Sri Haranath

Thousands of Indians alive today believe that a remarkable holy man, who was born in 1865, was the promised reincarnation of a saint, and an embodiment of the god Krishna -Taken from Man Myth and Magic Number 43.

THE REINCARNATION of Gouranga, the 16th-century saint who was renowned throughout India as an embodiment of Krishna, was prophesied in 1592 by Manohardas Goswami, a Bengali sage. Exactly 273 years later, on 1 July 1865, Sri Haranath was born at Sonamukhi – which means ‘Golden Mouth’ – in western Bengal, the son of a Brahmin. His disciples believe that he was the reincarnation of the saint and that he came, as he had come before, to distribute Krishna prem (divine love) on a vast scale.

It is related that Haranath’s father, Jayaram Banerji, while on a visit to Calcutta had a dream in which a sadhu (holy man) visited his house at Sonamukhi and requested hospitality of his wife, Sundari Devi. Being overwhelmed by the radiance of the sadhu, she admitted him to a magnificent temple of Shiva which Jayaram had built before leaving for Calcutta. There she served the sadhu devotedly and locked the outer gates of the temple after the evening ritual. Next morning there was no trace of the sadhu, although the temple walls were too high to scale.

So vivid was the dream that Jayaram returned immediately to Sonamukhi and related it to his wife. He was astonished to learn that a sadhu had indeed been received by Sundari the previous evening. Soon after these events, Haranath was born. His unusual life and, later, his appearance, suggested that he and the sadhu were identical.

The saintly Gouranga (or Krishna Chaitanya, as he is sometimes called) had fired all India with his ecstatic chanting of Krishna’s name; but his mission had not been wholly fulfilled. Being a sannyasin (celibate sadhu) his life was incomprehensible to the mass of the people. Consequently, as the centuries passed his influence waned and a new impulse became necessary. This was initiated by Haranath. He lived the life of an ordinary householder engaged in worldly activities. He married Kusuma Kumari Devi when he was 14 years old, she being nine at the time. Later in life he implied that Kusuma was Vishnupriya, who had been the wife of Gouranga before he renounced all worldly ties to tread the austere path.

Very early in life Haranath is said to have manifested strange powers. His mother would conceal various objects in fun and he would locate them immediately, unerringly, no matter how far from the house she hid them. He frequently went into trances and, while studying for his degree at the Burdwan Raj College, Calcutta in 1889, fell into such profound ecstasies that he could only be aroused with difficulty. He would then roam the Calcutta streets, unconscious of his surroundings. His college days were spent listlessly. He had no real interest in worldly knowledge; his mind was continually being absorbed by a mysterious inner power and he spent most of his waking life in the contemplation of spiritual truths. Because of this he did not pass his B.A. examination, for which he sat three times. With characteristic resignation to the will of Krishna he told a devotee: ‘I could not possibly have passed if I had appeared a lakh (100,000) times more, because no worldly object could then attract me.

Chanting the Name of Krishna

When not lost in meditation he was busy organising parties in which the chanting of Krishna’s name and the commemorating of Krishna’s divine activities were the dominant features.

Haranath earned his living in government service in Kashmir. He raised a family, thereby fulfilling one of the chief duties of a householder according to Hindu thought. But his love was seen to flow out to all beings and his small family soon increased to embrace many tens of thousands in India and other places.

Although living at a great distance from his wife and family during the 20 years of his service in Kashmir from 1893 to 1913, he asked his devotees always to couple her name with his, thus forming the sacred incantation or mantra ‘Kusuma Haranath’. The full and tremendous potency of the mantra would, he said, be discovered only after his death.

Haranath exercised superhuman powers that affected all kinds of people, many of whom were personally unknown to him. There are cases on record of his conversion of vicious people into saints, of ferocious animals into harmless and affectionate companions. He could leave his physical body at will and travel on the astral plane in order to warn his devotees and friends of impending dangers, saving their lives or enabling them to avoid agonies of mind and body. He had the power of hearing spirit voices and communing with divine beings, of seeing through opaque bodies, and visiting the abodes of Vishnu, Krishna and other gods. He also possessed the power of clairvoyance to a very high degree. He never claimed any of these powers as his own, always referring them to Krishna alone.

Crazy with the Love of God

During the time of his service in Kashmir there were some who recognised him as an avatar (direct incarnation) of Krishna, but to the majority of his devotees he was Pagal Haranath, so called because he was crazy (pa go l) with the love of God. He imparted his mood of divine joy to all, regardless of caste, age, sex or creed. He wrote thousands of letters during his life; they all extolled the efficacy of ‘taking name’ (repeating a divine name) and showed the way in which Krishna himself could be ensnared by his devotee in the net of love and longing.

Haranath said of the sage Narada, that he gave salvation through his harp; of Krishna, that he gave salvation through his flute; while he claimed his own pen to be sufficient means of salvation in the present age. The first volume of his letters appeared in 1910 under the title Pa gal Haranath, and it is today the main devotional book of his followers. Like all the letters that flowed unceasingly from his pen, Pa gal Haranath is steeped in divine love.

Haranath had no equal as a healer, and relieved sufferers by absorbing diseases into his own body. For hours and sometimes days afterwards his body registered the symptoms and agonies of the sufferer; yet he described the sensations as blissful. Such was his overwhelming love for humanity, especially the weak and the vicious, that he was willing to assume all their burdens. The only fee he asked was that they should chant aloud, or repeat mentally, ‘ any divine name that melted their hearts’, such as Radha-Krishna, Rama, Vishnu, Christ or Gouranga. It began to be customary for those he healed or enlightened to repeat the name Kusuma Haranath, and this is still done by multitudes in India and elsewhere today.

Haranath is recognised by many Indians as an avatar, a divine personality whose mission was to initiate a spiritual rebirth among Hindus: he was clairvoyant, had remarkable powers of healing and was said to travel on the astral plane and commune with spirits

Dead for Ten Hours

The most critical experience in Haranath’s life occurred in April 1896. He was about to journey from Jammu to Srinagar but on stepping into the carriage he lost consciousness. This occurred at three in the afternoon. He remained absolutely inert until one o’clock the following morning and was given up for dead. His heart had stopped beating, all signs of life had disappeared, and his travelling companions made arrangements for the body to be cremated. During the ten hours of death, however, Haranath claimed to have experienced the most intense interior activity. This included communion with a Mahapurusha (Great Being) whom he had seen before as a child of five while out walking with his elder brother. On this first occasion a vast form had hovered over them, as high as a two-storeyed building close by. He had at that time been mysteriously absorbed into the Mahapurusha; now it was the latter’s turn to be absorbed into Haranath.

This great being was none other than Haranath’s own self – Gouranga; and when he returned to life at one o’clock the following day, the merging had been accomplished. Haranath remained silent about the full significance of this experience. But his complexion underwent a permanent change to a fair golden hue (Gouranga means the golden one). Haranath became literally the one who spoke golden truths from a golden mouth’, as Manohardas had prophesied centuries earlier.

During the period of ‘death’ it is said that the Mahapurusha dismembered Haranath’s body into 64 parts. This he did in order to effect some kind of spiritual regeneration. On reassembling them, three were found to be missing. Haranath urged that these would not be necessary. He was anxious to re-enter the body again, not because he feared death or what might follow, nor because he cared particularly about living in a bodily form, but because of the anxiety which he knew his mother felt at that moment, having become telepathically aware of his sudden ‘death’. The Mahapurusha therefore made up the missing parts with ‘earthly-matter taken from the hills’, and Haranath revived.

Haranath left his reconstituted body permanently in May 1927. His followers explain that his devotees had become too numerous for individual attention and he consequently became universal once more so that he could appear to all who needed him, as Krishna himself had appeared to each of his devotees, intimately and uniquely.

Kenneth Grant


-Obulasetty Rama Prasad 2016-06-04 13:43:23

Jai Bolo Sri Thakur Kusumaharanathki Jai!

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