Rupa Goswami (
1489- 1564CE) is a devotional teacher, poet, and philosopher from the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition of Hinduism. Alongside Sanatana Goswamihe was considered the leader of the Six Goswamis of Vrindavan- a highly influential group of devotees made up from a number of disciples of the Vaishnavasaint, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
Rupa's lineage can be traced back to
Karnatakain South India where his Saraswata Brahmana ancestors held influential positions. Rupa Gosvami's nephew, Jiva Goswamihas explained in his Laghu Tosani that Rupa's ancestors were of the Bharadvaja gotra and were learned in the Yajur Veda. A brahmanacalled Sarvajna was seventh in the ascending genealogical line of Rupa Goswami and was known by the title 'jagad-guru' (Universal teacher) being both a learned scholar and king. His son, Aniruddha was also an acclaimed scholar and had two sons, named Hariharaand Rupesvara. While Rupesvara was knowledgable in the Vedic literatures, his brother became expert in weaponryand politics. When their father died, the kingdom was divided between the two sons. However, Harihara took Rupesvara's land by force and forced the family to migrate to Paurastyadesa. Padmanabha relocated his family to Nabahatta (Naihati) on the banks of the Ganges River. Padmanabha had eighteen daughters and five sons, the youngest son being named Mukunda.
When there was religious upheaval, Mukunda's son, Kumaradeva, moved to Jessore. His sons were Santosha (Rupa), Amara (Sanatana) and Srivallabha (Anupama). On the demise of Kumaradeva, the three sons moved to Sakurma, near to the capital of Gaudadesa (
Bengal) where they continued their studies.
The three brothers studied the Nyaya-sastras (treatise on rhetoric) from the famous logician
Sarvabhauma Bhattacaryaand his brother Madhusudana Vidyavacaspati. They also studied Sanskrit, Arabicand Persian.
Due to their noble characters and academic proficiency, Rupa and his elder brother Sanatana were later forced into government service by the sultan of Bengal, Alauddin Hussein Shah (1493-1519 CE) which led to their excommunication from
Hindusociety by the orthodox caste brahmanas of Gauda. Rupa became the Sultan's chief secretary (dabir khas), while Sanatana became the state revenue minister (sakara mallika).
First meeting with Chaitanya Mahaprabhu
Rupa and his brothers made their residence at the state capital of Ramakeli and it was here, in 1514 CE, that they met Chaitanya Mahaprabhu for the first time. The meeting changed their lives and they decided to leave the service of the Sultan and take up a life of
renunciationin the association of Chaitanya and his followers. Rupa loaded all his wealth onto two boats and left with his brother Anupamafor their ancestral home at Fatiabad in Jessore, where they distributed it. They then sent two messengers to Puri in Orissato get news of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's plans. The messengers returned with the news that Chaitanya had already left Puri for Vrindavana. Rupa and Anupama immediately decided to go and they wrote a letter to Sanatana telling him of their plans and asking him to meet them in Vrindavana. They also told him that they had left 10,000 gold coins in case he was in need of financial help. Later, when Sanatana was thrown into prison by the Sultan for disobedience, he used this money to bribe the jailer and escaped to Varanasito meet with Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
econd meeting with Chaitanya Mahaprabhu
Vrindavana, Chaitanya stopped at the holy city of Prayaga(modern day Allahabadin Uttar Pradesh). It was here that Rupa and Anupama met him for the second time. At the Dasasvamedha Ghat (a famous bathing area on the banks of the River Ganges), Chaitanya imparted instructions to Rupa Goswami and explained all the intricacies of the doctrine of Gaudiya Vaishnavism. Rupa Gosvami was specifically commanded by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu to carry out two tasks: to re-locate and preserve the lost holy places of Vrindavana, and to write and preach Gaudiya Vaisnava theology. He then sent Rupa Goswami to Vrindavana to carry out these orders.
Later, on the order of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Rupa Goswami came to Puri and resided there for ten months. During the time of the annual
Rath Yatrafestival in Puri, Rupa Goswami composed one mysticalverse that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu requested him to read to his most intimate associates. Upon hearing this verse, all the assembled Vaishnavas praised Rupa Goswami for his outstanding composition that was filled with deep devotion to Krishna. Due to this, it was proclaimed that Rupa Goswami was the very embodiment of Chaitanya' Mahaprabhu's esoteric teachings of rasa (divine mellows). Because of this, Rupa Goswami is considered by Vaishnavas to be the foremost follower of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and those that strictly follow in his preceptoral line are known as Rupanugas (followers of Rupa).
Rupa and Sanatana remained in Vrindavana for the remainder of their lives. Their mood of renunciation and devotion was exemplary. Rupa uncovered various holy places associated with the pastimes of
Krishnaand rediscovered the famous deity of Govindadeva, which was originally installed and worshipped by Krishna's great-grandson, Maharaja Vajranabha. Rupa and Sanatana were intimately connected with other Vaishnava saints in Vrindavana such as Lokanatha Goswami, Bhugarbha Goswami, Gopala Bhatta Goswami, Raghunatha Bhatta Goswamiand Raghunatha Dasa Goswami.
Shortly after, they were also joined by their nephew
Jiva Goswamiwho was given initiation by Rupa and personally trained by him in the philosophy of Gaudiya Vaishnavism.
Rupa Goswami departed from this world in 1564 CE and his samadhi (tomb) is located in the courtyard of the [http://www.radhadamodarmandir.com/ Radha-Damodara] temple in Vrindavana.
In Gaudiya Vaishnava theology, Rupa Goswami is considered to be the incarnation of Rupa Manjari, the foremost junior cowherd damsel who eternally serves Radha-Krishna under the guidance of
Rupa Goswami wrote a number of books in
Sanskriton philosophy, poetics, dramaand dramaturgy. The following is a list of some of the most well-known works of Rupa Goswami:
* Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu: (Skt. The Ocean of Nectar of Divine Love) Bhakti-rasamarta-sindhu can be considered to be one of the most important books in Gaudiya Vaishnavism. In this work, Rupa Goswami elaborately describes the gradations of bhakti from its lowest stage of sraddha (
faith) up to its highest stage of maha-bhava (ultimate ecstasy in love of Godhead).
* Ujjvala-nilamani: (skt. The Sapphire of Divine Love) This work exclusively explains the conception of madhurya-rasa (divine conjugal love). Ujjvala-nilamani is considered to be a sequel to the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu.
* Laghu-bhagavatamrta: (Skt. A Summary of Nectar about Godhead) The Laghu-bhagavatamrta is a summary of Sanatana Goswami's book Brhat-bhagavatamrta. The book begins by explaining the intrinsic nature of Krishna and his incarnations and continues to deal entirely with the devotees of Krishna.
* Lalita-madhava & Vidagdha-madhava: This drama was originally written by Rupa as one drama along with Vidagdha-madhava. However, it is said that Rupa had a vision of Satyabhama, one of Krishna's queens in Dvaraka, who told him to divide the book into two separate dramas. Thus, Lalita-madhava deals with Krishna's pastimes in Dvaraka and Vidagdha-madhava narrates Krishna's pastimes in Vrindavana. These plays were written between 1524 and 1529 CE)
* Stavamala: (Skt. The Flower Garland of Prayers) This is a compilation of short works by Rupa Goswami, some of which are often published as separate books.
* Sri Radha-krsna-ganoddesa-dipika: (Skt. A Lamp to see the Associates of Radha-Krsna) In this book, Rupa Goswami lists the associates of Radha and krishna and describes their characteristics. This work was written in 1550 CE.
* Danakeli-kaumudi: (Skt. The Lotus-like Tax Pastimes) This drama was written by Rupa Goswami in 1549 CE and narrates the 'tax-collecting pastime between Krishna and the
Gopis of Vrindavana.
* Mathura-mahatmya: (Skt. The Glories of Mathura) The Mathura Mahatmya tells the glories of Mathura, in the form of a conversation between
Varaha(the boar incarnation of Vishnu) and the Earth Goddess. Rupa Goswami explains various processes of devotional service by quoting statements from various Hindu scriptures and establishes that Mathura vanquishes all one's sinful reactions and awards piety and liberation.
* Uddhava-sandesa: (Skt. News of Uddhava) In this work, Rupa Goswami narrates the story from the
Bhagavata Puranaof Krishna requesting his friend Uddhavato go to Vrindavana and pacify his friends and relations by reminding them of their pastimes with him.
* Hamsa-dutam: (Skt. The Swan messenger) The Hamsaduta tells the story how Lalita, the confident of Radha, sends a messenger in the form of a swan to Krishna in
* Sri Krsna-janma-tithi-vidhi: This short work of Rupa Goswami's is a paddhati (manual on ritual worship) explaining the process of worshiping the deity of Krishna during the festival of
Janmastami, the birthday of Krishna celebrated by Vaishnavas in August/September.
* Nataka-candrika: (Skt. The Illuminating Moon of Dramatics) This book explains the rules of Gaudiya Vaisnava dramaturgy.
* Upadesamrta: (The Nectar of Instruction) This is a short work containing eleven verses that gives instructions to aspirants on the path of devotion to Krishna. The Upadesamrta was originally a part of the Stavamala.
*Tirtha, Swami B.B., Sri Caitanya and His Associates, 2002, [http://www.mandala.org/ Mandala Publishing] , San Francisco. ISBN #1-886069-28-X
* Mahayogi, Swami B.V., Lives of the Saints, translated from Gaura Parsada Caritavali, unpublished work.
* Gaudiya Vaisnava Abhidhana (Bengali), Compiled by Haridasa Dasa, Haribol Kutir, Navadvipa, W. Bengal, 1957.
* Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, A.C., The Nectar of Devotion, 1970, Los Angeles: The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. (A summary study of "
* Swami, Dhanurdhara, [http://www.wavesofdevotion.com Waves of Devotion,] 2000, Bhagavat Books ISBN 0-9703581-0-5. (A study guide to "The Nectar of Devotion.")
* [http://www.radhakunda.com/personalities/rupa_gosvami.html Rupa Goswami] (radhakunda.com)
* [http://library.iskconmedia.com/acaryas/rupa-goswami Rupa Goswami works in PDF format] (ISKCON Media Vedic Library)
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