Srila Bhakti Rakshak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj
Srila Bhakti Rakshak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj (1895 – 1988) was an Indian religious leader and spiritual preceptor (acharya). Philosopher and poet, he was the founder of Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math – religious and educational mission within the tradition of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu (1486 — 1533 or 1534), known as Gaudiya Vaisnavism. At birth future Srila Sridhar Maharaj was named Ramendra Chandra Deva; his ancestral name was Bhattacarya. “Bhattacarya” is a surname which is quite common amongst Bengali and Assamese Brahmins (or a kind of courtesy title). Bhattacarya is an “honourable surname” (upadhi) of those Bengali Brahmins, members of the highest varna (caste) of Indian society, who were engaged in performance of sacrificial rituals during the early Middle Ages and later on. The surname is produced via combination of two Sanskrit words - “bhatta” (priest) and “acharya” (preceptor). The parents of Ramendra Chandra were Upendra Chandra Deva Sharma Bhattacarya (he had a title “Vidyaratna”) and Gauri Bala Devi. According to their family tradition, Srila Sridhar Maharaj's ancestors played the roles of teachers, performed rituals and were landlords also. But the Sanskrit scholarship took the centre stage in their life. Ramendra Chandra got traditional home education and then he entered a secondary school in Orkassa, close to Hapaniya. Later he was accepted into Krishnanath College in Baharampur, in Murshidabad District, and upon completion receive bachelorhood. The young man studied jurisprudence and got to know Western philosophers. Since childhood Ramendra Chandra gravitated toward traditional Brahminical culture – Sanskrit poetry, shastra's (scripture) studies and religious worship, but also, in accordance to the spirit of the age, felt concerned about social and political matters. Although Ramendra Chandra wasn't inclined to lead an active life in society, he yielded to his parents' pressure and got married. Gandhi's civil disobedience movement flourished at that time, and Ramendra Chandra joined it. Since childhood he was charmed by the personality of Mahaprabhu. the founder of Gaudiya Vaisnavism, and was in quest for guru, spiritual preceptor, amongst his followers. At last, he met some representatives of Gaudiya Math, a new (by that time) religious mission, and its founder, Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur (1874 — 1937), great reformer and propagandist of Gaudiya Vaisnava tradition. Ramendra Chandra was initiated and given new name, Ramendra Sundar, by Saraswati Thakur in 1926. Several years later he was initiated into tridanda-sannyas order, created by Saraswati Thakur, and was named Bhakti Rakshak Sridhar. Up to 1937, when Saraswati Thakur left this world, Srila Sridhar Maharaj played a critical part in the activities of Gaudiya Math as a publicist, preacher and administrator. Srila Saraswati Thakur always expressed high appreciation for his personality's scope, depth of his spiritual insight and uniqueness of his poetic skill, and saw him as his successor, the leader of Sri Rupanuga-sampradaya (spiritual succession of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu followers, guided by Srila Rupa Goswami) After Srila Saraswati Thakur's departure, due to some conflicts among Gaudiya Math's leaders, Srila Sridhar Maharaj left organization and established his own mission, Sri Caitanya Saraswat Math, in Nabadwip, West Bengal, in Mahaprabhu's motherland. He hold on his literary activities, being the author of many poems in Bengali and Sanskrit, and played the role of preceptor and adviser for many ex-Gaudiya Mission leading preachers, including Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja (1896 — 1997), founder-acharya of International Society for Krishna Consciousness and first in the history preacher of Gaudiya Vaisnavism on a global scale. Srila Sridhar Maharaj's pansophy in the field if Gaudiya theology, his poetic skill and grandeur of character made him the object of respect and adoration on the part of many leading followers of Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur. At the end of 70-s of last century Srila Sridhar Maharaj's ideas became known in the Western world due to the efforts of his followers, disciples of A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, who recommended them to approach his senior god-brother and shiksha-guru (preceptor) after his departure. Early in 80-s the first books by Srila Sridhar Maharaj were published in English, first centers of Sri Caitanya Saraswat Math appeared in the USA and all over the world. After Srila Sridhar Maharaj's departure in August of 1988 his Sri Caitanya Saraswat Math survived under guidance of his beloved disciple and chosen successor Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswami Maharaj (1929 – 2010). Due to his tireless efforts and enthusiasm of his followers Srila Sridhar Maharaj's teachings has become the mankind's common heritage.