Jiva Goswami: Biography and Writings

Jiva Goswami: Biography and Writings

1.1 Jiva’s family, birth and early life

Jiva Goswami’s father, mentioned by him in GC 1.1.2, was named Vallabha. Krishna Das Kaviraj tells us that he had two names: Anupam Mallika, who was [referred to by the name] Sri Vallabha, was the younger brother of Rupa Goswami and a great Vaishnava. (12)

Though Krishna Das makes no specific mention of it, it would appear that just as Chaitanya had given Anupam Mallika’s two elder brothers the names Rupa and Sanatan, he had given him the name Vallabha. BRK seems to feel that Chaitanya bestowed the name Anupam on Jiva’s father. (13) However, wherever Jiva himself had occasion to mention his father’s name, either in books or in legal documents, he used Vallabha. Since he nowhere mentions Rupa or Sanatan according to the names by which they were known prior to their “baptism”, it would seem rather more likely that the name Vallabha was given his father by Chaitanya. Krishna Das also reports that Sanatan was previously known as Sakar Mallik(14); evidently Mallik was the family title being used at that time. It is not likely that Jiva’s father would have used a name given him by Chaitanya with his family name or wordly title. In the legal documents, Jiva constantly refers to himself as the son of Vallabha Gosai (Goswami), just as Rupa and Sanatan and he himself were known.

From both CC and GC, we know that Jiva’s father was a devotee of Rama. (15) Like his brothers, he is said to have held a position in the court of Hussain Shah. Jiva himself testifies to the three brothers “becoming indifferent to governmental responsibility.” (16) Jadunath Sarkar(17) states that Anupam Mallika was the director of the Gauda government mint, but does not indicate what historical sources have led him to make such an assertion. (18)

Two dates are given for Jiva’s birth. The first of these, VS 1580 (AD 1523-4), is preserved in the tradition represented by MPS. The alternative is based on the inference that Vallabha died in 1516, which would make the beginning of 1517 the latest possible date for Jiva’s birth. (19) Since the name Vallabha given by Chaitanya appears to signify renunciation of marital life (as it did for Rupa and Sanatan), then it is unlikely that Jiva was conceived after 1515 when his father left home with Rupa to meet Chaitanya at Prayag.

MPS tells us that Jiva spent 24 years in householder life after which he came to live in Braj (i.e. AD 1547-8). We know that Jiva was present in Braj on the Sept. 18, 1546 (21 Rajab, AH 953) when he assisted Raghunath Das in making the purchase of some land at Arith (Radha Kund). (20) The MPS date is thus suspect. (21)

The suggestion that Jiva was born much earlier than 1516(22) and was already a child of several years at the time of Chaitanya’s visit to Ramkeli in 1513 can be shown to have no foundation. This opinion, based on the evidence of BRK (1.638), is flatly contradicted in the same book only a few pages later (1.713), where any vision of Chaitanya had by the young Jiva is said to have taken place in a dream. (23)

According to BRK, Jiva was brought up by his widowed mother in Chandradwip, the home made by his great-grandfather, Kumar. Sukumar Sen’s document indicates that the fatherless family resided in Kumar Hatta.(24) According to this document, Jiva’s original name was Gopal. He also had a brother who Sukumar Sen says (without giving his authority) was named Rajendra(25), even though the document is illegible at this point. Jiva apparently left home on his wedding day. According to CC(26), he took Nityananda’s blessing before leaving for Braj. BRK(27) states that this meeting took place in Nabadwip when Jiva had gone there to study, and that Chaitanya’s associate Srivasa was also present. If Jiva had been living in Kumar Hatta, then he was a close neighbor of both these personalities and it seems rather more likely that he would have met them in their own homes.


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