After the sannyasa-lila of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the devotees of the Lord felt great pangs of separation from Him. However, nobody felt greater loss than His wife Vishnupriya who was a mere 16 years old when He left. She stayed in the family house with Mother Shachi and never left except to take bath in the Ganga every day. When the devotees would come to see her, they would only take darshan of her feet and never her face. They never heard her voice. She remained in total seclusion constantly chanting the Holy Name. Either side of her she had two clay pots. One was empty, the other contained uncooked rice. After each round of japa, she placed one grain of rice into the empty pot. In the evening, whatever rice had been placed in the empty pot was cooked and offered to the Lord, or which she honoured only a tiny portion. This is all she would eat until she left the world aged 96.
Vishnupriya would daily worship Mahaprabhu’s wooden shoes and also a large neem-wood Deity of the Lord who is known as Dhameshvara Mahaprabhu (the Lord of the holy dhama). This is first Deity of Mahaprabhu ever to be established. This Deity is about 6 feet tall and His arms are outstretched in a mood of audarya (compassion), indicating that He is ready to accept all.
After the disappearance of Vishnupriya, the worship of Dhameshvara was continued by her loyal servant, Vamshi-vadanananda Thakura who moved the Deity from Mayapura to Kuliya.
Later, the seva of Mahaprabhu passed to Madhava, the son of Vishupriya’s brother, Yadavacharya. Madhava’s descendants continued the worship of Dhameshvara for about 100 years, but due to their impoverished condition, the Deity had no temple and no regular puja. He was passed around to each family to worship for a month. During the time of Maharaja Krishna Chandra (1710-1783), the Shakta brahmanas (worshippers of Goddess Durga) became prominent in Navadvipa and convinced the king to put an end to the worship of Dhameshvara. Srila Sridhara Maharaja explains this incident:
Once, the smarta section filed a petition to Maharaja Krishna Chandra of Krishnanagara because there was a famine at that time. They claimed that the cause of this famine was that a man was being worshiped as God. That was the root of the problem. The smarta panditas gave their signature to such a petition. So when they heard the news that the worship of Mahaprabhu may be stopped or disturbed, the devotees built a provisional room underground and there they put the Sri Murti there with some sweetmeats, and they closed it.
Then a dream was given to one Totarama Dasa Babaji in Vrindavana – he was a good Sanskrit scholar. And another dream was given to the king of Manipur. He was a chief, giving some range to the British. He was also a Gaudiya Vaishnava in the disciplic line of Narottama Thakura. Both of them came here, to Navadvipa.
Totarama Dasa Babaji went straight to the king and said, “The panditas of this locality say that Sri Chaitanyadeva is a man, not God – so man-worshiping must be abolished, otherwise the people in general are suffering from famine and other natural catastrophes. Invite your scholars! I have come from Vrindavana to show that in many scriptures there is reference to the fact that Sri Caitanyadeva is not a man, but He is the Lord Himself. I want to prove by quotations from the ancient scriptures. You call for your panditas that are opposing this fact.”
So there was an assembly of the panditas in the Krishnanagara fort and Totarama Dasa Babaji proved with different quotations that nama-sankirtana is the yuga-dharma, and to preach the yuga-dharma, the incarnation of Bhagavan, comes down to establish it. It is mentioned in many places and he showed those references, and the panditas could not stand in front of him.
And the Manipur Raja also came and saw Maharaja Krishna Chandra who was inferior in position to him and said, “I want some land here to lease from you.” By his approach Krishna Chandra was very much satisfied that a man of higher position has come to see him. He offered that,” Not lease – I shall make a free gift to you, as much land as you want to take. You please locate.”
But the king of Manipur said, “No, no! I want to lease the land from you.” So the land was leased by Maharaja Krishna Chandra to the king of Manipur, and there he constructed a temple and installed Mahaprabhu and performed seva.
After Totarama Dasa had defeated those Shakta panditas, then at that time Mahaprabhu's sevaites again took the Deity from the underground room and began regular puja. So after that, the construction of the temple was finished here and the Manipur Raja ordered that, “The installation of Mahaprabhu must be done according to my dream.” But they reported that the original Mahaprabhu has already returned and regular worship is going on there. Then he gave the new Deity the name ‘Anu-Mahaprabhu’ –anupashchad (smaller). There was the main Mahaprabhu installed by Vishnupriya Devi and after that, the other Mahaprabhu was installed here. There are two temples of the Manipur people here, just at the front of Devananda Gaudiya Matha in Navadvipa. Two Deities – Anu-Mahaprabhu is on the north side, that is ancient. The Deity which is on the southern side was installed afterwards by a friend of the Maharaja. So this is the story.
Hardly anything is known about the life of Totarama Dasa Babaji, except that he was originally a brahmana from South India who had come to Navadvipa to study Nyaya when he was a young man. While residing in Navadvipa, he became a Gaudiya Vaishnava and moved to Vrindavana to perform bhajana. By the efforts of Totarama Dasa Babaji, the service of Dhameshwara became reestablished. There are even some manuscripts from 1785 that say that the land for the temple of Dhameshwara was given to the hand of Totarama Dasa Babaji and the temple was not obliged to pay any land taxes.
How to Get There
From the ghat in Mayapura, boats to Navadvipa leave every 10 minutes. From Navadvipa ghat, take a rickshaw to Poramatala Market. The temple of Dhameshvara is known locally in Navadvipa as ‘Mahaprabhu Bari’ and is near to Poramatala. From there, any local can point you in the right direction.