Srila Vamsidas Babaji appeared in the village of Majidpur in the Jamalpur district of Bangladesh. Before the partition of India, this city was formerly in the district of Mymensing. His father’s name was Sanatana Malobrahma and he was previously known as Bhairava. Vamsidas Babaji came to Navadwip from East Bengal. He lived as a total recluse, far away from the hubbub of the town in a solitary place on the bank of Ganga near Baral Ghata in Navadvipa, as if he was a mad or crazy person. His only possessions were an old kaupina, karanga and kantha. Vamsidasa Babaji lived in a world of his own. His world centered round his deities-Gaura-Gadadhara, Nitai, Radha-Krishna and Gopala. For the service of his deities he had two brass pots, some earthen pots, one plate, one glass, some small cups, pancapatra, bell and conch-shell and nothing else.
Vamsidas Baba passed day and night in the service of the deities and in sweet talks with Them. Early in the morning he went out from his kuti to collect flowers. Then he went for bhiksa. He returned to his kutiya about noon and made garlands from the flowers for each of the six deities. After that he would cut the vegetables. He washed each vegetable a number of times. Then he cleaned rice. He examined each grain of rice. If he found any grain from which the husk was not removed, he removed it with his own hand.
He did everything slowly, contemplating all the time the lila of Radha-Krishna or Gaura-Nitai, and singing or talking to Them. It was only late in the evening that he could cook and offer bhoga to the deities. He had no consciousness of time. Morning and evening, day and night had no meaning for him. Almost the whole night he kept awake, talking and singing.
One day, a lady selling fish approached him to offer him some of the latest catch. Somehow or other, Vamsidas Babaji’s mind became attracted to tasting the fish. But he immediately rebuked himself and became very angry. He first of all shouted at the woman to go away. Then he shouted at his deities, “How could this happen? How could this happen? I’ve surrendered my life to Radha Krishna, I’m under Their protection, and still this happens! Why are You not protecting me?” He went storming into his bhajan kutir. People gathered while he fussed and fumed at his Deities inside. Then he came out, bringing the Deities tied by rope, and threw Them into the Ganga. He kept the end of the rope under his foot. When one man inquired why he was doing this, the Vamsidas Baba threw a stone at him.
When this news reached the Gaudiya Matha, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Thakur called his brahmacharis together and forbade them from visiting Vamsidas baba again, save for one who would just deliver supplies. After a few days, he again called them together and said, “Some of you think I’ve stopped you from visiting babaji maharaja because he is in maya. That is not so. I’ve prevented you because you will not be able to understand this bhava and will only commit offences. So better you stay away.” Later, when that one brahmachari visited, Vamsidas babaji maharaj threw a stone at him and told, “If you want to please me, then never return here again!”
Vamsidas Babaji never locked the door of his kutir when he went out for bhiksa or to bathe in the Ganga. When asked why he did not lock the kutir, he said, “If the owner of the house Himself does not keep a watch then what is the use of locking the house? I do not even keep the keys of the lock with me. The lock has three keys. All the three are with the three boys. One is with Gaura, one with Nitai and one with Gadadhara.”
After entrusting the lock and the keys to the three “boys”, Vamsidas Baba used to be free from anxiety. If while he was out a cow entered the kutir and ransacked everything, he would be angry with the boys. If someone stole something from the kutir he would say, “Gaura has a soft corner for Nadiyavasis, the residents of His own Dhama. Therefore He gives things away to them. I am after all an outsider.” Once a gold necklace, given by someone to Sri Gaura, was stolen, when he had gone out for bhiksa.
On returning to the kutir he kept on scolding Gaura and asking Him whom He had given away the necklace to, for about two hours. Towards the evening he got a hint. He then went to the house of the thief and asked him for the necklace. The thief pushed him down the verandah of his house. He was hurt. But he did not say anything. But how could Gaura tolerate this? The thief soon died as well as all the other members of his family.
Once Vamsidas Baba had to punish Gaura-Nitai for Their connivance in a theft. The two brass-pots, in which Baba’ used to cook for Gaura-Nitai were stolen. How could this happen without the connivance of Gaura-Nitai? So They were punished. Vamsidas Baba scolded Them and did not give Them anything to eat that day. The punishment had its effect. The next day someone came quietly and delivered one of those pots. Baba said, “This small pot is Nitai’s. He will be fed today. If Gaura wants to eat, He must also bring His pot.” Vamsidas Baba always did what he said. He cooked and offered bhoga to Nitai. Gaura drew a long face as He kept looking at Nitai eating. In the meantime another man came and delivered the other pot. Vamsidas Babaji then cooked in that pot and offered bhoga to Gaura. When Gaura also had eaten, he said with tears in his eyes, “Do I ever want to punish You? But both of You are so naughty that You always harass me. Don’t you know that I have now become old and cannot bear it all. What can I do?”
Babaji Maharaj did not stay exclusively in the Navadwip area, but also travelled to many holy places where he practiced the spiritual disciplines of bhakti-yoga. Whenever he saw a peepal tree, he would sit under it, taking it to be the Vamsi-vata under which Krishna played his flute to attract the gopis. Once he had installed himself there, it would be difficult to get him to move.
In February 1941, Vamsi Dasji left Navadwip and headed for Vrindavan. He sometimes walked, sometimes travelled by ox-cart and sometimes by rail. He first went to Katwa where he stayed for two days under a vata tree near the railway station. Then he took the train to Bhagalpur where he stayed for a day under again under a vata tree near the station and for four days by the Ganges. Then he travelled on to Gaya where he remained on the banks of the Phalgu River for three days.
He also stayed on a boat in the Ganges near Dashashvamedha Ghat in Benares for three days, spent another three days in Ayodhya by the Sarayu including three hours under a vata tree, at the Triveni confluence at Prayag for ten days, two days at the Vishram Ghat in Mathura, eight days at the Vamshivata in Vrindavan, at the Madhya-curia on the banks of the Yamuna, the Govindevji temple, Kaliya-daha, near a tamala tree on the east bank of Surya Kund at Nandagrama, two days at Pavana-sarovara and then nine days at Vamshivata Ghat in Vrindavan.
Everywhere that he went, he remained absorbed in chanting the Holy Names and meditating on Krishna’s form and pastimes. After three months, he returned to Navadwip Dhama, in the month of Jyestha.
Those who travelled with him recounted that when wandering through Vraja Mandala, he would sometimes sing songs about Krishna’s lila, sometimes glorify Navadwip Dhama, sometimes laugh madly. Sometimes, he would babble incoherently, and oftentimes he would remain completely silent.
When visiting a temple, he was often seen muttering confidentially to the deities, disclosing some personal sentiment to them. All in all, his companions were charmed by his devotional absorption. In an old Gaudiya Math weekly magazine, further accounts of Babaji Maharaj’s travels are given. It is stated there in the four years from March 1943, he travelled to Ambika Kalna, Kharagpur, Baleshvara (Balasore), Soro, Bhadrak, Khurda Road and Purushottam.
During these travels the sadhus of the Gaudiya Matha rendered great service to him. Nothing is known about Baba’s life as a householder, except that he was married at an early age and his son Haricandra was nine or ten years old when he renounced the world. He went to Navadvipa around 1906.
There was a person from Navadvipa-dhama who used to come to Vamsidas Babaji Maharaja. One day, he thought, “I have the desire to obtain the Supreme Lord. How can I get Bhagavan?” This person came back repeatedly to see Babaji Maharaja. Finally, one day, he approached Maharaja directly.
“What do you want?” Babaji Maharaja asked him. “I want to see Bhagavan,” the man said.
Babaji Maharaja replied with only one word: ” Then weep for Him!
– Gaudiya history, Iskcon desiretree.
The following section is compiled by Nayana-ranjana Das from the book “Vamsidas Babaji” by Bhakti Vikasa Swami.
There are two type of exalted devotees of Krsna. The bhajananandi is completely immersed in intense meditation of the Lord, principally by chanting and remembering the glories and pastimes. The gosthyanandi is primarily involved in spreading the name of the Lord by extensive preaching. Of course the boundaries are not rigid, for the Bhajananandi may also sometimes preach and the gosthyanandi also relish bhajans and kirtans. But depending on the moods they generally make one or the other as their primary service.
Vamsidas Babaji was a bhajananandi. He was completely aloof from the material world, and was totally preoccupied with worshiping his Deities, performing his bhajans and visiting holy places. He had reached the highest levels of spontaneous devotion and seldom bothered with the rules and regulations of vaidhi-sadhana bhakti. For instance he did not chant on beads, did not follow any fixed schedule of worship and did not chant any mantras or prayers for worshiping. His brief interactions with the outside world often left people confused and bewildered.
Even though Vamsidas had lived a hard life as a youth, as a babaji he became extremely austere. He was always dressed in one simple loincloth and nothing more. He rarely attempted to procure any food and would often go without eating, sometimes for several days. It was common for him to abstain from both food and water for a day or two. He took very little care of his health, and would bathe in freezing water even when he was sick. Despite all this Vamsidas looked vibrant and healthy. He was over six feet tall and was constantly traveling. Even at the age of eighty he walked so fast that many of his younger associates could not keep up with him. Much like the Gosvamis of Vrindavana he survived solely on spiritual energy.
Even amongst the babajis, Vamsidas is unique. He was on the avadhuta platform, that is he was completely beyond any rules and regulations. His hair and beard were uncut and matted. He rarely took a bath and he wore nothing more than a loin cloth. His eyes looked wild and his behavior intimidating.
He often spoke in an un-intelligible manner. Even though he knew the local Bengali dialect, he sometimes spoke in his native Mymensingh dialect which very few people could understand. His sentences would run together and he would randomly jump from one topic to another without any seeming connection. Sometimes he spoke about the pastimes of Krsna in Vraja and sometimes about the pastimes of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Some times he would animatedly talk and at other times he would remain silent, not even bothering to acknowledge the comments of his close associates. One of his favorite phrases was ‘Bhakta-vatsala Hari! Prana-vallabha Hari!’ and he would shout this continuously, drawing out the Hari into a long plaintive cry.
Vamsidasa had three sets of Deities that he carried along with him. He had a small Bala-Gopala (Krsna in the form of a child) that he was extremely attached to. He also had six inches metal Deities of Radha-Govinda and larger three feet wooden Deities of Gaura-Nitai. He always carried his Deities with him and would continuously talk to Them. His mood of worship was that of an affectionate parent. He would talk to Gopala lovingly, sometimes angrily and sometimes pleadingly. He rarely spoke to any one but his Deities. In his unending conversation with the Deities he would often stop as if to listen and then continue talking. Even if people would come to ask him questions, he would reply to the Deities, referring to himself in the third person (as Vamsidas).
When Vamsidas was visiting Puri during Ratha Yatra, the cart stopped closed to where he was standing. Despite the efforts of everyone assembled the cart would not move. Then Vamsidas came and after some intimate conversation with the Lord, the cart moved on with ease.
Once Vamsidas went to the sea in Puri, to give Bala-Gopala a bath. Arriving on the shore be beckoned the sea ‘Come here, come here!’ Huge waves crossed over the beach and Vamsidas was able to bathe his Deities.
While crossing the river Mahanandi, Vamsidas instructed the boatmen to drop him near a point where he claimed was a snake. When the boatman dropped Vamsidas and his associates at the point, a yellow snake appeared. Holding his Bala-Gopala Deity Vamsidasa exclaimed, ‘See Anantadeva has come!’ After some time the snake went away.
Once on a full moon night of Ashvini, Vamsidasa instructed his associates not to set up any tent but camped out in the open. At this time fifty attractive women, dressed in white, came and offered obeisances to Vamsidas and left without saying. Despite the late hour, they were unescorted, something that never happens in rural India, and none of the locals had any knowledge of them. The devotees concluded that they were demigoddess who had come to get the blessings of Vamsidas on this auspicious day.
One day Vamsidasa cooked sweet rice for Bala-Gopala, but before offering it he angrily threw it away, accusing Gopala of having already eaten rice-gur (sweet rice with semi-processed sugar extract from palm trees) in the Radha-Govinda temple in Vrindavana. One of the persons who happened to hear this sent a letter to the temple priest
inquiring about the offering to Radha-Govinda on that particular date-time. A reply soon came indicating that the offering on the day was sweet rice cooked with palm-tree gur.
Once a man suffering from cholera (considered fatal in those days) lay outside the hut of Vamsidas, expecting him to cure him. For three days he lay there moaning with intense pain, without eating and drinking anything. Finally Vamsidasa came outside and place a Tulasi leaf on his tongue. The man was instantly cured and he got up and went home.
When Vamsidasa became too old and infirm, he would have trouble going out to do madhukari (begging food from devotees). Once in such a situation he exclaimed to his servant, “Did you hear what Gauranga was saying? He has told Vamsidasa, ‘you do not go begging for three days. Now you are too old, so I will feed you.’ This Gauranga wants to feed
me!” Saying this Vamsidasa fetched a stick and waved it threateningly at his Gaura Deity. “You do not have to go outside for serving me. If You go outside, I will break Your legs!!”
Instructions by Vamsidas
Though many people, attracted by the fame and austerity of Vamsidasa would come to him for benedictions, Vamsidas would generally ignore them. Once in a while he would get angry at people asking for material benefits and strongly chastise them. However sometimes when he was approached by a sincere seeker then Vamsidas would instruct him in his typical fashion by conversing with the Deities. Some of his instructions are:
“Whoever offends a Vaishnava cannot be saved.”
jive-daya name-ruci vaisnava-sevana
iha chara dharma nahi suna sanatana
“Kindness to all living beings, taste for the holy name and service to the Vaishnavas – apart from this there is no other religion.”
Once a man asked Vamsidas how to attain God. Vamsidas replied: “The personality of Kali is extremely powerful. When Kali came, Krsna told Narada, ‘Now it is time for Me to go. Sri Narada asked, ‘What will be the future of the creatures in this world? Krsna replied, Those who worship the brahmanas and feed them will attain Me.’ Narada asked, ‘What of those who are too poor to serve the brahmanas?’ Krsna replied, ‘Those who worship Me with flowers and Tulasi will attain Me.’ Narada then asked, ‘What of those who are lame from birth?’ Krsna replied, ‘If some one only once at the end of the day calls My name with undivided devotion, he will attain Me!'”
On March 17th 1944 Vamsidas returned to his home town of Majitpur. He did not actually enter the town as it is traditional for renunciants not to return to their former family. He lived there for some time and finally on Caturthi, July 23, 1944, Srila Vamsidas Babaji Maharaja concluded his earthly pastimes and resumed his service to Lord Krsna in Goloka.