By Khonika Gope-Kumar
We all know that Mahaprabhu was born on February 18, 1486. It is also a well-known fact that for twenty-four years Lord Caitanya lived in the gṛhastha-āśrama in Nabadwip (CC Ādi 13.10, CC Madhya 1.15). Afterward, He accepted the renounced order of life, sannyāsa, and resided for twenty-four years more at Jagannātha Purī (CC Ādi 13.11, CC Madhya 1.17). “Of these last twenty-four years, He spent the first six continually touring India, sometimes in South India, sometimes in Bengal and sometimes in Vṛndāvana” (CC Ādi 13.12, CC Madhya 1.19).
Other than these broad chronologies, we know very little about the exact timelines of His life events. The difficulty in constructing a reliable timeline of His life events lies in the fact that the years of most of those events are hardly recorded. However, Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami, the most prominent biographer of Mahaprabhu, does mention the seasons/months and the duration of the major events in his most celebrated book, Sri Caitanya Caritamrita. We also get to know some event details from Kavi Karnapura’s play Sri Caitanya Candrodaya, and Murari Gupta’s Sri Krsna Caitanya Carita Maha Kavya. After careful evaluation of these sources, it is possible to construct a pretty coherent timeline of the major Chaitanya Leelas. First, I give a summary of the timelines in the following table constructed based on these books. Subsequently, I provide the detailed references and associated logics used in determining the proposed times.
Table 1: The Approximate Time/ Duration of the Major Events in Mahaprabhu’s Life
Approximate Time / Duration
February 18, 1486
Mid-January / Mid-February 1510
3. Arrival at Jagannath Puri
Mid-February / Mid-March, 1510
4. South India Tour
Late April 1510 to 1512
5. Ramananda Raya Meeting (during South India Tour)
Mid-December 1510 / Mid- January 1511
Chaitanya Chandrodaya 9.32, Chaitanya Chandrodaya 9.34
6. Stay at Jagannath Puri
1512 to Late September 1514
7. First attempt to go to Vrindavan through Bengal
Late September / Mid-October 1514
8. Vrindavan Visit
Mid-October 1515 to Mid-January 1516
9. Meeting with Rupa & Sanatan at Prayaga & Varanasi
Late January / Early February 1516
10. Stay at Jagannath Puri
1516 to 1534
CC = Sri Caitanya Caritamrita
KCCMK = Sri Krsna Caitanya Carita Maha Kavya
1. Birth: February 18, 1486
caudda-śata sāta śake janmera pramāṇa
caudda-śata pañcānne ha-ila antardhāna
“In the year 1407 of the Śaka Era (A.D. 1486), Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu appeared, and in the year 1455 (A.D. 1534) He disappeared from this world.” (CC Adi 13.9)
phālguna-pūrṇimā-sandhyāya prabhura janmodaya
sei-kāle daiva-yoge candra-grahaṇa haya
“On the full-moon evening of the month of Phālguna when the Lord took birth, coincidentally there was also a lunar eclipse.” (CC Ādi 13.20)
The modern astrology also records that a total lunar eclipse occurred on 18 February, 1486 (eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov). The lunar eclipse, on its entirety, was visible from India. The penumbral eclipse lasted for 5 hours and 43 minutes. The partial eclipse lasted for 3 hours and 29 minutes. The total eclipse lasted for 58 minutes and 12 seconds. Maximum eclipse was at 4:51:51 pm GMT (10:21:51 pm Indian Standard Time- IST). Given that Mahaprabhu was born in the evening i.e. not long after the sunset and the moonrise, He must have been born around 6.00 – 6.30 pm IST* (the sun sets, and the full moon rises around 5.30 to 6.00 pm IST during that time of the year in West Bengal). In this case, His birth must have coincided with the first part of the penumbral eclipse (or just a few minutes before the eclipse started).
* Many astrological websites use the birth time of 10:00 pm IST. However, 10:00 pm is a highly unlikely birth time for two reasons. First, 10:00 pm is not considered as evening in India by any means whereas it is clearly mentioned that Mahaprabhu was born in the evening (Sandhya). Second, 10:00 pm does not fulfill the condition of Leo Ascendant (Simha Lagna) and Leo Moon (Simha Rashi) as calculated by His maternal grandfather, Nilambar Chakrabarty in Mahaprabhu’s birth chart.
2. Sannyasa: Mid-January / Mid-February 1510
Sri Caitanya Caritamrita and other biographies of Mahaprabhu unequivocally mention that Mahaprabhu spent his first twenty-four years in Nabadwip and then took Sannyasa. Mahaprabhu turned twenty-four at the beginning of 1510 (Mid February / Mid March). Sri Caitanya Caritamrita mentions that he took Sannyasa during the month of Magha (Mid January / Mid February) of the same year he completed his twenty-fourth year.
cabbiśa vatsara śeṣe yei māgha-māsa
tāra śukla-pakṣe prabhu karilā sannyāsa
“At the end of His twenty-fourth year, in the month of Māgha, during the fortnight of the waxing moon, the Lord accepted the renounced order of life, sannyāsa.” (CC Madhya 1.16)
Hence, the most likely time of His taking sannyasa should be between Mid-January and Mid-February of 1510.
3. Arrival at Jagannath Puri: Mid-February / Mid-March 1510
māgha-śukla-pakṣe prabhu karila sannyāsa
phālgune āsiyā kaila nīlācale vāsa
“Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu accepted the renounced order during the waxing fortnight of the month of Māgha (Mid-January – Mid-February). During the following month, Phālguna (Mid-February – Mid-March), He went to Jagannātha Purī and resided there.” (CC Madhya 7.4)
phālgunera śeṣe dola-yātrā se dekhila
premāveśe tāṅhā bahu nṛtya-gīta kaila
“At the end of the month of Phālguna (Mid-February – Mid-March), He witnessed the Dola-yātrā ceremony, and in His usual ecstatic love of God, He chanted and danced in various ways on the occasion.” (CC Madhya 7.5)
Hence, the most likely time of His arrival at should be between Mid-February and Mid-March of 1510.
4. South India Tour: Late April 1510 to 1512
Mahaprabhu expressed his interest to go to South India at the beginning of Vaisakha (Mid-April).
caitre rahi’ kaila sārvabhauma-vimocana
vaiśākhera prathame dakṣiṇa yāite haila mana
“During the month of Caitra (Mid-March – Mid-April), while living at Jagannātha Purī, the Lord delivered Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya, and at the beginning of the next month, Vaiśākha (Mid-April – Mid-May), He decided to go to South India.” (CC Madhya 7.6)
When Mahaprabhu expressed his desire to go to South India, all the devotees became very morose. Particularly, Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya requested him to stay for a few more days.
tahara vinaye prabhura sithila haila mana
rahila divasa katho, na kaila gamana
“Upon hearing Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya’s request, Caitanya Mahaprabhu relented. He stayed a few days longer and did not depart.” (CC Madhya 7.50)
dina panca rahi’ prabhu bhattacarya-sthane
calibara lagi’ ajña magila apane
“After staying five days at the home of Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu personally asked his permission to depart for South India.” (CC Madhya 7.54)
So, most likely, Mahaprabhu departed for His South India tour in the late April of 1510 and spent two years on the Tour.
ei-mata mahāprabhura cāri vatsara gela
dakṣiṇa yāñā āsite dui vatsara lāgila
“Thus, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu passed four years. He spent the first two years on His tour in South India.” (CC Madhya 16.84)
However, the month of His arrival to Jagannath Puri after His tour cannot be determined. Probably He returned to Jagannath Puri in the Middle/Summer of 1512.
5. Meeting with Ramananda Raya: Mid-December 1510 / Mid-January 1511
Mahaprabhu met Ramananda Raya at Vidyanagar in the earlier part of His South India Tour while He was descending to further South (i.e. not while he was returning after seeing all the Tirthas). The timing of this meeting can be indirectly inferred to be somewhere between Mid-December 1510 and Mid-January 1511 from another incidence mentioned in the Sri Chaitanya Chandrodaya play written by Kavi Karnapura (Sivananda Sen’s son).
“Lord Caitanya cheerfully told Srikanta (Sivananda Sen’s nephew): ‘Please tell Advaita Acarya and the other great devotees they should not come to see Me this year. I will go to see them. Tell your uncle Sivananda that I will come to see him in the month of Paush (Mid-December – Mid-January)…’. When Srikanta repeated the Lord’s orders to them, Advaita Acarya and all the other devotees immediately stopped all arrangements to travel to see the Lord…” (Chaitanya Chandrodaya 9.32)
“When the appointed time came, by the arrangement of Providence, the Lord was staying on the bank of the Godavari River with Ramananda Raya, and the Lord had no wish to leave.” (Chaitanya Chandrodaya 9.34)
6. Stay at Jagannath Puri: 1512 to Late September 1514
After coming back from South India, Mahaprabhu wanted to set out for Vrindavan immediately. However, He stayed at Jagannath Puri for two more years at the request of His intimate devotees, who could not bear His separation.
āra dui vatsara cāhe vṛndāvana yāite
rāmānanda-haṭhe prabhu nā pāre calite
“The other two years, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu wanted to go to Vṛndāvana, but He could not leave Jagannātha Purī because of Rāmānanda Rāya’s tricks.” (CC Madhya 16.85)
Hence, it can be inferred that Mahaprabhu must have stayed at Jagannath Puri during 1512 – 1514. Devotees visited Puri and attended Ratha Yatra during the years 1512, 1513 and 1514.
pañcama vatsare gauḍera bhakta-gaṇa āilā
ratha dekhi’ nā rahilā, gauḍere calilā
“During the fifth year (since Mahaprabhu took Sannyasa), the devotees from Bengal came to see the Ratha-yātrā festival. After seeing it, they did not stay but returned to Bengal.” (CC Madhya 16.86)
Ratha yatra usually falls between late June and mid-July. So, it is safe to assume that the devotees must have left by the end of July 1514. Then, Mahaprabhu expressed His desire to go Vrindavan through Bengal to Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya and Rāmānanda Rāya and asked their permission. (CC Madhya 16.87)
gauḍa-deśa diyā yāba tāṅ-sabā dekhiyā
tumi duṅhe ājñā deha’ parasanna hañā
“I shall go to Vṛndāvana through Bengal and see both My mother and the river Ganges. Now would you two be pleased to give Me permission?” (CC Madhya 16.91).
7. First attempt to go to Vrindavan through Bengal: Late September – Mid-October 1514
Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya and Rāmānanda Rāya both felt sorry that they had played so many tricks on the Lord to keep Him at Puri. After hearning Mahaprabhu’s request, they proposed that Mahaprabhu should leave once the rainy season is over.
duṅhe kahe, — ebe varṣā, calite nāribā
vijayā-daśamī āile avaśya calibā
They both said, “Now that the rainy season is here, it will be difficult for You to travel. It is better to wait for Vijayā-daśamī before departing for Vṛndāvana.” (CC Madhya 16.93)
Subsequently, Mahaprabhu departed for Vrindavan on the day of Vijaya Dasami (CC Madhya 16.94), which must have fallen between late September and mid-October of 1514. During His travel, Mahaprabhu visited different devotees in Bengal. After crossing the border of Orissa state, He arrived at Pānihāṭi by boat. Thereafter, He visited the house of Rāghava Paṇḍita, and from there He went to Kumārahaṭṭa and eventually to Kuliyā. From there He went to Rāmakeli, where He saw Śrī Rūpa and Sanātana and accepted them as His chief disciples. Returning from Rāmakeli, He met Raghunātha dāsa, who stayed with Him for seven days at Santipur at the resident of Advaita Acarya. At Santipur, Mahaprabhu celebrated the Vyasa Puja of Madhavendra Puri around Mid-March – Mid-April of 1515 with much fanfare.
“Sri Madhava Puri is a blissful ocean of Krsna-premananda. On His appearance day, the dvadasi of the bright fortnight in the month of Caitra (Mid March-Mid April), the Supreme Lord Advaitacarya eagerly fed the two Prabhus (Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Nityananda Prabhu) as well as the entire assembly of devotees.” (Sri Krsna Caitanya Carita Maha Kavya 15.8-9)
Later, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu assembled all His devotees and asked their permission to return to Jagannātha Purī (CC Madhya 16.245-246). Mahaprabhu decided not to go to Vrindavan and instead return to Jagannath Puri because hundreds and thousands of people were following him. He found it both inappropriate (CC Madhya 16.272) and inconvenient (CC Madhya 16.258) to travel with such a large crowd.
8. Vrindavan Visit: Mid-October 1515 to Mid-January 1516
Once Mahaprabhu returned to Jagannath Puri, He resolved to go to Vrindavan alone or, at the utmost, with one servant (CC Madhya 16.273) and requested the devotees to give Him permission to leave. All the devotees including Gadādhara Paṇḍita proposed that since the four months of the rainy season have just begun, Mahaprabhu should leave after the rainy season (CC Madhya 16.282). Being requested by all the devotees, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu agreed to remain at Jagannātha Purī for four months (CC Madhya 16.285). So, we can infer that He must have left for Vrindavan around Mid-October of 1515.
Mahaprabhu visited all the holy places in Vrindavan. At the beginning of the month of Māgha (Mid-January), Mahaprabhu’s traveling associates proposed that they should leave Vrindavan now and go to Prayāga so that they could have the opportunity of bathing in the Ganges at Prayāga during Makara-saṅkrānti (CC Madhya 18.145). The next morning, Mahaprabhu and His associates left Vrindavan. On the way, they had an encounter with the Pathan soldiers and Mahaprabhu delivered them.
9. Meeting with Rupa Sanatan at Prayaga and Varanasi: (Late January – Early February, 1516)
ei-mata cali‘ prabhu ‘prayāga’ āilā
daśa-dina triveṇīte makara-snāna kailā
“Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu finally arrived at Prayāga and for ten successive days bathed in the confluence of the rivers Yamunā and Ganges during the festival of Makara-saṅkrānti [Māgha-melā].” (CC Madhya 18.222)
It was during this time when Mahaprabhu instructed Rupa Goswami (CC Madhya 19). Hence, the timing of this event should be around Late January of 1516. A few days later, Mahaprabhu arrived at Varanasi (Early February of 1516). This is when He instructed Sanatana Goswami (CC Madhya 20–24). The fact that Sanatana Goswami was wearing an expensive woolen blanket (bhoṭa-kambala) when he met Mahaprabhu also provides evidence that it was still winter (CC Madhya 20.82). It was also during His stay in Varanasi that all the sannyāsīs of Vārāṇasī including Prakāśānanda Sarasvatī became devotees of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu (CC Madhya 25).
10. Stay at Jagannath Puri: 1516 – 1534
Mahaprabhu then returned to Jagannātha Purī through the great forest of Jhārikhaṇḍa in central India. He remained at Jagannath Puri for the remaining years of His life.
aṣṭādaśa vatsara rahilā nīlācale
kṛṣṇa-prema-nāmāmṛte bhāsā’la sakale
“For the remaining eighteen years He continuously stayed in Jagannātha Purī. Chanting the nectarean Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra, He inundated everyone there in a flood of love of Kṛṣṇa.” (CC Ādi 13.13)