Sri Srimad Gour Govinda Swami

temple

His Divine Grace Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja made his appearance as Braja-bandhu Manik in a vaisnava family on 2nd September 1929. He appeared in the village of Jagannathapura, not far from Jagannatha Puri Dhama, in Odisha, India, but as his mother was descended from the Giri family of the village Gadeigiri, Braja-bandhu spent his childhood there. His grandfather was a paramahamsa whose only business was to chant Hare Krsna and cry before the local Deity of Krsna known as Gopala Jiu. He taught Braja-bandhu how to chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra by counting on his fingers. In the company of his uncles, Braja-bandhu would travel from village to village chanting Hare Krsna and singing the songs of Narottama Dasa Thakura. The Giri family have been known since the time of Syamananda Prabhu as famous kirtana performers in Odisha. Three hundred years ago, in the temple registers of Jagannatha Puri, the king of Odisha wrote that the kirtana party of Gadeigiri should come to perform kirtana for Lord Jagannatha whenever possible. In Odisha they are seen as kirtana-gurus.

From the age of six, Braja-bandhu worshiped the Deity of Gopala by making garlands, and sometimes, under the light of a candle, by singing hymns for Him from palm-leaf manuscripts. He would never take any food that was not offered to Gopala.

By the age of eight he had read the entire Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam and Sri Caitanya-caritamrta and could also explain their meaning. At night many villagers would come to hear his recitation of the Bhagavata, Ramayana and Mahabharata. Thus from the very beginning of his life he was absorbed in chanting Krsna’s holy name, studying vaisnava literature, and worshipping his beloved Gopala. Friends and relatives remember him as always being very quiet and introspective. He was never interested in playing with other boys or in going to see cinema shows or theatre.

After the death of his father in 1955, as the eldest son he became responsible for maintaining the family, and on the request of his widowed mother he entered the grhastha-asrama. He first met his wife, Srimati Vasanti Devi, during their marriage ceremony. Because of financial constraints he could not enrol formally in University courses, but he studied privately at night to attend the examinations, obtaining a B.A. degree from Utkal University with overall second highest marks on the exam. He later also obtained a B.Ed. degree in a similar way and took up the profession of a school teacher. Despite many responsibilities, however, his devotion to Gopala never slackened. He would daily rise at 3.30 A.M., chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, worship Tulasi-devi, and speak to his family from the Bhagavad-gita. In school he would take every opportunity to speak to his students about Krsna and devotional principles. Some of his students would become his disciples thirty years later.