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Chaitanya and his companion Nityananda

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu or just Chaitanya ( Bengali : চৈতন্য , Caitanya; * 1486 in Nabadwip , West Bengal ; † 1533 in Puri , Orissa ) was a mystic and Hindu ecstatic from Bengal , India . In the 16th century he founded the Gaudiya Vaishnava School , a Vishnuitic doctrine which places the worship of the divine couple Radha - Krishna as well as the singing and reciting of their names at the center of worship. He is considered a spiritual forerunner or founder of the Hare Krishna movement.


The Chaitanya Bhagavata by Brindavan Das and the Chaitanya Charitamrita by Krishnadas Kaviraja together form the biography of Chaitanya. For his followers, these are the main sources about his life and work. The stories are biographical and "partly of a visionary nature," as Krishnadas Kaviraja writes. Both scriptures emphasize that he is the descended god Krishna, "veiled" as his devotee. In the mood ( bhava ) of Krishna's beloved consort Radha, he tastes and distributes the love for Krishna.

According to the belief of his followers, Chaitanya is the avatara of a mystical combination of Radha and Krishna who appeared to spread the process of chanting the Maha mantra prescribed for this Kali-Yuga . Various scriptures are referred to that are believed to have foretold his appearance and ministry. His name, Gauranga , means "the gold-colored", which is said to refer to his "molten gold-like" skin.

Only the Shikshashtakam , ie an "eight stanzas" Sanskrit prayer to Krishna, has come down to us as written testimony .

However, there are several works that are partly critical, partly biased, deal with him as the founder of the Krishna movement. One of the youngest is Unforgetting Chaitanya. Vaishnavism and Cultures of Devotion in Colonial Bengal, by Varuni Bhatai.


Chaitanya grew up in a Brahmin-Vishnuit family. As part of his training, he studied classical Sanskrit literature. In 1508 he traveled to Gaya to perform a remembrance ritual for his late father. There he had a conversion experience. He met an ascetic who introduced him to the teaching and practice of Krishna -Bhakti. After he returned to his hometown of Nabadwip , he and a group of devotees began to worship the god Krishna through prayers and chants combined with states of ecstasy. In 1510 Chaitanya made the formal monk's vow of abstinence and moved to the pilgrimage town of Puri in Odisha , where the Jagannath Temple , a famous Krishna shrine, is located. Chaitanya spent the rest of his life in Puri, where he and his followers worshiped Krishna and his consort Radha with song ( kirtan ) and dance.


Chaitanya (left) with Krishna and Radha

Chaitanya taught that bhakti , the loving devotion to Krishna, is the most effective spiritual method and also the ultimate goal of all spiritual practice. This very emotional theology emphasizes the active loving relationship of the Bhakti-Yogi with the divine couple Krishna and Radha.

Some Indian philosophers emphasize the inseparability ( abheda ) of living beings and the divine primordial ground, others the separation ( bheda ). Chaitanya, on the other hand, taught the concept of acintya-bheda-abheda-tattva , the “incomprehensible simultaneous being one and yet different”. Brahman is not regarded as attributeless, as "pure consciousness", as is the case in the Advaita Vedanta philosophy. He sees "the one" at the same time as a personal being with innumerable attributes, such as all-embracing love and affection, which is revealed in the perfect form of Krishna.

Chaitanya rejected the caste system , which was particularly strict at the time , and also accepted Muslims and untouchables as students.

Gaudiya Math , through which his teaching came to the West for the first time, as well as ISKCON and many other Vishnuit communities are based on the Gaudiya Vaishnava branch that he founded .

Well-known names of Chaitanyas

  • Vishvambhara - "Preserver or Nourisher of the Universe", his birth name.
  • Nimai - When he was 11, he was known as the Nimai Pandit for his scholarship .
  • Gauranga - "the golden one".
  • Krishna-Chaitanya - "who carries Krishna in consciousness". He was given this name at his Sannyasa dedication .

For the 500th anniversary, the Indian Post issued a stamp in 1986 under the name " Chaitanya Mahaprabhu ".

Web links

Commons : Chaitanya Mahaprabhu  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Flood, Gavin: An Introduction to Hinduism. Cambridge: University Press, 1996, p. 139.
  2. CHAITANYA MAHAPRABHU ( English ) IndianPost. Retrieved February 7, 2019.