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Rupa Goswami (Sanskrit: रूप गोस्वामी, Bengali: রূপ গোস্বামী, IAST: Rūpa Gosvāmī; 1489–1564) was a devotional teacher (guru), poet, and philosopher of the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition. With his brother Sanatana Goswami, he is considered the most senior of the six Goswamis of Vrindavan associated with Caitanya Mahaprabhu, a hidden avatar (incarnation) of Krishna in Kali Yuga.
His family lineage can be traced to Indian State of Karnataka and Naihati in the district of North 24 Parganas in present-day West Bengal, India. The former generations according to Bhakti-ratnakara:
Sarvajna Jagatguru was a famous brahmana, great scholar in all Vedas, respected Yajur-vedi of the Baradvaja caste, and king of Karnataka in South India, adored by all other contemporary kings. Sarvajna's son, Aniruddha, was spirited, famous, a proficient scholar of the Vedas, and a favorite of the reigning kings at the time. Aniruddha's sons, Rupesvara (eldest) and Harihara, were well respected due to their virtuous qualities. Rupesvara was famed as a scholar of the scriptures, while Harihara became a master in the art and science of weapons. Both brothers inherited the administration of the state after their father died, but Harihara soon snatched all the power, causing Rupesvara and his wife to travel to Paulastha-desa, where Sikharesvara befriended him and convinced him to settle there.
Rupesvara's son, Padmanabha, was a genius and easily learned the four Vedas making him famous. He had impeccable character and was genuinely absorbed in love of Lord Jagannatha. He left Sikharabhumi and settled on the bank of the Ganges in the village Navahatta (present-day Naihati, West Bengal, India), where he had eighteen daughters and five sons. His five sons were Purusottama (eldest), Jagannatha, Narayana, Murari, and Mukunda (youngest), where Purusottama and Mukunda were the best in experience and character. Mukunda's son, Kumara, was a great brahmana and highly virtuous. He privately engaged in oblations and purificatory penances. Becoming very disturbed by family difficulties, he left the village Navahatta with his followers and settled in the village Bakla Chandradvipa in East Bengal (now Bangladesh). He built a house in the village Fateyabad in Jessore for the convenience of communications with devotees and traveling Vaishnavas.
Among Kumara's many sons, Sanatana (eldest), Rupa (middle), and Vallabha (youngest) were the life of the Vaishnava community and great devotees, all three becoming well known for their academic genius and devotion, and eventually settling in the village Ramakeli in Gauda (present-day Maldah, West Bengal). The brothers were greatly inspired by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who lived in Nadia (a district of present-day West Bengal, India) at the time. Sanatana and Rupa eventually resigned from their ministerial (royal) posts and retired to help Chaitanya in his mission, eventually relocating to Vrindavana. Vallabha, who was always happy in service, was initiated by Chaitanya and given the name Anupama, and was known for his stoicism and neutrality in his detachment from worldly affairs.
Alternatively, it is said that his ancestors migrated from Karnataka to Gauda and lived in the village Ramkeli, near Gauda for generations.
He was born in around 1489 CE. There seems to be some controversy amongst biographers about Rupa Goswami's birthplace. Some opine that he was born in Naihati, West Bengal while others believe that he was born in Bakla Chandradvipa or in Fateyabad Pargana, Jessore, East Bengal (now Bangladesh). Some biographers believe that he was born in Ramakeli in the district of Maldah, West Bengal.
According to Bhakti-ratnakara, Mukund's son, Kumaradeva, moved to Jessore from his birthplace Naihati. His sons were Santosha Bhatta (Rupa), Amara Bhatta (Sanatana) and Vallabha (Anupama). They were Telugu speaking Brahmins from Telang Desh from the Bhatt clan. On the demise of Kumaradeva, the three sons moved to Sakurma, near to the capital of Gaudadesa (present-day Maldah, West Bengal) where they continued their studies. They lived for the rest of their lives with their new monastic names and forsake their birth names.
The three brothers studied the Nyaya-sastras (treatise on justice) from the famous logician Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya and his brother Madhusudana Vidyavacaspati. They also studied Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian.
Due to their noble characters and academic proficiency, Rupa and his elder brother Sanatana were later forced into government service by the sultan of Bengal, Alauddin Husain Shah(1493–1519 CE) which led to their excommunication from Hindu society by the orthodox caste brahmanas of Gauda. Rupa became the Sultan's chief secretary (Dabir Khas), while Sanatana became the state revenue minister (Sakara Mallik).The Biographies of Sankaradeva of Assam too mention Rupa Goswami ; According to Sankar Charita (written by Ramacharan Thakur),Rupa gosvami & His wife met Sankardeva and accompanied him to Sitakunda.
Rupa and his brothers were residents of Ramakeli ( in present-day Maldah, West Bengal) and it was here, in 1514 CE, that they first met Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. The meeting changed their lives. After meeting them, Chaitanya gave them the names Rupa, Sanatana and Anupama. Sanatana advised Mahaprabhu,
Dear Lord, you are going to Vrindavana with hundreds and thousands of people following You, and this is not a fitting way to go on a pilgrimage.
After visiting Vrindavana, Chaitanya stopped at the holy city of Prayaga (modern day Prayagaraj in Uttar Pradesh, India). It was here that Rupa and Anupama met him for the second time. At the Dasasvamedha Ghat (a famous bathing area on the banks of the River Ganges), Chaitanya imparted instructions to Rupa Goswami and explained all the intricacies of the doctrine of Gaudiya Vaishnavism. Rupa Goswami was specifically commanded by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu to carry out two tasks: to re-locate and preserve the lost holy places of Vrindavana, and to write and preach Gaudiya Vaisnava theology. He then sent Rupa Goswami to Vrindavana to carry out these orders.
During the time of the annual Rath Yatra festival, Rupa Goswami composed one mystical verse that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu requested him to read to his most intimate associates. Upon hearing this verse, all the assembled Vaishnavas praised Rupa Goswami for his outstanding composition that was filled with deep devotion for the Naths. Due to this, it was proclaimed that Rupa Goswami was the very embodiment of Chaitanya' Mahaprabhu's esoteric teachings of rasa (divine mellows). Because of this, Rupa Goswami is considered by the gaudiya vaisnavas to be the foremost follower of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and those that strictly follow in his preceptoral line are known as Rupanugas (followers of Rupa).
Rupa and Sanatana remained in Vrindavana for the remainder of their lives. Their mood of renunciation and devotion was exemplary. Rupa uncovered various holy places associated with the pastimes of Krishna and rediscovered the famous deity of Govindadeva, which was originally installed and worshipped by Krishna's great-grandson, Maharaja Vajranabha. Rupa and Sanatana were intimately connected with other Vaishnava saints in Vrindavana such as Lokanatha Goswami, Bhugarbha Goswami, Gopala Bhatta Goswami, Raghunatha Bhatta Goswami and Raghunatha Dasa Goswami.
Shortly after, they were also joined by their nephew Jiva Goswami who was given initiation by Rupa and personally trained by him in the philosophy of Gaudiya Vaishnavism.
Rupa Goswami departed from this world in 1564 CE and his samadhi (tomb) is located in the courtyard of the Radha-Damodara temple in Vrindavana.
In Gaudiya Vaishnava theology, Rupa Goswami is considered to be the incarnation of Rupa Manjuri, the foremost junior cowherd damsel who eternally serves Radha-Krishna under the guidance of Lalita.
Rupa Goswami wrote a number of texts in Sanskrit on philosophy, poetics, drama and dramaturgy. The following is a list of some of his most well-known works: