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As modernity was seeping into the subcontinent, far off in Bengal lived a bhakt who would venerate himself to know and understand God and his purpose. His questions would lead to answers that he shared with the world until his death on this day.
Died on 23rd June 1914
When the earth is on the verge of getting destroyed, Vishnu, the great preserver takes birth on this earth and saves it from all evil. From the boar to Rama to Krishna, in all his avatars, the primeval ultimate being transcends to the earth and solves the problems of the bhakt. Around the Hindu God and his ten avatars was formed an influential Bhakti tradition - Vaishnavism. For about five hundred years, the cult and it's influence on people had only grown.
In nineteenth-century India, in Bengal was born one Kedarnath Datta. Though named after Shiva, his real love lay at the feet of Vishnu. Since he was a kid, rather than playing outside he would sit and talk with the gatekeepers and listen to their recitations of Rama and Krishna and their stories of fighting the bad to make good triumph.
Datta started asking the bigger questions when he was merely ten years old. He would often wonder about the world and its existence, the role of men and the purpose of life.
The two questions that he pondered upon were, "Who are we?" and "What is this world?" His inquisitiveness and curiosity were never satiated and he always kept looking for answers.
Always interested in religion and rituals, it was no surprise that Datta studied Western philosophy and theology in college. He spent his life researching and reading about different religions, comparing their ideas and drew an analysis, comprehensive and authentic and discovered intellectually satisfying paths of religious ideas for himself.
The deeper he went into the religious realm, the more knowledge he found related to the creator. Yet, religion was never everything in his life. Thakur finished school and became a teacher in rural areas, sharing what he knows with the kids what he had accumulated in his life. Later, Thakur took the position of a District Magistrate and went on to become a judge in the High Court.
At 29, he came in touch with Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
The researcher in him then delved into exploring the teachings of Caitanya. As he gained more knowledge, he was seen as a revered one by the people. His devotions and commitment raised him as a leader of the Caitanya Vaishnava Movement in Bengal.
Datta then became Bhaktivinoda Thakur, the one leaned into Bhakti, a title conferred on him by Gaudiya Vaishnavites. As the most influential Vaishnava leader of his time, he authored some 100 books and treatises on his religion. This was the time when the bhadralok community was growing in Bengal. They became the prime followers of Caitanya's teachings, propagated through Kedarnath's monthly journal Sajjana-toshani (the source of pleasure for devotees).
A life spent on religion and its teachings was eventually coming to an end. Before the end came near, he made sure to spread the ideas of Gaudiya Vaishnavism on a global level. He even founded the Nama Hatta - a travelling preaching program.
At 56, Thakur retired from government service and worldly life. All his time could now be focused on devotion and bhakti. This was the time he spent on writing and preaching Vaishnavism extensively. In the final phase of his life, Thakur became a recluse and started chanting the mantra of "Hare Krishna". On 23 June 1914, his soul left the world to unite with the universal soul. His remains are buried now in a silver urn at his house Surabhi-Kunj.
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