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Sri Sri Gopal Ata – the great apostle of Mahapurush Madhabadeva

Jagatguru Srimanta Sankaradeva – one of the great saviours of mankind nominated his four disciples as apostles.

Sri Sri Gopal Ata

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  28 Jan 2022 4:04 AM GMT

Gaurav Jyoti Pathak

(A socio-cultural activist and philanthropist, Gaurav Jyoti Pathak is actively involved in promoting and preserving Sattriya art, culture and literature. He can be reached at gjpathak20042007@googlemail.com)

Jagatguru Srimanta Sankaradeva – one of the great saviours of mankind nominated his four disciples as apostles. Among them, two were Kayastha by birth and the other two belonged to the Brahmin caste. The former two apostles were Madhabadeva and Narayana Das and the latter two were Harideva and Damodaradeva. Again Mahapurush Madhabadeva nominated his twelve disciples and followers as apostles. They were Ramcharan Thakur, Mathura Das Burha Ata, Barvisnu Ata, Keshavacharan Ata, Parhiya Ata, Lakshikanta Ata, Lechakania Govinda Ata, Bhabani Puriya Gopal Ata, Banghi Gopal Ata, Yadumani, Sri Hari and Padma Ata. All of them have contributed immensely to the spread of Eka Sarana Hari Naam dharma propagated by Mahapurush Srimanta Sankaradeva. Moreover, some of them were direct disciples of Sankaradeva and some were his followers.

Bhavanipuriya Gopal Ata was one of the foremost disciples of Madhabadeva. He was born in 1541 AD, in a place namely Nazira – the then capital of Ahom kingdom. His parents were Kameswar Bhuyan and Bazrangi. Gopal was admitted into a village school and within ten years, he left the school after mastering the study of Sanskrit classical scriptures. Due to his growing popularity, the Ahom king became angry and jealous of him, and as a result, Kameswar Bhuyan was compelled to quit the village with his son and wife. They arrived at the residence of his relative at Narayanpur. After spending two years there, Gopal lost his father. Poverty embraced him. He and his mother had no alternative for livelihood, so they came down to Bhabanipur.

They started living at Bhabanipur. In the meantime, the Koch king Naranarayana established four towns near Bhabanipur namely – Barnagar, Namnagar, Kalzar and Bhanipur and the king asked artists of various disciplines to settle in these four towns. Gopal also wanted to reside in a town at Bhabanipur permanently, but he was debarred from settling thereby some Kaliya Dolai as the former was unknown to the locality. Thereafter, Gopal went to Barpeta to meet his grandfather Sankaradeva and maternal uncle Manpur. He happened to live with Manpur and four to five days later, he told Gopal, "Let us go to meet Sankaradeva, who is now at Patbausi." The next day, Manpur and Gopal appeared before Sankaradeva at Patbausi Xatra. Looking at the stranger, Sankaradeva asked Manpur - "Friend! Who is that, and where does he stay?" Manpur said everything about Gopal. After a small introduction with Sankaradeva, Gopal returned to Bhabanipur and used to stay there with his mother. But after a few days, Gopal took ill and his health grew poorer by the day. Thereafter, his mother sent him to the residence of Manpur at Barpeta and got good treatment. He recovered his health after a few months of treatment.

Thereafter, Gopal got initiated into the fold of Namdharma through Madhabadeva. In the meantime, the latter became the Guru of the former. A bond of Guru-Sishya relations began at the time of initiation. Over time, Gopal became an ardent follower and disciple of Madhabadeva.

After the departure of Sankaradeva, Kalindi Aie – the second wife of the former was residing in Patbausi Xatra. Her family had to face a crisis for drinking water due to a damaged well that they used for domestic purposes. Following the advice of Madhabadeva, Gopal reconstructed the damaged well and made it possible for Kalindi to get fresh water for daily use. As he has grown into a young man, His family including Madhabadeva asked him to get married. But Gopal declined to carry out the proposal and wanted to remain a bachelor spreading Namdharma. But ultimately, he was compelled to get married. He got married to a beautiful girl called Vrindavati or Bibinda – daughter of Hariram Kayastha of Barpeta. In the meantime, his mother Bajrangi asked Gopal to get married to another girl namely Subhagi – the daughter of Parhiya Madhaba of Bhabanipur. So, Gopal was compelled to marry her. Thus we find two wives of Gopal. His second wife expired shortly after giving birth to her first son – Kesharam.

Gopal Ata was a man of sacrifice. At any time and any circumstance, he was ready to sacrifice in the name of his Guru and his followers. It happened that one day, Gopal Ata built a house for himself. After a few days, Achyut Guru visited Sundaridiya Xatra, met Madhabadeva and got initiation at his feet. Achyut Guru, thereafter, expressed his willingness to stay with Madhabadeva. He agreed to his proposal and called Gopal – "Oh, Gopal! You should pay the sacrificial pulen." Gopal politely told, "Oh Guru, what kind of pulen do you seek from me? I have already delivered my whole body to you."

Then pointing out to Achyut Guru, Madhabadeva said - "Give your house to Achyut and he will stay there." Gopal Ata then and without any hesitation, handed over the house to Achyut Guru, and Gopal built another house for himself in a plot of land in the very complex. After a few days, Jadumoni Atoi came to Sundaridiya to get initiation from Madhabadeva and used to remain with him. To accommodate Jadumoni in the Xatra complex, Madhabadeva asked Gopal to offer his house to Jadumoni. Obeying Guru's advice, Gopal without delay, gave his own residential house to Jadumoni and constructed a new house for himself. Madhabadeva was extremely happy and satisfied with Gopal for his sacrificial attitude. He told Sriram Ata – "There is none as open-hearted as Gopal among the followers and disciples."

Within a few years, Gopal Ata became a highly spiritual-minded devotee. Gopal Ata used to live in the company of Madhabadeva at Sundaridiya Satra. On the other side, his mother remained at Bhabanipur with the two wives of Gopal. They were unhappy due to the absence of Gopal. One day, his mother Bazrangi sent a message to Madhabadeva, asking him to send her son to Bhabanipur. They were facing difficulties, having to spend a good number of days without Gopal. Following the request of Gopal's mother, Madhabadeva asked Gopal to get back to his mother's residence. He then came to Bhabanipur and used to live with his family. Gopal was blessed with two children (a boy and a girl) from his two wives.

Gopal Ata was a great poet and dramatist. He has to his credit several poems and dramas. But most of them remain unpublished. His multi-dimensional contributions immensely helped in the growth and development and the sound footing of the Mahapurushia tradition.

Gopal Ata was a stern follower of the said tradition and his unconditional devotion to his Guru Madhabadeva was beyond comparison. He was an object of inspiration for all of us. He has left indelible footprints in the sands of time for the generations to come.

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