Balarāma, Rādhā in the form of Anaṅga-mañjarī appears, and thus Balarāma is Rādhā, who, again, is Anaṅga-mañjarī (2.18).

The līlā narrative of this wave is said to be an elaboration on a passage from Bhajana-candrikā. This, in turn, appears to be an elaboration on Kṛṣṇa’s advances toward Anaṅga cited in Muktā-carita. In Raghunātha dāsa Goswāmī’s līlā-grantha, Kṛṣṇa and Anaṅga do not follow through, but in Rāmāi’s elaboration, they do.

The narrative begins with a detailed description of Anaṅga-mañjarī’s beauty and ornamentation. Here she is also described as a yūtheśvarī as she heads into the forest to meet Kṛṣṇa accompanied by her own group. In the narrative, Kṛṣṇa says that yūtheśvarī Anaṅga is more glorious than other yūtheśvarīs and even more glorious than Rādhā herself. He is eager to make love to her, and he tells her so. Then other yūtheśvarīs, including Rādhā, arrive, and they all encourage Anaṅga to make love to Kṛṣṇa, which she does. This lovemaking is followed by maidservants of Anaṅga serving Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa.

Thus, in Rāmāi’s second wave Anaṅga is considered to be Bhagavān, Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa combined, Rādhā, a separate group leader from Rādhā with her own maidservants, and a mañjarī herself at least in name, while acting in a manner that is uncharacteristic of mañjarī-bhāva—as a nāyikā. And in Rāmāi Ṭhākura’s mind, all of this is to be included in Balarāma tattva. However, this theology is sorely lacking in terms of supportive scriptural evidence. The texts cited are obscure at best, and the reasoning presented from the evidence does not ring the conclusive bell of siddhānta that students of the Goswāmīs’ theology are accustomed to hearing.

In the third and fourth waves, Rāmāi Ṭhākura describes and names various sakhīs in play during the līlā narrative found in wave 3. What stands out here is Rāmāi’s assertion that the Goswāmīs in their mañjarī-svarūpas are the leaders within Anaṅga’s group of mañjarīs. However, according to the Goswāmīs’ theology, these Goswāmīs are the leading mañjarīs within Rādhā’s yūtha. Drawing rasika implications from these waves, followers of Rāmāi’s theology assert that the unique feature of Anaṅga’s group is that it provides the extra added attraction of direct union with Kṛṣṇa for those in mañjarī-bhāva. However, such claims are suspect in that, as already mentioned, the Goswāmīs place themselves in Rādhā’s group, not Anaṅga’s. And within Rādhā’s group, they are famously Rūpānugas, followers of Rūpa-mañjarī, not Anaṅgānugas, if you will. Furthermore, as we know, their mañjarī-bhāva is characterized as being staunchly opposed to any romantic union between themselves and Kṛṣṇa even if Kṛṣṇa should propose it. This is their extreme Rādhā dāsyam, which is more pleasing to Kṛṣṇa than union with any of them. Indeed, arguably Kṛṣṇa suggests such union only to see and take pleasure in their Rādhā dāsyam expressed in their resistance.

Finally, at the end of his fourth wave, Rāmāi Ṭhākura prays with great eagerness and humility to enter the Vraja līlā in the group of Anaṅga-mañjarī.

Conclusion

How successful, then, was Rāmāi Ṭhākura’s effort? The answer to this question depends on which measuring stick one uses. Rāmāi Ṭhākura and his text created a distinct school among the followers of Gaura-Nityānanda. His literary contribution is followed by two other works in his lineage, each a century apart. Muralī-vilāsa is a seventeenth-century biography of Rāmāi Ṭhākura written by Rājavallabha Goswāmī. Vaṁśī-śikṣā is the work of Premadāsa Miśra. It was written in the eighteenth century.4 Thus, Rāmāi Ṭhākura was successful in establishing a theology at the end of the sixteenth century based upon the Goswāmī theology with its own theological twist. And this school continues today. But Rāmāi was not successful in convincing mainstream Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism of the entirety of his Balarāma/Anaṅga tattva.5 That said, in a very limited sense, some of his theology was embraced by prominent members of the Gauḍīya lineage during his lifetime and made its way into core Gauḍīya texts.

As we have already seen, Kavi-karṇapūra accepted the idea that Jāhnāva has a Kṛṣṇa līlā svarūpa as both Revatī (aiśvarya-bhāva) and Anaṅga-mañjarī (mādhurya-bhāva).6 Although his Gaura-gaṇoddeśa-dīpikā precedes Anaṅga-mañjarī-sampuṭikā, its core idea that Jāhnāva is Anaṅga certainly comes from Rāmāi Ṭhākura and his close associates.

Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja, so faithful to the Goswāmīs’ theology, arguably also hints at the possibility that Anaṅga is identified with Ananta Śeṣa, Balarāma’s expansion. He does this in his Govinda-līlāmṛta, which also precedes Anaṅga-mañjarī-sampuṭikā. But as we see from Kavi-karṇapūra’s text, Rāmāi Ṭhākura’s insight was out and about before he put it to paper.

In Govinda-līlāmṛta during the midday pastimes, Kundalatā playfully informs Kṛṣṇa that the nine planets and ten directions must be worshiped before the sacrifice to Cupid (Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa’s union) can proceed. In response, Kṛṣṇa asks the names and positions of those ruling over the ten directions. Then Kundalatā in jest, winking at her friends, tells Kṛṣṇa that the gods of the directions have all come before him, eager to fulfill his desires. After identifying eight gopīs with eight different directions and their presiding gods, she concludes with the final two directions, up and down:

Rūpa-mañjarī (up) here in front of you is Brahmā, and Anaṅga-mañjarī (down), skillful at creating bliss in rasa, is Śeṣa.

Govinda-līlāmṛta 9.96–98

Obviously Rūpa Goswāmī is not Brahmā in any real sense, but in his later work, Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Kṛṣṇadāsa does compare Rūpa Goswāmī to Brahmā: Just as Kṛṣṇa revealed the Vedic truths to Brahmā, Gaura Kṛṣṇa revealed them all to Rūpa Goswāmī. So it is possible that by his identification of Anaṅga with Śeṣa, Kṛṣṇadāsa has something more than jest in the back of his mind. Perhaps ontology?

A century later, Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura takes it this way. In his Gaurāṅga-gaṇa-svarūpa-tattva-candrikā he describes Śeṣa’s manifesting as all of the couches on which Kṛṣṇa reclines, assisting him thus in his romanticism. Then he goes on to identify Śeṣa with Anaṅga-mañjarī and refers his readers to Govinda-līlāmṛta for support, citing Kundalatā’s joking referenced above.7 However, Viśvanātha Cakravati Ṭhākura does not cite Anaṅga-mañjarī-sampuṭikā in support of his position.

Furthermore, in his Caitanya-caritāmṛta, which was published after Anaṅga-mañjarī-sampuṭikā, Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Goswāmī does not mention any connection between Anaṅga and Balarāma, despite a lengthy explanation of Balarāma/Nityānanda tattva. And this final work of Kṛṣṇadāsa was intended to be faithful to the Goswāmīs’ theology and directly, or indirectly by omission, a dismissal of other theological perspectives.8 Notably, Caitanya-caritāmṛta does not mention Jāhnāva at all, what to speak of Anaṅga. Nor does Vṛndāvana dāsa, author of the Caitanya-bhāgavata, which Kṛṣṇadāsa repeatedly defers to. And Vṛndāvana dāsa is of course a sakhya-rasa devotee of Nityānanda-rāma.

Thus, during Rāmāi Ṭhākura’s time and for quite some time afterward, his theology, although alive and well, remained a school unto itself rather than being fully integrated into the mainstream of orthodox Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism. And only the notions that Nitāi’s Jāhnāva is Anaṅga and thus Anaṅga is Balarāma’s śakti have gained wider acceptance. However, it should be noted that even in Rāmāi Ṭhākura’s own line, Premadāsa’s Vaṁśī-śikṣā does not accept Rāmāi’s identification of Jāhnāva with Anaṅga-mañjarī.9

In modern times, Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura received dīkṣā in the line of Rāmāi Ṭhākura. However, in all of his voluminous writing, he never cites Anaṅga-mañjarī-sampuṭikā. And his theology regarding Balarāma/Nityānanda tattva is chaste to that of the Goswāmīs. In his writing, Bhaktivinoda does not embrace the idea that Nityānanda-rāma is both Anaṅga and Balarāma combined in pursuit of mādhurya-rasa with Śrī Caitanya as his object of parakīya-bhāva. And it should be crystal clear to readers that this is where the departure of Rāmāi Ṭhākura from the Goswāmī’s theology ends up—in one form of gaura-nāgara-bhāva or another and in some imagined realm where Nityānanda Prabhu serves Gaurāṅga in a female form in parakīya-bhāva.10

However, Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura does identify Jāhnāva with Anaṅga and by extension accepts that Anaṅga-mañjarī is Balarāma’s śakti with whom Rāma has no romantic relationship. He also aspires to enter Rūpa-mañjarī’s group under Lalitā-sakhī as a Rūpānuga with the blessing of Anaṅga-mañjarī, whom he also desires to serve.

As mentioned in chapter 2 of the circumference of this book, the oneness of Anaṅga and Balarāma as śakti and śaktimān does not place Balarāma/Nityānanda in mādhurya-rasa. They are one in as much as Rāma’s śakti is his and not an independent entity. But despite the oneness in tattva of śakti/śaktimān, the two have their own separate identities and participation in the līlā, Rāma in sakhya-rasa and Anaṅga-mañjarī in mādhurya-rasa.

This teaching on the bhedābheda of śakti/śaktimān is what Rūpa Goswāmī himself teaches. However, he is in the least silent on the notion that Nityānanda-rāma’s Jāhnāva is Anaṅga-mañjarī in the Vraja līlā and is thus Balarāma’s śakti. While his silence on this theological perspective may be deafening to some, leaving aside the rest of Anaṅga-mañjarī-sampuṭikā, unto itself this aspect of its theology need not be seen as a contradiction to Śrī Rūpa’s teaching, and a number of staunch rūpānuga Vaiṣṇavas have embraced it. We have seen that Kavi-karṇapūra has accepted this possibility, and it can be argued that Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja implied it. Viśvanātha Cakravartī also accepted it, as has Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda. And it is alive and well in the Bhaktivinoda parivāra following Bhaktisiddhānta Saraswatī Ṭhākura.

At the onset of this article, I have described this theological perspective as “peculiar”—the idea that Balarāma’s primary śakti has no romantic relationship with him but instead has one with Kṛṣṇa. But perhaps “unique” in the world of God’s consorts is a better way to describe it, and in this view, she does, after all, have a relationship with him in his Gaura līlā appearance as Nityānanda-rāma. Jaya Rāma! Jaya Kṛṣṇa! Jaya Rādhe!

Footnotes

1 Dhyānacandra Goswāmī does refer to this conversation, attributing it to the Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa and informing his readers that the mantra for the worship of Nityānanda Prabhu is found therein. However, if it is, it is most certainly an instance of interpolation. The actual text of this Purāṇa is not about Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism, which it predates by centuries.

2 In 4.22 Rāmāi asks rhetorically that if he does not reveal these līlās (presented in waves 3 and 4), who will know about them? It would seem that in his mind the same holds true with the tattva of this book.

3 This is another obscure if not unknown text.

4 This text includes the Rasarāja theology, in which romantic love for Kṛṣṇa—kānta-bhāva—is considered preferable to mañjarī-bhāva. In the Rasarāja theology, Gaura Kṛṣṇa is also thought to be a suitable object of romantic love—gaura-nāgara-bhāva. Both of these perspectives constitute a further departure from the Goswāmīs’ theology, in which mañjarī-bhāva is considered preferable to kānta-bhāva and Gaura Kṛṣṇa is not a suitable object of romantic love. Following the Goswāmī theology, Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura writes in chapter 39 of his Jaiva Dharma, “Never commit the mistake of thinking that because Kṛṣṇa appeared in Navadvīpa dhāma to teach worship of himself in parakīya-bhāva that Śrī Caitanya is thus the paramour of Navadvīpa.” Although less than a handful of apparent nāgara-bhāva verses do appear in an early edition of the Ṭhākura’s Sajjana-toṣaṇī journal (1881), his clear statement in Jaiva Dharma was published in 1893, and he never changed his position on the topic thereafter.

5 However, some sects other than Rāmāi Ṭhākura’s own have also embraced his identification of Nityānanda-rāma with Rādhā and also the idea that Balarāma ultimately relishes mādhurya-rasa with Kṛṣṇa as the object of his love. The outlier Gauḍīya following of Rādhā Ramaṇa Caraṇa dāsa Bābājī is an example. See their text Carita-sudhā, where this is implied.

6 In Gaura-gaṇoddeśa-dīpikā 184, Gopāla Bhaṭṭa Goswāmī is also identified with both Anaṅga-mañjarī and Guṇa-mañjarī. However, the Rādhā-ramaṇa Goswāmī families, who follow Gopāla Bhaṭṭa Goswāmī, refer to him as Guṇa-mañjarī (see Gopāla-bhaṭṭa-śatakam 71—ya iha kuñja-gṛhe guṇa-mañjarī).

7 See Gaurāṅga-gaṇa-svarūpa-tattva-candrikā 34–38.

8 In The Final Word, Tony Stewart convincingly portrays Caitanya-caritāmṛta as the text that served to establish the orthodox understanding of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava theology at the dawn of the seventeenth century. Tony K. Stewart, The Final Word: The Caitanya Caritāmṛta and the Grammar of Religious Tradition (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010).

9 Amiya P. Sen, Chaitanya: A Life and Legacy (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2019), 123. In Vaṁśī-śikṣā, Vaṁśīvadana Ṭhākura, Rāmāi Ṭhākura’s grandfather, is identified with Anaṅga-mañjarī rather than Jāhnāva. Thus, we find significant division within the Baghnapara lineage on this central point of Anaṅga-mañjarī-sampuṭikā.

10 Other than the prakaṭa or aprakaṭa Gaura līlā, gaura-nāgara-bhāva posits its own dream-state līlā in which sādhakas are thought to have female svarūpas through which they experience romantic love with Gaurasundara. Even then, the idea that Nityānanda Prabhu has such a svarūpa is not shared by all members of the nāgara-bhāva and other related outlier sects.

Additional Articles in this Series

Balarāma, The Birth of Sakhya-bhava

Balarāma Tattva

Rāma Shines Only in Connection With Kṛṣṇa

Balarāma’s Romantic Life

Balarāma and Ananga-mañjarī

Anaṅga-mañjarī: A Historical and Theological Perspective

Rāmāi Ṭhākura and Anaṅga-mañjarī-sampuṭikā

Balarāma Slays a False Friend


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