Vrindavan, 2019.01.16 (VT): The Hindu festival of Makara Sankranti which is celebrated in the month of Magha, marks the first day of sun’s transit from Sagittarius to Makara (Capricorn) ‘rashi’ (zodiac sign). It is considered highly auspicious for spiritual activities because on this day the Sun God – considered as ‘Pratyaksha Brahmana’ – begins ascending into the Northern Hemisphere.
The day also holds special significance for Gaudiya Vaishnavas as Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was initiated into ‘Sanyasa’ by Srila Keshav Bharti on this day. The village where Mahaprabhu’s hair shaving ritual was conducted came to be known as ‘Katoya’.
It so happened that just few days before his initiation, Nimai Pandit was treated roughly by a group of Brahmins in Nadia who were opposed to him. The incident troubled him deeply because he realized that the villagers’ casual attitude will never let them surrender to him. Though he has come to deliver them from the sufferings of this material world, they think of him as a classmate, a relative, a friend or just another householder.
On the day he was supposed to leave, Nimai instructed his loved ones to keep chanting the Lord’s name in all circumstances, favorable or adverse. “Chant his name while eating, or sleeping, chant during the day, chant at night…If you love me, never do anything without remembering Krishna,” he said.
That night, Nimai had a long conversation with his mother. He also asked her to prepare some pumpkin ‘Kheer’ (Indian dessert).
Bowing down to his sleeping mother and wife, he left home in the dead of night. After crossing the Ganga, Nimai reached the village of Katoya.
On the evening before Makara Sankranti, people came in large numbers to take a dip in the Ganga. They were taken aback on learning about Mahaprabhu’s decision to enter ‘sanyasa’ at such a young age.
The barber performed ‘mundan’ (head shaving ritual) on Nimai’s soft hair with tears in his eyes. After this ‘seva’ (service), he pledged to give up his profession even if that meant subsisting on alms, though later, he became a ‘Halwai’ (sweet meat maker).
People were aggrieved to see Nimai in the garb of a ‘sanyasi’ (monk). They ran amok closing their eyes to avoid witnessing the scene. Shri Chandrashekhar Acharya could resume the ceremony only after Nimai pacified the crowd.
When Shri Keshava Bharti proceeded to give him the sanyasa mantra, Nimai informed that he had already received it in a dream and whispered the mantra in the guru’s ear. Shri Keshava Bharti whispered it back to him and gave him the name ‘Krishna Chaitanya’- the one who will awaken Krishna consciousness in the hearts of all.
Although Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s sanyasa brought grief to his loved ones, he performed this lila to bless everyone with the nectar of Krishna’s name.