Please also check: A dialogue with H. G. Sacinandan Das, where he describes about his most mysterious first time meeting with Babaji Maharaja and also about the initial struggle in bringing this great Dham to the limelight.
Srila Haridas Sen Babaji Maharaja is the direct descendent of Srila Sivananda Sen (an intimate associate of Lord Caitanya). He never married, but instead lived the life of a celibate brahmacari from his childhood.
His most worshippable Deities
He was dedicated to his most worshippable Supreme Lordships, Sri Sri Radhavinod Bihari, from the beginning of his life. These glorious self manifested Deities had been installed and worshipped by Srila Kunja Bihari Das Sen, the grandson of Srila Sivananda Sen, at a place called Mahanga (close to Cuttack, which is in the south east Indian state of Orissa) during the late 16th century.
This temple of Sri Sri Radhavinod Bihari is also regarded as topmost in the area in terms of its spiritual significance.
It is a very sacred place at which many sadhus and pilgrims still congregate every year from all parts to take the darsana of these Deities and join the various festive occasions celebrated throughout the year.
The history of Sri Radha Vinod Bihari
The Deities of Sri Sri Radhavinod Bihari have a very glorious history. The history dates back to the 16th century. During that time the grandson of Srila Sivananda Sen (named Kunja Bihari Das Sen) was residing in Bengal and was sincerely trying to maintain his family tradition of traveling with his family by foot from Bengal to Sri Jagannath Puri every year, in order to see Their Supreme Lordships on the Chariots. While traveling he also used to bring along with him his most worshippable household asrama Deity of Lord Gauranga Mahaprabhu.
Once, while on their way back, they stopped for rest at a place located at a distance of about 125-130Kms from Sri Jagannath Puri. While sleeping that night the grandson of Sivananda Sen had a dream in which Lord Gauranga Mahaprabhu appeared and said that He desired to stay there permanently and not leave Purushottama Dham. Hence after receiving this order, Kunja Bihari Das Sen decided to settle with his family at that place. He built a small house and as usual engaged in worshipping his Deity of Sriman Gauranga Mahaprabhu there. After some time had passed, once again in a dream Sriman Gauranga Mahaprabhu appeared before him and informed that He would like to be worshipped in His Syama Tribhanga Thaani (bent in three sides) form of Lord Krishna.
Mahaprabhu directed him to go in the direction towards Dashwasamedha Ghat where in which on the bank of the sacred river Vaitarani he would find a sila (stone). As per this direction Kunja Bihari Das Sen started walking towards that destination.
After a seven-day journey he finally reached the bank of river Vaitarani and started to search for the sila. However, he could not find it. He searched for three continuous days and at the end he gave up. He then sat and started to repent. He thought that it was because of some offence that he had committed that the sila could not be found. For that reason he decided to fast, not taking anything to eat and drink until and unless he found the sila. He was ready to give up his life. In this way, while he was fasting and in a semi-samadhi state, he could hear a cosmic voice directing him to once again enter into the sacred waters of the river Vaitarani in order to get the Supreme Lord in the form of a great sacred sila.
The next morning Kunja Bihari Das Sen, after praying to his Lord, went again and took a dip in the holy river. When his body was inside the sacred waters of the river Vaitarani up to his naval level, he was greatly amazed to see a huge bright bluish sila approaching him by floating on the water. Seeing Its effulgence, size and shape Kunja Bihari Das could well realize that this is the same sacred sila that he was aspiring to receive. While the sila touched his chest and in response when he embraced the sila, there was a greatly thrilling experience full of spiritual joy and ecstasy of inconceivable heights. On the eve of his departure along with the great sila, he was feeling quite concerned about problems that he might face in the from of robbers and the security personals of the Mughal envoy. For this reason he decided to directly approach the Mughal envoy of that time and plead from him to give protection while he made his way back.
Surprisingly, when the envoy saw the sacred sila, he too became emotional and considered it to be a charisma of the Almighty Lord Allah and, as a result, the envoy ordered his troops to give this sila full protection and escort Kunja Bihari Das Sen up to his house. In this way the sila safely reached his house and was worshipped. Then later again the Lord appeared in his dream and this time ordered him to carve His Deity of Vinod Bihari from that sila. The Lord informed him that he would send His carver to him the next day and as per the desire of the Lord, a carver coincidently reached their house and asked if they had a sila for him to carve. Kunja Bihari Das Sen answered “yes” and also told him about the dream he had had the previous night.
After hearing this, the carver decided to carve the sila with rapt attention. He asked for a closed room in which he could sit and carve the sila. At that time, he requested that nobody should enter the room until and unless the carving was finished. Kunja Bihari Das Sen agreed to his request and decided to wait outside till the Deity was carved.
They waited for many days, but one day when the noise from inside could no longer be audible, the wife of Kunja Bihari Das Sen became restless and decided to open the door. When they opened the door they found that the carver had disappeared and what was left was only the beautiful Deity of Sri Vinod Bihari. Since then this Deity of Sri Vinod Bihari is being worshipped.
Later Kunja Bihari Das Sen had another dream and this time Srimati Radharani appeared and told him that She could not live in separation from the Supreme Lord of Her heart, life and soul and hence She directed him to make a Deity of Her own and arrange for its early installation. Henceforth, the bronze Deity of Srimati Radharani was prepared and after that they began the worship of Their Lordships Sri Sri Radhavinod Bihari. In a similar way, Lalita and Vishakha Sakhi both appeared and were worshipped on the same altar along with Sri Sri Radhavinod Bihari.
A very ancient Deity of Lord Jagannath made up of Neem has also been worshipped there since the inception of the temple. However, the most amazing thing is the appearance of Sakhi Yamuna Devi. Yamuna Devi, while expressing Her desire to appear and serve the Lotus Feet of The Supreme Divine Couple, the very next day got Herself manifested in the form of a beautiful lake. This lake (Jaria lake) had appeared to Sripad Kunja Bihari Das Sen and his associates when they were engaged in cultivating the land that was donated to Sri Sri Radhavinod Bihari. There was also once a provision to give Sarva Vratha (charity) to Their Supreme Lordships Sri Sri Radhavinod Bihari, every day and for this purpose, the Mughal Bad shahs of the past had given around 120 acres of land as a gift. Similarly, the subsequent Maratha rulers and the local landlords as well, donated huge properties and land in charity to serve the cause of Their Supreme Lordships Sri Sri Radhavinod Bihari.
However, over the passage of years, now practically speaking, Srila Babaji Maharaja is left alone to look after the property, the amount of which has been substantially reduced by being occupied by the illegal occupants at different periods of time. Srila Haridas Sen Babaji Maharaja is at present, 92 years old and is, even at this advanced age, looking after the great Deities and Their respective sevas.
He is now deeply contemplating to find a qualified sevak from among his relatives to look after Sri Sri Radhavinod Bihari as the temple is being managed by a hereditary trust, which dates back to the period of Sri Kunja Bihari Das Sen.
The physical father of Haridas Sen was Sri Adhikari Prananath Sen. Regarding this there is also some interesting information which reveals that Sri Prananath Sen’s father (the grandfather of Srila Haridas Sen) was a very close friend and relative of H.D.G. Bhaktivinoda Thakur.
This was during the late 19th century. It is also said that Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur had derived his name as “Bhaktivinoda” from the presiding Deity named as “Radhavinod” (i.e. Radhavinod Bihari, popularly, in short, known as Sri Vinod Bihari).
His life history
Srila Haridas Sen Babaji Maharaja was born in the year 1913 on the month of Shravana, during the 2nd day of the bright fortnight. His birth was very unordinary, that is, he came out of his mother’s womb at a very early age of 7 months. When the baby came out it looked to be very weak and pale. Everybody knew that this child would not live for long. However, at that time, the aunt of Srila Haridas Sen Babaji Maharaja, who was sleeping, had a dream, and in that dream, she saw Their Supreme Lordships Sri Sri Radhavinod Bihari appear to her and declare that this child would live provided its name would be given as “Haridas”. In that way, after the name was given, the baby amazingly continued to live. Srila Babaji Maharaja spent his whole childhood in the village of Raghunathpur of Mahanga area and worshipped Their supreme Lordships Sri Sri Radhavinod Bihari.
During the early 20th century, during his teenage years, he also had the great fortune of associating with the traveling sadhus who used to travel to Sri Jagannath Puri Dham. Many pilgrims from North India, who used to travel to the Dham would come and pass through the village of Raghunathpur near Mahanga in order to take the darsana of Their Supreme Lordships Sri Sri Radhavinod Bihari. They would perform sadavarta i.e. the sadhus would group together and participate in hearing hari-katha and performing harinama sankirtana. Babaji Maharaja, who was at that time known as Haridas Sen, used to take full advantage of their association by inviting them to his house and serving them. He would often describe those sadhus as being so effulgent that till this day he has found no sadhu to compare them to. During his early youth, he had taken shelter of Srila Hamsesvara Das Babaji Maharaja at Vardhaman, West Bengal. Srila Hamsesvara Das Babaji Maharaja was in the line of Lord Caitanya’s Gaudiya parampara and Haridas Sen was his most intelligent and intimate disciple.
Some of his extraordinary experiences
Srila Haridas Sen Babaji would describe about a few extraordinary incidents that occurred in his life, especially when he was in the company of his spiritual master. That was, he was able to see things that no one else could see. For example, once during his youth, while he was crossing the river Ganga by boat, with his spiritual master and some of his God brothers, he saw a very strange scene. He saw some very frightening huge men, more than 50 feet tall, doing something on the bank of the river. They were pushing the waters of the entire Ganges towards one side. At the same moment, he also could also see, on the other side of the bank, that some men where dipping an old dying lady inside the river and desperately making her to chant the name “Ganga Narayan Rama”. Haridas Sen could not at all understand what he saw. It was very strange and puzzling, and so he inquired from his spiritual master as to what this meant.
When his spiritual master heard this from him, he was surprised. He then told him confidentially that what ever he had seen, other than him and his spiritual master, no one else could see it. He explained that those huge men (more than 50 feet tall) were the “Tata Rakshaks” (the guardians of the bank) of the Ganges and their duty was to see that the waters of the Ganges remain untouched by any sinful person. That is why when the old sinful lady was being forced to touch these waters, the Tata Rakshaks would at that time push the entire waters of the river towards the other side to ensure that not even a drop of the sacred waters be touched by her. This was one such incident that occurred in his past. There were many other such incidents, but so far none of them have been revealed to us.
The special mercy that was bestowed upon him
In the year 1995, the Supreme Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu had bestowed his incredible mercy upon him by allowing him to witness the most miraculous scenario of the great supreme, inconceivable and hidden eternal Dandabhanga pastime on the bank of river Dandabhanga.
On that day, Babaji Maharaja realized and it was confirmed to him that this place was none other than the Supreme eternal abode of Lord Caitanya where the Lord still remained present in the form of His staff to spread the extremely rare gift of Krishna-prema throughout the world. Ever since then, Babaji Maharaja has spent sleepless days and nights searching the different scriptures for evidence, in order to prove the authenticity of this claim. He adopted the same technique, which the 6 gosvamis had used in order to bring Sri Dham Vrindavan to the limelight. That is, they took the help of scriptural evidences as well as the sayings from the very elderly personalities of that place. He traveled to so many places in search of scriptural evidence and even after finding all the proper evidences he still struggled hard to get its glories recognized.
His struggle finally beared fruit when the devotees by and large started to realize the authenticity of this great holy site. Hence, by the desire of the Supreme Lord, the tireless endeavor of this great-dedicated devotee of the Lord fructified through its recognition by the devotee community at large.
Srila Haridas Sen Babaji Maharaja is vastly learned in the scriptures and qualified in all the six schools of philosophy. He possesses with him many of the original vaisnava literatures written on palm leaves. He even has the original manuscript of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, which was written by Srila Krishna Das Kaviraja Gosvami himself. Srila Babaji Maharaja is also a prolific writer. He has written many articles, leaflets, booklets and books as well in the Oriya and Bengali languages. Some of them are Bhakti-samyam-sutra, Brahmacarya, and Pada-padma, all relating to the topics of Krishna consciousness. There are also many other manuscripts written by him that are not yet published. They all contain topics that describe the glories of Dandabhanga Dham and the importance of human life.