Table Of Contents Chapter 2: Kirtan Gurus

Chapter 2: Kirtan Gurus 

In the early seventeenth century, Shyamananda and Rasikananda Prabhus had preached all over Orissa, converting hundreds of villages into followers of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. They had a unique style of kīrtan, quite distinct from the styles practiced by Srinivas Acarya and Narrottama Das Thakur in Bengal and north-eastern India. This style which became very popular in Orissa is known as oḍiśī-kirtan. He performed kīrtan all over Gadei Giri and the surroundings villages and was highly appreciated by the villagers. The Giri family was often invited to teach kīrtan, thus they became known as kīrtan gurus, instructing others in the performance of kīrtan.

Jagulai Durga

Dinabandhu Giri also lived to be 85, and after his departure Gopal’s care was handed on to his son Abhiram Giri. Although Dinabandhu Giri was very expert in saṅkīrtan, his son Abhiram was not. One day as the father and son were doing kīrtan in a nearby village, some people criticized Abhiram Giri saying, ‘’How is it that the son of a kīrtan guru cannot do kīrtan?’’ Abhiram Giri felt very sad. He decided that when he returned to Gadeigri he would pray tot he Gopal deirty for the ability to do kīrtan.
According to the Giri family history, just before Abhiram arrived at Gopal’s temple he saw mother Durgadevi, who is known as Jagulai, the protector of the village, coming to have darśan of Gopal.
Abhiram offered obeisances to Durgadevi, who is Vaishnavi Devi, a great devotee of Krishna. Jagulai Devi could understand Abhiram Giri’s desire and she gave him the benediction that whenever he sang, everyone would appreciate it. Then he asked him to let her see Gopal.

The temple of Jagulai Durga is situated at the entrance way to the village of Gadeigiri. She is the presiding deity of the neighboring village of Nagpur. It is considered that she acts as a guard for Gopal’s territory. Many local people have claimed to hem seen her coming, carrying a burning maśala, a type of torch common in rural areas. The local residents say that she comes every night for darśan of Gopal at midnight.

The stealing of Gopal

Abhiram Giri served Gopal until he passed away at the ripe age of 90, and Gopal’s service then passed on to his son Bhagavat Charan Giri. From the time of Gopal Giri the family had engaged only sannyāsīs to perform the daily worship of Gopal. This tradition stopped during the life of Bhagavat Charan Giri. In one converstation Srila Gour Govinda Swami explained why:

One Vaishnava sannyāsī came to Gadeigiri and started doing service for Gopal. He thought to himself, ‘’Oh, very nice deity, and He is staying in a thatched house, no security is there. Once he thought, ‘’I will steal these deities.’’ At night he stole the deities and took them a way. In a dream Gopal called my ancestor and told him, ‘’This person is stealing Me away! Come immediately and rescue Me.’’ The sannyāsī had only gone a short distance when a very poisonous snake came and bit him, killing him. Finding Gopal lying on the ground, my ancestor picked Him up took Him back to the temple.

After this incident, fearful that someone else would attempt to steal Gopal, Bhagavat Charan Giri engaged only hired brahmins for Gopal’s worship. As a further precaution, he would not engage any one brahmin for very long, but regularly change them.

Bhikari Giri

Bhagavat Charan Giri had two sons, Bhikari Giri and Laksman Giri, and he passed away at the age of 82. Bhikārī means a beggar or sannyāsī. This was an appropriate name for the oldest son of Bhagavat Charan Giri, for Bhikari Giri left home and took sannyāsa at the age of 30. Wanting to dedicate himself to his beloved Lord Krishna, Bhikari Giri spent the rest of his life doing bhajan in Vrindavan, where he stayed until he passed away at the age of 75.

Bhikari Giri had one son, Govinda Giri, who also became famous as an expert singer of kīrtana. His descendant Ghanashyam Giri relates:

Whenever Govinda Giri would start singing kīrtan, people would not be able to stay away. Even if they were sleeping they would give up their sleep to come and hear his singing. Wherever Govinda Giri would go he would take his son Bauri Giri with him. Bauri Giri was deeply influenced by his father from a very early age. From his childhood he was very devoted to Gopal.

Govinda Giri passed away in 1963 at the age of 88. Before he departed he entrusted Gopal’s service to his son Bauri.