Shri Gopal Bhatt Goswami: Founding Acharya of the Radharaman Temple Lineage

Shri Gopal Bhatt Goswami was only ten years old when Mahaprabhu stayed for four months at his family home in Shri Rangam, during Mahaprabhu's pilgrimage through South India. Gopal Bhatt dedicated himself completely to Mahaprabhu’s service, caring for his every need, whilst drinking the nectar of his teachings, which where full of love for Krishn. One day, during a conversation with Gopal Bhatt’s father, Venkat Bhatt, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu said, “Do not take Gopal to be a normal human being. He is an incarnation of a gopi, a personal associate of Radha and Krishn. With time, he will help millions of afflicted souls.” Venkat Bhatt offered his son at the lotus feet of Mahaprabhu, who initiated him on Kartik Shukla Ekadashi of that year. Thereafter, by the blessings of the Lord, Gopal Bhatt travelled to the holy city of Vrindavan on foot. There, he lived with the saints Roop and Sanatan Goswami. Together they rediscovered the hidden places of Radha and Krishn’s pastimes and wrote the devotional texts, such as Hari Bhakti Vilas, Tattva, Paramatma, Bhagavat, Krishn, Bhakti, Priti Sandarbhas, Krishn Vallabh’s commentary on Krishn Karnamrit, which now define Gaudiya Vaishnav philosophy.

One night, Shri Roop and Sanatan both dreamt that Mahaprabhu infused Gopal Bhatt with the light of his essence and left for his eternal abode. Soon after, news of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s departure from this world was received and each grieving devotee saw a vision of Mahaprabhu. He told them, “Roop and Sanatan are my personal associates and they should serve Govind Dev and Madan-Mohan. And my life, my dearmost Gopal Bhatt should preach the path of Bhakti and go to Gandaki River in Nepal, where he will receive twelve shaligram shilas. Of these shilas, I will always reside in the Damodar shaligram shila. He shall worship me by worshipping that shila [which later became the beautiful form of Shri Radharaman]. My wooden seat, which I have given to Gopal Bhatt, is the throne upon which he will sit as the next guru of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, and preach devotion for Radha and Krishn. This seat is symbolic of my authority, and will be handed down from generation to generation of Goswamis who are eligible to become gurus within the lineage. This is my order.”

After the necessary rituals were performed, Gopal Bhatt sat on the wooden seat. From this auspicious day, he was honoured with the title of Goswami, and the lineage of acharyas established by him use Goswami as their surname. Gopal Bhatt chose his disciple Damodar Das Goswami as his successor, and by his blessings, Damodar Das Goswami and his descendants would serve the deity of Shri Radharaman, guiding devotees as scholars and spiritual teachers for all generations. Over the last 500 years until the present day, the Goswamis of the Shri Radharaman Temple have been following Mahaprabhu’s order and Gopal Bhatt Goswami’s instructions, dedicating their lives for the purpose of preaching devotion in the world and worshipping Shri Radharaman.

The Appearance of Shri Radharaman

In a vision, Mahaprabhu instructed Gopal Bhatt Goswami to go to the Gandaki River in Nepal, where he would appear again in a new form, giving hope to all devotees who were grieving his departure from this world. And so Gopal Bhatt began the long journey on foot. Arriving at the riverbank, he searched for Mahaprabhu, everywhere, but Gopal Bhatt was unable to find him. In his anguish, Gopal Bhatt fasted and prayed till at last, he fell unconscious. Tears flowed from Gopal Bhatt’s face like a stream towards the Gandaki River, blessing her waters. He regained consciousness and placed his cupped palms in the river to collect water to make an offering ( arghya) to the sun. Much to his surprise, the water he collected in his palms contained a Damodar shila. Gopal Bhatt cried with joy, “Gaur Krishn! Gaur Krishn!” His entire body was covered with goose bumps. Blissful tears flowed incessantly and he welcomed his Beloved by reciting prayers. After receiving eleven more shaligram shilas by the blessings of the Lord, Gopal Bhatt returned to Vrindavan.

Gopal Bhatt Goswami’s Beloved had returned in the form of Damodar shaligram shila, yet the desire to serve him in his human-like form once again remained. On Vaishakh Shukla Chaturdashi of 1543, the appearance day of Narsingh Dev, Gopal Bhatt’s longing kept him awake all night. He meditated within himself, “Prahlad’s love for Krishn made him manifest from a pillar and rescue Prahlad even though Prahlad was born in a dynasty of demons who were not devotees. But I am not fortunate enough to attain my beloved Lord in his full form so that I can adorn him with my own hands.” Crying himself to sleep, In his dreams, Krishn reassured Gopal Bhatt that his desires will be fulfilled soon. With great excitement, Gopal Bhatt woke up very early and took a bath, preparing himself to worship his shilas, which were hanging inside a wicker basket on the peepal tree above his hut.

As he opened the basket, he found a divine deity of Krishn and only eleven of his shaligram shilas. The Damodar shila was missing. Gopal Bhatt was filled with blissful love at the sight of the deity and his heart was overflowing with ecstasy as he shed affectionate tears. Admiring every part of his deity, Gopal Bhatt noticed the markings of Damodar shila on his back. Gopal Bhatt's tremendous love, deep yearning and unwavering devotion had taken the form of the beautiful Lord. Goswamis, scholars and all of the devotees in Vrindavan heard the blessed news and swiftly assembled around Gopal Bhatt’s hut to offer their obeisances to the magnificent deity. Gopal Bhatt’s deity had manifested under the same peepal tree where Krishn had disappeared from Shri Radharani during the Raas about 4,500 years earlier. The devotees realised that the same Krishn who disappeared before Radha, had appeared again in the form of this deity at the call of Gopal Bhatt Goswami. When Krishn vanished from that spot, Radha called out to him by the Name of Raman; he was Radha’s Raman, thus the Goswamis named Gopal Bhatt’s deity “Radharaman”.