devaṁ divya-tanuṁ suchanda-vadanaṁ-bālārka-celāñcitaṁ
sāndrānanda-puraṁ sad-eka-varanaṁ vairāgya-vidyāmbudhim
śrī-siddhānta-nidhiṁ subhakti-lasitam sārasvatānām varaṁ
vande taṁ śubhadaṁ mad-eka-śaraṇaṁ nyāsīśvaraṁ śrīdharam
“I fall at the feet of Śrīla Śrīdhara Deva, who with charming expression sings his songs of sweet nectar. Dressed with fine garments like sun newly-risen, he’s the true saint the devotees have chosen. His detachment and knowledge are just like an ocean, the treasure-house of complete, perfect conclusion. Radiant in pastimes of loving devotion, the abode of pure ecstasy, bestower of good fortune; foremost true follower of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta, foremost great general of the whole renounced order, my lord and my master, my only shelter, I worship his feet, Śrīla Śrīdhara Deva.”
His Divine Grace Śrī Śrīla Bhakti Rakshaka Śrīdhara Deva Gosvāmī Mahārāja, the founder of the Śrī Caitanya Sārasvata Maṭha, was born in India in 1895, in a respected brāhmaṇa family of the Bhaṭṭācārya order, at Hapaniya, District Burdwan, West Bengal. He received his education at Baharamapur University.
Having taken his pious birth in Śrī Gauda-maṇḍala, the holy lands where Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu exhibited His divine pastimes on this earth, Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja, from his very childhood, had a natural affinity for the mission of Śrī Caitanya saṅkīrtana, the grand congregational chanting of the Holy Names of the Supreme Lord.
In 1926, Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja joined the Śrī Gauḍīya Maṭha, and became an initiated disciple of its founder, the illustrious Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Thakura Gosvāmī Prabhupāda (1874-1937). He later accepted the holy order of sannyāsa (monkhood) in 1930. Recognising him as a faithful stalwart preacher of the perfect precepts of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Prabhupāda conferred upon him the name “Śrī Bhakti Rakṣaka,” which means “Guardian of Devotion.” And further echoing the statement of the great Vaiṣṇava Preceptor, Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī – who referred in his Sanskrit writings to the renowned Śrīmad Bhāgavatam commentator, Śrī Śrīdhara Svami, as bhaktyeka-rakṣaka (Supreme Guardian of Devotion) – Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Prabhupāda gave him the tridaṇḍi-sannyāsa title of ‘Śrīdhara.’ Thus, he became Śrīla Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara Mahārāja.
As a prominent preacher in the Śrī Gauḍīya Maṭha mission, he travelled extensively throughout India and preached fluently in Bengali, Hindi, Sanskrit, and English, spreading the teachings of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu on many levels in universities, public seminars, and saṅkīrtana festivals.
Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Prabhupāda also expressed high appreciation of Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja’s Sanskrit composition, Śrī Bhaktivinoda Viraha Daśakam, considering it an omen of assurance that the grand ideals and dignity of the Śrī Gauḍīya sampradāya would be perfectly upheld and preached by such a learned and sensitive devotee as Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja.
As a testimony to this fact, just prior to Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Thakura Prabhupāda’s departure from this mortal world, Śrīla Prabhupāda had Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja sing, in his presence, the holy prayer most venerated by the entire Śrī Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava community, Śrī Rūpa Mañjarī Pada.
After the passing of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Thakura Gosvāmī Prabhupāda, Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja’s godbrothers, associates, and the public, naturally revered him as the senior-most representative of the Śrī Gauḍīya sampradāya. In particular, A.C. Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Mahārāja, who was at that time in householder life, assigned a large portion of his house in Calcutta to be used by Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja as his preaching headquarters. Thus these two great personalities, Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja and Śrīla Svāmī Mahārāja were intimately associated for many years in the early days and remained intimate friends throughout their lives.
Although Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja was more inclined to anonymity as a humble Vaiṣṇava, he nonetheless, by the call of divine duty and divine inspiration, established the Śrī Caitanya Sārasvata Maṭha at Śrī Navadvīpa-dhāma, hinting in a short Sanskrit poem that the maṭha – as a sanctuary where the holy message of his Gurudeva, Śrī Rūpa, and Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu was preached – would inevitably become renowned throughout the world amongst the sincere and pious seekers of Unalloyed Truth and Divinity.
Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja is the composer of numerous classical prayers and commentaries in Sanskrit and Bengali. His works are hailed as gems of pure Vaiṣṇavism by scholars, philosophers, and devotees worldwide. He authored Śrī Śrī Prapanna Jīvanāmṛtam, a Sanskrit devotional treatise on the subject of divine surrender, which has become a standard text-book for devotees everywhere.
Upon reaching his eighties, not only Indians, but persons from America, Europe, and the world over, became attracted by Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja’s teachings and personality. He was known as a pure saint of the most simple living habits. He was respected and loved for his saintly simplicity, and his affectionate nature and dealings. He was revered by his godbrothers, disciples, other devotees, and the general public, and was unanimously venerated for his formidable encyclopedic command of the revealed scriptures, and his unique and unprecedented style of casting newer and newer light upon the most internal philosophical and revelatory purports of pure Śrī Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava siddhānta.
A vast library of Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja’s taped discourses has been compiled by his disciples, and from such recordings, the exquisite English books Search for Śrī Kṛṣṇa – Reality the Beautiful, Śrī Guru and His Grace, The Golden Volcano of Divine Love, Loving Search for the Lost Servant, and Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja’s unique commentary and interpretation of Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā – The Hidden Treasure of the Sweet Absolute, and many other books have been published. Many more publications are also anticipated.
On August 12th, 1988, His Divine Grace Śrīla Bhakti Raksaka Śrīdhara Deva Gosvāmī Mahārāja departed from this world, to enter into his eternal pastimes. His departure did not herald the departure of one of the great stars of the Śrī Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava firmament, but that of the moon itself. Even the Earth herself trembled on two occasions, forecasting and punctuating the event. A divine temple, ‘The Temple of Union in Separation,’ was erected at his holy shrine at Śrī Caitanya Sārasvata Maṭha, Navadvīpa, and worship will continue throughout the generations.
Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja selected his most intimate and senior sannyāsī disciple, Śrīla Bhakti Sundara Govinda Mahārāja, as his successor, blessing him with the position of ācārya-President of Śrī Caitanya Sārasvata Maṭha and its affiliated branches worldwide.