(Click to enlarge painting of Lord Caitanya carrying the body of Śrīla Haridāsa Ṭhākura)
The following excerpts are from Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Antya-līlā, Chapter Eleven, "The Passing of Haridāsa Ṭhākura."
The summary of this chapter is given by Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura in his Amṛta-pravāha-bhāṣya as follows. In this chapter it is described how Brahmā Haridāsa Ṭhākura gave up his body with the consent of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, and how the Lord Himself personally performed the funeral ceremony and carried the body to the sea. He personally entombed the body, covered it with sand and erected a platform on the site. After taking a bath in the sea, He personally begged prasādam of Jagannātha from shopkeepers and distributed prasādam to the assembled devotees.
Let me offer my respectful obeisances unto Haridāsa Ṭhākura and his master, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, who danced with the body of Haridāsa Ṭhākura on His lap.
I am writing this narration of the pastimes and attributes of the Lord by the mercy of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and His associates. I do not know how to write properly, but I am purifying myself by writing this description.
One day Govinda, the personal servant of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, went in great jubilation to deliver the remnants of Lord Jagannātha’s food to Haridāsa Ṭhākura.
When Govinda came to Haridāsa, he saw that Haridāsa Ṭhākura was lying on his back and chanting his rounds very slowly.
"Please rise and take your mahā-prasādam," Govinda said. Haridāsa Ṭhākura replied, "Today I shall observe fasting."
"I have not finished chanting my regular number of rounds. How, then, can I eat? But you have brought mahā-prasādam, and how can I neglect it?"
Saying this, he offered prayers to the mahā-prasādam, took a little portion, and ate it.
The next day, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu went to Haridāsa’s place and inquired from him, "Haridāsa, are you well?"
Haridāsa offered his obeisances to the Lord and replied, "My body is all right, but my mind and intelligence are not well."
Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu further inquired from Haridāsa, "Can you ascertain what your disease is?" Haridāsa Ṭhākura replied, "My disease is that I cannot complete my rounds."
"Now that you have become old," the Lord said, "you may reduce the number of rounds you chant daily. You are already liberated, and therefore you need not follow the regulative principles very strictly."
"Your role in this incarnation is to deliver the people in general. You have sufficiently preached the glories of the holy name in this world."
The Lord concluded, "Now, therefore, please reduce the fixed number of times you chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra." Haridāsa Ṭhākura replied, "Kindly hear my real plea."
"I was born in an inferior family, and my body is most abominable. I always engage in low work. Therefore, I am the lowest, most condemned of men."
"I am unseeable and untouchable, but You have accepted me as Your servant. This means that You have delivered me from a hellish condition and raised me to the Vaikuṇṭha platform."
"My dear Lord, You are the fully independent Personality of Godhead. You act by Your own free will. You cause the whole world to dance and act as You like."
"My dear Lord, by Your mercy You have made me dance in many ways. For example, I was offered the śrāddha-pātra, which should have been offered to first-class brāhmaṇas. I ate from it even though I was born in a family of meat-eaters."
"I have had one desire for a very long time. I think that quite soon, my Lord, You will bring to a close Your pastimes within this material world."
"I wish that You not show me this closing chapter of Your pastimes. Before that time comes, kindly let my body fall down in Your presence."
"I wish to catch Your lotuslike feet upon my heart and see Your moonlike face."
"With my tongue I shall chant Your holy name, 'Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya!' That is my desire. Kindly let me give up my body in this way."
"O most merciful Lord, if by Your mercy it is possible, kindly grant my desire."
"Let this lowborn body fall down before You. You can make possible this perfection of all my desires."
Mahāprabhu replied, "My dear Haridāsa, Haridāsa is so merciful that He must execute whatever you want."
"But whatever happiness is Mine is all due to your association. It is not fitting for you to go away and leave Me behind."
Catching the lotus feet of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, Haridāsa Ṭhākura said, "My Lord, do not create an illusion! Although I am so fallen, You must certainly show me this mercy!"
"My Lord, there are many respectable personalities, millions of devotees, who are fit to sit on my head. They are all helpful in Your pastimes."
"My Lord, if an insignificant insect like me dies, what is the loss? If an ant dies, where is the loss to the material world?"
"My Lord, You are always affectionate to Your devotees. I am just an imitation devotee, but nevertheless I wish that You fulfill my desire. That is my expectation."
Because He had to perform His noon duties, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu got up to leave, but it was settled that the following day, after He saw Lord Jagannātha, He would return to visit Haridāsa Ṭhākura.
After embracing him, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu left to perform His noon duties and went to the sea to take His bath.
The next morning, after visiting the Jagannātha temple, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, accompanied by all His other devotees, came hastily to see Haridāsa Ṭhākura.
Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and the other devotees came before Haridāsa Ṭhākura, who offered his respects to the lotus feet of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and all the Vaiṣṇavas.
Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu inquired, "My dear Haridāsa, what is the news?" Haridāsa Ṭhākura replied, "My Lord, whatever mercy You can bestow upon me."
Upon hearing this, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu immediately began great congregational chanting in the courtyard. Vakreśvara Paṇḍita was the chief dancer.
Headed by Svarūpa Dāmodara Gosvāmī, all the devotees of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu surrounded Haridāsa Ṭhākura and began congregational chanting.
In front of all the great devotees like Rāmānanda Rāya and Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu began to describe the holy attributes of Haridāsa Ṭhākura.
As He described the transcendental attributes of Haridāsa Ṭhākura, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu seemed to possess five mouths. The more He described, the more His great happiness increased.
After hearing of the transcendental qualities of Haridāsa Ṭhākura, all the devotees present were struck with wonder. They all offered their respectful obeisances to the lotus feet of Haridāsa Ṭhākura.
Haridāsa Ṭhākura made Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu sit down in front of him, and then he fixed his eyes, like two bumblebees, on the lotus face of the Lord.
He held the lotus feet of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu on his heart and then took the dust of the feet of all the devotees present and put it on his head.
He began to chant the holy name of Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya again and again. As he drank the sweetness of the face of the Lord, tears constantly glided down from his eyes.
While chanting the holy name of Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya, he gave up his air of life and left his body.
Seeing the wonderful death of Haridāsa Ṭhākura by his own will, which was just like a great mystic yogī’s, everyone remembered the passing away of Bhīṣma.
There was a tumultuous noise as they all chanted the holy names "Hari" and "Kṛṣṇa." Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu became overwhelmed with ecstatic love.
The Lord raised the body of Haridāsa Ṭhākura and placed it on His lap. Then He began to dance in the courtyard in great ecstatic love.
Because of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s ecstatic love, all the devotees were helpless, and in ecstatic love they also began to dance and chant congregationally.
Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu danced for some time, and then Svarūpa Dāmodara Gosvāmī informed Him of other rituals for the body of Ṭhākura Haridāsa.
The body of Haridāsa Ṭhākura was then raised onto a carrier that resembled an airship and taken to the sea, accompanied by congregational chanting.
Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu danced in front of the procession, and Vakreśvara Paṇḍita, along with the other devotees, chanted and danced behind Him.
Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu bathed the body of Haridāsa Ṭhākura in the sea and then declared, "From this day on, this sea has become a great pilgrimage site."
Everyone drank the water that had touched the lotus feet of Haridāsa Ṭhākura, and then they smeared remnants of Lord Jagannātha’s sandalwood pulp over Haridāsa Ṭhākura’s body.
After a hole was dug in the sand, the body of Haridāsa Ṭhākura was placed in it. Remnants from Lord Jagannātha, such as His silken ropes, sandalwood pulp, food and cloth, were placed on the body.
All around the body, the devotees performed congregational chanting, and Vakreśvara Paṇḍita danced in jubilation.
With His transcendental hands, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu personally covered the body of Haridāsa Ṭhākura with sand, chanting "Hari bol! Hari bol!"
They covered the body of Haridāsa Ṭhākura with sand and then constructed a platform upon the site. The platform was protected all around by fencing.
Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu danced and chanted all around the platform, and as the holy name of Hari roared tumultuously, the whole universe became filled with the vibration.
After saṅkīrtana, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu bathed in the sea with His devotees, swimming and playing in the water in great jubilation.
After circumambulating the tomb of Haridāsa Ṭhākura, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu went to the Siṁha-dvāra gate of the Jagannātha temple. The whole city chanted in congregation, and the tumultuous sound vibrated all over the city.
Approaching the Siṁha-dvāra gate, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu spread His cloth and began to beg prasāda from all the shopkeepers there.
"I am begging prasada for a festival honoring the passing away of Haridāsa Ṭhākura," the Lord said. "Please give Me alms."
Hearing this, all the shopkeepers immediately came forward with big baskets of prasāda, which they jubilantly delivered to Lord Caitanya.
Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu made all the devotees sit in rows and personally began to distribute the prasāda, assisted by four other men.
Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu was not accustomed to taking prasāda in small quantities. He therefore put on each plate what at least five men could eat.
After all the devotees finished accepting prasada and had washed their hands and mouths, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu decorated each of them with a flower garland and sandalwood pulp.
Overwhelmed with ecstatic love, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu offered a benediction to all the devotees, which all the devotees heard with great satisfaction.
Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu gave this benediction: Anyone who has seen the festival of Śrī Haridāsa Ṭhākura's passing away, anyone who has chanted and danced here, anyone who has offered sand on the body of Haridāsa Ṭhākura, and anyone who has joined this festival to partake of the prasāda will achieve the favor of Kṛṣṇa very soon. There is such wonderful power in seeing Haridāsa Ṭhākura.
"Being merciful upon Me, Kṛṣṇa gave Me the association of Haridāsa Ṭhākura. Being independent in His desires, He has now broken that association."
"When Haridāsa Ṭhākura wanted to leave this material world, it was not within My power to detain him."
"Simply by his will, Haridāsa Ṭhākura could give up his life and go away, exactly like Bhīṣma, who previously died simply by his own desire, as we have heard from śāstra."
"Haridāsa Ṭhākura was the crown jewel on the head of this world; without him, this world is now bereft of its valuable jewel."
Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu then told everyone, "Say 'All glories to Haridāsa Ṭhākura!' and chant the holy name of Hari." Saying this, He personally began to dance.
Everyone began to chant, "All glories to Haridāsa Ṭhākura, who revealed the importance of chanting the holy name of the Lord!"
Thereafter, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu bade farewell to all the devotees, and He Himself, with mixed feelings of happiness and distress, took rest.
Thus I have spoken about the victorious passing away of Haridāsa Ṭhākura. Anyone who hears this narration will certainly fix his mind firmly in devotional service to Kṛṣṇa.
From the incident of Haridāsa Ṭhākura’s passing away and the great care Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu took in commemorating it, one can understand just how affectionate He is toward His devotees. Although He is the topmost of all sannyāsīs, He fully satisfied the desire of Haridāsa Ṭhākura.
When Haridāsa Ṭhākura was at the last stage of his life, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu gave him His company and allowed him to touch Him. Thereafter, He took the body of Ṭhākura Haridāsa on His lap and personally danced with it.
Out of His causeless mercy the Lord personally covered the body of Haridāsa Ṭhākura with sand and personally begged alms from the shopkeepers. Then He conducted a great festival to celebrate the passing away of Haridāsa Ṭhākura.
Haridāsa Ṭhākura was not only the topmost devotee of the Lord but also a great and learned scholar. It was his great fortune that he passed away before Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu.
The life and characteristics of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu are exactly like an ocean of nectar, one drop of which can please the mind and ear.
Anyone who desires to cross over the ocean of nescience, please hear with great faith the life and characteristics of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu.
Praying at the lotus feet of Śrī Rūpa and Śrī Raghunātha, always desiring their mercy, I, Kṛṣṇadāsa, narrate Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, following in their footsteps.