Śrīla Ācārya Ṭhākura

His Divine Grace
Oṁ Viṣṇupāda Paramahaṁsa Parivrājakācārya 108

Śrīla Gour Govinda Swami Mahārāja

Śrīla Ācārya Ṭhākura Gour Govinda Swami, a great Vaiṣṇava ācārya in the Brahma-Madhva-Gauḍīya-sampradāya, appeared in Orissa India 02.09.1929. This was one week after Janmāṣṭamī of that year [Gaurabda 443] and one week prior to Rādhāṣṭamī.

He was born of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava parents; his mother hailed from the glorious village of kīrtana, the Gadai Giri Village. At the time of his birth, the famous astrologer and mystic Nityananda Khadiratna said:

“…This boy is full of devotion. He is very intelligent. He will marry, obtain government service, and in his middle age, he will renounce family life and become a sādhu. He will obtain higher knowledge and because of that he will occupy an important place in the line of sādhus. He will build temples. He will make Gopāla Jīu’s place bright.” The astrologer then said, “Kṛṣṇa Himself has sent this child from His eternal abode, to preach His message and to deliver the fallen conditioned souls…”

What follows are the glories of the Gadāi-Giri Village and the Giri family of His Divine Grace Śrīla Ācārya Ṭhākura Gour Govinda Swami:

Part One

The Famous Gadāi-Giri Village

The Village of the Holy Name

The village of Gadāi-Giri, situated amidst the tranquil solitude of rural Orissa, surrounded by lotus-filled ponds and green paddy fields, has a most interesting history. Around three hundred years ago, a great devotee of Mahāprabhu named Gadai Giri, originating from Midnapur, now part of West Bengal, came to Orissa. He dealt in brass cooking utensils.

The Sound of a Flute Coming from the Jungle

Once, as Śrī Gadai Giri was crossing this area, he suddenly heard the auspicious sound of a flute coming from the jungle, along with the tinkle of ankle bells and the blowing of a conch, intermingling with the calls of various birds. After he revealed this incident to a local sādhu whom Śrī Gadai Giri had befriended, that sādhu advised him to make his home in that very spot. He also said to him that Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, must be present there, and added that wherever there is Kṛṣṇa, the Goddess Lakṣmī resides there too and that all his needs would be met if he were to simply remain there in adoration of the Supreme Lord.

The local Zamindar (the Squire or principal local landowner) who had become very favourably disposed towards Śrī Gadai Giri by virtue of his sweet nature and good behaviour, gave him permission to stay in the locality. Thus Śrī Gadai Giri made a clearing in the jungle and built a thatched hut. He gave up his business, constructed a small temple for Dadhi Baman [Lord Jagannātha] and engaged himself full time in the glorification of the Supreme Lord, through kīrtana and study of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.

From then on, Gadai Giri remained there with his family. Gradually more people moved into the area and a small village was slowly formed.

Gopal Giri, the son of Gadai Giri, was deeply devoted to Lord Jagannātha and had learned kīrtana from the devotees of Mahāprabhu’s home district of Nadia, Bengal. Many years later, he named the village after his father, the “Gadāi-Giri village.”

Since the sixteenth century, the Giri dynasty has been very famous throughout the whole of Orissa for their kīrtana and bhajans and for their sincere, deep devotion to the Lord.

It Is in Their Blood

For centuries, this small village of Gadāi-Giri in the middle of nowhere in Orissa has been flooded with the sound of kīrtana. Great devotees have taken birth in the Giri dynasty in order to satisfy the desire of the Supreme Lord to hear their sweet kīrtana. This Gadāi-Giri kīrtana cannot be learned like a dramatic or musical performance; it is in the blood of one born into the Giri family. The family is famous for their great devotion to the Lord, and their wondrous kīrtana.

The Giri Family 

The Giri family to this day still produces, on one side of the family, talented singers, who can sing very sweet kīrtana and on the other side, mṛdaṅga players (drummers). Since the time of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, all the villages of Orissa have had a kīrtana party, but none are as famous as the kīrtana party from Gadāi-Giri.

Some three hundred years ago, around the year 1690, Śrī Gopal Giri and his family maintained the worship of the deity of Lord Jagannātha (with no deity of Lord Baladeva noe of Subhadrā-devī) in the small temple that was constructed by his father.

Gopal Giri in Jagannātha Purī

Gopal Giri was working as the poddar, cashier, in the Jagannātha Temple in Purī and was directly accountable to the king. He was very qualified to hold this position as he was a very well educated person and completely trustworthy. He was very well known and respected by everyone in Purī. His position was secure and his day-to-day life was calm and pleasant enough, apart from a strong desire, that he cherished in his heart to worship the Lord in His eternal form of Lord Gopāla. Even whilst dutifully carrying out his obligations as a treasurer, he was always praying for that time when he could give up his occupation and fully dedicate his life to the service and pleasure of his iṣṭa-deva (worshippable deity) – Lord Gopāla – Kṛṣṇa as a cowherd boy. He longed very intensely for the Lord to appear before him in that form.

In the town of Purī, many sādhus (holy men/saints) would come to see the Deity of the Supreme Lord in the Jagannātha Temple. When Gopal Giri sometimes met with these sādhus, he would ask, “Please give me your blessings so that I may obtain a deity of Lord Gopāla; it is my heart’s desire to worship Him.” However most of them would reply, “If you want to worship Lord Gopāla, then you will have to go to Vṛndāvana. There you will find the Lord of your heart.” Now the dilemma for Gopal Giri was that he was serving in Purī and was unable to travel to Vṛndāvana. The only means of transport in those days was by bullock cart or on foot, and he was not able to take leave from his work for the many months it would take for this journey.

Gopāla and the Vaiṣṇava Bābājī

During this time, in Vṛndāvana there lived a vaiṣṇava-bābājī (a renounced monk) who every day would go door-to-door begging alms, called mādhukarī, the way of the bumblebees, (a sannyāsī should collect a little from different households and subsist on that). During the daytime, he would go out and collect a little rice, a little dāl (a soup of pulses), which he would cook in the evening and then offer to his deity Śrī Gopāla Jīu, whom he would carry around the whole day in his shoulder bag. The bābājī would first offer the cooked rice and dāl to the Lord and then he would eat the remnants. After taking prasāda he would place the deity back in the bag. In this way he was leading his life, wandering throughout the forests of Vṛndāvana.

The Bābājī’s Dream

One night, his deity of Gopāla Jīu appeared to the bābājī in a dream, and told him, “You should take Me to Gopal Giri, the son of Gadai Giri; he wants to worship Me. Take Me to Jagannātha Purī where Gopal Giri is working! I want to hear the kīrtana performed by the residents of Gadāi-Giri.” Upon awakening, the bābājī, did not pay much attention to it. “After all,” he considered, “it was only a dream!” He carried on his daily routine as though nothing had happened. However, some nights later, the deity appeared again to the bābājī in a dream, this time with a cane in His hand and He beat the bābājī severely. When the bābājī awoke, upon seeing the wounds on his body, he at once realised his mistake. He begged Lord Gopāla’s forgiveness for not having followed His command even though He had been kind enough to personally appear before him and instruct him in a dream.

The bābājī then said, “O, my Lord! You have beaten me very severely. How can I possibly go to Purī now with so many wounds on my body? Unless they are healed, how can I go there?”

Gopāla Jīu replied to him, “No! First you take me to Purī and hand Me over to Gopal Giri. Once this is done, ask Gopal Giri to place his hand on your body. When he does this, all of your wounds will disappear immediately. Otherwise your wounds will never heal. Therefore please do not delay, let us leave at once! I will give you the directions on how to go to Purī and where to find Gopal Giri.”

The Journey from Vṛndāvana to Jagannātha Purī

Immediately the bābājī set out for Purī from Vṛndāvana. Since he mainly travelled by foot the journey from Vṛndāvana to Jagannātha Purī took many months. The distance was one thousand six hundred and ten kilometres, as the crow flies, however the distance travelled; all in all was 2,200 kilometres. There was also no facility for the bābājī to send a message in advance to inform the residents of Purī that Lord Gopāla Jīu was coming to satisfy the desire of Gopal Giri. He did not even know who Gopal Giri was or what he looked like. He just set out for Purī with faith in the order of the Supreme Lord. The bābājī was the servant of the deity, and the deity had said that He wanted to go to Purī, and that was it!

It was a long journey full of obstacles and hardships before the bābājī finally arrived in Jagannātha Purī. Upon arrival, the bābājī enquired from the local people as to the whereabouts of Gopal Giri. Many people knew him. He was famous as the Jagannātha Temple cashier. The bābājī found out that he was staying in a rented house in the area known as Kundheibenta Sahi, three or four kilometres from the Jagannātha Temple, in the direction of the Guṇḍicā-mandira, on the north side of Purī.

As it was quite late in the evening, the bābājī decided to stay that night near the Jagannātha Temple, and to visit Gopal Giri early the next morning.

The Bābājī Meets Gopāl Giri

As it so happened, Gopal Giri had just finished bathing and was putting on his tilaka when he heard a knock at the door. He went to see who it was and saw a bābājī standing at the entrance to his house. The bābājī inquired if he was indeed Gopal Giri, saying, “I have brought with me the Deity of Śrī Gopāla Jīu, who has come all the way from Vṛndāvana so that you may worship Him.” He took the Lord from his bag. Gopal Giri was astonished, to say the least, as he gazed in wonder at the beautiful form of Śrī Gopāla Jīu. He then asked the bābājī who he was. The bābājī related the whole story to him, and asked him to touch his body so that his wounds would heal. He gave him the Deity of Gopāla Jīu. Gopal Giri then touched the bābājīs body, and as the Lord had promised him, all his wounds were immediately healed!

Gopal Giri was amazed that his desire had come true. The Lord had come all the way from Vṛndāvana just so that he could worship Him! In great bliss, he went to the market to purchase the finest quality rice, dāl and vegetables and upon returning home, gave them to the bābājī so he could cook for Lord Gopāla.

His next course of action was to approach the king and offer his resignation. The king however, was not present in his palace at that time and therefore he submitted his resignation in writing to the king’s officers. He then went home and saw that the offering was made by the bābājī to the Lord. After the Lord was satisfied, Gopal Giri and the bābājī took prasāda, the remnants of Lord Gopāla Jīu’s meal.

Sometime after, Gopal Giri opened his cash box and requested the Vaiṣṇava bābājī to take as much money as he wanted. Whereupon the bābājī replied, “No! I will not take any money! I am the servant of Gopāla. Wherever Lord Gopāla will go, I will go also and serve Him! I am not a person to sell the deity, I am His servant!”

Gopal Giri Resigns from Government Service

Sometime later, Gopal Giri was summoned to see the king. The king asked him, “Why have you resigned? Please explain your actions?” Gopal Giri explained to the king that he had cherished for many years the desire to worship the Lord in the form of Gopāla, and that a Deity of Gopāla Jīu had been brought to him by a Vaiṣṇava bābājī all the way from Vṛndāvana. He also explained to the king that he had already constructed a temple in his native village and he now desired to install Lord Gopāla there, to worship Him very nicely, and to perform kīrtana for Lord Gopāla everyday together with his famous family members. Upon hearing this, the king became very pleased and said, “All right, as today your desire to worship Lord Gopāla has been fulfilled, I have no objection. However, I do have one request: you must come sometimes to Purī with the kīrtana party from Gadāi-Giri and perform kīrtana in the temple for the pleasure of Lord Jagannātha.” Gopal Giri, was honored and happily accepted the conditions of the king, who then released him from all his duties at the Jagannātha Temple.

Gopal Giri Returns to Gadāi-Giri with Śrī Gopāla Jīu

Thereafter, Gopal Giri returned to his village with the deity accompanied by the Vaiṣṇava bābājī who would assist with the worship. Śrī Gopāla Jīu was installed in the temple especially constructed for Him, along with a beautiful deity of His eternal consort, Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, whose golden form was fashioned from brass by a local śilpī (deity sculptor). The Deity of Gopāla Jīu and His eternal consort, Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī have been worshipped in the temple at Gadāi-Giri ever since.

The Madāla-Pañji

The Giri family was not poor by any means. In fact they were very wealthy; they owned many acres of land surrounding the temple. They were the most famous kīrtanīyas in Orissa, who now had a special invitation from the King of Purī to sing in the Purī Temple for Lord Jagannātha whenever they could. (That invitation still holds to this day and is written in the history book of the Temple of Lord Jagannātha – the Madāla-pañji). The main occupation of the Giri family was deity worship and harikīrtana and now the Supreme Lord in His deity form had come all the way from Vṛndāvana to hear their kīrtana and accept their service.

Where My Pure Devotees Chant

It is described in the Padma Purāṇa,

nāhaṁ tiṣṭhāmi vaikuṇṭhe

yogināṁ hṛdayeṣu vā

tatra tiṣṭhāmi nārada

yatra gāyanti mad-bhaktāḥ


“My dear Nārada, actually I do not reside in My abode, Vaikuṇṭha, nor do I reside within the hearts of the yogīs, but I reside in that place where My pure devotees chant My holy name and discuss My form, pastimes and qualities.”

While relating the story of the arrival of his most beloved deity in the village of his ancestors, Śrīla Gour Govinda Mahārāja quoted the above verse and said, “The Supreme Lord is very happy to hear His own glorification.”

Gopal Giri arranged all the land and other properties for the service of the Deities. Sometime later the bābājī, who was still fully engaged in the service of Gopāla Jīu, left his body in Gadāi-Giri. Gopal Giri remained on this planet for eighty-five years. He engaged many other Vaiṣṇavas in the daily worship and was completely absorbed in the service of Gopāla Jīu, his most beloved iṣṭa-deva.

The Son Who Could Not Sing

Just one kilometre from the Gadāi-Giri village there is a temple dedicated to the Goddess Ṭhākurāṇī, a form of the Goddess Durgā. This temple is in the neighbouring village of Nāgapur. As has already been described, the Giri family were, and still are, famous throughout Orissa for their kīrtana; they are kīrtanagurus. At one point in time of the Giri dynasty, there was one member of the family called Abhiram Giri, who could neither play mṛdaṅga nor sing sweet kīrtana, much to the discontent of his father, Dinabandhu Giri, who was himself most famous for his kīrtana. Once, after performing kīrtana, the local villagers were enquiring from his father, “Why doesn’t your son ever lead kīrtana for the Lord’s pleasure?” The father, being rather embarrassed, replied, “This son of mine is ignorant in this regard, he cannot sing nor play the mṛdaṅga.” The villagers were amazed and said, “What is this, how amazing! All in your line are famous kīrtanīyas. Why is your son ignorant in this regard?” Abhiram Giri, who was present at that time, became very much ashamed of himself upon hearing this discussion and left that place with a troubled mind. He headed directly for the temple of the Goddess Ṭhākurāṇī, where he prostrated himself on the floor and did not move for three days. He took neither water nor food and simply laid down there. Within his heart, he was crying for the benediction to become an excellent kīrtana leader. He felt that otherwise it would be better for him to just give up his body on that spot. After three days of lying prostrated on the temple-room floor, fasting, he received a merciful benediction of the Goddess Ṭhākurāṇī. From that very day, he became famous as the leader of the most wondrous kīrtanas. Such are the glories of the ‘family of kīrtana’, the Gadāi-Giri kīrtanīyas.

The Deity of Śrī Gopāla Jīu Is Stolen

Once, some 175 years ago, a thief in the guise of a bābājī came to Gadāi-Giri. He would often help the brāhmaṇa in charge with the worship, making garlands, dressing the deities and performing arātis. One night, this charlatan ‘bābājī’ decided that he would have the deity for himself and stole Lord Gopāla Jīu. He headed in the direction of a nearby village called Bishi Muhana, which is approximately three kilometres from the Gadāi-Giri temple. In a dream, that very night, the deity spoke to Bhagat Charan Giri, who was at that time the village leader. “I have been stolen by this ‘bābājī’ and I am lying in a field near the village of Bishi Muhana. The ‘bābājī’ is now dead from a snake bite – please come and get Me.” Bhagat Charan Giri immediately woke up and came to the temple, to find the Deity was indeed missing.

By this time the brāhmaṇa had also awoken and was yelling at the top of his voice, “The Deity has gone, the Deity has been stolen!” Bhagat Charan Giri told him of his dream in which the Deity had appeared to him. In that dream, Bhagat Charan Giri had also seen a torch burning in the direction of the village of Bishi Muhana. He quickly organised a very large kīrtana party, formed with many of the villagers from Gadāi-Giri. It was an enormous procession with mṛdaṅgas, karatālas, and many villagers holding flaming torches. They headed in the direction of a mystical burning torch that they could see far off in the distance, the same one that Bhagat Giri had seen in his dream. When Bhagat Giri and his kīrtana party finally reached the spot where the now vanished torch should have been, they found the body of the bābājī thief and the Deity of Śrī Gopāla Jīu.

A mighty kīrtana was performed, and taking Lord Śrī Gopāla Jīu with them they returned to their village. Upon arriving back at Gadāi-Giri, they performed a fire sacrifice and placed the Deity of the Lord on His temple altar.