Haridasa Thakur was a prominent saint known for being influential in the inceptive propagation of Hare Krishna movement. Considered as the most popular convert of Mahaprabhu Chaitanya, his story of unflinching faith and integrity is told in the book Chaitanya Charitamrta. Apart from being born a Muslim, Haridasa is popular for his dedication to chanting the various names of God constantly.
Early years – He was born in the Buron village in the Satkira district, which was formerly in India but now falls in Bangladesh. Haridasa was the reason for the descent of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, of whom he was 35 years older. Haridasa Thakur followed Advaita Acharya. He was born and brought up in a Muslim family but converted to Vaishnavism when he was quite young. Advaita Acharya proclaimed that converting into Vaishnavism, irrespective of one’s background, eliminates all conditioning of the past. When Thakur ji was a devotee of Advaita Acharya, he was captivated by Maya Devi’s incarnation, but Haridasa Thakur passed the test easily for his devotion to Lord Krishna. According to myths, he lived in a cave with a snake and chanted the names of God.
Life in Puri – Haridasa moved to Puri on the instructions of his Lord and lived there amidst nature in a mud house. Mahaprabhu also was in Puri back then and often paid a visit to Haridasa. In Puri too, he chanted the mantras every second of his life. He took bhiksha and collected money for his disciples.
Teachings – As per his philosophy of Holy names, if you are on namabhasa (initial stage of chanting), the chanter gets liberation. Pure chanting, on the other hand, gives the chanter ‘love of God.’ Chaitanya Charitamitra shows an episode, which illustrates various sides of Haridasa’s life and does not imply to his trial by the Muslim King but gives inputs of sakta brahmana, the one who would charter a harlot to seduce the saint. Thakur ji chanted the mantra, which had names of Rama, Krishna and Hare. The mantra appears in the Kali Upanisad. It is referred to as Maha Mantra by followers.
Preaching – Haridasa Thakur was invited to join the force with Nityananda, to whom Thakur ji were eight years younger. Nityananda infused a lot of passion into the movement. Nityananda and Haridasa converted two scoundrels, Madhai and Jagai to the new faith. The duo is considered as influential lieutenants of the campaign, which spread the movement of Sankirtana, chanting holy names Balarama as Nityananda and Brahma as Haridasa Thakur.
Demise – If myths are to be trusted, Haridasa’s body was buried on the shore of the ocean by Chaitanya himself. In the last few years of Mahaprabhu life, it was Haridasa Thakur who made the most important role. Haridasa passed away after most Vaishnavas return home from Puri. He was singing Lord Krishna’s name one day when he suddenly collapsed. He placed a foot of Mahaprabhu on his chest and chanted Sri Krishna Chaitanya and took his last breath. Prabhu carried the body of Haridasa to the cemetery and lamented his death for months.
Among the history of various Indian saints, Haridasa’s story stands out.