It would be no exaggeration to say that Śrī Prema Dhāma Deva Stotram, composed by Śrīla Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara Deva Gosvāmī Mahārāja, is one of the greatest jewels in the firmament of Gauḍīya literature. Comprised of seventy-two Sanskrit ślokas, this work perfectly captures the quintessential ontology of Śrīman Mahāprabhu’s teachings and concisely narrates His divine pastimes as depicted in Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Caitanya-bhāgavata and other biographical texts by our ācāryas.
Prema Dhāma Deva Stotram was developed over many years. Initially composed of twelve ślokas, Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja meditated deeply upon the siddhānta and līlā of Mahāprabhu and eventually composed another sixty verses. When his godbrother, Śrīla Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Mahārāja read Prema Dhāma Deva Stotram he stated, “Impossible! No one can compete with Śrīdhara Mahārāja.”
The entire Prema Dhāma Deva Stotram was first published in 1967 in the 12th edition of the 10th Volume of Gauḍīya Darśana magazine and was initially named ‘Śrī Gaurasundara Nuti Sūtrakam’ (‘A collection of concise verses in praise of Śrī Gaurasundara’). The title was later changed to Prema Dhāma Deva Stotram and since then a number of translations have been published.
When I first came in contact with Prema Dhāma Deva Stotram in 1999, I considered it so profound that it was worthy of a commentary. Some years later while translating an article by Śrīla Bhakti Pramoda Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja which outlined the achievements of Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja, I came across the following paragraph:
“In his jewel-like prayer named Prema-dhāma-deva Stotram, almost all of the pastimes of Mahāprabhu’s Ādi, Madhya and Antya-līlās have been briefly described and remembered. If this stotra is published with a word to word explanation, commentary, and translation as a separate book, then it will self-manifest as a great devotional work for reading and studying daily.”
Reading this statement gave me increased enthusiasm to attempt to write a commentary to this composition. Thus in October 2017, while serving our Guru Mahārāja, Śrīla Bhakti Gaurava Narasiṅgha Mahārāja in Guanajuato, Mexico, I asked his opinion about my taking up this task. Upon hearing my idea, Śrīla Guru Mahārāja suddenly became enthusiastic to write a commentary himself, and I happily gave some suggestions how we could go about it. However, during the course of our conversation, he eventually said that he felt compelled to write a commentary on Śrīla Cakravartī Ṭhākura’s Śrī Gurvaṣṭakam first (this is presently in the process of being edited and printed). Finally Śrīla Guru Mahārāja said, “Well, if I don’t write a commentary to Prema Dhāma Deva Stotram, you can go ahead and do it!”
After Śrīla Guru Mahārāja’s disappearance pastimes, I again came to Guanajuato, and upon entering his room, I remembered our conversation. Encouraged by Guru Mahārāja’s dear godbrother, Śrīpāda Prema Kiśora Prabhu, as well as my own affectionate godbrothers, I began writing this commentary on Gaura Pūrṇimā 2021 and finished it in Vṛndāvana during Kārttika on the appearance day of Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja of that same year.
While writing this commentary I have consulted various Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava texts such as Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Caitanya-bhāgavata, Caitanya-maṅgala and other bona-fide biographies of Śrī Caitanyadeva. I have also added a word to word explanation and verse translation.
Despite the fact that I am most unqualified to write a commentary on Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja’s composition, and lack any proper knowledge of Sanskrit, I have attempted to write according to my ability and inspiration, with the hope that this will please my Guru Mahārāja, as well as Śrīla Śrīdhara Deva Gosvāmī, and those Vaiṣṇava readers whose hearts are naturally broad and forgiving.
Swami B.V. Giri
Śrī Śrī Prema-dhāma-deva Stotram
His Divine Grace
Śrīla Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara Deva Gosvāmī Mahārāja
Narasiṅgha Sevaka Vivṛtti
by Tridaṇḍi Swami Bhakti Vijñāna Giri
prema-dhāma-devam eva naumi gaura-sundaram
Word for Word
deva – the demigods; siddha – perfected beings; mukta – the liberated souls; yukta – the yogīs; bhakta – devotees; vṛnda – company; vandita – offer prayers; pāpa – vices; tāpa – fire; dāva – forest; dāha – blaze; daghda – scorched; duḥkha – miseries; khaṇḍita – destroy; kṛṣṇa – Śrī Kṛṣṇa; nāma – name; sīdhu – nectarean; dhāma – abode; dhanya – auspicious; dāna – distributing; sāgara – ocean; prema – love for Kṛṣṇa; dhāma – abode; deva – divine personality; eva – indeed; naumi – I offer respects; gaura–sundara – Gaurasundara
I offer my respects unto Śrī Gaurasundara, that Divine Personality who is the abode of pure prema. The Devas, perfected beings, liberated souls, mystic yogīs and devotees praise Him. He removes the miseries inflicted upon those who are burned within the forest fire of their own vices. He is an ocean of benevolence because He is distributing the auspicious nectarean abode which is the Holy Name of Śrī Kṛṣṇa.
gaura-kṛpā-svarūpa tvaṁ gadādhara-su-sevakam
śrī bhakti-gauravaṁ śrīla narasiṁhaṁ namāmyaham
(“You are the personification of Śrī Gaura’s mercy, and the servitor of Śrī Gadādhara Paṇḍita. Thus, I offer my obeisance unto you, Śrīla Bhakti Gaurava Narasiṅgha Mahārāja.”)
śrī-bhakti-rakṣakaṁ śrīla śrīdharaṁ praṇamāmyaham
(“I offer my obeisance unto Śrīla Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara Deva Gosvāmī, who protects [dhara] the divine flow of service to Rādhikā [Śrī] – She who eternally resides within the heart of Govinda.”)
natvā bhagavān caitanyaṁ bhakta-vṛndaṁ ca gauravāt
kurve prema-dhāma deva stotra-vyākhyānam ādarāt
(“Offering my obeisance unto Bhagavān Śrī Caitanyadeva and all His devotees, I begin this commentary on the Prema Dhāma Deva Stotram.”)
In this first śloka of Prema Dhāma Deva Stotram, the illustrious composer, Oṁ Viṣṇupāda Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara Deva Gosvāmī Mahārāja, immediately establishes Śrī Caitanyadeva’s ontological position as the parama–puruṣa (Supreme Person) who is worthy of worship by the highest personalities in the universe. Some mundane scholars have tried to present Mahāprabhu as merely a Bengali saint, a social reformer, or one amongst many spiritual leaders during India’s medieval bhakti movement. In reality, Śrī Caitanya is the guptāvatāra, or hidden avatāra of Kali-yuga. In this regard, Prahlāda says in the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam:
lokān vibhāvayasi haṁsi jagat pratīpān
dharmaṁ mahā-puruṣa pāsi yugānuvṛttaṁ
channaḥ kalau yad abhavas tri-yugo’tha sa tvam
(Thus, through various avatāras as a human, an animal, a sage, a Deva, a fish or a tortoise, You maintain the universe, kill those who are enemies of the world, and protect dharma according to the yuga. O Supreme Puruṣa, Because, in the age of Kali you are covered, you are thus called Tri-yuga. – Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 7.9.38)
Mahāprabhu appears in Kali-yuga to perform ācārya–līlā in the form of a devotee in order to teach the proper method (sādhana) and the ultimate goal of human life (sādhya). This concealed avatāra is mentioned in various śāstra:
aham eva dvija-śreṣṭha nityaṁ pracchanna-vigrahaḥ
bhagavad-bhakta-rūpeṇa lokān rakṣāmi sarvadā
(O best of the brāhmaṇas, My hidden form is eternal. I accept the form of a devotee and appear in order to protect the worlds. – Ādi Purāṇa)
kālinā dahyamānānām uddhārāya tanū-bhṛtam
janma prathama-sandhyāyāṁ bhaviśyati dvijālaye
(I will appear in the home of a brāhmaṇa in the first quarter of this age, to save the devotees, who are burned by the fire of the Kali-yuga. – Kūrma-Purāṇa)
kaleḥ prathama-sandhyāyāṁ gaurāṅgo’ham mahī-tale
bhāgirathī-taṭe ramye bhaviṣyāmi śacī-sutaḥ
(I shall appear on this earth in the first quarter of the age of Kali, in a golden form, at a beautiful place on the banks of the Gaṅgā, as the Son of Śacī. – Padma Purāṇa)
Because of His hidden nature in this age of Kali, the Lord does not reveal Himself to those who are envious, atheistic, or proud of their meagre material knowledge. As Śri Kṛṣṇa states in the Bhagavad-gītā:
nāhaṁ prakāśaḥ sarvasya yoga-māyā-samāvṛtaḥ
mūḍho’yaṁ nābhijānāti loko mām ajam avyayam
(I do not manifest Myself to everyone. I am hidden by My yoga-māyā potency and thus the foolish cannot recognise Me as eternal and unborn. – Bhagavad-gītā 7.25)
The Lord only reveals Himself to His devotees and to those who have accrued proper sukṛti (spiritual merit). Because He is adhokṣaja, He cannot be understood through the mundane senses nor material intelligence. His supreme identity can only be perceived through the lens of one’s śraddhā (faith).
In this opening śloka, it is said that Śrī Caitanya is adored and worshipped by the different sections of higher universal beings – the Devas (those celestials in charge of cosmic functions), the Siddhas (those sages who have perfected mystic powers), Muktas (those who have attained liberation), the Yuktas (those yogīs who meditate upon Paramātmā within the heart) and the Bhaktas (the pure devotees of the Lord). In the second chapter of Śrī Caitanya-bhāgavata (Ādi-khāṇḍa 151-193), Śrīla Vṛndāvana Dāsa Ṭhākura narrates how, when Mahāprabhu appeared in this world, various Devas such as Brahmā etc. came and offered worship unto Him. In fact, throughout the manifest līlā of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, many of these personalities appeared in Gauḍa-deśa (Bengal) in order to render service unto Him. In this regard, Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī has written:
sadopāsyaḥ śrīmān dhṛta-manuja-kāyaiḥ praṇayitāṁ
vahadbhir gīr-vāṇair giriśa-parameṣṭhi-prabhṛtibhiḥ
(The Devas, headed by Śiva and Brahmā, accepted the garb of ordinary men in the pastimes of Śrī Caitanyadeva in order to eternally worship Him with heartfelt affection. – Prathama Caitanyāṣṭakaḥ 1)
Similarly, in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, Karabhājana Muni states:
dhyeyaṁ sadā paribhava-ghnam abhīṣṭa-dohaṁ
tīrthāspadaṁ śiva-viriñci-nutaṁ śaraṇyam
bhṛtyārti-haṁ praṇata-pāla bhavābdhi-potaṁ
vande mahā-puruṣa te caraṇāravindam
(“O Supreme Personality! I offer respects unto your lotus feet which are the object of eternal meditation, which eradicate all sorrows caused by the material world, which grant the results of the holy tīrthas, which are respected by Śiva and Brahmā, which are worthy of surrender, which relieve the distress of Your devotees, which protect those who offer You obeisance, and which act as boat to cross beyond the ocean of birth and death.” – Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 11.5.33)
In his commentary to this verse, the great Gauḍīya ācārya, Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura, explains that this śloka is a glorification of Śrī Caitanya and that the phrase, śiva-viriñci-nutam refers to Advaita Ācārya and Hari Dāsa Ṭhākura in gaura–līlā. By studying Cakravartī Ṭhākura’s Gaura-gaṇa-svarūpa-tattva Candrikā, and Śrī Kavi Karṇapūra’s Gaura-gaṇoddeśa Dīpikā, one can identify the personal associates of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu in relation to their roles in kṛṣṇa-līlā, vaikuṇṭḥa-līlā etc.
Next, Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja explains that, as a result of worshipping Mahāprabhu, the jīva’s suffering is eliminated. The cause of our misery is pāpa, or those activities that directly or indirectly create suffering to oneself or others, in this life and the next. This pāpa creates karmika reactions and due to this, they constantly burn us with intense heat (tāpa) life after life. These miseries are compared to a forest fire (dāha-dagdha) because, like a forest fire, nobody knows how it initially occurs. In Sanskrit this ‘forest fire’ is known as saṁsāra, the cycle of repeated birth and death, and the suffering that one experiences in this fire is divided into three kinds – ādhyātmika (suffering due to one’s own body and mind), ādhibhautika (suffering caused by other living entities), and ādhidaivika (suffering caused by natural disturbances). However, although these tribulations seem insurmountable, they can easily be overcome by surrendering to Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu.
daivī hy eṣā guṇa-mayī mama māyā duratyayā
mām eva ye prapadyante māyām etāṁ taranti te
(This divine potency of Mine which consists of the three modes of material nature is extremely difficult to defeat. Yet those that take shelter of Me can cross beyond it.- Bhagavad-gītā 7.14)
Śrī Gauracandra and Śrī Kṛṣṇacandra are one and the same. As such, Śrī Caitanya is māyādhīśa, the Lord of māyā, the illusory potency, who bewitches the jīvas. The jīvas are māyā–vāsa (ensnared by māyā), and unless they attain the grace of Mahāprabhu and His associates, it is impossible for them to extinguish the forest fire of repeated birth and death. When they take shelter of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, the results of past, present and future karmika reactions are all removed.
Finally, in the last part of this śloka, we learn of Mahāprabhu’s gift. Not only does He come to remove negative reactions, but He appears in order to establish a positive life for the jīva. He is described as an ocean of benevolence (dāna–sāgara) because He is distributing the Holy Name of Kṛṣṇa, which is an auspicious abode of nectar (sīdhu-dhāma-dhanya). As the yugāvatāra, Śrī Caitanya is the propagator of the yuga–dharma, the religious duty of the age of Kali. Every yuga has a particular dharma, as explained in the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam:
kṛte yad dhyāyato viṣṇuṁ tretāyāṁ yajato makhaiḥ
dvāpare paricaryāyāṁ kalau tad dhari-kīrtanāt
(Whatever result was attained in Kṛta-yuga [Satya-yuga] through meditation, in the Treta age through fire sacrifices, and in Dvāpara by serving the Deity, is achieved in the age of Kali by performing kīrtana of the Name of Hari. – Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 12.3.52)
Thus, the yuga–dharma for Kali-yuga is nāma–saṅkīrtana, which Mahāprabhu came to inaugurate in order for the jīvas to be delivered. In particular, He came to give the Mahā–mantra, which is the primary mantra for this age:
Hare Kṛṣna Hare Kṛṣna Kṛṣna Kṛṣna Hare Hare
Hare Rāma Hare Rāma Rāma Rāma Hare Hare
This particular mantra has been described by Brahmā to his son Nārada in the Kali-santaraṇa Upaniṣad:
hare kṛṣṇa hare kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa hare hare
hare rāma hare rāma rāma rāma hare hare
iti śoḍaśakaṁ nāmnāṁ kali-kalmaṣa-nāśanaṁ
nātaḥ parataropāyaḥ sarva-vedeṣu dṛśyate
iti ṣoḍaśa-kalasya jīvasyāvaraṇa-vināśanaṁ
tataḥ prakāśate paraṁ brahma meghāpāye ravi raśmi-maṇḍalī-veti
(These sixteen Names destroy the evil effects of the age of Kali. No better means than this is to be seen in all the Vedas. They destroy the sixteen layers [eleven senses and five material elements] that cover the jīva and then, just like the sun-globe which fully shines after the clouds have dispersed, only the Supreme is manifest.)
While commenting on this first verse of Prema-dhāma Deva Stotram, Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja has explained that the phrase ‘dāna–sāgara’ also refers to a royal ceremony mentioned in the Purāṇas wherein a king would give elaborate and valuable gifts in charity. Because Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu is giving the greatest gift of śrī–kṛṣṇa–nāma, this phrase is most appropriate.
Finally, the subject of this composition is mentioned – Śrī Gaurasundara is referred to as the prema-dhāma-deva, or that Great Personality who is the abode of prema, divine love for Śrī Kṛṣṇa. The word deva here is very significant. The root of the word ‘deva‘ is diva which has many connotations – ‘one who is effulgent with all qualities such as beauty etc’, ‘one who illuminates everything,’ ‘one who gives bliss’ or ‘one who attains bliss (through His devotees).’ All these definitions are applicable to Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu.