Who were Six Goswamis of Vrindavana?
The six Goswamis of Vrindavana were a group of spiritual gurus (teachers) and Sanskrit scholars belonged to Gaudiya Vaishnava sect of Vedic religion. They were Sanatana Goswami, Rupa Goswami, Raghunatha Dasa Goswami, Gopal Bhatta Goswami, Raghunatha Bhatta Goswami and Jiva Goswami.
They lived in India during late 15th and early 16th century. They were ascetic devotees of Lord Krishna and leading disciples of Mahaprabhu Chaitanyadeva.
Sanatana Goswami (1488-1558)
Sanatana was born in Jashore, now in Bangladesh, in 1488 as the son of Mukunda, the private secretary of the Sultan of Bengal, Jalaluddin Fateh Shah (ruled 1481–1487). The ancestors of Sanatana were South Indian Karnataka Brahmins. His teachers were Vasudeva Sarvabhouma and his brother Madhusudana Vidyavachaspati. On the death of his father, Sanatana was forced to take up the post of Sakara Mallik (treasurer) to the new ruler of Bengal, Alauddin Hussein Shah (ruled 1493–1519), while his brother Rupa was given the post of Dabir-i-khas (private secretary). So Sanatana is considered to be fluent in Arabic and Persian.
Even though he was employed in the monarchy, Sanatana Goswami had a monastic attitude in his heart. He was well versed in jurisprudence. When Chaitanyadeva met him, he (Sanatan) quit his job and soon became a follower of Shri Chaitanyadeva. From this time people knew him as Sanatana. Chaitanyadeva stayed in Varanashi for two months on his way to Nilachal. There he gave various advice to Sanatana and also gave him four direct instructions: 1.To compile Bhaktigrantha (Devotional books), 2.To preach devotion and virtue, 3.To discover and excavate lost pilgrimage sites in Vrindavana and 4.To establish the service of Shribigraha (Idols of Lord Krishna). Since then Sanatana Goswami resided in Vrindavana and worked to establish Vaishnavism. During this time he wrote various books in Sanskrit. Among them Brihat-bhagavtamrita, Brihad Vaishnava Toshani (commentary on Srimad-Bhagavatam), Krishna-lila-stava, Hari-bhakti-vilasa etc. are mentionable.
Sanatana Goswami departed from this world in 1558 CE. His samadhi (tomb) is located next to the Madana-mohana temple in Vrindavana.
Rupa Goswami (1489-1564)
Rupa Goswami was the younger brother of Sanatan Goswami. Sanatana was born in Jashore, now in Bangladesh. His ancestral name was Santosha, but he was known by the name ‘Rupa’ given by Chaitanyadeva. Rupa also served in the court of Alauddin Hussein Shah. He was the Sultan’s Dabir-i-khas (private secretary).
Rupa Goswami was a devotee of Lord Krishna since his (Rupa) childhood. While Chaitanyadeva was on his way to Vrindavana, Rupa visited him at Prayag and learned devotional teachings from him. As Mahaprabhu told him, he(Rupa) went to Vrindavana and discovered the lost Tirtha(Pilgrimage site) and the lost Govindavigraha(the idol of Govinda) and wrote some valuable Vaishnava books. His notable books are: Uddhava-sandesa, Hamsa-dutam, Vidagdhamadhava, Lalitmadhab, Danakelikaumudi, Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu, Ujjvala-nilamani, Natakchandrika, Bilapakusumanjali, Laghu-bhagavatamrita Upadeshamrita, Govindabirudabali, Astaddashli, Stavamala, Shri Radha-krishna-ganoddesa-dipika, Mathura-mahatmya, Sri Krsna-janma-tithi-vidhi, Nataka-candrika etc. Rupa Goswami has more poetic power and erudition than Shar Goswami, because the authentic Vaishnava books he has written are considered to be good not only in numbers but also in poetry and humor. In these texts, he established the Krishna theory of Gaudiya Vaisnavism and introduced the devotional discussion and the tradition of the worship of Radha-Krishna.
Rupa Goswami departed from this world in 1564 CE. His samadhi (tomb) is located in the courtyard of the Radha-Damodara temple in Vrindavana.
Raghunatha Dasa Goswami (1494-1586)
Raghunatha Dasa was born at Haripur in Saptagram. He studied the scriptures with the house-priest Balarama Acharya. From his childhood, he showed signs of asceticism. He was fascinated by the personality and devotion of Haridas Thakur and served him and got the mercy of Haridas Thakur. At this time, hearing the name of Chaitanyadeva, Raghunatha surrendered himself at his(Chaitanyadeva) feet and one day secretly left home and met him (Chaitanyadeva) at Nilachal. Chaitanyadeva placed him under the care of Swarup Damodar. That is why Raghunatha was called ‘Raghu of Swarup’.
Raghunatha was in Nilachal for sixteen years. After the death of Shri Chaitanyadeva and Swarup Damodar, he took refuge in Vrindavana. Raghunatha used to follow strict rules in daily life and taking prasad in Nilachal and Vrindavana. He rescued Radhakunda and Shyamkunda and spent the rest of his life renovating Radhakunda. In his last life, he abstained from food and sleep, sat on the bank of Radhakunda and always lived a solitary life chanting the name of RadhaKrishna. His demeanor and devotion are very rare even among Goswamis. He wrote many books. Some of the notable books written by Raghunatha Dasa are: Abhista-suchana, Chaitanyastaka (Stavavali), Dana-keli-cintamani, Dana-nirvartana-kundastaka, Govardhana-vasa-prarthana-dasaka, Govardhanasraya-dasaka, Granthakartuh Prarthana, Harinamartha-ratna-dipika, Madana-gopala-stotra, Manah-siksa, Mukta-charita, Mukundastaka, Nava-yuva-dvandva-didriksastaka, Navastaka, Prarthanamrita, Prarthanasraya-chaturdasaka, Prema-purabhidha-stotra, Premambhoja-maranda, Radha-krishna-ujjvala-kusuma-keli, Radha-kundastaka, Radhikastaka (Stavavali), Radhikastottara-sata-nama-stotra, Raghunatha-dasa-gosvaminah Prarthana, Stavavali, Sva-niyama-dasaka, Sva-sankalpa-prakasa-stotra, Utkantha-dasaka, Vilapa-kusumanjali, Vraja-vilasa-stava etc.
A major event that Raghunatha Dasa Goswami organized was the Chida-Dahi festival at Panihati. The devotees belonged to Vaishnava sects particularly the devotees of ISKCON celebrate this festival annually.
Gopal Bhatta Goswami (1503-1578)
Gopal Bhatta Goswami was a native of South India. It is known from Murari Gupta’s Karcha that in his childhood Chaitanyadeva received hospitality at their house on his (Chaitanyadeva) way to the Deccan. Then seeing his devotion to Chaitanyadeva, the father Trimal Bhatta (Benkok Bhatta) surrendered his son at the feet of Chaitanyadeva. Chaitanyadeva blessed him and at his(Chaitanyadeva) behest Gopal went to Vrindavana to meet other Goswamis. Chaitanyadeva sent his cousin and a wooden seat for him from Nilachal. That seat called ‘Kather Pira’ in Vrindavana is still worshiped in the Radha Raman temple. The tomb of Gopal Bhatta Goswami is situated behind this temple.
Gopal Bhatta Goswami was well versed in Sanskrit language and philosophy. He wrote a commentary on the play Krishnakarnamrita called Srikrishnavallava. His book Satkriyasardipika contains details of the fourteen reforms of marriage. It has various rules and regulations. The Sanskrit Sahitya Parishad Library has a book called Dankhand (No. 427) written by Gopal Bhatta. Another book, Haribhaktivilas, is also said to have been written by Gopal Bhatta, although according to some it is a traditional work, Gopal later expanded its content. Some of his other works are Shri Narahari Chakravarti (1913), Shri Rasabihari Sankhya Tirtha (ed.), Bhakti Ratnakar (in Bengali), Shri Ramdev Mishra etc.
Raghunatha Bhatta Goswami (1505-1579)
Raghunatha Bhatta played an important role in discovering the lost pilgrimage sites and idols of Vrindavana. He also determined the 74 crore passage in forests that Vaishnava devotees still traverse.
Raghunatha’s father’s name is Tapan Mishra. Shri Chaitanyadeva visited East Bengal and received the hospitality of Tapan Mishra in the village of Rampur on the banks of the Padma and then taught Raghunatha theology. Raghunatha acquired his erudition by studying various scriptures at Kashi. He witnessed Shri Chaitanya’s divine play in Nilachal. After the death of his parents, he went to Vrindavana and got the company of Rupa-Sanatana. There he gained a reputation as the best reader of Bhagavata Purana.
Jiva Goswami (1513-1598)
Jiva Goswami was the nephew of Rupa-Sanatana. He was born in Ramkeli. His early life of education was spent in Gour. Later he went to Navadvip to meet Nityananda Prabhu and at his command studied various scriptures with Pandit Madhusudan Bachaspati at Kashi. It was here that he met Rupa-Sanatana and Rupa Goswami initiated him into Vaishnavism. In their vicinity, Jiva attained more excellence in the pursuit of knowledge. After their death, Jiva Goswami led the Gaudiya Vaishnava community of Vrindavana. He was enthusiastic about introducing ‘Radha-Krishna Jugal Murti’ (the idols of Radha and Krishna together) by placing Radha idol to the left of Krishna idol.
Jiva was attached to Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu from his childhood; After taking initiation, his affection increased even more. Chaitanyadeva and Vaishnavism fascinated him. He wrote various books and commentaries on Vaishnavism and Tantra. Shat-sandarva is a famous philosophical book written by him. It has six references or chapters and discussions on various philosophical theories.
A few more books written by Jiva Goswami are: Tattva-Sandarbha, Bhagavat-sandarbha,
Paramatma-sandarbha, Krishna-sandarbha, Bhakti-sandarbha, Priti-sandarbha, Radha-Krishna-archana-dipika,
Radha-krishnarchana-dipika, Radha-krishnarchana-chandrika etc. Some of his commentaries on Vaishnavism and Tantra are Krama-sandarbha,
Laghu-toshani, Sarva-samvadini, Padma-puranastha Yogasara-stotra-tika,
Padma-puranokta Krishna-pada-padma-chihna, Radhika-kara-pada-sthita-chihna etc.
His works on grammar and rhetoric are
Dhatu-sangraha, Rasamrita-sesha etc. He also wrote many books of poetry. Among these Madhava-mahotsava, Gopala-virudavali, Gopala-champu, Sankalpa-kalpavriksha, Sankalpa-kalpadruma, Bhavartha-suchaka-champu etc. are mentionable.